Tuesday, May 31, 2016

June Open Thread

The last few weeks of school are finally here and summer vacation is nipping at our heels.

Items I'm Tracking

  1. District plans for 24 credits to graduate High School.
  2. Social Studies related changes instigated at Thurgood Marshall.
  3. The Cascadia Elementary split.
  4. IB Program Funding.
  5. West Seattle HCC program at Madison Middle School.

HCS Advisory Meeting

The June meeting for the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee will take place tonight/:

Tuesday, June 7, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
Garfield High School Library
400 23rd Ave 98122

The agenda will include:

- Assistant Superintendent Flip Herndon talking with us about capacity issues and the Highly Capable Cohort

- Report from the Advanced Learning Office

Lincoln High School Community Outreach

Seattle Public Schools Logo.png      Seattle Public Schools invites you to a Community Meeting
      for the Lincoln High School BEX IV Project

      Date: Thursday, June 236:30-8:00 p.m.
      Location: Lincoln High School Auditorium, 4400 Interlake Ave. N., Seattle WA

Dear Lincoln High School community:
Seattle voters approved the Seattle Public Schools Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy in February 2013, which includes the project to modernize and open Lincoln High School. The meeting will be presented by representatives of Seattle Public Schools BEX IV capital projects team and Bassetti Architects and will include information about the project’s early design progress.
You will be able to learn more about the project scope, schedule, existing conditions and design exploration. You will be able to ask questions and give us input and feedback. We hope that you will be able to join us! For more information, please visit http://bex.seattleschools.org

The Seattle Public Schools BEX IV Capital Projects Team

Summer Course in Data Analysis

Data Analysis Academy is excited to announce its intensive, week-long summer course for rising 11th and 12th graders called Seeing the Big Picture: An Introduction to Investigation Through Data. The course aims to introduce students to techniques used across a variety of fields in a way that sparks their interest in data analysis and amplifies their future education in quantitative fields.

The Data Analysis Academy believes anyone can use data to inform and refine their critical thinking skills in an increasingly numbers-driven world. The curriculum reflects a data-centric approach to solving business problems honed by the former Managing Director at TGG Group, the quantitative consultancy formed by the world's leading economists, including Freakonomics author Steven Levitt and Nobel Laureates Daniel Kahneman and Gary Becker.

The application deadline is June 30th. To find out more, visit https://dataanalysisacademy.org or contact the program Director, Janet Moehring, at janet@dataanalysisacademy.org.

I'm also probably going to stop and reflect about the state of this blog in an upcoming post. In the meantime what's on your minds?

Friday, May 27, 2016

High School Schedule Changes

These talking point come from one of our commenters. I've chatted with some board members on the subject and it sounds like the high school changes are fairly far along with no alternatives even on the table. So time is short to make improvements here. The recommendation was to send mail pointing out problems with the plan. I'll also summarize all the comments here in a letter to the board at a point when there are enough to makes sense.

3x5 schedule talking points:

The district is considering changing all high schools to a 5 period, 3 trimester schedule (3x5) as a means of helping students meet the new 24-credit graduation requirement in WA State. Instead of a classes meeting 180 days a year for 6 periods a day, classes would meet 120 days a year for 5 periods a day. In theory, students would have the ability to take more classes per year and thereby increase their opportunities to meet the 24-credit graduation requirement. In reality, the 3x5 schedule poses many challenges, and may limit the class options for students. 

How would a 3x5 schedule work?

A class that would normally meet 180 days is compressed into 120 days over the course of two trimesters. A traditional 6 period schedule allows for (6) 50-55 minute classes per day; a 3x5 schedule might have (5) 60-65 min classes per day. A typical course would last two out of the three trimesters, though not necessarily consecutive trimesters. 

How does a 3x5 schedule increase credit opportunities for students?

If students filled their schedules each year, they could potentially earn 30 credits over 4 years, or 7.5 credits per year, compared to the current schedule that allows for 24 credits over 4 years, or 6 credits per year.

What challenges would a 3x5 schedule pose?

> Course content would likely be reduced. A3x5 schedule attempts to cover the same content with 33% fewer classes per year. While classes are slightly longer (60-65 min. in a 3x5 schedule vs. the 50-55 min. in a typical 6 period day), it would be a challenge to cover the same material in 120 days compared to the current 180 days. It would be especially challenging for math and science classes that are paced for covering a topic a day.

> Course continuity would be compromised. A class might meet first and third trimester, with a gap in the second trimester, and no guarantee of the same teacher each trimester. There could be an 8-9 month gap year over year if a course was covered in first and second trimester, then in second and third trimester of the following year.

> Students may not be able to schedule the minimum 6 credits per year, or meet IB diploma requirements, due to the scheduling restrictions. AP and IB classes, with national and international exams on fixed schedules in May of each year, would need to meet in the first and second trimesters of the school year. Students would not only have fewer days of class to cover a significant amount of material, but they would need to self study for the May exams. There would be limited opportunities for year-long electives such as music, or even a needed 6th credit, as the schedule would be full in the first and second trimesters. 

How do other districts manage a 3x5 schedule with the demands of AP and IB classes?

Very few districts with a 3x5 schedule offer the same number of AP and IB courses as Seattle area schools. Some districts schedule an optional zero period (lengthen the school day), or offer AP and IB study sessions outside of the 5 period day.

Here's a link to the official page from the district: https://www.seattleschools.org/families_communities/committees/graduation_requirement/

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall and its Rippling Effects

If you've been following the proposed Social Studies changes in the Thurgood Marshall building you'll remember how at the last HCS Advisory committee meeting (See: http://discussapp.blogspot.com/2016/05/53-hcs-ac-meeting.html) the AL staff indicated it was explicitly against policy to blend the classrooms.  On the bright side, it looks like everyone is paying attention to the policy this time. On the other hand, the solution now has ramifications for HCC as a whole. I haven't seen the proposed changes yet but its not hard to see how this argument could be extended particularly in  the context of Middle School.

"Dear Thurgood Marshall Family: 
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about Social Studies at our school.  Why? Let me give you some background…
When I first came to Thurgood Marshall after being hired in April of 2014, I met individually with teachers to get a sense of what they thought was going well with our school and areas for improvement. What came from these meetings was the idea that Thurgood Marshall was more like three programs in a building than one school.  Each teacher mentioned that students in different programs had little opportunity to get to know each other or to interact across the school day. From this, the idea of “Building Bridges” was born – an effort born in the 14-15 school year to reach out and make connections between various student groups within the school and to help our various parent groups feel connected. We want everyone to feel that they have a place at Thurgood Marshall. 
In the spring of 2015, our school became one of nine school accepted to participate in the first District Race and Equity Team.  As we received training in this area, we begin to think more about the impact our school’s design on our students. Our three programs – PEACE Academy, General Education and Highly Capable Cohort - are all designed to serve the needs of three different groups of students, but could there be points of intersection between these groups? 
Teachers began to think about integration and how this might be beneficial for our students, both for social needs and to support their academics.  Fledgling efforts had been made in this area – “Friendship Days” for 1st and 2nd grade classrooms where students participated in literature-themed art projects in mixed classroom groups, multi-age classroom partnerings for Reading Buddies, and “Mix it Up Day” where students were encouraged to sit by someone new in the lunchroom. Teachers felt these projects were a success, but because they happened sporadically, we were not seeing relationships between students develop outside these projects.  One notable success story was happening in our Fifth grade.  Students from our 4 classes – 3 HCC groups and 1 General Ed group – were blended into groups with students from each of the 4 classes to study moral dilemmas each week. Students spent time thinking together about how they would solve problems they might face in middle school. And from here, we began to see relationships take root that carried over from the classroom to the playground. 
Where this stands now…
The district currently has a policy in place (Procedures 2190SP) about self-contained learning in HC classes that states: “Highly Capable Services are designed for students identified as Highly Capable to provide advanced curricula as well as support their social and emotional needs from identification through graduation. Highly Capable Services include a self-contained path called the Highly Capable Cohort, which provides a rigorous curriculum in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The curriculum is presented at an accelerated learning pace and/or advanced level of complexity and depth, requiring students to perform significantly above grade level. 
After discussion with Advanced Learning, the department of Curriculum and Instruction, and principals of elementary and middle school HC sites, a change to this policy has been proposed that will allow slightly more flexibility in the study of social studies and science.  This is something that the school board must consider and vote on before our school is able to move forward. While we have had some discussions as an Equity Team, a staff, and at PTA Parent Equity meetings about the possibility of integrating Social Studies, at this point, we are on hold until we hear back from the central office. 
Why Social Studies?
I would like to propose that we consider our goals for social studies education.  On our district social studies page, the following is excerpted from OSPI:
What is social studies education?
Social studies in Washington State contributes to developing responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, democratic society within an interdependent world. Social studies equips learners to make sound judgments and take appropriate actions that will contribute to sustainable development of human society and the physical environment.
Social studies comprises the study of relationships among people, and between people and the environment. Social studies recognizes the challenges and benefits of living in a diverse cultural and ideological society. The resulting interactions are contextualized in space and time and have social, political, economic, and geographical dimensions.
Based on appropriate investigations and reflections within social studies, students develop distinctive skills and a critical awareness of the human condition and emerging spatial patterns and the processes and events that shape them.
If we are undertaking the study of social studies to develop “responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, democratic society,” what better way to do this than to teach social studies to groups of students who look like the culturally diverse, democratic society we are preparing them to live in?  Our General Education and HC programs are aligned to the same standards. We believe that the unique experience each of our students bring to this study will actually enrich their learning and push all students to think more deeply.
  • In the spring of 2015, third grade teachers decided to blend their classes for a social studies unit on Pacific Northwest Indians.   The success of this experiment, encouraged us to think about trying this on a larger scale.
  • Social Studies is a smaller part of our core content.  At the elementary level, most classroom time is spent on reading, writing and math. The curriculum for reading, writing and math is advanced 1-2 years in our HC classrooms; social studies curriculum is the same across programs.
Questions/Concerns that have come up:
  • How will we make sure that students are being appropriately challenged at their level? This endeavor, like any classroom instruction, will be taught with an eye to differentiation to make sure that students are engaged and thinking deeply about the topic. Differentiation is already taking place in each of our three programs so that students are able to access the curriculum. The departments of Advanced Learning and Curriculum and Instruction have each offered their support in helping our teachers prepare for blended classes and to make sure that each student will be challenged. The professional development we plan to do around this will benefit our teachers in planning for their regular classrooms, too.

  • Is this change being initiated by the school or by the district?  The idea to teach social studies in a different way came from staff at Thurgood Marshall, to address the learning needs of the students at our unique school site.

  • Is this an effort to reduce services to HC students? Absolutely not! We care deeply about meeting the needs of all of our learners.  We want to be sure that students are appropriately challenged at their level. HC exists to serve the learning needs of students who need something beyond the typical classroom, just as we have special education resources for students who need more support to access the curriculum. On the contrary, we feel that teaching social studies in this way will actually provide our students with another level of challenge as they consider more diverse viewpoints.

  • Is this a permanent change? As a school leader, I do not think that I go into any new and innovative situation with the expectation that something is permanent.  Instead, I like to think that we are pushing our thinking and learning forward (as both adult and student learners!).  With any new initiative we take on, we try it knowing that we will make refinements and improvements as we go.  I understand that this question comes from a distrust of past district practice – when a group has felt the need to strongly advocate for their children, they are wary of losing any ground.  I understand this – and I can tell you that this effort is coming not from the district, but from grassroots efforts of Thurgood Marshall staff and parents involved with our equity work.
As with all of the work we do, this is a conversation I want us to engage in together.  Our School Board will meet to discuss a revised policy in early June.  Once we hear their thoughts, I will schedule a meeting so that we can talk together about our hopes and wishes around this topic.
If you want to dig in a little further, I have added some resources below you may find interesting.
Katie May, Principal
Thurgood Marshall Elementary



The radio program “This American Life” did a two part series on the topic of segregated schools:
Part 1:

Part 2:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

End of the Year Achievements

This is an experiment inspired by Maureen:

"Note that an Ingraham student placed first in the U.S. in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. Second place was also from Seattle (Lakeside). 

Results from the Invitational Round of the Invitational Round of the 2016 NACLO: The top four US students include Laurestine Bradford (Invitational Round winner) of Seattle, Washington, James Wedgwood of Seattle, Washington, Erik Metz of Ellicott City, Maryland, and
Shuheng "Nelson" Niu of Cupertino, California. The next four US students are Margarita
Misirpashayeva of West Windsor, New Jersey, Wyatt Reeves of Fort Worth, Texas, Jack
LaFleur of Washington, DC, and Nilai Sarda of Atlanta, Georgia. 

Congratulations Lola!"
What accomplishments are you excited about from this year?  I'm sure all the kids have done interesting things (this doesn't have to be an official award) that parents in other buildings don't know about.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

5/3 HCS AC meeting (Thurgood Marshall, Race and Equity)

Thurgood Marshall / Social Studies

Most of the meeting revolved around a discussion of minority representation in the program. The staff rep from Thurgood Marshall volunteered to extemporaneously talk about what's going on in the building and in addition a parent who participated in the Race and Equity Committee came and added some thoughts. There have been a series of race and equity conversations that have been ongoing since last year among the TM community.  First, kids in the 4th/5th grade student council complained about being labeled. In addition, during what was described as an uncomfortable meeting, parents from the building also expressed dissatisfaction that HCC was elitist/racist. Side Note: if you were following the recent  Blanford/Peters exchange see: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2016/04/highly-capable-work-session.html#more this is very relevant.  So the Race and Equity Committee was formed to explore how to better integrate the student body and also to explore the HCC qualification process.   Apparently, PCP's i.e. gym/arts/music were too logistically complicated to joint schedule and so the proposal moved to Social Studies which has a non-differentiated curriculum i.e. the 4th graders study the same material in gen-ed and HCC classes.  There are still several practical issues here. Social Studies becomes much more academic in nature in 4th-5th grade moving from exploring the local community  to WA state history. The HCC kids outnumber the gen-ed ones in the building 3:1 and Social Studies is the most short-changed of all the core subjects in terms of actual time devoted to it.  Interestingly, already the 5th graders are doing a UW Philosophy department led class in a blended environment.  The teacher mentioned that the principal was very committed to making a blended class happen so he thought this was likely to occur.

At this point, Janine Madaffari the AL representative present pointed out that the policy governing HCC 2190SP explicitly states that all the core academic subjects including Social Studies will be self-contained. I'm not sure on review if I can find this particular language. The closest I see is the "service model is self-contained in Grades 1-5"

Then the parent who was active on the committee by coincidence arrived and spoke a bit. She reiterated the harsh impression of the program from the other members of the building. They apparently are very interested in out reach to minority communities to increase participation in HCC. She explicitly mentioned trying to get parents to the kindergarten orientations at individual schools to give out information and trying to have members of minority communities reaching out to prospective families who have been identified to encourage them to opt in. Most of the speakers present were sympathetic to these goals. There are various restrictions on who can talk to parents and under what conditions. But I see this as the least controversial element of the evening.  One interesting statistics mentioned by the staff. Apparently: White/Asian and all other minorities are all admitted at almost the same rates in the initial process ~8% but the appeals process which has an over 50% success rate skews the numbers towards the White/Asian students. It was fairly easy to infer this is driving part of their push to limit them.

Editorial Note: I'm still reserving judgement on whether this affects the integrity of the curriculum or not until I find out more. This along with whether a heterogeneous environment would serve all students well forms the crux of the issue for me. The program's weakness in terms of defining a distinct curriculum particularly in the humanities sadly make these discussions harder to have. 

IB Programs

There was also a discussion of the future of the IB program at Ingraham. The recent grant to Rainier Beach (Seattle Times Story) to help out their IB program does not provide a systemic funding solution for the program as a whole.  The Ingraham staff rep pointed out all the surrounding districts directly fund their programs and don't rely on parents to raise several hundred thousand dollars or short change the whole school several staff-positions to run the program. 

There was some confusion why enrollment was being capped this year even among the staff present. So at this point two issues are still outstanding:
  1. If a spot Ingraham is not guaranteed there is no clarity on the default pathway if you don't get a spot. AL feels this is governed by enrollment. There needs to be clarity here before the next open enrollment.
  2. Secondly, We don't have any insight into what is driving enrollment caps.
I believe both functions fall under the heading of the Operations Committee. If you're interested in advocacy this along with the sorry state of the funding would be something to lobby the school board members to improve.


I did a little bit of personal lobbying to see if the HCS advisory committee would send a letter advocating for a minimum cohort size if any splits occur. The response was that a previous task force had already made recommendations. I'm hoping that the committee will still send a letter referencing the previous recommendations during this current decision making process. If you agree you might also talk to your building representative on the committee and make the same request.

Monday, May 2, 2016

May Open Thread

Here we are again. There's a slow moving capacity crunch at Cascadia that will come to fruition next year (and at least one at the H.S. level coming behind it). I was talking with a friend who joked "I could post my senior college philosophy thesis" and if it were labelled as being about capacity in the schools everyone would read it.  There's a lot of truth to that. 

My goals at this point are to daylight as much of the staff's thinking as possible along the way, push to have a decision voted on as soon as possible and forward any interesting ideas we as a community come up with on.

Teacher Appreciation Week

"The teaching profession needs two things in order to thrive—respect and trust. The two go together. You can say nice words and be grateful to teachers, but if you do not trust them as professionals, you are not showing them respect. Trust means giving teachers (appropriate) autonomy in their classrooms, but it also means giving them influence over policy—real influence, not a few token teachers on some committee—and it means giving them control over their own professional growth. We need to stop fixing teachers and create environments in which teachers themselves fix their own profession. We need to trust them to do so."

Lincoln High School Updates:

Math Culture:

Congratulations to Edward who is a 7th grader at Lakeside.  One of my passions is increasing our district's participation in more of these events in Middle School and High School.


Google informs me that you can now use SSL and connect to the blog via https://discussapp.blogspot.com

What's on your minds?