Friday, December 30, 2016

January '17 Open Thread

Note: I've reverted back to default blogger comments.

Welcome to the new year. I hope everyone had a good break. There are a lot of district wide forces that may affect HCC this year. Chief on my mind is the impending levy cliff. In the meantime here's a few things I've been watching.:

  • The Cascadia split vote is coming up soon.
  • The feeder patterns for REMS are about to be finalized. I haven't written much on this subject. But an unfortunate situation has been setup where its likely the 8th grade cohort will be mostly just HCC students. Given the numbers at Hamilton and its need for relief and the numbers at Whitman where anyone can opt to go back there during open enrollment there's no great solution. There's also likely to be little to any money to mitigate low enrollment classes given the overarching budget situation. This could come to play in extra curricular offerings, language options, advanced math etc.
  • The ongoing honors for all English/History classes at Garfield and the blended Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall.
  • The roll out of HCC at Madison Middle School and coming West Seattle pathway changes.
  • Middle School Math. This year only Hamilton Middle School offered the AMC 8 test and registered for Math Counts. When you look at the overall stats for the area as expected Odle Middle School and Lakeside Middle School stand out. In theory the pool of talent here is much deeper than the results we're getting. Anyone who's interested in the situation at JAMS please email me. This is the one MS I'm probably going to work most directly at affecting.

Quote for thought from  Prof. Wayne Au:
There are at least three things I would like folks to consider here:

1. None of the tests are objective, unbiased measurements. They never have been in the 100 or so years that standardized testing has existed in the U
nited States. On the whole, our standardized tests have always reflected race and class-based inequalities. Even the very concept of IQ was originally constructed around these kind of inequalities and in those same origins was deeply rooted in the burgeoning eugenics movement. Now, of course everyone will argue, "But those are the old tests. It isn't the same now." The answer is yes and no. Different tests, but, again on the whole, the tests we have now actually reproduce the same race and class based inequalities as they did 100 years ago. I would argue that testing everyone will not equalize selection and will ultimately continue to reinforce the existing inequalities.

2. I also think it is important for folks to take the time to understand all of the factors that go into "educational achievement." It may be simply the case that kid A is considered for HCC and does well on a test over kid B simply because kid B might have been exposed to lead, or not had access to good health care, or lacks stable housing and food, etc., etc. Now these problems may feel too big to take up, BUT, if you are going to say, "Well we can't fix that, but we can make sure kid A gets access to a 'high' track, HCC program with special resources to meet their needs," then I think we have a problem of promoting a system of differentiation that ultimately privileges one group of kids over another based on factors that are socially and economically determined. I raise this because, no matter how one feels about tracking/HCC (for or against), empirically speaking it has perpetuated race and class inequalities, hand in hand with the testing. So if you're going to be an advocate for tracking, then you better be a fierce advocate for a whole bunch of other things that other kids need too, because if it all becomes just about your kid and your kid alone, then you buying into a system that is perpetuating inequality writ large.

3. I would also caution folks to assume that teaching, learning, and knowledge do not contribute to the lack of kids of color in HCC. Teaching, learning, and knowledge are strongly connected to culture, race, and/or class (or gender, for that matter). No set of knowledge or curriculum is neutral in terms of ideology or culture. What we choose to teach or not to teach are choices based on constructed norms. The same goes for how we teach. It is all imbued with different norms of communication and presentation of materials, as well as norms for interacting with kids. Since there are so few low income kids and kids of color (particularly Black and Brown kids of color) in HCC, then we cannot empirically say that the curriculum and instruction are not part of the problem. Indeed, folks should talk to the kids of color who've left HCC to see what they say. One issue in the educational literature on tracking is that the few kids of color in "high" track classes feel alienated from their mostly white peers and they have, in some cases, felt alienated from Eurocentric curriculum (mostly in humanities and social sciences, where those things are more easily felt).

I've hesitated to weigh in on the threads here because I feel like a lot of the conversations have been largely off-the-cuff, based a lot on individual experiences and without much attention to the equity issues that are well known in the areas in the research literature. I've posted here because the tone of the OP seemed open, and I thought it was a good space to challenge some of the assumptions that were laid out."

Slide deck for Carol Burris's talk on detracking at Garfield:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

Director Burke withdraws his amendment to delay the split of Cascadia

Dear Cascadia Staff and Families,
At the Dec 7h School Board meeting, I introduced a potential amendment to the Student Assignment Plan directing district staff to remove the geo-split to Decatur and maintain the Cascadia cohort intact at the new site, located on the Wilson Pacific Campus.  The core values behind this amendment are steadfast for me – fiscal responsibility, long-term planning for the HCC program, and cohort stability, all within a commitment to student learning.
Since the posting of this potential amendment, I have received a wide range of feedback from families and educators.  Respondents have highlighted academic, scheduling, and safety challenges related to the current over-enrollment, concerns about students in portables, and also worries about starting up the Decatur site quickly with a high level of services, while addressing the looming potential budget deficit.  Ultimately, families and educators both share concerns about the educational experience of their students.  Feedback from stakeholders on the "best" district-wide action regarding Cascadia has been varied with no consensus.
My role as a School Board Director is to listen closely to the community, our staff, and make the best decision possible for our students and district.  At this time based on the data I have received and engagement with the community and staff, I believe the least disruptive path is to proceed with opening an additional HCC site at the Decatur building.  This will relieve pressure at the new Cascadia building and address many of the concerns I have heard from families and educators.  I am requesting that Amendment 3 to the Student Assignment Plan (SAP) be withdrawn.
I want to offer my heartfelt thanks for those who offered their feedback and time, e-mailed, and visited my community meeting.  We have a shared responsibility to nurture strong and positive learning communities and candid, respectful discourse is a critical component of that.  We have a lot more work to do at the district level, and within our buildings to minimize disruption and maximize learning for students.  I look forward to further conversations, even the difficult ones, along that journey.
Wishing you all a relaxing and enjoyable holiday,
Rick Burke

Friday, December 9, 2016

Cascadia Staff Letter on the Split

Dear Dr. Nyland and Seattle School Board,
The teachers at Cascadia Elementary are deeply concerned about the upcoming school board vote regarding the future of our school and the possible negative impact on our students. Through a joint school district and PTSA survey we have already expressed the only reasonable option is to geo-split the current school and create two schools. One school located at the Wilson Pacific site, the other site located at the Decatur.
Recently the staff learned about the amendments proposed by Directors Burke and Peters that proposes to keep our school together at the Wilson Pacific site or make Decatur an option site. Our staff is strongly opposed to these ideas.
Our decision is based on:
Negative impact on students receiving Special Education services
Health and Safety issues
Negative impact on student/teacher/parent community
Changes to current curriculum and community programs
Here are the anticipated negative effects of keeping the school together at the new site:
Negative Impact On Students Receiving Services
We have many students with high anxiety who benefit from having close proximity to the counselor and Resource Rooms. We are concerned about these students being so far removed from the main building if their classroom is in a portable.
Collaboration with support staff is more challenging when students and classrooms are spread over a large campus like the Lincoln site. Portables would present even more challenges for students receiving these services. Coordination and scheduling of services for each student at the most impactful times would be significantly more challenging.
We are very concerned about the lack of safe spaces to “take a Meta Moment�? outside of the classroom. At our current site we use the hallway, resource rooms, and nearby partner classrooms. For students in portables, none of these would be a realistic option.
We have many students with sensory issues who are already challenged at our current site due to the size of our school. These challenges will be exacerbated by a larger school population in a smaller and therefore less accommodating space.
Health and Safety Issues
Extensive use of portables at the new site creates many safety issues.
oStudents in portables will need to pass through the recess yard to use the bathroom.
oIndividual students will be largely unsupervised during transitions to the bathroom and other resources.
oClose proximity to Aurora and proposed homeless camp presents worries for students during unsupervised transitions.
oOur playground space will be reduced due to the location of portables which creates a number of safety and supervision challenges.
oTeachers and students will be separated from the main building and communication will be difficult during incidents of a lockdown or shelter in place, which will likely occur more frequently due to our location.
The lunchroom and recess space was not built to accommodate a school of that size
oDue to space concerns, it is likely some classrooms will need to eat lunch in their rooms. Students who get hot lunch will then have to travel back and forth between their classroom and the cafeteria. Students in portables will need supervision during this transition.
oCoordinating adequate lunch and recess times will be extremely challenging and result in suboptimal schedules (e.g. very early or late lunches, limited access to the school yard for recess)
oBehavioral problems at recess would be impacted due to having more students in a smaller space because of portables on the recess yard.
oSupervision around portables at recess is extremely challenging.
Negative Impact On Student/Teacher/Parent/Community
If the school does not split this year, it will need to split the following year; this means current 1st-3rd grade students may have to transfer schools 3 times in elementary school. Six years ago, our program came to the Lincoln site with 420 students. We now have over 750. We know that 400 north end students are qualified to receive HCC services and have chosen not to come to our current site. We anticipate that many families have waited for our transition to the new building before enrolling in our program. It is clear that the predictable and continued growth of the north end HCC program will make it physically impossible to accommodate our student population within 1 year at the new site. This means a future school split and another possible move for some 1st-3rd grade students.
Collaboration between teachers and classrooms will be heavily compromised by the size of the school and the use of portables.
Portables limit students’ opportunities to connect with other students within their grade level.
Physical proximity to team members and other staff members impacts collaboration. This has been a challenge at the Lincoln site, and will prove to be even more so at the new site with the use of portables.
Students and teachers in the portables will be isolated from the other classrooms. This will make casual collaborative experiences extremely challenging and lead to changes in our curriculum and the removal of cross grade level activities.
We will not be able to do all school events. There will be no room to accommodate 750+ students during field day and other whole school events.
There will be increased turnover amongst staff. Teachers and staff have communicated through two surveys and through this letter our concerns with keeping our school together. It is likely we will see a much higher than normal turnover if the decision is made not to split the school. Making a decision that goes against the interests of the students and the teachers who serve these students communicates a lack of understanding regarding the process we have undertook to build the strong learning community our staff currently has. It is reasonable to assume that many staff members will seek out a more stable learning community given the severity of the impacts to our school both this year (if we stay together) and the following year when we inevitably have to split anyway to an unknown location.
Changes To Current Curriculum And Community Programs
No instrumental music for 4th grade students. This will be huge shift for our school. At the new site, there will be no space to host more than one instrumental music teacher. This means we will have to reduce the number of students that can take it. If we stay together, this will likely mean the 4th grade students will no longer have this as an option. Currently, we have approximately 230 students in instrumental music spread across 4th and 5th grade.
No Theater program for 5th grade students. There will not be enough space to accommodate all 5th grade classrooms if we stay together.
No Reading Room. There will be no flexible space to use for this alternative to outdoor recess for students who benefit from a quiet space during their day.
No iLab. Even though this space is designated already, this will be used for additional instructional space if the school stays together. Many grade levels have projects connected to the use of this space. These projects will need to be reduced in scope or eliminated.
No space for intervention teachers. Many students currently benefit from the use of designated spaces for our math and writing specialists. If we stay together, their only option will be to push into the classroom. Our intervention teachers are currently serving over 200 of our students.
Many schools with two PE classes at a time will teach one in the gym, and one in the cafeteria, or one outside if the weather permits and the teachers just rotate weekly or daily for who is teaching where. This is a high possibility for what would take place at Cascadia as the new gym is smaller than our current one. Teaching 60 kids in one class at a time does not work for their learning, safety in movement, classroom management, and skill development. Since dividing the new gym will be challenging due to its smaller size, we would likely have to teach some classes in the cafeteria.
Reasons to create a Geo Split at Decatur
Creates Stability-The new school will have more predictable enrollment.
Location is close to where students live-a large number of HCC students live in North East Seattle. Some of our students on the east side currently have over an hour bus ride to the Lincoln site.
Lower Transportation Costs-With budget cuts next year, cutting transportation costs will help the district. This year we have 16 buses, which is too many to fit at the new school. This many buses will also affect the commute time for many of our students, who already have long bus rides.
Teachers want to work in their community-Many teachers are excited at the prospect of working at a smaller school that is closer to where they live and building community with the new school.
Our teachers and staff love our community. A decision of this magnitude, that would be going against the interests of the educators and families of our school, communicates that the school board is only listening to the vocal minority and does not care about the stability of the HCC program or our school. Voting on an issue that will impact HCC students and never talking to the teachers and staff who work closely with this population is concerning. We are also stakeholders in the community and we expect our voice to also have a place in this decision.
We urge you to consider the impact your decision will have on our students. We would like to extend an open invitation to speak with Cascadia staff about our concerns.
The Cascadia Teachers and Staff
Gary Bass
Abbey Buchert
Anya Rifkin
Jennifer Daffara
Erica Gregory
Zach Warren
Ellie Kim
Sean Hamby
Emily Thilo
Nathan Wheeler
Kate Sayles
Kendra Rohrabaugh
Jim Clithero
Allie Orme
Cheryl Adams
Lauren Fuller
Beth Lee
Sage Kleinhanz
Barbara Ford
Sarah Watkins
Mary MacDonald
Maureen Newton
Katie Holman
Kimberly Erickson
Eric Eddy
Eileen Gray
Daniel Morford
Shelly Landschulz
Shirley Briones
Brandie Absher
Josh Hill
Jeremy Drollinger
Josephine Cross-Whiter
Elizabeth Savage
Matt Perez
Camille Paul
Ashley Toney
Nathan Brown
Allison Underdahl
Melanie Voytovich
Christy Smith
Ashley Meyer

Editorial: Support the split of Cascadia to Decatur

The final decision over whether to split Cascadia between the new Cascadia Elementary School and the Decatur Building is going to be voted on during the January 4th Board Meeting about the student assignment plan.

There are currently several proposed amendments including:
  • One to keep the community in one building. Ammendment 3
  • One to make Decatur on an option site when its opened for HCC students. This would be similar to how Fairmount Park operates. Ammendment 4
My position is that the split is the best option on the table at this point and delaying would not serve the interests of the program.

I've sent out the following letter to board directors:

"I thought that I'd write one combined email to express my opinions about the split before the final vote. I don't really want to to go through a split but I'm motivated by the belief that the numbers really don't workout. Looking at the demographics there was a slight dip this year in the lower grades. but I believe that the general growth in the student population will continue to increase the HCC cohort size if nothing else. Anecdotally, I've heard that some families deferred joining the program so there may be a bit of pent up demand that explains last year's choices.

Even at the current size of 750, the ability to fit on the Cascadia campus is marginal. It definitely sacrifices common spaces, especially the playground which would likely be consumed by the portables themselves. And its also impossible to get the classroom student / teacher ratios into alignment with the state goals at those numbers. This more than anything else directly affects the quality of instruction for all the kids. I consider the 2e population to be particularly vulnerable to larger class sizes.

The next point is whether it makes sense to defer another year or not as Rick has floated. Based on what happens during open enrollment we might always completely exceed the site's capacity no matter what. But assuming that doesn't occur overall, I think this also is not in the best interest of our program. There's a huge risk of the Decatur site being taken before next year and having no obvious overflow sites available at that point. We've also now gone through most of the deliberation process. If we defer, we'll merely repeat this process again and I don't see any improvements in the roll out from that timeline. The district will still hire a principal about 6 months ahead of time and all the work will occur in the late winter / spring.

Finally, I also think its less risky to open as geosplit vs. an option. From the time the vote is taken to the end of open enrollment is about 6 weeks. That's a really short time frame to ask families to commit to an option and there will be very few details they can base a decision on. Its possible that the numbers would just workout that way anyway, but there is a risk of not moving enough people over to form a viable cohort. I believe, once everyone knows their site, people will rally around making the roll out go as well as possible. Also after Decatur is established I think that risk diminishes and that decision could be revisited. As has been pointed out elsewhere, assuming the split occurs, Cascadia E.S. will actually have some open seats that a family could access through open-enrollment even if in the Decatur catchment zone. That would provide a small amount of flexibility around the fringes.

In sum, I look at this as medium-short term least worst alternative. I'm hoping in the context of BEX V we can find a more palatable solution. Thanks again for all your hard work,"

Signed Letter from what appears to be most if not all of the Cascadia Staff:

Staff Letter of Support

I urge everyone who is concerned to contact the board prior to the vote. Your voice needs to be heard.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Equity Updates from the AL Office

Stephen Martin, the director of advanced learning in the district,  forward two items:

1) This is the PDF of Matt Okun’s presentation to the HCSAC from last night:

Disportionality Presentation Slide Deck

There's a great deal of data in here which I haven't had time to digest yet.

2) This opportunity may also be of interest to the community. SPS is one of the partners in the Equity Summit on Gifted Education coming up at UW onFebruary 9-10. The event is free, but registration is required.

December '16 Open Thread

HC Advisory committee meeting schedule

Future meeting dates (all Tuesdays at 6:30 pm) include:

January 3, Jane Addams Middle School Library
February 7, Washington Middle School Library
March 7, Cascadia (Lincoln) Library
April 4, Garfield High School Library
May 2, Hamilton International Middle School Library
June 6, Madison Middle School Library


DURHAM, N.C. -- A new, comprehensive analysis of a century’s worth of research shows that grouping students by ability and providing opportunities for students to progress at a more rapid pace can increase overall student academic achievement.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) and Northwestern University.
This latest study examined the equivalent of nearly 300 original research studies and found that both educational techniques work.
“After looking carefully at 100 years of research, it became clear that acceleration and most forms of ability grouping can be powerfully effective interventions,” said study co-author Matt Makel, research director at Duke TIP. “They help increase academic achievement for both lower- and higher-achieving students. 
“Moreover, these practices can yield significant academic benefits without being expensive and can even save schools money.”   

UW Robinson Center Information Session

The University of Washington's Transition School/Early Entrance Program has been providing college early entrance for students after 7th or 8th grade for over 30 years. Our program provides students with a one-year college prep program here on the UW campus before they are subsequently admitted as full undergraduates at the University. Students who thrive in our program tend to be very advanced in one or more domains, able to navigate (with help) a relatively adult world, and in need of more acceleration than K-12 can provide. We will be having an information session for this program on Thursday, December 8th on the UW campus. You can learn more about this event here:

We’re also hosting an all-programs information session on Saturday, December 10th from 1:30-3:30 at El Centro de la Raza in Beacon Hill. This event will cover information about our Saturday Enrichment Program, Summer Program, Online Program, Transition School and UW Academy. I have attached a flyer for this event. Interested families can register here:
I hope everyone has a great holiday. What's on your minds?