Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Advanced Learning is looking for Feedback on Procedure Change

"The Advanced Learning office has been soliciting community comment regarding proposed revisions to Superintendent Procedure 2190SP, Seattle Public Schools Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning. Read the superintendent procedure.pdf icon
Comments on the proposed DRAFT can be sent to advlearn@seattleschools.org with the subject line 2190SP. 
The proposed DRAFT will be reviewed by the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee at their meeting on Monday, August 15, 2017. Please send your comments in before July 31 to assure it will be reviewed prior to the meeting."

The most substantive changes here are related to Thurgood Marshall and blended Social Studies.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Garfield Honors For All FAQ

The Garfield PTSA kindly provided a copy of the latest mailing to us:

Garfield High School
400 23rd Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
Tel: (206) 252-2270
Fax: (206) 252-2271

Garfield 9th Grade Honors for All FAQ

Summer 2016

Exactly what is the change?

● All ninth-grade language arts and social studies classes will be honors level.

● This change eliminates the division between the previous "regular" and "honors" tracks.

● The recent Seattle Times article about Garfield used the phrase "cut honors history and English," which is an unfortunate misrepresentation of our plan.

When is this change happening?

● The new honors for all class begins this fall, for the 2016-17 school year

Why are we making this change right now?

● We are making the change to address the opportunity gap for all incoming students, allowing them all access to honors in order to promote equity at Garfield High School.

● Because we are already differentiating for a wide variety of learners, it is simply an extension of our current methodology.

Is special training required for teachers to teach this curriculum? Have all the teachers been trained to be able to teach to different learning styles and levels?

● The teachers on this team have 11 advanced degrees; 6 of our teachers have their National Board Certification.

● We are working with a literacy specialist from the UW College of Education, on reading and vocabulary strategies, and on differentiating readings.

● We are taking a 3-day workshop on "complex instruction," a pedagogy that focuses on effective, ethical, and meaningful group work and critical thinking, which will help students work together in a positive and supportive manner.

● We are working with project based learning as an approach that is highly engaging and succeeds at deeper understanding. We have considerable expertise on the team already with project based learning and a proven track record of project-based successes in AP classes based on pass rates on the AP exam.

● We are co-designing the courses and co-planning the lessons, so the courses will reflect our team’s best ideas. This close collaboration will allow us to revise and improve the courses for all students as the year progresses. The team, both social studies and ELA, will meet on a weekly basis in order deepen collaboration, provide feedback around lessons successes and improvements, and needed supports for students.

●Several teachers on the team have also studied and visited the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of small high schools in New York that focus on performance assessment.

●We will continue to reach out to a variety of experts for support and guidance throughout the school year.

Resources teachers are using to help them plan include (but are not limited to) the following:

● Detracking for Excellence and Equity by Carol Corbett Burris and Delia T. Garrity ● On the Same Track by Carol Corbett Burris

● Working for Equity in Heterogeneous Classrooms, Elizabeth G. Cohen and Rachel A. Lotan, eds ● Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom by Elizabeth Cohen

● Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum, Grades 9-12 by Carol Ann Tomlinson

● Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom by Thomas Armstrong

● Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice by Howard Gardner ● Teaching English by Design by Peter Smagorinsky

● Strategic Reading by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

● Academic Language for English Language Learners and Struggling Readers by Yvonne S. Freeman and David E. Freeman

● Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher

● Scaffolding the Academic Success of Adolescent English Language Learners by Aida Walqui and Leo van Lier

● Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

● Social Studies for Secondary Schools: Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach by Alan J. Singer

Which other schools have made this change?

De-tracking classes is not a new change and is not unique to Garfield. It's been done in different ways in SPS, such as Nathan Hale offering only one track for 9th grade classes, or Roosevelt's AP-for-all model with 10th grade human geography.

Why do you think that this change will benefit all students?

● We believe in this change because it will allow

 ○ Enhanced engagement in learning
 ○ Interaction with peers in meaningful ways
 ○ Authentic interdependency
 ○ Greater control over academic products
 ○ Enhanced critical thinking by solving complex problems in a diverse classroom setting
 ○ The development of a truly inclusive environment

● Multiple research studies show that all students learn better in heterogeneous classrooms withhigh-level curriculum. From the book Detracking for Excellence and Equity, "Our studies (Burris et al., 2006; Burris et al., 2007) as well as the studies of others (Mosteller, Light, & Sachs, 1996; Slavin, 1990) have found that the achievement of highly talented students either is not affected or actually increases when detracking occurs. The key factor, of course, is ensuring that the curriculum remains challenging" (Burris & Garrity, 2008). We are dedicated to making this change benefit all students.

● Furthermore, many employers and colleges are saying that students need more experience problem solving in groups instead of memorizing facts. This curriculum adjustment will help build those "soft skills" employers are looking for.

Will teachers be given extra help in the classroom so no students are overlooked?

● Yes. The social studies and language arts department are sharing an AmeriCorps volunteer who will rotate among classes during the day and be available for after school study sessions, 5 days a week along with at least one teacher per day.

● We will continue to use volunteers from local universities and the community.

● Students who arrive at GHS who have not met standard on the reading portion of the MSP will be placed into a reading class, Read 180, in order to provide literacy support. This class will be in addition to their regular English class, which effectively doubles their time with reading instruction.

Will the classroom makeup be a full range of student abilities or will there be grouping of a range of students and the class size set accordingly?

● All 9th grade social studies and language arts classrooms will be heterogeneous classrooms. Thesocio-economic, racial, and ability differences of GHS will be reflected in every classroom.

Will the students still be prepared for the 10th grade AP World History test?

● Yes. Our lessons will still be tied to AP learning goals, as they currently are in honors World History. Our teachers have extensive experience with the world history AP requirements, including taking this year's AP Summer Institute for the new World History AP exam design. And by retaining the information better into 10th grade because of scaffolded support and differentiation, the students will actually be better prepared than they have in past years.

Will students still be prepared to move into AP English in 11th and 12th grade?

● Yes. We are not changing our standards or objectives. We are preparing all students to feel confident in choosing an AP class later, so we are still asking students to think deeply and engage in the curriculum at a high level.

Will class sizes be smaller?

● Yes. The 2016-17 budget allows for 9th grade classes to be smaller in order to better support all students.

What feedback have you gotten from students?

● Students are overwhelmingly in support of this change. Many students expressed concern about the Seattle Times article that discussed the achievement gap in SPS, which started classroom discussions about tracking. They are aware of the segregation and the subsequent labeling that occur because of the placement tests and tracking, consistently voicing a desire to interact with a wider variety of people.

Will students need to seek help on their own or will the teacher reach out to struggling students?

● As is currently the case, teachers will monitor student progress and suggest extra help for students who need it. This could come in many forms and will be addressed with students one- on-one,with parents, with other teachers, with counseling, and/or with administration.

How will classroom management issues be solved?

● Disruptive behavior comes in many forms and occurs in every classroom. All classroom management techniques and concerns will be addressed according to school policy. Our goal is to create a classroom environment that is engaging and safe for every student who enters. This environment decreases all types of disruptive behavior.

How will you measure the success of this change?

 Teachers will collaborate to develop assessments that measure student growth over time. They will use data from these assessments to guide their decision making.

 Students will also have the chance to give anonymous feedback at the end of each semester which will be reviewed by the team.

How will teachers keep parents informed about assignments, due dates, and other class happenings?

● We are committed to using Schoology and continuing our regular pathways of communication with parents, specifically with emails and phone calls.

How will you keep parents informed about the changes throughout the school year?

● Teachers will be participating in quarterly check-ins with the PTSA and communicate other changes via the GHS web site.

What literature would you recommend parents read to help them understand our change?

● Detracking for Excellence and Equity by Carol Corbett Burris and Delia T. Garrity.

● Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom by Elizabeth Cohen ● Any of the books on the list of resources provided earlier in this document.

Teachers on the Team

Social Studies

Adam Gish
Nathan King
Alan Kahn
Jeremy Lugo
Kit McCormick
Corey Allan Martin
Rosa Powers
Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser
Kirsten Otterby
Nathan Simoneaux
Andrea Soroko


Garfield Official Website updated 7/13

Note: there appears to be a new survey to take.


This is reminder to please avoid personal attacks and think before you post. "Poster X is a Y" posts are not appreciated here and will be deleted.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Garfield Honors Classes getting cut Part II

The number of comments has grown to be unwieldy. So despite the lack of any further news this is part II of: http://discussapp.blogspot.com/2016/06/garfield-9th-grade-honors-classes.html

First: please avoid personal attacks and respect the diversity of opinions.

Secondly, I've been thinking about the issue and had a few questions/thoughts:

  • Honors classes vary wildly across the high schools. For instance Roosevelt has none in 9th grade and after that they are not separate but entail some additional requirements instead for the class. Ingraham, Ballard and West Seattle  have separate classes. Nathan Hale which follows the Coalition of Essential Schools also doesn't offer stand alone honors. A few like Franklin talk about an honors option but I don't have enough information to tell what that actually means although I suspect its similar to Nathan Hale. For those who have been in any of the other schools it would be interesting to hear your experiences.  I keep coming back to the idea that there should be a uniform policy of access in high school to the honors option and that there should also be a definition of what additional work or curriculum it involves.
  • I tend to think about these issues first and foremost through the lens of whether the classes are meeting the needs of the students. Its hard to predict before its been implemented but I'm curious for more feedback from those already there on reasons why or why not.  I should add that we veered a bit into a discussion of disruptive students. For me, these points are very problematic since moving all the hard to manage students into a separate track is known to produce lower quality classes. My hope is always that where we track, the tracks remain high quality at all levels and that there is some thought put into making sure that occurs. 
  • Finally, the process here has been dreadful which has I'm sure exacerbates the anxiety. Any instructional model changes should be communicated directly to the school community with adequate lead time. So if anyone hears additional information please post it.


This is via Alec Cooper the outgoing Garfield PTSA president  (presumably but not verified)

"Outgoing (now last year's) Garfield PTSA President here again. At our request, we met with Mr Howard and the teachers who are leading this initiative on Thursday of last week. We continued to reiterate that the way this was being done was hugely counterproductive. 

We suggested to the teachers that (as a compromise) they consider to pilot 1-2 sections next year, enabling a more comprehensive plan to be prepared, vetted by parents, questions asked, feedback given - all parents, not just the PTSA. We offered PTSA funding for curriculum development and professional development. We emphasized that we understood the challenges that the teachers were trying to address. 

No additional details were presented at the meeting, other than some of the teachers are planning to take some training. At the end of the meeting, the teacher who was leading the discussion simply told us that they were going ahead anyway. Afterwards, we received this mail 

"We realize there's lots of uncertainty about the planned 9th grade detracking, esp with the recent Times article that mis-characterizes our plan. We have a draft of a description of the plan, and would like to incorporate the questions you've already collected from parents. Then in a couple days we can send you a clear description that answers as many questions as we can, which hopefully you'll share with as many parents as you have access to via constant comment, etc. So please share the questions you've gotten, grouped as makes sense to you, or just as a raw list."

Apparently when they decided to do this, they didn't even have a draft of a plan to share. I also inquired whether the Advanced Learning Office Office had reviewed the plan, this was the reply i got:

"Garfield was the designated APP site for the district many years ago. Now every neighborhood school is providing AP courses for their neighborhood populations. To answer your question. Does Garfield need permission from Michael Tolley, School Board, or Sarah Pritchett to make Academia changes. The short answer to your question is NO. 

Lastly, there is no change for our advanced placement cohort or our students who want to challenge themselves at GHS by taking honor courses. The change is for our general ed population." 

Update 2:

Garfield HS PTSA
July 5, 2016
Dear Garfield Families,

Members of the PTSA met with Principal Howard and Language Arts/Social Studies (LA/SS) teachers last week to learn more about the proposed changes to the 9th grade LA/SS curriculum. We requested the meeting after The Seattle Times published an article about Ted Howard and Garfield that discussed the school's race and equity challenges. The article indicated that 9th grade LA/SS Honors was going to be cut.

Principal Howard and the teachers clarified that The Times story mischaracterized the LA/SS Honors change. In fact, the school plans to offer Honors curriculum to all 9th graders. There will no longer be two curricula tracks for LA/SS - regular and honors. Now, all students will take the LA/SS Honors curriculum and be held to the same standard: Honors for All. The PTSA, the school and the teachers feel this is an important change to demonstrate to a greater number of Garfield students that they can enroll, and take on the rigor of more challenging courses, and succeed in that environment.

The teaching staff are 100% committed to Honors for All and to its success. All of the teachers are certified and trained to teach Honors and to teach a wide range of learning styles. They voted unanimously to make this change and to supporting each other as a team.

The teachers explained they help initiate the change because it would hold all students to a similar standard and it will be a rich learning environment. Classroom discussions will be enriched with the new classroom composition and the teachers will introduce project-based learning, a nationally recognized teaching tool. It will enhance learning for all as students will have the opportunity for individualized learning and peer learning opportunities will grow.

The teachers acknowledged the challenges they will face and shared how they were preparing for them. It is a challenge to teach Honors to a broad spectrum of students. The LA/SS teaching teams have been preparing for several years: enrolling in courses to teach differentiated learning; researching the newest teaching methods; studying high schools that have already made this change. Principal Howard also announced a new reading class for students to improve their reading skills.

Principal Howard and the district are committed to supporting this change, and the PTSA will work with the school and the district to ensure its success. The PTSA is requesting that the teachers share their implementation plan for this change and communicate the plan to the community, and it will also request quarterly check-ins to learn how it is going and to identify where we can best support the students, teachers and classrooms.

In the short term, the PTSA has shared parent questions with the teachers, and next week the teachers plan to address the questions and share their implementation plan for LA/SS Honors for All. The PTSA will continue to invite feedback and update the community. We are committed to partnering with the school - One Garfield! - to deliver an excellent education to the entire student body.

Garfield HS PTSA Executive Board
Garfield HS PTSA

Friday, July 1, 2016

July Open Thread

Summer is finally here. Generally July is the quietest time of the year for this blog with everyone's focus elsewhere. I distinctly remember folks asking about preparing for Math in the fall in past years.  So I'm including a link to this online app for those looking for resources. I tried dreambox out after one of my son's schools did a school wide trial and I really liked it.


Basically, you know your own children best but if you feel the two year jump is going to be difficult a small but consistent amount of  practice/learning can go a long way. Also, online programs usually are more effective if you watch over the shoulder of your kid and jump in when needed from time to time with questions and/or more explanation.

For those following the situation at Garfield, please keep using this thread:


I'm researching 3rd party comment systems to replace the builtin one as well as considering whether to move the blog from being hosted in blogger to wordpress. Feel free to chime in if you have any technical opinions.

Commenting System Beta Test

I'm trying out Disqus for now as a new commenting system. The default commenting system doesn't have enough tools for controlling trolling that I think would be useful.

  • Anonymous comments are still allowed but the use of a name/pseudonym is enforced. 
  • Whitelisting. New commenters are automatically moderated but can then be whitelisted.
  • Link blocks for spam - any urls will trigger automatic moderation. 
  • You can like/dislike comments. I don't know if that will be used or not but it could be interesting.
  • You can authenticate via almost all the social media sites: Facebook/Twitter/Google+ etc.
  • I can edit your comments. I promise I will responsibly run the system but you'll have to trust me.
  • Registration requires an email address (but it doesn't have to be valid.)
  • Its a little non-obvious where the guest post option is.
  • I'm unsure how easy the replies are to follow once they start nesting. (This all looks like facebook comments rather than the flat model we use now.)
  • Comment counts and the most recent comments widget update in near realtime but not as immediately as the native blogger comments.

Notes: If you want to anonymously post use the signup with Disqus UI and click on I'd rather post as a guest. Its  important to then choose a consistent name/email address if you want to be automatically whitelisted.  Its not necessary to use a valid email address although I'd prefer you did if you feel comfortable. That gives me a private channel to communicate back. Any email addresses are never disclosed to other readers.

Example: anonymous guest post.

So please go over to  http://discusshcc.blogspot.com/ post some test comments and tell me what you think..

Secondary Administrative Procedures and Counseling Manual

SOS Counseling Manual - This was provided by a reader, It contains a grab bag of procedures related to grades, course scheduling, high school credits, equivalent courses of study.


The US team won the IMO Mathmatics competitions for the second year in a row:

What's on your minds?