Saturday, June 25, 2016

Garfield 9th Grade Honors Classes getting Cut

This article was published today in the times about Garfield High School.

There are a lot of other interesting issues raised in the article but relevant to our focus is this paragraph:

"Part of the answer may lie in more money for counselors trained in dealing with trauma and for academic tutors. But Howard is no longer waiting. Next year he intends to abolish most out-of-school suspensions and, in response to a push from the faculty, cut honors history and English for ninth grade, chipping away at a system that traditionally tracks gifted middle-schoolers — mostly white — into Garfield’s Advanced Placement curriculum."

There have been whispers that this might be coming but as far as I can tell this is first official confirmation. (Why has this not been discussed in more normal channels?)

Assignment to the classes was not based on HCC eligibility but respectively:

English: "Students will be assigned based on their HSPSE test scores and their grades in 8th grade Language Arts."

World History: "Passing the Reading and Writing sections of the previous WASL exam and reading at or above grade level, or approval of History Dept Chair"

PTSA Email

Here's the email from the Garfield PTSA received today:
Garfield HS PTSA
June 25, 2016
Dear Garfield Community,

As you may have seen, the Seattle Times published an article this morning about Mr. Howard and Garfield. The in-depth article addressed race and equity issues at Garfield and quoted a number of people, including Mr. Howard, the Mayor's education adviser, students and parents. 

In the article, Mr. Howard says there are plans to make changes to the Honors Social Studies and Language Arts program for incoming ninth-graders. The PTSA is now engaging with the administration, teachers and parents to learn more about the plan. Specifically, we are asking for an implementation plan that addresses the timing and requirements to launch this change.

We are planning to have a meeting next week with the school to ask questions, share parents' concerns and learn about the preparations the administration and district has and is undertaking to make this change a success. 

We appreciate that many of you have questions and concerns, and we would like to hear them. Please email or call Barbara or Sally with your thoughts. We will update you as we learn more. 


Sally and Barbara 206.992.0924 206.349.1697
Garfield HS PTSA

Please treat each other respectfully and think before you post. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

End of the 2015-2016 School Year

This Friday is the last day of school. For my family and all those I've talked to in person it was a year full of many learning experiences. I'd like to first congratulate all of this year's graduates.  It's the amazing things that they do in school that motivate me first and foremost to keep blogging. Then I'm going to offer up two personal anecdotes for this year.

The first is the very amusing series of dinner conversation we had around the class government in my son's fourth grade room. During their civics project, the kids created and voted on various governance structures and then tried to work within them.  What then ensued was a series of failed governments, restarts, intrigues with their counterpart class including a shadowy underground resistance movement, Machiavellian intrigue, an attempt to install a monarchy, and a constitutional convention. Every day, I asked "So what happened with the government?" and there was some new  political affair to talk about.

Secondly on the last day of Math Club I had a student come up and ask me "Is there a new problem of the week?" I suppressed a smile and responded back "You'll have to wait and rejoin next year."

What have been your favorite moments?

This thread is meant to be celebratory/social.  I've setup other threads to track more serious trends. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

High School Credit For Online Math

This question comes from a parent:


I am interested in learning from anyone’s recent experience homeschooling in math so that a student can progress beyond the upper level allowed for the grade. My 6th grader is in Algebra I this year, and the teacher and we (parents) agree that it’s not meeting his needs. It’s not just that he has already learned most of the content on his own, but also that he picks up new math concepts so quickly. His teacher has indicated that he’s ready for higher level math and college-level proofs, which she can’t accommodate in her class (understandably).

We have sought guidance from the Math Curriculum manager, HCC director, principal and homeschool contact. I understand the logistics of how to partially enroll him so that he can do math at home, but I’m not sure how to find online curriculum that will 1) meet his very advanced needs, and 2) “count” so that if he wants to use it for high school credit and/or re-enter SPS math classes in a future year. Stanford online H.S. courses and Art of Problem Solving courses have been recommended to us, but they are not on the OSPI list of approved online courses. Any advice?

1) Is there an OSPI-approved online provider that can meet the needs of an advanced student?
2) If not, and we proceed with Art of Problem Solving, how can we lobby to get high school credit for these courses?
3) Are there District funds available for online courses when school-based instruction doesn’t meet the student’s needs?"
Hopefully someone has already gone down this path and knows some details.

Monday, June 13, 2016

HCC Procedure Changes

The Curriculum and Instruction Committee will be reviewing procedure changes to the HCC program tonight June 13th

Agenda  (The revised procedure begins on page 295 of the agenda and the changes are summarized on page 312. )

The summary is as follows: 
The proposed revisions to Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning Programs Superintendent Procedure 2190SP have been made to promote clarity and align with other relevant procedures. The following points provide a guide to changes:  

• On Page 2 of 7: The high school eligibility application requires the submission of a student writing sample. The writing sample was not explicitly addressed in previous version of 2190SP, so we adjusted this language.  
• On Page 3 of 7 No substantive changes to eligibility criteria, except that achievement data is required for Advanced Learner identification in all grades K-7.  
• The appeals language change on Page 4 of 7 is meant to make transparent the process that the MSC uses to make eligibility decisions on students who have appealed. All data points are considered at that stage in the eligibility process; these include parent rating scales, teacher rating scales, and any/all available cognitive and achievement scores, including those from privately administered testing.  
• On the bottom of Page 5 of 7 under Program Design, and under the HCC subheading, the wording specifies that HCC in grades 1-5 is self-contained for ELA, mathematics, and science, and may be offered as self-contained in social studies. This wording was added to give flexibility to the staff at elementary HC sites, and reflects the practices have been and will likely be proposed in the name of equity and a social justice agenda.  
• Also on Page 5 of 7: Clarification of Garfield as pathway school and Ingraham as option school for 8th HCC students. Ingraham enrollment based on space availability and not guaranteed, per Student Assignment Procedures 3130SP

A few opinions/points on all of this:

  1. Proposing changes publicly late Friday for the first time and discussing them the following Monday is terrible public out reach. In the name of process I would delay this until the next meeting to allow more time to understand the implications. 
  2. The High school changes need clarification that the default placement for HC students is Garfield if they do not get a placement at Ingraham otherwise parent's will be forced to unnecessarily gamble if they want that program. This is especially important since it functions as a relief valve for the capacity issues.
  3. Someone on the board really needs to force a more public discussion of the enrollment caps at Ingraham. Currently, I haven't been able to pinpoint who even sets the numbers or why.
  4. The social study changes are explicitly limited to grades 1-5 but Middle School is redefined as being "mostly" self-contained which is open to a lot of interpretation.

Melissa Westbrook over at SaveSeattleSchools had this writeup of the meeting:
"So this was QUITE the discussion at the C&I meeting yesterday. Highlights:

- Stephen Martin, the head of AL, had to apologize - yet again - for misinformation from his office to parents. "Sorry for the confusion." I have to say, this seems to happen quite a lot and, at this point, I don't think sorry is enough. There needs to be more vetting of information BEFORE it gets to parents.

- He said some changes to the procedure were "editorial" and then pointed out five other ones. 

- He said they would be seeking engagement before August 8th (read on before you comment.)

- For those applying for high school, students will have to write an essay based on a standardized prompt that the AL offices gives them. Apparently this has always been the case but not clearly stated.

- They will use MAP test data for kindergarteners.

- Appeals. Martin said some parents thought if they did private testing and got the scores needed that would be the deciding factor. He said a single score would not be and that it is a committee decision based on several factors.

- "Flexibility" for staff at HCC sites. This is where it got real. Martin said that Thurgood Marshall wanted, as part of their social studies program, have more "socially responsive" teaching. He said they needed "permissive language" so they can go ahead with the program they have planned with input from department of race/equity. 

Director Geary - you know this will cause "some stir" within the community and that it needed to go thru the community engagement tool and she didn't see how it could be done by August 8th (which is some kind of deadline for Thurgood Marshall to have the program in place.) 

Martin said that it was up to the Board but it was just for one school.

- He also said that there was a clarification that only Garfield was a guaranteed high school pathway for HCC and not Ingraham. (He made it sound like Ingraham was never intended to be and I'd have to go back and check but I thought it had been.)

Director Burke said he was worried about the TM issues because they would be amending a procedure for a practice. He said it is "out of alignment for inclusion" and could "create polarization."

He said the district didn't seem to be serving AL students well OR closing the opportunity gap and having underserved kids at either end wasn't good. He said there were "optics" around this issue.

Then Director Harris quietly laid into Mr. Martin. She said she didn't appreciate getting this info on a late Friday for a Monday meeting. She said she felt blindsided and parents may as well. She said she didn't see how there could be true community engagement in the middle of summer. 

She said, "This is not the best we can do." She said that "we have got to do a better job for every child, every day." 

(Burke pointed out that Martin had walked each member of the committee thru the changes before the meeting. Harris wasn't a member so she didn't get the walk-thru. She did state that as a Board member, it was important for all of them to understand the changes in any program in the district. She said she heard from parents at her last community meeting and "it was not pleasant."

Michael Tolley mentioned that staff would take the info, work thru changes and it ultimately goes to the Superintendent.

Now that's true and this is the super's procedure but the procedures flow from policies. 

Between this discussion and the one around MTSS (see my next comment), I was gobsmacked. Trying to make AL even more hard to understand? Allowing schools to decide how they want to present advanced learning opportunities? Sure, why not? It feels like that is what has been happening all along. 

I cannot see the Board going along with all these changes and especially being presented them right before school ends and then coming back to them in early August."

So its a bit hard to read what the staff will do next.  In theory procedures unlike policy don't need board approval so they could try to go ahead anyway.  If you want to contact the Staff I'd suggest asking for more genuine engagement in this and other changes being proposed.

Update2: It looks like the staff are supposed to come back in August with an amended proposal.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The blog (school) year in review

Now that a year has passed since taking over as moderator here I'm ready to reflect on the experience. To start off, running this site has changed my view of it versus being a reader and occasionally commenting in a thread.  I don't think I fully realized, for example, how active and all consuming the testing period is for us just as much as the AL department.  Its also cemented my understanding of what we can do well here versus all the alternatives such as school facebook pages or PTA websites.

  • The biggest strength for me is the conversations that occur between parents in different schools.  I think its really valuable to have a place to ask about choosing a Middle School or the testing process in Kindergarten etc.  All the sharing of experience is great and strengthens the collective knowledge base of the whole community.

  • I've been focusing on disseminating information about program wide changes. Thanks to everyone who has forwarded information to me. I think this is the second largest role this site plays and initially its why I stepped forward to make sure it would continue on.

  • We're an open site  and allow anonymous comments which allows free conversation that might not take place on FB etc.  That's a two-edged sword.  I don't really want to degenerate into the Seattle Times comment section. However, I've been very pleased with the conversations so far even on more contentious subjects like race and equity.  Again thanks to everyone for the contributions here.

The flip side of this is that we're not particularly a social site. I mostly cede that role to all the other alternatives but I'm curious what others think. Do you think we should do more community building or less serious threads or is that best handled elsewhere?


  1. I'm proud of how the testing season went this year. I think this site made the best of a chaotic situation. 
  2. We've had sporadic comments from various staff members which I always appreciate.I hope that continues next year.
  3. Here and there I feel we actually moved the dial a bit on some decisions like the proposed changes to the main policy in the fall. Granted, the jury is still mostly out on this one.
  4. Site usage is up.

Graph of Blogger page views

If you're interested in being a contributor or enhancing this site in any fashion please contact me. I'd love more help.  That includes submitting a piece that you want more broadly published. I especially would also like writeups from meetings I can't attend.

Finally, I'm always interested in what everyone else has to think. Are there any changes that you think I should make in the next year?