Thursday, May 18, 2017

Full Disclosure

I'm trying something new next year and joining the BLT (Building Leadership Team) at Jane Addams Middle School.   This is my first official PTSA position and I'm fairly excited to see what can be done in the role.   On consideration, I do not think this will interfere in anyway with this blog.  I always try my best to maintain an official editorial tone and I will note any specific posts about JAMS with a disclaimer about my involvement there. Likewise, I don't intend to comment on any non-public information that I might happen to hear while involved with the school.

In the meantime, this seems like a good opportunity to ask if anyone is interested in becoming another co-moderator. Its always good to have more people involved.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service! I was on the board at JAMS this year and there were no men involved, with the exception of the steam fair organizer who was only at a couple meetings. I'm heartened that next year a male treasurer and apparently now BLT member have stepped forward!

Anonymous said...

Yeah!! Next thing you know the schools might start having Father's Day tea at 10 am.... (thanks Ben, good work!)

Fix AL

Anonymous said...

Watch out for the throttling of French at JAMS. It is the canary in the coal mine.

French is an island of excellence at JAMS. The teacher is amazing. A gem. Caring, professional, kind. All teachers should be as contentious as she is. As supportive, as engaged.

HCC kids tend to take world language (it puts them on the path to jump ahead in high school to 3rd level, and this is critical as the overwhelming majority of them are college-bound and need a 2nd language). It appears that 'in the know' HCC families at JAMS go to French, not Spanish, not just because the teacher is known to be excellent, but, because those who take French seem to be much more serious, and it makes the classroom atmosphere more conducive to learning. Which is what HCC kids are drawn to in the first place for the most part: a great classroom environment supported by peers who are there to learn. That typifies the French classroom at JAMS.

It seems as if this throttling of French is going to directly kill French at JAMS. It is only a matter of time. It is an inevitable collision course. It will destabilize it. Its about feeding the pipeline.

The first year of JAMS, there were *four* 1A sections; the next year, three or two. Two 1A sections are fine, it keeps the path going for 1B in 7th grade and ultimately for French 2 in 8th grade. But, squelch the 'in take' valve to one single section, and there are going to be problems. It will cycle through to only one section of each, which means the teacher, who is being cut to .8FTE next year, will most likely be made even less the subsequent year unless they add another 1A section in that year. Which means the job will be, what, .6FTE? Or less? Who can afford to take that?? Not necessarily a teacher of high quality and then the whole program goes down.

It might be easier for a administrator to have but one world language, but, that is not what a high quality comprehensive middle school does. Two world languages is one of the essential offerings of a truly great comprehensive middle, along with a robust selection of math and multiple instrumental music offerings. If JAMS wants to be mediocre, go ahead and cut down the ultimately kill off the world language. Go ahead and focus on PE (like they now do: Eckstein allowed for students to get a PE waiver if they met the requirements, JAMS forces kids to take PE unless they take music and world language; how's that for equity?).

So, if you are on the BLT, thank you for serving, and, focus on what makes JAMS push ahead into the ranks of the very best of the best of comprehensive education. A high tide floats all boats. We want JAMS to be the best and for all kids who attend there to know they are going to the best middle school in all of Seattle, if not Washington!

And, if you are going to JAMS, do give French a thought if you are interested in world language for your student. Spanish is an excellent second language to learn, but French may be a great learning experience where a student can move faster quicker for more learning.

JAMS Jaguar

Anonymous said...

The number of sections of French is directly tied to student requests. Also the Spanish classes are fantastic, I'm not sure why you would put them down. As the parent of kids who elect not to do organized sports, I'm incredibly grateful that the principal took the time to hire two amazing PE teachers and kept the class sizes reasonable. Staying active throughout life is so important for both physical and mental health, and these educators are there for all the kids, not just the ones with athletic prowess. For the record the first year they had to force many unhappy kids to take PE who would rather have a waiver, now it is so popular they can no longer accommodate students who wish to take it all year instead of half. I do feel like the Tech department could use some improvement, I believe that may be causing equity issues compared to other middle schools.

Jaguar Stuff

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it a Spanish teacher who pushed to have the third year move at actual high school pace? My child had had French, and it has been fine. But not among the more rigorous classes they've had, and the Spanish classes also seem great. I do wonder why we are the only area middle school whose language classes do not take a trip to a place where the language is spoken in 8th grade.

Curious Cat

Anonymous said...

I'd actually be surprised if all the middle schools in the district have foreign trips for the 8th graders given the costs and organization involved. Which Middle Schools do them?

Anonymous said...

Eckstein and Hamilton both do. I don't know about any other schools, but those are our neighboring ones.


Anonymous said...

Art and PE at JAMS were 10X better than at HIMS. They ended up being some of my child's favorite classes. If you weren't in music at HIMS, the elective offerings were bleak.

Anonymous said...

No: student picking a world language does NOT drive the schedule. There is more demand for french than kids who get it. It is rationed. And that is now with a full time FTE.

Fact: there are students at JAMS who wanted a world language, French specifically, but couldn't get it.

And, that will get way worse next year! Parents of incoming 6th graders, be very, very focused on this. To be denied access to French in 6th grade is a disadvantage that will track through high school. Read your elective form carefully. It talks about prioritizing students for the limited spots based on their SBAC scores. As the French sections are deleted, and the teacher FTE is cut down, it will only get worse. French at JAMS is a bastion of excellence that is particularly unique.

Spanish is great. Art is great. PE is great. Pursue whatever meets your needs. But, French is really particularly special; parents in the know know this. You have to participate in it to know that. And, it is being short-changed despite its being a particular island of academic bliss with a phenomenal teacher (seriously, she speaks French, Turkish, Japanese and English) and really dedicated students who learn for the joy of learning. The classroom is a really special place to walk into. Academic excellence. That should not be short-changed, that should be celebrated. If they don't want to celebrate excellence, what do they want to celebrate? She goes above and beyond. She loves her students. She celebrates culture. She makes them crepes. She coaches JAMS teams. All because she loves, loves, loves kids and her students and all of her colleagues. She is the kind of teacher you want more of. Not saying others aren't also excellent, they are too. Just saying you have a uniquely dedicated, joyful, effective teacher who goes above and beyond and there are kids who want to take her classes who are being cut-off. That needs to be reexamined, and if you are on the BLT, please do question it.

And yes, the trips abroad is another thing these kids don't get an opportunity to participate in at JAMS. They keep taking more and more away. These kids never got double-blocking either, which meant they never got that deep dive in SS/LA. Without the double block, they simply cannot teach as deeply. And they know it. These kids didn't get to read Homer. They didn't get to read Guns, Germs and Steel (but heck, they showed the movie! Seriously!). They pushed the advisory model. Daily advisory is a huge waste of time. Instructional minutes would be better for all of the kids, with one or two homeroom periods a week at most at the end of the day for them to catch up on missed tests, coordinate with teachers, and deploy some whole-school anti-bullying or other such program. As it is now, kids do nothing except watch movies, play games, make grill cheeses or tease other students. There is huge difference between advisory classes based on who the teacher is. As a BLT rep, perhaps you can push to revamp this and focus more on maximizing student instructional minutes every week.

If JAMS goes down to a single world language, which is predictable based on this trajectory in a few years time (despite a growing enrollment), that is not exactly a mark of distinction.

We are happy with JAMS overall, some great teachers, huge fields, excellent music, excellent math department, stability, beautiful auditorium, etc, but the concern is that academic excellence is not the driving factor for the building-decisions and that is what throttling the French down represents. Why did French have to take the hit? A world language that drives toward college. Ask yourself that.

JAMS Jaguar

Anonymous said...

JAMS Jaguar, a few questions.

Read your elective form carefully. It talks about prioritizing students for the limited spots based on their SBAC scores.

They aren't going to be individually ranked and let into French based on SBAC scores, right? They just need a 3 on the ELA SBAC? Which merely means that a passing score is required to start a world language as a sixth grader. Seems reasonable.

Why did French have to take the hit? A world language that drives toward college. Ask yourself that.

Weren't there changes to other electives as well, like MESA and Computer Science?

Newly Known

Anonymous said...

JAMS Jaguar,

"Go ahead and focus on PE (like they now do: Eckstein allowed for students to get a PE waiver if they met the requirements, JAMS forces kids to take PE unless they take music and world language; how's that for equity?)"

I have to point out that sixth graders at Eckstein are not permitted to take world language. They can only take two years of world language and they are all required to take PE as sixth graders. Be careful what you wish for...