Friday, September 7, 2018

September '18 Open Thread

What's on your minds?


Anonymous said...

Eighth grader at WMS still doesn't have a final schedule, which is concerning. Not sure why that couldn't have been pulled together before now, but not a problem unique to HCC.

Sorry to see the turnover in the orchestra director position at WMS, though there is certainly more than enough talent in this area to allow for a terrific hire that would be a step forward for the music program. GHS has a great new orchestra director in place this year. Given the importance of WMS as a feeder for GHS orchestra, the uniqueness of the fiddlers program, and the strength of the WMS band and choir directors, I have fingers crossed for a strong hire in the WMS position to round out the team.


Megan Hazen said...

I've been spending a lot of emotional energy on math. The pathways in math are not very well defined or explained by the district, they are inconsistent between HCC middle schools, and the requirements for the options are not communicated to the elementary schools. Additionally, middle school math seems to contribute to unease about the finality of a schedule, as some students are still doing testing for levels.

I believe the district needs to have a well defined (and justified) pathway in math. The process for establishing a student's math class should be consistent between schools, and should be well documented so students, parents, and elementary teachers all know what they need to do for placement in sixth grade. I know this isn't a new problem, but I remain hopeful that we can get it solved.

(Because of the issues regarding placement, I haven't even begun to really address what is actually being offered. It is in my mind that when placement is sorted to the district's satisfaction we may need to revisit what is actually being offered. However, I'm new to the middle school thing, so maybe I will be impressed by what actually happens in math.)

Benjamin Leis said...

I've spent some energy on this in the past. Communication is definitely poor in this area. So I'm familiar with what JAMS did for placement:

* exam on site + SBAC scores to gain access to Alg.

And our last 5th grade year the Cascadia teachers declined to recommend anyone on principle when pressed but were very unwilling to publicly admit that. (This is why policy and openness are so important)

What I don't really know is how placement went at the other MS sites this year. If others would like to chime in that would be awesome.

I don't see any power center really capable of creating consistency right now district wide given the overall decentralization - perhaps the board could intervene.

Megan Hazen said...

Benjamin - The policy at Cascadia this year was to recommend NO ONE, since they hadn't officially covered eight grade math. My student was advised, and supported, in the idea that she could study over the summer and pass an exam at the end of the summer for Alg. I, but the principal at RESMS declined to offer the exam since no one was officially referred.

(There was NO opportunity to place into Alg. I at RESMS 6th grade.**)

I believe, at the very least, fifth grade teachers need to know what it means to refer to Alg. (which, as far as I can tell, opens up the possibility of testing in, but doesn't place the student automatically). I also believe that the procedure should be the same at every middle school, regardless of what the procedure becomes. And that parents should be advised of this before open enrollment. If the schools are going to differ, it needs to be known before open enrollment, and students should be able to opt into a school that is closer to their math needs.

Parents were led to believe that SBAC scores wouldn't matter (so opting out wasn't a problem), but it is clear that SBAC is used for some middle school placement. That also needs to be clear, with some approximate cut-off values when appropriate.

It is absurd to me that the district is not capable of creating consistency. How hard is it? You dictate policy. The district's unwillingness to do this is why AL below the HCC level is a farce, and why we are in this bind over math. If anyone knows of a reason, aside from obstinancy, that the district can't do this, I'd like to know it.

** I should say - math at RESMS may be awesome. I am with-holding judgement until my kid sees more of the program, so right now I'm just frustrated with the placement situation.

Anonymous said...

The middle school math placement discussion gets rehashed almost every year, in part due to differing policies at both the district and school level. It can be frustrating.

If you feel your child is willing and capable of forging ahead, consider the part-time homeschooling option. You can cover twice as much in the same amount of time, in more depth, and with less hassle. There's a lot of crossover with 8th grade math and Algebra 1. Worst case? Your child takes Algebra 1 again in 7th. And no, they can't require that you use a certain online provider. If the school tells you otherwise, they are misinformed. A district cannot dictate how a family homeschools and needs to treat the student as they would treat a student coming from a private school (such as requiring a student to take a placement test). The larger downside, however, seems to be a lack of a cohort when it comes to taking Algebra 2. If elementary schools are blocking referrals, then there won't be enough students requesting Algebra 2 in 8th. Maybe that's the intention.

Anonymous said...

Since my child is passionate about STEM, I'm looking for schools with strong enrichment activities like math, robotics and science clubs and teams that are active in competitions.

I've noticed Bellevue and Lake Washington districts have a strong infrastructure for supporting these clubs with teacher advisers and PTA investment.

Do we have anything similar at our middle schools?


Benjamin Leis said...

@STEMom - I'm not completely sure what is happening at all the sites (so hopefully others will jump in) but at JAMS

* There's a really great Rocketry Club
* STEM elective
* Math Club (Full disclosure: I run it)
* STEAM fair.

I'm aware of several robotics teams at the H.S. level but none at the M.S. one right now. That's one of those things I hope will get organized at some point.

Anonymous said...

Hamilton MS has a math team, and I believe Hamilton MS also has a robotics team. Starting robotics teams are difficult in middle schools because of the time commitment. Kids dropping in occasionally, hard to make progress on design and trouble shooting a robot. We had better luck starting a homegrown team and recruiting friends to join. Beyond 6 or 7 kids, the group becomes unruly, and it is difficult to have tasks for everyone involved. You do not need to be a rocket scientist (or a robot scientist) to do help mentor a group, once you sign a group up with FIRST WA lego, they send you what you need to do as a coach, although you do need to get materials. My son started in 3rd grade and we did a combination of home grown robotics through FIRST WA, coached a group at the then older Lincoln (pre-Eaglestaff) school, and Hamilton MS. Once they are in high school, most have robotics teams, either FIRST tech challenge (smaller) or FRC (larger scale). Ballard, Ingraham, Roosevelt and Garfield all have robotics teams.

Anonymous said...

Pure onslaught on HCC at WMS. The fight is on. They have dropped to one year of Spanish only at 8th and are going to Honors not HCC LA/SSS. So much for depth and breadth.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the WMS situation. But can anybody, anywhere, actually define the difference between "Honors" and "HCC" LA? Or either of those and the GE version?

As far as I know there's no official curriculum for any of the them, and if the theoretical difference is that they're working toward different standards, from my last comparison of middle/high school LA standards there doesn't seem to be that much enough distinction between the grade level version and the next year higher (since LA is now supposedly just one year advanced), so it's effectively meaningless. As usual, the level of rigor is purely dependent on the teacher, and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the way the class is titled.

Then again, if WMS has gone to only one "advanced" version of LA and SS, they seem to be out of alignment with the district's AL programs/services. The AL website says: Once students begin HCC services, a continuum of services shall be provided to the student, from grades K-12. A self-contained cohort option is available in grades 1-8. Highly Capable students who choose not to participate at a designated Highly Capable site will be served through Advanced Learning programs. This means there should be a self-contained HCC option, as well as some other AL version that's not the HCC version. With only an Honors version, you're either forced into the HCC version, or denied AL services.


Anonymous said...

I forgot about the cohort 1-8 description. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Quick - Take a screenshot!

But hasn't JAMS blended Spectrum/HCC LA/SS from the get go?

Anonymous said...

What is up with science? There are apparently new HCC science pathways, starting this school year:

7th-HS Physical Science (Chem A?? and Physics A??)
8th-HS Biology
9th-Chemistry B and Physics B (no honors designation?)
10th through 12th - AP Bio, AP Chem, AP Earth Science (huh? did they mean Environmental Science?), AP Physics (no level specified...will calculus based physics be an option?), electives