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.


Anonymous said...

"Honors for all" sounds good. However, the devil is in the implementation. How will this be implemented? Will everyone truly get the higher-level thinking experience (instead of rote memorization)? Or will the classes devolve to a segregated experience where the "normal" kids receive a separate instructional experience with different standards? Will this be just another form of instructional segregation? Will the teachers be able to engage advanced and struggling students while also dealing with troublemakers? "Honors for all" could just as easily be worse for everyone.

Northwest Parent

Anonymous said...

If this plan is so fool-proof and amazing, why is it being announced in July?


Anonymous said...

What GHS was doing before wasn't working for everyone. Perhaps that wasn't apparent to many of the HCC parents here, but it was obvious to a lot of others at GHS and the surrounding community. I appreciate that GHS faculty is trying to address the problems and disparities in educational opportunities at GHS. I hope you will too. - Capitol Hill Parent

Sneak Attack said...

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.

They aren't answering the question. I don't get why they need to push it out so fast. What is the urgent rush? Can't we take another year to properly introduce it? You can't realistically expect people to support something that's being shoved down their throats. Waiting would be a reasonable compromise (and, incidentally, make it fair for 8th grade families selecting schools to know what they're getting into).

Anonymous said...

prove the disparity chp. the racist comments by the educator make me think you are right with more concern going to lower ses students. i would certainly hate to be in her class knowing that she sees me as fragile and my parents as apartheid supporters.

show the disparity wasn't all perception. and of course i expect you to turn to your strawman arguments; just support the first one you make before you move on please.

hcc teachers aren't any better right?
hcc teachers aren't given better budgets right?
hcc classes aren't smaller right?

support your claim before moving on to any of the other monikers; otherwise you should be ignored until you do support what you say or continue to be considered not concerned with any truth and will say anything to further your cause. Oh and your cause is to destroy hcc as you feel it is better, other than just right for high iq high achievement kids.

no caps

Anonymous said...

this is all lies. it was honors for none before it was honors for all; otherwise how do you really chip away at APP if you aren't doing just that?

no caps

Anonymous said...

This would have gone better had Garfield teachers rolled this out a few months ago, rather than parents finding out about it in a (possibly inaccurate) newspaper article. I have to believe most parents would have been willing to engage here and help refine this into a very strong proposal.

It's already most of the way there, though as someone who works at the collegiate level, I push back against their claim that group learning is good preparation for college and a career. It isn't. It's no substitute for a student having the knowledge and skills they need. And as someone who's assigned those kinds of projects in college classes, I know that it tends to result in multiple avenues of resentment: by the advanced learners at the students who aren't at their level and thus have a harder time making the same kind of meaningful contributions; and by the students who are further behind and feel exposed and put on the spot and embarrassed at being asked to contribute at the same level and being unable to do so. But that's not a fatal flaw, it can be addressed, and they can refine this if they're willing to hear well-intentioned feedback.

Larger questions remain about the future of advanced learning in Seattle schools and whether there is a sustained attack on it (the answer seems to be yes) and how the Garfield proposal figures into it (the answer there is "it's not clear"). And Ted Howard might have made a Freudian slip in the newspaper article. We shall see...

West Seattle Anon

Anonymous said...

I should add that this information came in an email from the Garfield PTSA who asked the teachers to provide it. We have yet to receive any information at all directly from the school. And I'm still ...

Not Buying It

Anonymous said...

This is a letter to the PTSA from the teachers, instead of to all parents from the principal??

Anonymous said...

If it sounds like a rat and smells like a rat and acts like a rat, even if you dress it up in pretty language ... it's probably still a rat.

Anonymous said...

What kind of precedent is this setting? Are teachers now determining the delivery of HC services? Who the *bleep* is in charge?

Anonymous said...

Looking at the school district of Carol Burris, Detracking for Equity and Excellence, it just doesn't seem comparable to Garfield. The district has a total enrollment of under 4000, one high school, 1% ELL, 12% FRL, and 78% white (less diverse than Roosevelt). According to, the graduation rate is 98%, math proficiency 99%, and reading proficiency 99%. Median household income in Rockville Centre, NY, is $112,000.

Anonymous said...

Rockville Centre: An Urban New York Suburb

Anonymous said...

The outgoing Garfield PTSA President posted in an earlier thread this reply to an email he sent to GHS teachers asking the same question as Anon 5:55 -

I also inquired whether the Advanced Learning Office had reviewed the plan, this was the reply I got:

"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."

Not Buying It

Anonymous said...

Please attend the AL protest at GHS this wed July 13th 2016 @ 12:00 Noon.

GHS main entrance. More info soon.

Charlie Mas said...

When the idea of heterogeneous English and Social Studies classes was proposed, the rational response was not to oppose it out of hand or support it without question but to seek more information about the proposed change. Reasonable questions needed to be answered. The top three were:
1) What Standards and academic expectations will students be taught to?
2) How will the classes accommodate multiple Standards?
3) How will the school evaluate the success of the change?

This letter appears to answer all of those questions (and more). What further questions do people have that this letter didn't answer?

Some of the questions already asked on this thread are:

How will this be implemented? I believe the letter answers this question.
Will everyone truly get the higher-level thinking experience (instead of rote memorization)? The letter says they will.
Or will the classes devolve to a segregated experience where the "normal" kids receive a separate instructional experience with different standards? The instructional methods that the teachers say they intend to use will provide all students with the opportunity to think deeply about the material.
Will this be just another form of instructional segregation? No.
Will the teachers be able to engage advanced and struggling students while also dealing with troublemakers? Yes.
If this plan is so fool-proof and amazing, why is it being announced in July? Because that's when it was ready for announcement.
Why are we making this change right now? Because now is when they are ready to make the change.
What is the urgent rush? What is the virtue of delay when the current situation is sub-optimal.
Can't we take another year to properly introduce it? Not necessary. It has been introduced.
What kind of precedent is this setting? A pretty good one. This is a thoughtful effort that adequately addresses the concerns of all parties.
Are teachers now determining the delivery of HC services? Yes. Same as always. There is no HC curriculum, it's just whatever the teachers decide to teach.
Who the *bleep* is in charge? The teachers are in charge of their classes. The principal is in charge of the school. The superintendent is in charge of the District's management and administration. The School Board is in charge of District policy. The OSPI is in charge of State Standards.

The community engagement on this change has certainly been bolluxed, but that's no different from anything else in the long history of Seattle Public Schools. The substance of the work, aside from the style of the communication, appears solid. So long as advanced learners continue to be taught to the same Standards and academic expectations that were in place for them before, and there is an objective measure to prove that, what complaints could HC student families have about this change?

Sneak Attack said...

Charlie, my main complaint is that it was not told to middle school families before open enrollment, so we could not make our choice of a high school knowing this was going to happen. Choosing a high school is not easy, we attended tours and open houses, had many discussions of the pros and cons of each school. It's not fair that these families can't switch now. We are stuck with a choice that some might have made differently if they had been informed. Would the Enrollment office be willing to reopen enrollment for these families and allow them to switch to Ingraham or a neighborhood school? Otherwise, waiting a year is the only way to be fair to rising 8th grade families.

Also we have received information from the outgoing GHS PTSA president to this effect: "I have personally come to believe that there isn’t a plan – that a decision was made at Garfield based on personal feelings and convictions, and that a plan is being hastily developed now." Yes, they have thrown together a plan that sounds pretty plausible, but how thoughtful and well considered was it actually?

I plan to attend the protest at the GHS main entrance Wed., July 13th at noon and urge others to do so also, and spread the word.

Sneak Attack said...

Oh, and this outgoing PTSA president based his opinion on attending meetings with these teachers. He's one of the few people who's actually talked to them. I assume you're basing your opinion on just the email the (incoming) PTSA sent, not by talking to the teachers.

Anonymous said...

The district shouldn't be surprised that these changes aren't being embraced by some of the incoming HCC families.

Remember, this incoming 9th grade groups includes kids who were evicted from Lowell in the summer of 2011, and then removed from Hamilton or watched their friends be removed from Hamilton after 6th grade to go start JAMS.

At some point, it's reasonable for families to want to know what to expect and not have more surprises thrown their way, particularly late in the game when schools choices have become irrevocable. The way this was rolled out has shattered any trust that some of these families may have, remarkably, still had in the district.

-former dragon

Anonymous said...

Charlie, you are correct that that would be a rational response. And you've done a thorough, rational analysis. I agree with you that the FAQ answers most of our questions and makes this looks like a reasonable change, I believe the teachers are optimistic about how it will work, and I think at the end of the day it will be a positive experience for many kids.

But this was introduced to the HCC community with these words: "place all ninth-graders in honors history and English, chipping away at a system that traditionally tracks gifted middle-schoolers — mostly white — into Garfield’s Advanced Placement curriculum."

And the only other public spokesperson so far, an LA teacher at Garfield, has had this to say: "It won't hurt the fragile products of APP to go to class with their brothers and sisters...[LA teachers] don't need obnoxious elitist unconscious racists dooming them to failure before they have a chance to begin."

This paired with a prevailing tide of anti-intellectualism in the name of equity is feeling like an attack on the HCC community. People are sad and defensive and angry. I can't blame them.


Anonymous said...

And so far, total dead silence from the school itself.

Anonymous said...

Small correction to the first quote above. The original, which stood for several days before the ST editorial team corrected it, was even worse: "cut honors history and English for ninth grade, chipping away at a system that traditionally tracks gifted middle-schoolers..."


Benjamin Leis said...

I appreciate as always that you post under your name. Pardon me but I have to ask, are you being tongue in cheek? I don't find this post at all consistent with your past writing.

I'll just touch on a few points. You've repeatedly talked about the importance of process in multiple facets of the district. But here if a change is deemed ready and necessary from the staff perspective, there is no need for schedule or outreach. Nothing needs to be done more than a retro-active letter from the PTSA. By this same logic Michael Tolley's memo about the dissolution of spectrum self-contained classrooms which you condemned is probably superior since it comes directly from the staff. It merely needs some theoretical shoring up which can be done at any time following this philosophy and all is well.

You've always continually asked for proof of rigor after various shifts in the past. Are we to assume that you were really asking that the teachers meet and think about differentiation? If so I really don't understand your recent ire at the Thurgood Marshall changes. Since they are being fairly deliberate and following the exact same procedure.

Do you still believe self-contained classrooms are useful and if so when and why? That's been the general theme of the many posts you've put up over the last few years. Should we read this as a general shift in your thinking?

I write this comment from a sense of genuine curiosity. I think these issues are complex and I myself have not come to a full conclusion on what the effect of these changes will be or the proper reaction to them.

Anonymous said...

An AL protest? I'd seriously reconsider.

With Amazon preview, you can read some excerpts of Burris' newest book, On the Same Track. It's not just against ability grouping, but school choice as well.

"And what happens to the neighborhood school that is not chosen? As high achievers move out of a school, school achievement plummets and the school begins a downward spiral..." Is this not a possibility with the implementation of the Honors for All at GHS? That high achievers will leave?

NESeattleMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What doesn't make sense is mismatch in the proposed assessment and the teaching method. It looks as though the AP exam scores will be the measure of success. AP examinations rely almost entirely on regurgitation of memorized information, yet the main plan for teaching will be reliance on group projects which allow considerably less time for direct instruction and memorization activities. Theoretically, scores should decline.

Personally, I don't care for an over reliance on group projects as the grade motivated do all the work, and the lazy goof off. My daughter recalls one project where her cumlitave score allowed her to not turn it in and still receive an "A". She was so frustrated with her group partners spending the entire time recounting stories and plans for sexual conquest that she did not do the project. The boys were not able to graduate on time, and she still got her "A". I know a lot of bright young folks with a lot of resentment over these types of projects. Motivated kids will need to do all the busy work for their partners, write the reports, and then go read the texts that were not covered in class, and prepare and review the flash cards for the AP exams. Motivated kids will get no sleep, and lazy or struggling kids will skate through without adequate instruction.

Reconsider the protest. Many see this change as solely racial. A protest is likely to appear as a race protest.

It may be better for your children to homeschool for these subjects, and allow them to study for their AP exams without the distraction of the group projects.


Anonymous said...

I am still thinking these implications through as Benjamin is.

I keep coming back to: I do not understand how a high school can offer only one level/option for an academic core subject when it serves the full, huge range of academic needs that Garfield does.

Especially when it is a pathway high school for an accelerated academic program.

Announcing the initiation of a "desegregation" effort when classes have only been "tracked" by academic test scores -- which could be waived -- seems like irresponsible language by staff.

Anonymous said...

The description of project-based work (is it higher level thinking?), at the expense of "rote-memorization" (can't we have both?) sounds like my child's HC SS classes these past few years. SS became my child's least favorite class and the absolute minimum effort was expended to maintain an A. Really minimal effort. Independent history reading was done at home. If we were faced with the same in high school, we'd seriously consider independent, self-study for an AP exam (maybe economics or something the school doesn't offer) in lieu of enrolling in a class. I'm not sure how difficult it would be in terms of paperwork, scheduling, and approval, but I'd certainly explore my options.

Anonymous said...

I see Kahn academy is expanding its humanities video instruction offerings. This combined with some good textbooks and study guides, with perhaps a report or two, could make a pretty strong home school course.

Any other suggestions for home study?

Also, I thought the music programs did a pretty good job of racial integration. It's not like Garfield doesn't have some balanced classes.


Lynn said...

You have to have social studies credit to graduate and Garfield will not grant credit for anything other than college courses (running start). This seems like a good time to push the board to require high schools to allow competency-based credit for AP and IB exam scores and for online classes taken through programs approved by OSPI and through accredited online schools like JHU's CTY, Northwestern's Center for Talent Development, Stanford's EPGY, and Duke's TIP. OSPI allows this.

Lynn said...

It will be a shame if the only way these students can access a rigorous college prep high school education is through independent study and online classes. One advantage of off-campus learning would be starving schools of funding if they don't offer the courses families want. If the staff isn't concerned about educating my children, why should the school receive tax dollars for them?

Anonymous said...

It is a shame.

Anonymous said...

SPS Policy C16.00 Acceptance of correspondence or college courses for high school credit

The school district has the flexibility to approve more than just Running Start classes (which are limited to 11th and 12 graders). According to state law, the new online class from the UW Robinson Center could be approved. This is something that should be uniform across high schools. According to WAC 392-410-310, Such rules shall limit acceptance to courses from approved schools or institutions and shall be available upon request for review by students, parents, and the public.

Is there not also an independent study option?

Anonymous said...

The thing is I'm going to guess that most families are not interested in trying to work around the standard classes in 9th grade nor are most students ready for some of these more extreme options. I think most 9th graders still need to be in a regular high school classroom to be successful.

Anonymous said...

Apex Learning (on Washington State Digital Learning Department's approved list) has several LA/SS options, including AP courses.

Anonymous said...

Is part of the problem that HCC has gotten so big that GHS and SPS see these students as not all that unique? I suspect that if HCC were more focused on serving "outlier" students who really require something different, then they wouldn't suggest this type of blending. Outlier students were already poorly served, and the changes being suggested at GHS and TM seem to indicate things will get even worse.

Sneak Attack said...

I get what people are saying about an AL protest not looking good, but it's too bad that we're seen as such privileged racists that we aren't even allowed to protest on behalf of our own children in a democratic society. Sigh. But I might accept that it's true.

Lynn said...

The students are outliers by definition. The schools they attended prior to enrolling in HCC didn't meet their needs. The cohort has grown because the number of middle and upper middle class families in the district has grown. The other factor is the dismantling of classrooms that served them closer to home. If neighborhood schools provided self-contained advanced learning classes in elementary school and middle school and true honors and AP or IB classes in high school, I think the city-wide highly capable cohort would be much smaller.

Anonymous said...

The problem when comparing Burris’s plan and implementation to SPS is that SPS falls so short on Burris’s recommendations on how to approach this matter in a thoughtful, respectful way. Burris did not run rough shod over a segment of parents, and she emphasized that “reform requires careful cultural and political work” in the community.

1. Burris: The goal is to start with one class and eliminate ALL ability grouping K-12.

SPS: The series of newspaper articles (black white achievement gap, mayor’s education summit, Garfield, Detracking), are clearly being used to announce the district’s move to “detracking” K-12. They’re well-orchestrated political maneuvers with proof-of-performance from WMS and the obligatory “scared of diversity” quote from a parent.

2. Burris: District and school leaders need to listen to parent’s concern about the reforms and issue policy statements about the change.

SPS: Mums the word from our district and school leaders. See #1 plus the horrid Facebook post disparaging HCC children as “fragile” and their parents as “elitist unconscious racists”. A teacher showing that level of bias toward children and their parents should be immediately dismissed.

3. Burris: Begin eliminating ability grouping with English and Social studies, since “learning is not based on the sequential acquisition of skill and knowledge”.

SPS: Appears to be following this recommendation.

4. Burris: Schedule multi-year elimination plan; she outlines a 6 year plan (her district, Rockville Centre, took 10 years).

SPS: Announce Garfield change during the summer AFTER open enrollment ends to manage capacity. Let the parents know after the fact that all the changes you’ve been making this year (e.g. Spectrum, TM, middle school) are actually part of an overall district plan to “detrack” via the Times.

5. Burris: Requires rigorous, high-track curriculum as the default; don’t “teach to the middle”.

SPS: Q&A from teachers says class will be honors level.

6. Burris: Success DEPENDS on differentiation.

SPS: Q&A from teachers says teachers already have experience differentiating. However, Burris used examples in her book of how lessons are differentiated. I prefer examples as the on-the-ground application is so open to interpretation and success DEPENDS on it.

7. Burris: Professional development is long-term and intensive due to the switch to a constructivist, differentiated approach and Lesson Study Model. The LSM uses a triad of teachers - one to teach and the others are silent observers during class who take notes about student’s reactions to the lessons. The team debriefs after class to discuss what worked.

SPS: The 3-day workshop doesn’t align with Burris’s call for intensive training. Perhaps Garfield has already mastered differentiation. I was impressed with the Lesson Study Model that Burris used, but she had the resources to have that many teachers in a room. I wonder how not implementing that crucial part of the plan will impact Garfield’s ability to differentiate and adjust the lesson. One lone Americorp volunteer rotating throughout all the classes and periodic volunteers from other sources (UW students, parents) doesn’t approximate the commitment and intensity of Burris’s plan.

8. Burris: Inclusion. Team teachers are in class to support students with IEPs and 504s.

SPS: Q&A from teachers says class will be inclusive, but won’t have team teachers in the class for support.

9. Burris: Cooperative learning with mixed ability grouping so high-achieving students can help the low-achieving students. Peer role models are important.

SPS: Q&A says group work will be used.

10. Burris: Supplementary classes available to help those who need more support, but not to replace primary heterogeneous class.

SPS: Q&A says students who need it will be given extra support.

Anonymous said...


Overall, I’d say that Burris had excellent resources, executed her plan with great care and delivered excellent results for low and mid-level achievers.

Although she admits that her results can’t be generalized, I believe it’s highly likely that schools that also have excellent resources (ex: enough staff for teaching teams), a rigorous advanced curriculum and who follow her key principles while adjusting for their individual nuances, may expect positive results for low and mid-level achievers. I believe that the idea is worth trying, because children’s futures are at stake.

However, there is a segment of the population, top 0.01 to 5% ability or achievement, who have already mastered grade level material often several years plus, that will not be served by this plan. The “detracking” quantitative data has mixed results in general, and does not address results for children who fall into the top 0.01 to 5 percentile.

Also, I’ve not found any evidence that researchers used above-level testing. I find these omissions in research data particularly disingenuous, since researchers know the surrounding political issues from parents of highly academically advanced children. The quantitative evidence isn’t sufficient for this particular sub-set of children.

For those of you who mistakenly think that HCC wishes to isolate our children, please know that isolation isn’t what’s sought, it’s the subject acceleration. District policy generally doesn’t support whole grade acceleration, and most children probably don’t have the maturity or other skills to be grade accelerated that far ahead.

Neighborhood schools state they will provide appropriate services, but many don’t. Those schools that do may offer 1-2 hours a week, but still not appropriately differentiated. The neighborhood school isn’t a viable choice academically for children who’ve already mastered the grade level curriculum.

Choices don’t need to be so binary. If we really support the continued growth each year for all of our children, we can offer “detracking” for those students, the majority, who need a general education environment with an advanced, rigorous curriculum and high expectations for all, and a separate environment for children who genuinely need RADICAL acceleration (2+ years).

Until someone clearly demonstrates that they can meet my child’s need for radical acceleration, I don’t believe it.

- NEM (Family of Color & HCC)

Lynn said...

Don't forget obnoxious. It was obnoxious elitist unconscious racists.

Anonymous said...

A little something I read on the SSS blog , distilled down a bit.

"If you take the time to analyze the progressive philosophy you will see the need for its followers to maintain the belief that the root cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his or her convictions to the group. They insist on forming distinctions like “true versus false” and “right versus wrong” with the goal of generating social conflict. They believe that if only children did not hold strong ideas, disagreement and conflict would disappear leaving behind pure progressive social harmony. Truth, in their view is socially fractious, while ignorance of course is bliss.

What the Progressives mean by “socialization” is the surrender of one’s mind, of one’s independent knowledge and judgment — to a “group consensus.” This explains why educational standards have plummeted over the years, why Progressive teaching methods consist primarily of class discussions where everyone’s opinion is considered equally valid — and why Johnny (or Susie) can’t read, write, add or think.

Once truth and logic are dismissed, Susie is left with one fundamental guide to making choices: her emotions. Explaining the Progressive practice of engaging children in whatever “scientific experiments” they feel like doing, one teacher, according to author Andrew Nikiforuk [pg. 42 of School’s Out (1993)], said: “If students enjoyed working with science-type materials such as magnets or mirrors, I really don’t care if they learned anything.” To which a principal replied: “As an educator, I fully agree with that view. As a parent, it scares me to death.”

He and we should be scared, because a child driven solely by feelings is like a vehicle out of control. Which feelings will guide her? The fear and anxiety generated by ignorance and cognitive incompetence?"

Benjamin Leis said...

Moderator Note: Please don't repost comments from the SSS blog. I assume most folks who care are reading them at the original source and don't need to see them twice. I'm not going to enforce this but rely on everyone's judgement on whether its really essential to do so. Basically, pick where you want to comment and don't do it 2x.

Anonymous said...

Well since the discussion moved into ideological fire..... I need a little whimsy. A friend living on the other coast is going through the stressful steps to get her kids into the local magnet high school (like winning an ivy acceptance letter- it's that crazy) sent me this link. Yes, I know it's the Finnish thing again. But put aside the Finnish part and just read the author's thoughts on learning. There's an answer in here somewhere to get off this crazy rat race and its 9 circles of educational hell. And the extraordinary thing is the stats (no, not the ranking one, but the statistics breakdown and teaching lots of physics in primary school-yay!). It's the kind of idea Stephen Wolfram can get behind or more likely, in front of.

cooling off

Anonymous said...

I like it Cooling.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a link for the current SPS K-12 Counseling Services Manual? I am looking for guidance on courses taken for independent study in HS.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

You can file a declaration to homeschool a single subject. When is the deadline for that?

Anonymous said...

Declaration of Intent to Provide Home-Based Instruction form must be filed annually by September 15, or within two weeks of the beginning of any public school quarter, trimester, or semester. You have plenty of time to work things out. (And since it's often hard to get a decent/full schedule at Garfield, you may find you need to make some adjustments to your plan at the start of school anyway.)

Lynn said...

You can do that but Garfield will not grant credit for home-based instruction and if the course is a graduation requirement your child will not receive a diploma.

I've requested a copy of the K-12 Counseling Manual and will ask Benjamin to post it here when I receive it.

There are approved methods to earn credit for work done outside of the regular school day but no student is guaranteed access to them. Principals have the authority to grant or deny the credits.

Anonymous said...

The rules are different for high school, hence the request for the Counseling Manual, which I think addresses courses taken for independent study as opposed to online or part-time homeschooling. Part-time homeschooling may work for middle school, but it gets more complicated when talking about high school credit. If GHS is more restrictive than other high schools when allowing independent study, then perhaps that is something that needs to be addressed.

Lynn said...

Agree that this should be addressed. GHS does not grant credit for independent study or online courses (other than health or credit retrieval.)

Anonymous said...

Aren't nearly all the courses required for graduation? If a parent had a religious or moral objection to health and sexuality as taught at SPS and homeschooled for that subject then the school would not grant a diploma? This seems to violate parental rights and likely laws.

Anonymous said...

Check out the excellent CogAT schooling on SSS blog by Another Dad. Reframes
the entire discussion about this issue and puts the district on notice regarding
the roots of the injustice regarding the demographics of HCC.

Charlie Mas said...

@Benjamin Leis said...

No, I'm not being sarcastic. Despite my reputation, I rarely am.

Part of the reason that I am uncharacteristically sanguine about this change is that I see, for the first time, at least lip service paid to some of the reforms that I've been wanting.

Yes, this was done without any community engagement. That stinks, but it's pretty much par for the District as a whole and is exactly the way that Garfield does everything. Garfield is the WORST at community engagement. Set on that scale, this retro-active letter from the PTSA is actually pretty good. It does, for example, actually answer questions. No, it's not optimal, but it's the best we're going to get.

Also, let's remember the distribution of power and authority here: they have all of it; we have none of it. While it might be best practice for them to do community engagement, they are under no obligation to do so.

I have asked for proof of rigor. I see in this letter. Whether you believe them or not, the teachers have said, in unambiguous language:
"Our lessons will still be tied to AP learning goals, as they currently are in honors World History." and "We are not changing our standards or objectives."
What's missing, of course, is a clear statement of those learning goals, standards, and objectives.

In other cases of de-tracking, including ALO, Spectrum, and Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall, the advanced students were moved into the general education class. In this case, the general education students are being moved into the honors class.

I do still believe that self-contained classrooms are useful. The sort of differentiated instruction that the Garfield teachers are proposing requires a lot of work and preparation. It requires smaller class sizes. It requires additional work out of class. They are committing to all of that. It would be a lot easier to just have self-contained classes. My statements have not been "self contained = good; blended = bad" but more like "self-contained = easy; blended = hard".

I'm not really happy about this. It's a pedagogical answer to a social problem. It's not the tracking the teachers oppose but the racial disproportionality between the tracks. There aren't similar calls for de-tracking at Hamilton, Jane Addams, or Ingraham where we don't see the same sort of racial disparity. There's more. The honors classes, like the AP classes, are open to everyone. The solution should have been to encourage more Black and Latino students to take the class, not to force them all to take it. The students clearly don't want this. If they did, then the Black and Latino students would have signed up for the class.

Charlie Mas said...

... continued

As far as the "they should have told us before Open Enrollment" complaint goes, the HCC community doesn't have that complaint. Their kids signed up for Honors English and Social Studies and that's what they are getting. There was never any promise about who else would be in the class. The people who should be complaining are the students who signed up for regular English and Social Studies and, against their will, have been put in the Honors class. Moreover, some of them have been enrolled in a non-credit English support class so they can't take an elective as freshman and will only have the opportunity to earn five credits in the 9th grade instead of six.

Again, I don't think this is a particularly good idea, but I do think that if you are going to do this, then Garfield is doing it as well as we have any right to expect them to do it. The one best part of the PTSA letter was this:
"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.
There will be an attempt to measure the effect on learning. Contrast that with every other de-tracking. None of them had any measurement of the effect on learning. The principal at Washington made no effort to measure the change in learning for the advanced students. None. So long as they pass the state's standardized test for proficiency she counts it as a success. Those families should opt out of that test and take away that principal's fake measure of success.

I would ask that the schools not de-track. But, if they are going to de-track, then I would ask that they keep the standards high for the students who were working towards higher standards and prove that they are doing it. Not only because we don't trust that they will do it, but for the integrity of their own process.

Sneak Attack said...

Thank you for that clarification, Charlie. I beg to differ, though, that signing up for true honors and honors-for-all wouldn't make a difference in HCC families' choices. I personally think it might have swayed the balance for us and know several other people for whom it's the same. For sure it will next year when people actually know what they're getting into.

One part of the letter stands out to me as especially untrustworthy: "Students are overwhelmingly in support of this change." How can they say that when they incoming 9th graders didn't even know it was happening? If they're talking about other students, which ones, and how did they poll them? It makes the other parts of the document seem just as questionable.

Anonymous said...

Anon@12:18 - The CogAT is used by many, many school districts, including Bellevue and Shoreline. Not sure what this has to do with Garfield, where HC status is not required to access honors and AP classes.

SusanH said...

Charlie, I don't believe for a second that these will really be honors-level classes. In the original article, the principal said, "we're getting rid of 9th grade honors classes." Only when people complained did the school switch tactics to, "No, no! What we really meant was honors for everybody!"

I just sincerely hope the "honors" portion of the class won't simply consist of extra work for those students. That takes me back to to elementary school, when attempts to differentiate simply meant more worksheets.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I don't doubt GHS teachers received some positive feedback from some students about the change. If students were asked face to face, they may hesitate to offer anything but support. I'm sure some students honestly support the change, but if the recent Facebook post from a Garfield teacher is any indication of the climate at GHS, there are probably students that know voicing lack of support would label them racist or elitist or [pick your name]. So teachers may well have gotten overwhelming and enthusiastic support from students, but what students were even aware of the proposed change? Certainly not incoming 9th graders, who will be impacted the most. Hearing that the change was being planned before Open Enrollment builds zero trust for incoming families. And that Facebook post. Just can't get past it.

Anonymous said...

I know. The FB post and Ted Howard's interview are the smoking guns. Please tell me they don't think we're that gullible.

Anonymous said...

If it's "honors for all," why do the teachers need to work on differentiating lessons? Shouldn't all lessons be at the honors level? Or can you earn mini-honors, honors or high honors, depending on the level of challenge you take on?

Anonymous said...

That SPS does not use the discrepancy model (that Lohman makes clear is the basis for valid scores for the CogAT) cannot be dismissed because Shoreline or Bellevue uses it.

The very real concerns about the demographics in HC that highly underrepresent students from lower SES (overlapping the lack of Black and Hispanic students) is explained by the fact that the SPS gatekeeping tool is producing invalid scores for qualification for HC.

This is a very serious issue and goes to the root of injustice that is apparent to anyone who looks at the demographics in HC. The fact that there is no academic accountability beyond admission makes this especially disturbing.

Benjamin Leis said...

After moderating this board through the testing season I'm not going to try to claim the AL office is following all the best practices. As far as I know they actually do take the IQ achievement discrepancy model into account (I assume that's what you're referring to). This is based both on policy and what Stephen Martin stated according to my memory. The AL folks primarily focus on identification and they are pretty sensitive about the demographics.

"If a student demonstrates cognitive ability in verbal, quantitative, or non-verbal
reasoning AND qualifies for free or reduced lunch, English Language Learner services,
and/or Special Education services, the student may warrant further consideration by the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MSC) if there is strong teacher/educator input to do so. [Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Section 392-170-060 focused on evidence of cognitive ability and/or academic achievement"

The other claim the office made was that pass rates after administering and passing the screener were roughly the same across all the demographic groups. Differences only arose after the appeal process. Its very clear the AL office dislikes private appeals but that's a topic for another day (Email me if you'd like a separate thread on the subject).

Anonymous said...

If the district were following Lohman's discrepancy model as stated, students from schools/regions that have clusters of demographics with high scores would have their scores adjusted for their own demographics. The "hot zones" would cool off.

It also does not appear that the district is adjusting the lower SES student's scores based on information you provided (which I appreciate) but is using a more holistic approach for those students.

The screeners would not be predicted to lead to any increases as long as Lohman's discrepancy model (for all demographics) is ignored since the inherent biases he attempts to compensate for would continue to persist.

Anonymous said...

qualification is really not salient to this thread about howard's wish to nock down the ap pathway at ghs. first by getting rid of the honors classes for HCC kids and everyone else! what is next. you know how ms. taylor feels about the HC community. the only ones who are bringing up qualification into the program are also building straw man arguments against hcc.

ghs is trying to fix issues related to poverty and education which i applaud. do they have to call me a racist though to do that? do they have to call white kids fragile? do they have to imply racial segregation is the reason hcc is so popular?

this is really not about race people it is only being framed that way so tully can pull the program down.

no caps

Anonymous said...

I try to avoid the SSS blog, there are many racist post there.

Anonymous said...

We wouldn't want teachers to take a comment of one parent and attribute it to all parents, so we should think twice about making the assumption that the one teacher's FB comment represents how all teachers feel. Her name is not on the list of teachers who are teaching 9th grade next year, so it's unfair to connect this change to her comment somehow.

Anonymous said...

That the one teacher feels comfortable speaking the way she did towards HCC students and families is telling of the climate at Garfield. I have real hesitations about sending my children there now, more because of her comments than because of this change. It was a shockingly unprofessional thing to do.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"You can file a declaration to homeschool a single subject. "

To note on homeschooling, do NOT say you are leaving the district (the form I used years back had such a box) because that will just cause you more difficulties. Make sure you are clear on what you are doing - and clear it with the district - before you make any changes.

Anonymous, I would agree; a few of my readers appear to have some racist thoughts that they are willing to put down. We have an open forum policy but we do moderate.

I did speak with someone at Garfield. It appears that this issue was known by the PTSA and indeed, teachers did want to make a presentation but it never happened. But, as we all know, not everyone is in the PTSA and it is Mr. Howard's job to let parents know about big changes in how academics are presented.

My other take after this conversation is that it feels like equal measures of social justice and academics. I think it is true that all kids have things to learn from each other and, by having more diversity in classrooms, you may have more lively discussions which could lead to deeper understanding.

The problem is that the district is not known for its great support of new initiatives. So class size + supports for students who need them are going to be key to making this work. I'm not convinced that will happen.

And, you have to be sure of teachers being able to present in such a way that the teaching gathers everyone in or you will lose students (probably from either end.)

I'm not against this move necessarily but for a district which touts transparency and family engagement, this sure seems weird. It also looks like yet another school being allowed to go its own direction (seemingly without oversight from JSCEE but who knows? the district has been decidedly silent.)

Anonymous said...

Her name probably got removed from the list because realistically even they couldn't let her go ahead and teach those classes after what she said. But that attitude didn't come out of left field, she can't be the only one in the department who thinks that.

The difference between the comments of a teacher and a parent is a teacher is a PROFESSIONAL and making those kinds of comments about students violates the ethics of her job. As does the way GHS teachers are forcing this on us borders on.

Sneak Attack said...

Melissa, I am curious to hear who you spoke to at Garfield? Was it a teacher?

Anonymous said...

If this plan is so fool-proof and amazing, why is it being announced in July?
Because that's when the Seattle Times ran that article.

Why are we making this change right now? Because we want to.

What is the urgent rush? So we can slip it by without you noticing.

Can't we take another year to properly introduce it?
No, because if there was more time to discuss it you'd see all the flaws and try to stop it.

Anonymous said...

"I did speak with someone at Garfield. It appears that this issue was known by the PTSA and indeed, teachers did want to make a presentation but it never happened. But, as we all know, not everyone is in the PTSA and it is Mr. Howard's job to let parents know about big changes in how academics are presented. "

Melissa, here are the facts regarding this.

In May, one of the teachers reached out and said they wanted to get some time on the PTSA agenda for something unspecified. We were doing nominations, budget and other things and didn't have room. After a bit of going back and forth (and finding out what the teachers wanted to talk about) they were invited to speak at both the PTSA board and general meetings. I have all of this in my email.

They declined and asked for a smaller meeting. At that meeting, they talked philosophically about what they wanted to do, without specifics and at no time suggested that this was something they were doing for all students in 2016-17. After the meeting, the Principal told PTSA leaders that the teachers were not ready and this would not be implemented in 2016-2017. The feedback we gave the teachers in the meeting was this was way too late for implementation and they needed to start a process to share a detailed plan and get community feedback.

That is the last I heard about this (and I was the PTSA president) until Claudia Rowe told me what the Principal told her - that Garfield was eliminating 9th grade LA and SS.

July 12th 5:40 PM has this right: this is being done this way (during the summer, no notice) to avoid having to do the hard work of getting feedback, providing a detailed plan etc.

Anonymous said...

We entrust these people with our children. Our tax dollars pay their salaries.

Adam Gish -
Alan Kahn -
Kit McCormick -
Rosa Powers - ? not listed in GHS directory
Kirsten Otterby -
Andrea Soroko -

Nathan King - ? not listed in GHS directory
Jeremy Lugo - ? not listed in GHS directory
Corey Allan Martin -
Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser -
Nathan Simoneaux -

Anonymous said...

Come to school board directors meetings Saturday.

Saturday, July 16th.
Directors Patu and Harris have their community meetings on that date.
Patu - 10-11:30 am Caffe Vita, 5028 Wilson Ave S.
Harris - 3:00-4:30 pm Southwest Branch, 9010 35th Ave. SW

Charlie Mas said...

Mary Powers (may be Rosa):
Nathan King:
David Lugo (may be Jeremy):

Charlie Mas said...

So we have people who, without any evidence, believe that the academic standards will be lowered and the class will not be true Honors - despite grave assurances from the teacher that the standards will be maintained. Don't you think the teachers should be given a chance to show that they can do it? They say that they will be monitoring the rigor and student families are free to monitor the rigor as well. The academic goals of the Honors class have been defined, right?

I'm not saying that the academic expectations will be maintained - that remains to be seen. I'm only saying that the teachers say they will be. Which, if you think about it, is the same promise the teachers make every year.

In other adventures in de-tracking the school and the teachers did NOT commit to maintaining rigor, did not have a written set of Standards, and did not commit to monitor the rigor to confirm it was maintained. So this time is different in all those ways.

I'm not much impressed or amused by the sock puppet dialog in the Anonymous comment from July 12, 2016 at 5:40 PM. It's dishonest to speak for people who have an opposing view. The teachers answered the questions. If you distrust their answers, that's one thing, but you don't get to answer for them.

Benjamin Leis said...

Generally, I do not want to see this blog used as forum to pillory teachers. However, in this case all the names were publicly signed and anyone could have looked them up in the directory so I will leave the comments above in place. That said, I don't believe emailing individual teachers in this case would be effective and I'm going to make a personal plea to be respectful if you decide to email anyway.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Charlie, I was just making a point. Trust and respect have reached a very low point here.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa's post:
"My other take after this conversation is that it feels like equal measures of social justice and academics. I think it is true that all kids have things to learn from each other and, by having more diversity in classrooms, you may have more lively discussions which could lead to deeper understanding.

The problem is that the district is not known for its great support of new initiatives. So class size + supports for students who need them are going to be key to making this work. I'm not convinced that will happen."

I think that while the educators involved feel they are doing good work by making this change, do they have the resources to really make it work for ALL kids? Some parents are doubtful. Classes that are accelerated offered to all regardless of skill level provided as mandatory sounds great on paper. Are we setting some kids up to feel bad about themselves by offering material they are not yet ready? What happens if this change does not work for all of the kids involved? Are they willing to go back to general & (opt in) honors classes? Also, what happens to this model when teachers and others who share the stated commitment leave.


Anonymous said...

P.S. Kids at Garfield are going to school together in a diverse school, that is terrific. If these opportunities do not exist, there should be opportunities in which kids can learn from each other and have discussions that lead to deeper understanding. My husband is white and came from an impoverished rural background. He attended college very late in life & you would not understand his background just by looking at him. He was the first to graduate high school, let alone go to and graduate from college. He was identified by the university as an Equal Opportunity Program Student. He did an exercise in a college class where students started in a line. They were instructed to move forward or backward a step based upon factors of "privilege" and "disadvantages". He ended up the furthest back in the classroom, behind many students of various races, including African Americans. He ended up graduating top of his class despite the disadvantages.

Lynn said...

This might have been successful if they had communicated appropriately. They should have presented their plans to incoming students and parents prior to open enrollment describing how they intend to implement project-based learning and providing examples of a couple of the planned projects and copies of the syllabus. If these classes are going to be so engaging and effective that they'll be a clear improvement over the traditional classes they've taught, they would have been confident in their ability to win over parents and students.

They could have done this and then allowed students to choose between two versions of the class at registration while ensuring that enough of the class sections were project-based to absorb the students who had traditionally taken regular English and allow enough room for a wider range of students.

Instead, they chose to publicise this during summer break in the first year that students can no longer decide to return to their neighborhood schools after May 31st. It is disrespectful to students and parents and does not inspire confidence in either their planning or their certainty of just how great these classes will be.

Sneak Attack said...

Hear, hear Lynn. Even if they had the best intentions in the world (?), and thought this was super important, and the only way it could happen was to force it through as fast as possible, doing it like this is still wrong.

Anonymous said...

@ Charlie, if they are planning to maintain honors-level expectations for all, why do they need to work on differentiating the readings and curriculum? Can you really have honors level remedial readings? You don't really think that all the differentiation work they plan to do will all be at the honors level, do you?


Mark Ballinger said...

I seriously hesitate wading in here, as the people who post here are not the most supportive. But . . .

Stunned writes: "if they are planning to maintain honors-level expectations for all, why do they need to work on differentiating the readings and curriculum? "

This is the heart of differentiation. I can expect honors level thinking, discussion, and writing, while also making sure my students can read the source material at whatever level they come to the classroom at. I have HCC students who read fast, but can't explain their thinking well. On the other hand, I am remembering one student from this year, an English Language Learning (ELL) student, who, with an appropriately leveled reading source, "crushed" my final. He was one of only two students out of 135 (HCC, ELL, General Ed, SpEd) who scored 100% on the written response.

-Mark Ballinger, JAMS 6th grade social studies

Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing your experience as a teacher.

A post from someone on SSS very elegantly summed up the root of the conflict - "some children learn better in a heterogeneous environment and others in a homogeneous one" - so each of us will view this situation differently depending on our child.

Do you see a 100% heterogeneous environment as the optimal environment for each child or do you think some learners, who've mastered some or all of grade level material prior to entering class, need a separate environment to experience growth?


Anonymous said...

Doesn't 6th grade SS at JAMS also have Spectrum students? Just curious about the omission.

This comment reminds me of others I've heard when the intention is to subtly point out some secret flaw in those mythical advanced learners. They may be fluent readers but they don't all have good comprehension. Sometimes the least fluent readers are the best at comprehension. Some ELL kids are better at explaining their thinking than HC kids.

Of course this is the case. ALL classrooms have a range of needs and abilities, even self contained HC.

Maureen said...

What does it mean to learn better in a "heterogeneous environment" vs. a "homogeneous one"?

My daughter spent a chunk of kindergarten sitting under a table covering her ears because the environment was (as you say) too heterogeneous. She was fortunate to have teachers who saw her strengths and made her see her strengths. She was lured out from under those tables and she learned that she was strong.

I get that some kids can't do that in kindergarten (even with Joby or Joan <3). Maybe ever. But don't you want to give them the chance to try it sometime? Ok, they couldn't do it in K or 1 or 2 (whenever you moved them). But give them a shot when they are 14. If they can't deal with heterogeneity then, then send them back to homogeneity in 10th grade. It will be ok.

Anonymous said...

@ Mark Ballinger, thank you for that explanation. I understand how differentiation works and why it's done, but I was under the apparently mistaken assumption that earning "honors" in an LA class would entail doing above-grade-level work in both key LA components, reading and writing. I didn't realize that honors-level thinking would be enough.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Sneak attack, I spoke to a teacher at GHS.

"A post from someone on SSS very elegantly summed up the root of the conflict - "some children learn better in a heterogeneous environment and others in a homogeneous one" - so each of us will view this situation differently depending on our child."

Spot on.

"...those mythical advanced learners." I'm sorry you've never met one but yes, they exist. Of course not every kid - advanced or not - is good at all parts of learning. And yes, some kids can read well but may not comprehend what they are reading. I doesn't make them less smart but they may not be developmentally there yet. But they will be.

And yes, the point being that we are missing advanced learners in Sped, ELL and many minority groups. The district has not figured out how to reach those families because many are not testing their kids.

They are not mythical, either. Just missed.

Sneak Attack said...

Melissa, thank you for looking into this for us. Did what the teacher say about the meetings with the PTSA match up with what the former PTSA president said? In other words, would you say the information they gave you on that seemed trustworthy?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you are quick to point out the problem, but seem to consistently target the administration as the problem. I submit to you that the teachers are equally to blame for the problems with AL. Missing advanced learners in Sped, ELL and many minority groups could have been part of the CBA process last fall, but they chose to ignore it.

Where the rubber meets the road is so true in this situation. I don't care how much power the car has or how well the was designed to car handle, because it's all moot if the tyres are rubbish!

Why are we spending billions to produce thousands of functional illiterates, impair the brains of thousands, created a black underclass all the while incapable of achieving academic competence above that of many less fortunate districts.

Anonymous said...

Melissa has posted a reply to her questions to the District and Board on Save Seattle Schools -

Anonymous said...

Stunned, I think you know "honors level thinking' is not just the "I think" part. It's about evaluating a student's knowledge and understanding, distilled not just from reading and regurgitating facts, but within context of classroom discussions and projects. It's critical thinking on a deeper level. It's the depth people talk about and want so much. The ability to demonstrate that understanding in this example, was in the written form. As for judging by honors level and applying differentiation, that's exactly what's going on here. It might mean when teachers have ELL students, teachers may have to modify their readings some. These students displayed complex understanding of the coursework on the written tests, but their writings might not be technically perfect or as fluent as native born English speakers, so teachers make allowance for that. Teachers correct the technical and fluency bits so students learn to write better. That's awesome teaching and I want that kind of practice in all the classrooms.

I know this sounds unfair to some people . But it's no different than when we make accommodation for students because of their learning disability or have serious anxiety issue with test taking or have a physical disability. If it's hard to understand or believe what some posters are saying, just go to any well known national gifted sites and read what the gifted experts say.

treading water

Benjamin Leis said...

Speaking only for myself: I tend to see the emphasis on the technical skill in reading in English classes dropping away as one advances. (More so by 9th grade than 6th.) There's a transition point where mostly everyone becomes literate. English becomes more and more about analysis and writing. This has become a lot more controversial over time but I also ascribe to the idea that its good to give kids common knowledge of the canon. In my ideal world, we'd actually be able to pick and choose between equivalent classes based on the works they cover.

I don't mind either if there is scaffolding for those in a class that need it unless it materially affects the experience for everyone else. But I also believe H.S. students have limited time and different strengths. In the type of honors classes I experienced in H.S., the requirements and work output differed from the regular college prep version. Choosing to take honors meant devoting more time and was an individual decision that you'd make to build a course load that worked best for each student. So perhaps you'd take honors math but not english so you could concentrate on a stretch goal.

Anonymous said...

A link to the counseling manual has been added to the July open thread.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sneak Attack, what I was told by the teacher did not match what PTA parents say happened (you'll note I'm not quoting the PTA.)

I don't think teachers have as much to account for the design of AL so that's why I fault administration. That said, teachers can nominate students but I don't know how often that happens.

As well, (and again), you don't need AL for rigor. There is no reason any teacher cannot have a Gen Ed class that is rigorous.

Good points, Ben.

hschinske said...

What happened to the LA class for those who read below grade level? Was that dropped previously? Or is that the one they're dropping now, but they're calling it "regular"?

Helen Schinske

Sneak Attack said...

Melissa, I want to say I so appreciate all your efforts to get to the bottom of this. The craziness of this school district is beyond comprehension (I put us on the wait list for Interlake, but am not holding out hope). It's got me tired and discouraged but I feel supported by your work on our behalf.

NESeattleMom said...

Helen Schinske, students who read below grade level, some reading 1-4 grades below grade level will be in a second English class, to help them catch up. So they will have 2 LA classes, one SS, one math, science, PE/Health.

Lynn said...


Yes - the class those students took was called regular English in the past and it's the one being cancelled.

Anonymous said...

Helen & NeSeattleMom,

My impression from reading the the letter from the teachers above is that ALL students (1-4 grades below, gen ed, 1-4 grades above) will be in the SAME honors for all class as their primary mode of instruction; however, the students whose skills are currently below grade level will ALSO have to take a secondary support class to help them meet the extra demands of an honors class.

The letter from the teachers isn't entirely clear about the elimination of remedial class as a primary means of instruction, but if they're following Burris's model, she eliminated remedial and gen ed and only advanced remains. Otherwise, it would still be "tracking" if anything other than 1 class remained according to Burris.


Anonymous said...

Forgot to add, Burris only had one class as primary, but support class as secondary just to bridge skills. She emphasized that support class was never to replace primary honors for all as a primary mode of instruction and become a track again.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is from 1-8, SPS has a system where some students get the acceleration and that's codified. SPS provides 1-8 cohort. Math currently is the exception for non cohort because some ES do pull out if you are not in the cohort. There are reading groups, but none of this effort is consistent from one school to the next or from one year to the next. . By the time students hit HS, choice opens up. Personally, I think this is late in the game. Maybe this is part of the problem. For many parents posting here, it's more of a given to have their kids opt for honors, AP/IB. It's the expected pathway. That's not so clear for regular students or parents if they didn't get the feedback their kids can do more or understand the advantage in having weighted AP grade and taking AP classes in college application. I'm the only college educated person in my family and I lucked out because of circumstances and birth order. I took one AP class in HS and had to get permission from the teacher to do so as did all the other students who signed up for AP classes (this was in education less enlightened days and there was no such thing as gifted learning in the schools). Offering gifted program in school districts is still a rarity and is the exception in the US. Parents may be aware of AP classes, but may not know their kids should take take the class. That feedback has to be explicit and frequent. Do these students get that? How many SPS parents are even aware there is this blog? There isn't a gen ed blog devoted for SPS parents to help each other out. Navigating SPSon the web and in person isn't straightforward, timely, or easy. In anycase, to participate on line, parents have to be pretty fluent in English.

I wonder should choice open up earlier in MS and all ES offer pull out for math and LAs? This will allow all students to choose and require teachers to help guide students (to cover cases where parents are unaware of the opportunity). Inversely, not all HCC students need to take more advanced LA/SS in MS if that's not their interest or strength. This will allow students who are much stronger in one subject the rigor they need and choices as well without loss of face.

treading water

Lynn said...

You're trying to design a system that maximizes the number of high achieving students and I think that's a reasonable goal for a school district. These teachers at Marshall, Washington and Garfield are trying to minimize the number of students who fail and that requires different tactics.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why the many math and numbers wonks who are part of this community are not raising a ruckus about the clear invalidity of the scoring of the CogAT. Usually, you jump all over data and statistics breaches.

Where's the outrage? Who is going to get to the bottom of this? Did you know this all along? The basic test scoring protocol is not being followed and the HCC qualification scores are, therefore, invalid.

The program that you are seeking to preserve is based on invalidity. The emperor has no clothes, you know it, but the debate continues--just like the emperor kept walking in the procession, pretending it wasn't true.

Anonymous said...

you mean waste time on all your made up none problems mc. no thanks you seem to not understand this repeatedly under all your various monikers but here goes for anyone who is concerned about your incorrect assertions. there is a committee of experts that review test scores, recommendations from parents and teachers, ell/frl status and any other life situations before deciding on hcc placement so no one test score gets you in. in fact said committee gives special consideration for 2e/ell/frl to join the cohort. also, for hs you have to write an essay to get into the hcc whatever that means now.

Anonymous said...

It's a suggestion for districts that want to increase diversity in their gifted programs rather than basic testing protocol. Seattle Public Schools has chosen to identify students whose cognitive ability is two standard deviations above the overall norm and that's what their process does.

Using norms for each school is only appropriate when the gifted program is on site and when schools are allowed to adjust their curriculum and standards to meet the needs of their students. Neither is true for our district and thus your concerns are invalid.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Use of local norms as part of composite scores is Best Practice for Lohman:

Anonymous said...

Just a comment for the parent who is trying to move their incoming ninth grader out of Garfield. If you would prefer your neighborhood school, it might work to withdraw your child from the district and re-enroll in August or early September.

For the future, I wonder how much interest there would be in a charter school that's designed to serve advanced students from grades 6-12. My youngest child will likely go private for those years but not having to pay for it would be a relief.

ne dad said...

The use of local norms is supported by the CogAT author, Professor David F. Lohman, and it makes sense.

Do people really believe it’s equitable to use the same norms for HCC selection for a school with 15% qualifying versus a school with <1% qualifying?

In other words, it’s equitable to qualify 4 kids out of the same kindergarten class in a school rated among the top five in a state (the case for our child), and then turn around and say that a kid that might have scored 50% above every other child in her class for the last three years is not qualified even though they attend one of the lowest performing schools in the state.

In first grade, a Fall MAP Reading score of 181 is in the 95th percentile. The same 181 score is only in the 79th percentile using the winter norms. In the second grade, a 202 is in the 95th percentile using the fall norms, and in the 89th percentile using the winter norms. With just 4 months of additional reading instruction, a child can go from being “general education” to “highly capable”.

A child that has received multiple years of high quality child care (or pre-k) who then attends a top elementary school with many parent volunteers and veteran teachers is far more likely to qualify for HCC than a child who never went to pre-k and who attends a poor performing school with high teacher turnover, no matter how hard the student tries, how "bright" they are, and how well they do.

In fact I would argue that we need the HCC program far more for the kids in the lowest performing schools than in the highest performing schools because its potentially one of the only chances those kids have. But we need to give them a fair chance to qualify.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Offering gifted program in school districts is still a rarity and is the exception in the US."

From National Association for Gifted Children:

"Thirty-two states reported on programs or services required for specific categories of giftedness and talent. Most of these states required services for intellectual giftedness (22) and/or gifts and talents in academic areas both general (17) and specific (16). Nine states reported that programs or services were not required.

Twenty-two respondents were able to estimate the most frequently used delivery methods for upper elementary, or grades 4-6. Cluster classrooms (17), resource rooms (15), subject acceleration (12), and self-contained classrooms (11) were the top delivery models.

Several states have statewide public high schools for advanced math and science and/or arts and the humanities. Although the admissions requirements vary, these high schools are typically residential schools for juniors and seniors from within the state; most of the schools are located on university campuses."

Not such a rarity and this bears out my own research, especially in urban and suburban areas.

As for the question of charter schools, there are indeed high schools that are very rigorous (see BASIS in Arizona.) I have no doubt our region will see these come in.

Anonymous said...

I think there is value to local norms, but I also know that my HCC kid was a wreck socially at our neighborhood school, which is one that sends a lot of kids to HCC. A lot!

But even with large numbers of other high scoring/high achieving kids there, my own kid didn't flourish and find a "tribe" until going to Lowell. The year we switched, so did 8 or 9 other kids in that grade, but because they were spread out over 4-5 classes (with only one other qualified kid in my kid's K class and one other in the first grade class), my kid struggled mightily to make friends.

Maybe if they'd done the Brulles ability grouping, we'd have had much better K-1 experiences? I don't know. I just know that Lowell was practically a life saver for our kid after two very tough years emotionally and socially. And of course, I have no idea if that kid would have qualified under some sort of local norms rule, it's all hypothetical. But I guess my point is that coming from a school with lots of HCC-qualified kids doesn't mean that it's okay to leave them all there. Sometimes you need regular interaction with an even bigger cohort, at least at a young age when learning how to fit in.

Who Knows?

Benjamin Leis said...

2 Updates:

1. I added a link to the official Garfield Website which has a survey you can participate in.
2. I've also started to track articles as I see them on a permanent page on the right. There is no claim to completeness yet.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Burris's school one CANNOT compare Garfield to South Side in Rockville center or compare resources in the districts. My cousin sends her kids to school in Rockville center. I am from LI. The school has a very low free & reduced lunch (10%) and is very affluent. I would not even state it is middle class, upper middle & affluent kids. Lakeside comes to mind as the best comparison. The school district (like many on LI) is small, only one high school for example. Class sizes are literally half Seattle class sizes. Her kids have 17-22 in their high school classes PLUS they have instructional assistants. Property taxes for her 2200 square foot house are $16000 per year, majority goes toward school taxes. There is also a state income tax in NY state. In contrast to Garfield, their honors classes previously were not opt in. Garfield allows kids to choose between honors & general ed. Standford research indicates class is the main factor in the achievement gap, not race. Standford Research indicates the achievement gap between blacks and whites has narrowed greatly past 30-50 years, while between classes has doubled in the past 30-50 years. Research indicates income inequality is the main issue causing the gap and African Americans are over represented in lower socio classes.
- Theresa

ne dad said...

Regarding the use of local norms, probably there should be some type of balance. But if the argument is that the HCC kids are so off the scale they need something different, well that's really a relative measure best compared to their local school.

If one looks at the tests, as I noted above, the difference between scoring in the "HC" range and the "Average" range is primarily a factor of what a student has learned by a given point in time, not that they necessarily learn differently. Even average kids may learn differently. And in first grade it can be less than 6 months difference.

So a child that went to several years of preschool where they teach "pre-math" and "pre-reading" as well as science and geography and french and music and what not at $15,000+ a year is certainly more likely to be "ahead". And if they go to a top rated elementary school with other similar children as compared to a poorly rated school, with their parents continuing to pay for out of school enrichment activities, then they are likely to get even further ahead.

I don't consider this the fault of the "white" parents and I don't believe it makes them racist. I certainly want the best for my kids and don't think it makes a lot of sense putting kids that are so different by 9th grade in the same class. But I do think the current system overlooks some kids who could be high achievers and I would have no problem at all if they used local norms early on because the difference in first and second graders is going to be a lot smaller than the different in 9th graders.

I'm very skeptical that by simply testing more kids using a screener its going to make much difference.

Anonymous said...

Read the GHS survey. A bit push poll.

What's left out of the choices for "What do you believe differentiates an honors class from a regular education class? Choose all that apply." is concerning.

-More reading
-More writing
-More homework
-Faster pace
-Coverage of more material
-Higher level thinking

What about increased complexity? Advanced level readings? The next question asks you to select the most important component (choose one from the list above).

Anonymous said...

Which skills, other than those typically associated with reading and writing and learning about history, do you believe are most important for students' future success?

1) Effective planning and organization so important information is communicated to involved parties in a responsible manner and plans and follow-through are optimally carried out, 2) A strong ethic of truthfulness and integrity in all dealings with others to foster trust and willing partnerships

Applies to both teenagers and adults.

Anonymous said...

If nothing else, the survey and list of references gives one a clearer idea of the pedagogy and priorities driving instructional practice.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, sorry to be so late in responding. Very busy work week. Sure majority of states mandate support for gifted programs. The problem is they don't support the rhetoric with dollars. So in actual classrooms, that's not what students find. Look at breakdown of state funding amount and consider that funding is used for AP/IB programs, ACT/SAT testings, support dual enrollment (i.e. running start). Having these programs and testing meet the requirement of serving the gifted. This also means richer school districts can afford money for gifted learning by making up for what the state doesn't cover. Poor districts and rural ones can't. It's a huge gap.

Areas of concern listed by the latest report are very telling: 1) national mandate, 2) funding (interestingly respondents rate funding for basic education as pressing and in need of attention), 3)a huge sea change- inclusion of underrepresented groups (rural, ELL, SPED, low SES, ethnicity, etc).

treading water

CapHill Mom said...

Can anyone provide information on the reading list for the previous 9th grade honors English at GHS and has anyone said if that will be consistent for this year's "honors for all" class? That's one starting point to assess if the school plans to maintain the level of challenge.

Anonymous said...

@ CapHill Mom, according to the GHS catalog, the anchor texts for the classes were the same all along--it was the nature of the work they did based on those texts that was different. There may also have been additional texts required in the honors classes, I don't know.

As Advanced Learning and C&I staff have said all along, the texts themselves aren't an indication of rigor. For example, you can read the same book in middle school, high school and college and do a lot of different things with it. Someone can write a PhD dissertation on a book students typically read in middle school. The level of analysis required and the accompanying written expectations should be what make it an honors level vs. a standard level 9th grade class. Which begs the question--will some kids get easy assignments and others hard assignments in this new Honors for All class? Will that be determined by track history, test scores, race, or ? If assignments are differentiated by level of complexity, does the honors designation really indicate that the class was an above-grade-level class? It would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison of the learning objectives and expectations for the previous honors vs. regular versions of both classes. That would be important in demonstrating a maintenance of rigor, but as yet teachers haven't shared it.

Also note that the Garfield catalog also says that Honors LA 9 has an expectation of 5 hrs of homework per week, whereas homework for the regular LA9 class "varies." Will students forced into the Honors for All class now be expected to do 5 hrs per week of LA homework, plus whatever additional homework requirements there are for SS Honors? Or will they lighten the homework requirements for everyone, without watering down the course?

Anonymous said...

Texts are generally taken from the approved high school LA list, yes? The 2015-16 GHS course catalog lists Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, American-Born Chinese, Homer's Odyssey, and Romeo and Juliet as anchor texts for both honors and non-honors 9th. Additional texts are not listed.

SPS LA 9-11 approved instructional materials

Anonymous said...

The Absolutely True Diary is written at a fourth grade reading level. Awesome.

Benjamin Leis said...

I'm going to point out that lexile levels are not really that awesome a judge of literature where language, theme and style don't neatly conform to computer algorithms. "Grapes of Wrath" also has an equivalent low lexile level but it doesn't mean its not appropriate for High School.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won all of the following after it was published:

2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature[14]
2008 American Indian Youth Literature Awards. American Indian Library Association Best Young Adult Book.[15]
2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Fiction and Poetry[16]
2009 Odyssey Award as the year's "best audiobook for children or young adults", read by Alexie (Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, LLC, 2008, ISBN 1-4361-2490-5).[17]
2010 California Young Reader Medal, Young Adult Book (eligible to win once during its first four years)[18]
The Diary was also named to several annual lists including three by the library industry.

"Best Books of 2007", School Library Journal[19]
2008 "Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults", Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)[20]

Anonymous said...

Agree - Common Sense Media suggests appropriate for ages 14+.

ByeByeSPS said...

"Detracking requires a sense of mission grounded in the belief that public schools are democratic institutions dedicated to the success of all students, not just the academic elite." So says the Carol Burris book cited by the GHS questionnaire. There's a good societal argument for this point of view, despite the clear negative impacts to HCC students (including my two). It's clear from the June Seattle Times article what GHS's priorities are, and optimizing in any way for HCC students isn't one of them.

hschinske said...

I think the kids who really need a remedial class may be getting an even worse deal than the kids who need an honors class here. Using up their elective course space by making them take two LA classes is pretty crappy.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...


Melissa Westbrook said...

I had a good talk today with Wyeth Jessee (and I hope to do a write-up at my blog in the next 24 hours.)

I have to be honest; I don't see good things for HCC and Advanced Learning. There is definitely something happened at SPS around how they are now going to view education and it's basically thru a Gen Ed lens with "supports" for other students (depending on needs.)

There also seems to be this kind of new set-up so that the schools can make their own decisions (seemingly without having to tell the district - that I don't get at all) and overall district mandates (but those seem few and vague.)

Anonymous said...

MW, for years, individual schools have been doing what they want in terms of AL program delivery - maybe they are just now acknowledging the anything goes standard as standard. It would not surprise me if the Honors for All for LA/SS soon extends to middle school HCC (it makes scheduling so much easier).

Anonymous said...

I will add that at least in middle school students have more flexibility in taking online courses (or summer courses) without the school having to approve coursework.

Anonymous said...

and hence the uproar to howard's comments in the st. chip, chip, chipping away. oh well.

no caps.