Friday, July 1, 2016

July Open Thread

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

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

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


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

Commenting System Beta Test

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

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

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

Example: anonymous guest post.

So please go over to post some test comments and tell me what you think..

Secondary Administrative Procedures and Counseling Manual

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


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

What's on your minds?


Northender said...

I second the support for Dreambox. It's very fun for kids and has great math support.

Anonymous said...

The SBAC scale scores go much higher this year than last. Will need to see the data, but wonder if there will still be ceiling effect? My child didn't report more adaptiveness than last year, it was still reportedly "Easy"

This year's ranges:

Last year's ranges, which were maxed by many:

Greg Linden said...

Dreambox is good. Khan Academy Math is also excellent, and is free, and includes content for teens too (like algebra, pre-calc, and calc).

For more workbooks and games, don't forget about the ever excellent Math 'n' Stuff on Roosevelt in North Seattle, love that store.

Also, I can't let this pass without mentioning Duolingo, which is foreign language learning on phones and PCs, and is free. It's really great for summer.

Anonymous said...

I would like to advertise the Robinson Center (RC) brand new online classes:
"What is RC Online?
This is a new accelerated learning opportunity offered by the Transition School faculty, bringing an advanced college-prep curriculum to an online platform!

In this ten week online course, you will be challenged to adapt your writing to the demands of college-level, scholarly inquiry. You will learn how to address your writing to advanced academic conversations, and to design your work so as to participate in formal, disciplinary lines of inquiry. There will be substantial weekly reading and writing assignments, and an official grade and transcript at the end."

RC parent

Benjamin Leis said...

I've put a commenting beta test link up in the top. Please give it a try and tell me what you think.

a different handle today said...

Just looked at the discusshcc test site, and there doesn't seem to be any way to post without creating a Disqus account, which frankly is too high a barrier for me (I abandoned it), and I suspect that alone would cause a reduction in comments/engagement.

However, I will heartily encourage and support your potential move to Wordpress! I've been wishing for years that Melissa/SSS and discussapp would move away from blogger. Wordpress gives you so many customization options, and it's something you actually control, rather than google and any other marketing companies like disqus that you might weave into the site. And of course Wordpress is open source goodness.

Benjamin Leis said...

You should go look again once more. It's not necessary to create a disqus account. Go to sign in with Disqus and then click the lower box that says comment as a guest. You'll still need to supply a name and email (similar to the wordpress commenting)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, so why Wordpress versus Blogger?

Anonymous said...

Benjamin, what did your school decide going forward re: Dreambox?


Benjamin Leis said...

@TC - Sadly the license was too expensive for the school to use.

@Melissa: Wordpress is a lot more popular and therefore in theory has more support and features than blogger. For one, the built-in comment system is more flexible. However, is very locked-down and I'm not sure if offers enough to make the switch.

data said...

Trying again.

@Melissa: As Benjamin said, Wordpress is much more popular and widespread in use. I've seen estimates that as much as 26% of the entire internet is hosted on some form of Wordpress. That might seem impossible to believe to the untrained eye, but that's because Wordpress is so flexible that millions upon millions of web sites that don't even look like blogs are also hosted on Wordpress. Because it's so common, support is readily available, there are way, way more options/flexibility/plugins, etc. As Benjamin also said, the built-in blog/comment system is more flexible, and the entire system is more customizable in general.

It's very common for people who start out on blogger to eventually migrate to Wordpress because of the additional capabilities and flexibility.

If you don't already know, Wordpress comes in two very different "flavors". is a commercial business run by the company that manages the actual code. It hosts Wordpress blogs and web sites for others. They have an "always free" level and inexpensive levels with more capacity and capabilities. Separately, is where anyone can download and freely use in perpetuity the Wordpress source code. Anyone can park a Wordpress web site on their own server and completely run and manage it on their own. This is a fantastic option for someone who is somewhat tech-savvy, but if you have a tech-savvy friend or two, it can be a great option as well.

Separately, there are many commercial hosting companies that take the freely-available source code, install it on their own servers, and manage all the hosting duties for clients, similarly to They tend to be slightly cheaper than's "premium" prices, but not quite free. Check out as one example; there are many others.

@Benjamin: When you say "locked down", are you referring only to the free version hosted at Because there's virtually nothing about Wordpress in general that's locked down. It's completely open source, so anyone is free to use it in whatever way they want.

Speaking of which, a big-picture societal benefit is support of open source software and all the benefits that come from it. Blogger isn't really free, its hidden cost comes by way of essentially selling your readers to google. Merely by using this blog, everything that we, your audience, read and write is deeply data mined by google, and we don't get a say in the matter, or even any transparency into any of it. Food for thought.

Benjamin Leis said...

Ok I'm back from a long internet free weekend. @Data - yes some of your comments ended up in spam. Sending an exact repeat comment seems to trigger it. But most of the sequence did persist. I took the liberty of removing them now since they were mostly test in nature.

By Locked Down - yes I mean doesn't expose much of the wordpress the platform. I'd have to host on another site to gain any advantages and that would cost some money. Blogger for all its flaws does let you directly manipulate the html for free.


data said...

Thanks for un-deleting (and deleting). Note that the repeated comment didn't come until after the first one was rejected, so that couldn't have triggered the initial rejection. As a user there's no way to know if it was rejected, marked as spam, or just disappeared into the ether, hence the re-try. This is not the first time this has happened, in fact on the SSS blog it has happened to me many times. As odd as it may sound, almost every time I've written something even vaguely critical of blogger (or owner-google, as the above), comments have disappeared. Weird, and hard to believe, but every time it happens the odds of it being coincidence decrease.

Re: the original question, how much customization are you looking for? Looking at the existing site, it would seem to me that the standard free hosting would work great, no? Hundreds of free themes, true unlimited bandwidth, strong community support. Do you need >3GB of storage? Perhaps you have some specific improvements in mind that I'm not privy to, just curious.

If you're really looking for maximum flexibility, are you telling me that as a dev you don't have LAMP space somewhere where you could park a .org (OSS) WP instance? lol. It's not hard to set up; been there, done that. Of course maintenance/backups depend where you park. Anyway, it's not that I'm in love with all aspects of WP, but I do dislike blogger, so I'm curious enough about your WP testing to inquire.

Benjamin Leis said...

So far what I've found out

To reach parity with blogger so far what I see is that I need to be able to install more widgets than the standard ones on In particular the recent comments one is close to useless and doesn't list even a timestamp.

And yes I don't really have a great place to park this site for free. I'm not sure I really want to either. I'm a bit leery of increasing the maintenance cost of the site. Self-hosting like that would definitely mean keeping on top of bugfixes at all levels of the stack. And it strikes me that things can get controversial enough here that a DOS attack is not out of the question. Its convenient to have someone else worry about all of that. Plus, it also decreases the chance someone else would ever take over the site if needed every time you increase the tech barrier.

Anonymous said...

For those not on the HCS-AC email list (message sent Sunday night):

Friends of Vosti,

Vosti passed away Thursday morning at 9am. She had been resting comfortably the past few days and passed quietly with her caregivers there to support her. Cathy Villanueva and Bryan Barnett are currently out of town but will provide more information when they return to Seattle.

When you see something pink in your world today, please take a moment to remember Vosti and how she made this world a bit more unique. Vosti will be missed by hundreds of students who knew her as an educator who accepted every child as he or she was and appreciated the uniqueness of every child she taught. We’ll all miss her sense of humor, her rare outlook on life, and that smile and laugh that could light up any conversation.

-Julie Breidenbach on behalf of Cathy Villanueva and Bryan Barnett

Benjamin Leis said...

I added a link to the the Official Counseling Manual. This has a lot of information about high school grades, equivalent courses etc.

Anonymous said...

Garfield (0.8) decrease in staffing
What does this mean?
Which class(es) get cut?

Anonymous said...

Greg, thanks for the Duolingo tip. We love it.

Also wanted to share the following:

"The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified" is a fun weekly podcast. It's from one of the producers of Fresh Air.

Johnn Hopkins CTY has a great reading list for kids. Plus we love their Imagine magazine


Llamamama said...

Does anyone know if we will be able to enroll an HCC kid into Meany once it opens, if it's our neighborhood school? Or will he have to stay at WMS? I don't think Meany is planning to have HCC but I'd like to know options.

Lynn said...

The assignment plan currently guarantees every student (except those requiring special education services) a seat at their attendance area school. I doubt that's going to change. What attracts you to Meany?

Llamamama said...

Meany is closer to home! And many of his friends from elementary school will be there. I don't know anything about Meany, either in terms of teachers or planned programs (will there be music? drama?). His brother just graduated from WMS & is headed to GHS, but kid #2 is different in ways that make me think WMS may not be the right fit. We'll see how the year goes! thanks

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend all math loving kids try out the weekly math problems at "expii solve" and if they can do the problems then sign up for the "Spirit of Ramanujan" by Sept 15th.

The links are:

Good luck. It will be fun to hear if any Seattle kids takes part.


Anonymous said...

Just spotted this on the Seattle Schools website, includes clarification of proposed changes. Note that they specifically say that private testing will not be prohibited:

SE Mama

Anonymous said...

Related to SE Mama's post, the AL dept is seeking feedback on the proposed changes by July 31. Send an email to with the subject line 2190SP.

More info here:

Items of note:

1. Once identified, students don't have to be in a pathway school to retain eligibility.

2. They refer to the Student Assignment Plan as the governing enrollment document.

3. They added a line for the proposed social studies change at Thurgood Marshall: "A formal waiver to allow flexible grouping of Gen Ed., AL and HC students for social studies may be requested by HC Cohort elementary schools."

4. They changed language around exiting the program, calling an exit a "service delivery change" vs. an "eligibility change."

5. They are still saying that 6-8 is self-contained in most core subjects (not true at JAMS, where Spectrum students are also in the HCC classes) and that individual progress is reviewed annually at parent/teacher conferences in middle school (there are no conferences in middle school.) Demonstrates a lack of central oversight to make sure schools are staying in compliance with this document.

6. The 2190SP mistakenly refers to Ingraham as a pathway school. The governing document, the SAP, clearly states it is NOT a pathway, but an "HCC/IBX option."


Anonymous said...

Anyone know where to access meeting minutes from the capacity task force meetings? I read they are meeting monthly (since June) and should be posting minutes 1 week after meeting.

Anonymous said...

Summer Stretch at the UW Robinson Center for high school level math? For those that have gone that route, how have you worked out math placement in the fall? Do you need to submit paperwork for Independent Study if the course is taken in middle school (taken in summer between 6th-7th, or 7th-8th), or is formal paperwork only needed for students already in high school?