Saturday, September 15, 2018

Some Washington M.S. Updates

First, I just returned from the school board retreat. Independently, amidst what was generally a discussion of improving the board/staff working relationship and not policy focused,  WMS was mentioned by both school board members and the superintendent. So awareness of the situation has bubbled all the way up the chain.

Also I received the following communication one from the HCSAC and the second from Principal Butler:


"Welcome back and hoping the best for the 2018-19 school year to you all!

I wanted to insure everyone knows there will be a special WMS PTSA meeting with first year Principal Butler Ginolfi on Monday, 9/17 at 7 pm to explain the significant schedule changes for all WMS students. A brief presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Robert Njegovan

HCS AC Communication Representative"

School Email

"Dear Washington Middle School families,
First, I want to apologize for the anxiety some students and families experienced the last two weeks. While many schools experience some shifting during the first month of school, a unique set of circumstances involving schedules, staffing, and budgets created a rocky start for many.

I was drawn to WMS because of the energy and commitment to creating a unified school community. I want to honor the work that has been done by families, staff, and our community and continue building on it.

I am writing to provide some updates, clear up some misconceptions, and invite you to join the PTSA meeting on Monday evening.

Class schedule update:  On Tuesday we finalized the remaining schedules and all students have complete class schedules.  Up until Tuesday of this week, the master schedule that was created last year was one the building could not afford or maintain. Between late resignations, hiring challenges, and changes to course offerings this year, we were able to fully fund the schedule we now have in place. We are also fully staffed at all positions with a recent recommendation to HR for our recently vacated Orchestra position.

HC courses: In alignment with our vision of one school community and breaking down siloes between students, we adjusted the course naming of HC ELA and Social Studies to “Honors” courses. The course titles are different than those that were used to describe HC or Spectrum courses previously. In the same way we would never want to specifically call out a Special Education class with a naming designation, HC class names have been updated to reflect a better sense of community within WMS, while maintaining the integrity of the HC program and cohort. No other change has been made to the HC curriculum or class offerings, or the self-contained cohorts. We continue to offer all HC classes that were previously offered including those that lead to high school credit. HC class sizes are consistent with averages from the last three years (35-36 students).

World Languages: With lower student enrollment numbers in our school, Washington Middle School is not able to offer any traditional beginning world language classes to 7th grade students this year. Students who completed Spanish 1A, French 1A, or Japanese 1A in 7th grade last year will be given an opportunity to complete the 1B continuation courses in 8th grade this year. Ms. Krasne will teach two sections of Spanish 1B. We are looking at other alternatives for students to complete French 1B and Japanese 1B because we were not able to hire a teacher for those languages this year. More details will be provided very soon to the specific families affected, as well as the full Washington Middle School community. We will continue to work with the district’s World Languages Program Manager, Michele Aoki (, to expand access to world language classes for all students in the coming year.

Music Program: The music program at WMS has a rich history and is renowned across the district. To expand music access so we can move closer to our goal of ensuring every WMS student has access to take part in our celebrated program, we are now offering four new sections of Music Survey that will increase the number of students participating in our program by more than 100. In order to increase this access, we reduced our band and orchestra proficiency levels to three levels from four, which is in alignment with what Garfield High School—a school with 1700 students enrolled—has in place.

Thank you to the WMS PTSA for inviting me to join the meeting Monday night, September 17th from 7:00-8:00. We want to make sure we can address as many questions as possible, so if you have questions you know you’ll want me to address, please feel free to send them ahead of time. Otherwise, we’ll ask families to submit questions at the beginning of the meeting so staff can gather the questions by topic and hopefully we will get to all the questions. I’ll post an FAQ to the WMS website afterward.

It is an honor to serve as your principal and I look forward to supporting your family this year.
Emily Butler Ginolfi
Principal, WMS "


Anonymous said...

WTF - classes of 35 or 36 students? Middle schools were staffed at a 1:29 ratio this year. It’s not OK to overload HCC classes to benefit general education students.

The continual renaming of courses to make people feel better about students’s differing levels or academic success is just stupid.

Anonymous said...

This just makes me sad. I don't have a kid in WMS and I am so supportive of what the schools try to do for everyone, but even the optimist in me can't see what's happened here as anything but a failure.

Does the problem stem from the loss of funding as result of a lower building population? And, is the building population really down 500? and if so why?


Anonymous said...

"In alignment with our vision of one school community and breaking down siloes between students, we adjusted the course naming of HC ELA and Social Studies to “Honors” courses. The course titles are different than those that were used to describe HC or Spectrum courses previously. In the same way we would never want to specifically call out a Special Education class with a naming designation, HC class names have been updated to reflect a better sense of community within WMS, while maintaining the integrity of the HC program and cohort. No other change has been made to the HC curriculum or class offerings, or the self-contained cohorts."

That sounds like a dubious claim. If the HC cohort and program are unchanged, how are they using one course name to cover those that were previously known as HCC and Spectrum? Is she saying that Spectrum and HCC levels were blended into one level, called Honors? If so, is it taught at the Spectrum level, the HCC level, or somewhere in between? She says no changes have been made to the HCC curriculum, but that seems unlikely if the classes are newly blended. Or were they already blended?

P.S. - Calling something "Honors" seems to call the difference out more than labelling it "HC", doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

@zb - A lot of kids who used to be assigned to WMS were reassigned to Meany when it reopened last year. That is why the numbers went down. It's not as though parents abandoned the school.

For someone who claims to want to prioritize building community, Butler Ginolfi has gotten off to a miserable start.


Anonymous said...

Gobble--although she has not admitted it, the fact that spectrum kids are in the HCC ELA and the gen ed kids alone have to take the two hours of ELA makes clear what she is doing, and its worst impact is on the kids she claims to care for the most. Though there is certainly bad effect enough to go around given the class sizes. The worst effect of all is on the teachers, who are amazing and do not deserve this abdication by the district. Certainly the principal and district (Pritchett) communication, what little their has been of it, tries to cover the truth, but the schedules make it clear.


More Pitchforks! said...

This mandatory double English class is a well studied thing. It's typically called "double-dosing." Here are a couple of articles about it:

It is much better marketed to students as an academic empowerment class than as a "whoops, we can't afford foreign language or music teachers" sort of punitive thing.

But why not just communicate clearly with parents and students about all this? It's not just that some students could benefit from a double dose of ELA or math, it's also that we can't afford to hire enough good music/world language/art/CTE teachers. We have to hire really young principals because that's what we can afford.

Parents of Seattle, we need to sharpen our pitchforks and head down to Olympia. We are entitled to amply funded schools. These middle schoolers will be voters in 4 to 7 years. Why can't we afford to teach them how to play an instrument and do some coding in addition to math and reading before they reach the age of majority? Because we suck, grownups of Washington State, we suck.

NESeattleMom said...

More Pitchforks, I don’t follow the logic about affording music and language teachers. They don’t get paid more than Langage Arts teachers. I haven’t read the articles about the double dose LA results, but, to me, it should not be applied to students who meet standards in Gen Ed. If a student is struggling and can’t read, they should get extra help. But the principal at WMS seems to be punishing through schedule design the Gen Ed kids by not letting them have two electives.

More Pitchforks! said...

"the principal at WMS seems to be punishing through schedule design the Gen Ed kids by not letting them have two electives"

She's doing it for cost reasons, right? Kids who are meeting standards don't need double dosing. The only reason to force that on them is that it makes it easier to schedule full classrooms of kids.

If you could afford to run a class that wasn't clogged to the rafters with kids, the school could afford a full-time position in the electives students want to take. The reason they can't find a Japanese teacher is that they're trying to hire a .4 FTE teacher. And anyone with a teaching certificate, bilingual in Japanese and English, is already doing something better than that kind of motor teaching.

If students performing below grade level in ELA come with LAP and maybe levy funds, but don't choose to take Japanese, or are required to take a double dose of English, then the LAP and levy funds can't fund the Japanese teacher. The principal was right about that and I sure wonder what Follmer thought she was doing if she was doing otherwise. She's right about that but she's wrong to make it seem like she's blaming HC students for wanting to take a world language. A world language class is a pretty normal thing for a high performing student to want to take in middle school. Trying one out is the very definition of breadth that the principal mentioned in one email. And if you are doing just fine in your academics in your core classes, which many students are, it is not wrong of them to seek to learn something cool and challenging and fun like Japanese. Middle schools are full of kids who want PE class and kids who want Japanese. And if we had amply funded public schools, we could run classes in both.

NNE Mom said...

Thank you for attending the board retreat and for sharing the messages.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous Sept 15th 2:18PM " WTF - classes of 35 or 36 students? Middle schools were staffed at a 1:29 ratio this year. It’s not OK to overload HCC classes to benefit general education students. "

I think this falls under the heading of "equity" in some people's eyes. If it lowers class sizes for general ed and non HC kids who are not meeting standard. I personally think its not o.k to let anything goes in the process for those who are meeting standard or who are above standard. There also needs to be some sort of agreed upon standard for them as well.

Anonymous said...

Just from a labor perspective the SEA contract usually limits secondary core class sizes in the entire district to 32 so something very odd has occurred here that is unfair to both teacher and students.

Jet City mom said...

The class size is interesting.
However, how do you decide which kids will not get the honors class when you have five more kids than you have seats?

At Garfield, Mr Howard would not let my daughter change teachers for an AP course even though it was the incoming teachers idea.

Anonymous said...

It seems the whole issue of class size is not on the radar of the WMS parents who are reacting to the situation there. It's surely impt.


Anonymous said...

Read the contract. Class sizes are not hard core cutoffs. They are based on SPS and building averages. From last year's contract:

1. SPS Averages and Building ranges: The SPS recognizes that a reasonable school class-size ratio is desirable. However, any application of a rigid numerical limitation on class size within schools restricts the staff and the building principal/program manager in their flexibility in seeking an ideal learning environment...

a. Secondary Class Size: Take actions to limit class size to thirty-two (32) students for core classes in grades 6-12 (28 for grade 6 when the site uses an elementary model for grade 6). Core is defined as including English/Language Arts; World Languages; Math; Science; and Social Studies...

b. Secondary Daily Limits: Maintain a staffing guideline of 150 students per teacher per day (when using a block or modified schedule, the total students served by a teacher each week would be 150)….The appropriate executive level administrator will be notified by the building principal/program manager of assignments which exceed the guidelines. The preferred solution is to reduce class size to the negotiated levels...

The preferred solution is to reduce class sizes, but schools have some discretion. It seems a teacher can have 36 students in one period and 25 in another, without exceeding the 150 students per teacher per day, or increasing SPS averages.

Melissa Westbrook said...

INterestingly, the principal told one parent in an email that 1)HCC was part of Special Ed (it's not) and 2) the classes were renamed because of FERPA reasons, saying it is illegal to label them as HCC because then a class list would reveal who was part of that group (and that would be wrong just as saying who is in Sped). She is again wrong (or else thousands of school districts are violating FERPA in this manner. I note she doesn't put this argument in her letter to the parents.

Anonymous said...

The kickoff meeting for WMS instrumental music last night was *terrific*. The crowd was at least 4x larger than last year's, and filled the venue to standing room only. *And* we got to watch promo videos about the program and hear a great performance by a student jazz combo. It was heartening, in the midst of so much turmoil, uncertainty, and speculation, to be reminded of the strength of the WMS music program and to see such tremendous parental support.


Anonymous said...

If the principal's original reason for the schedule changes was increasing "access" to language and music, won't requiring a double dose of ELA for some students actually reduce their access?


Grouchy Parent said...

Butler Ginolfi appears to be HCCsplaining, which is one thing when it's done by, let's say, a parent starting a casual, pro-equity, ad hoc group through her elementary school's PTA, but is quite a different matter when it's done by the certificated SPS administrator running one of the main middle school hicap programs in the largest school district in the state.

Anonymous said...

@b, I didn't see her rationale as increasing access, but rather an observation that certain categories of students were more likely to take those classes than others--so obviously the solution was to decrease access to eliminate the disparity, right?

@Reader ad HJ, I think the larger class size for HCC students aren't necessarily a problem, IF the teachers have the skills to manage large classes, IF they have appropriate curricula, and IF they have smaller caseloads in other classes, allowing them to offer the high level or rigor needed and provide adequate feedback on student papers, projects, etc. It's not unreasonable to consider lower class sizes for struggling students an "equity" strategy if that can help give them the boost they need, but it's only ethical to do so if the students who get the overloaded class ALSO have the opportunity to learn.

I'm more concerned that the principal felt it her own decision to just undo the official HCC model (HC cohort) and blend HC and Spectrum, even though that was not advertised to parents and there doesn't seem to be any discussion of what that means for the curriculum. Maybe that will be addressed at tonight's meeting. I'm also very concerned that gen ed students meeting standard also seem to be targeted by this double dosing approach, but maybe that's not the case?

all types

Anonymous said...

I'm not receiving the principal's emails. I've had 2 children at WMS for a total of 5 years and this is the first time I've not received emails. Anyway, thank you for re-posting so I know what is going on.

I wonder who else is not receiving the principal's communications? And I wonder why she's not sending these notices home via kid mail. I'm pretty sure a significant number of families at the school do not have access to email on a routine basis.

A basic equity standard is sending communication to families via kid mail until the school knows for sure the family has email access, and translating all the communication.

-basic communicaiton

Anonymous said...

JAMS changed the HCC model from the start. They assigned a small cohort of Spectrum students to HCC classes and the LA/SS curriculum was changed to be aligned to the grade level scope and sequence. You can argue HC students are still cohorted, just not in a self-contained cohort. WMS is the original APP site and is probably the only site still teaching the APP curriculum. Since SPS never officially put that curriculum on paper - it's been largely teacher driven and teacher dependent - you can guess what is likely to happen to the curriculum.

As a side note, it could be a positive change if SPS is being more sensitive to HCC designation. Have they also informed staff that it's not appropriate to make HCC designation a topic of class discussion? Or deride groups of students for having the designation?

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a drive district-wide not only middle, but also high school level to blend HC in classes with all other students, including those not meeting standard. It seems all the high schools have also gone to either "honors for all models" for specific classes or have one class that blends students and provide an "honors" option in the same class (more work, harder grading scale etc).

These classes must vary widely between schools depending upon the school's overall demographic population. In more affluent schools there may not be a large difference between students.

I do think this push is largely coming from the district in an attempt to address the achievement gap & equity concerns.
parent observer

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 9/17 at 12;49pm, True, but from the district's website: "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."

Have WMS students been continuing to get the original HCC (or APP, I guess it would have been) curriculum all along? Are they going to continue to do that, with Spectrum-level students also getting it at WMS--while nobody gets it anywhere else?

The district really needs to figure out what HCC is.

all types

Anonymous said...

Can someone post an example of how that "honors for all" model works from a grading and expectations perspective (e.g., post a rubric that lists the various expectations)? I don't understand it.

How many different levels are there, and what are the differences in expectations and grading? Does a GE student need to do X for an A, a Spectrum-level student do X and Y, and an HC-identified student do X, Y, and Z to get an A? Does an A grade for a GE student equal a B for a Spectrum student and a C for a HC student, or are the standards held constant? It sounds like grades are somewhat based on effort, not outcomes--which seems to fly in the face of that whole "standards-based grading" that everyone seemed to be moving to. And if grading is based on effort and is all relative your starting point or supposed potential, doesn't that essentially make the grades meaningless from an outside perspective (e.g., an A in "Honors ELA" doesn't tell a college anything about how well you can write if an A in Honors English can mean different things for different kids.) It's all so


Anonymous said...

"Can someone post an example of how that "honors for all" model works from a grading and expectations perspective (e.g., post a rubric that lists the various expectations)? I don't understand it. "

If you have a student at a high school teaching only honors to all, I would ask that teacher how they define it at that school. Honors classes and honors credit vary between high schools and I am told schools adjust and define "Honors" to the needs of their own local populations.

Here is what I was told at our high school, which is also a particularly high performing and middle class/affluent high school. I suspect it could be really challenging when you have larger differences between students in the same classroom.

They believe all can succeed with the honors higher course standard. They balance the class and intentionally enroll half the students who designated honors and half who designated non-honors. There is a single non-honors section available for those who decide to opt out or they will adjust coursework in the honors classroom for the student who opts out of honors if not.

Otherwise, they teach all to the top and highest standard. Students who need extra assistance to get honors credit get the extra help.

In another combined class which students can take for either honors or general, the honors version has a harder grading scale, students can't retake quizes/tests, some additional assignments.

-a parent

Anonymous said...

@ a parent, so you're saying in the "Honors for All" classes the grading standards are the same for all, it's just that those who might need more help to be at the honors level get that extra help? Is that extra help in class, or ? (If it's in class, does that interfere with the ability to teach to the honors level?)

For the "do more for honors in the same class" version of honors, in your experience does the harder grading scale require more challenging work, or is just a harder grading scale for the same work--just tighter ranges for an A, etc.? The "no retakes" rule is a more curious one to me, since if a student is doing harder work why shouldn't they be eligible for retakes if someone doing lower level work is? Presumably both situations would allow for increased learning, right? When honors classes are completely distinct from their non-honors version, is there typically that same sort of difference in the approach to retakes?


Anonymous said...

Well, the wms principal is spending the first 30mins talking about herself and trying to do damage control kind off. Defensive. Enough w the PowerPoints !

Audience member

Anonymous said...

Gawd, STILL yakking. This is how SPS does mttg mgmt when it's inconvenient to hear fro families.


Anonymous said...

Any new info or updates?

Anonymous said...

please update anyone..

Anonymous said...


Yes, that's what I was told. The honors classes teach to the "highest level (exceeding) of the listed standard" for the class. However, I was also told that some teachers also teach all their classes (ex 10th and 11th general classes as well) to this same higher standard. It is confusing! I don't know if extra help is given during this class. We are new to high school this year and I am also trying to find out more information.

You also asked " or the "do more for honors in the same class" version of honors, in your experience does the harder grading scale require more challenging work, or is just a harder grading scale for the same work--just tighter ranges for an A, etc.? The "no retakes" rule is a more curious one to me, since if a student is doing harder work why shouldn't they be eligible for retakes if someone doing lower level work is? "

We don't know yet as I mentioned are new to high school. I don't know yet if the class will require more challenging assignments or just extra assignments plus harder grading scale and no makeup test rule.

The difference is also reflected on the transcript so for example x student taking honors version gets a B and honors credit and another student taking general version gets an A and general ed credit. I am told honors credit increases class rank, but not GPA.

If I find out more will list it here, but as I mentioned was also told this all varies greatly between high schools! No matter where you send your kid to high school until they get to take IB and AP courses I think it is all variable and not standardized.

However, I would assume also if your high school also has vast disparities (such as more FRL who may be below standard combined with HCC generally more affluent) between students in the same class this would play out in practice to be more challenging. In our high school majority of kids are middle class and at or above standard HC or not.

A Parent

Anonymous said...

So much depends on the teacher. IB and AP courses are supposed to cover a standardized curriculum, but the level of coverage and challenge still depend greatly on how the class is taught. Students can walk out of the exams feeling amply prepared, shell shocked by the lack of preparation, or somewhere in between.

@A Parent, I assume you were suggesting a "B" in an honors class is considered the same as an "A" in a non honors course, when you are considering the weighted GPA used for class rank calculations. That's close, but not quite right.

In high school, an honors course gets a 0.5 weighting and AP and IB courses get a 1.0 weighting. SPS only reports unweighted GPA, however, and weighted GPA upon request (for college apps). On the grade report, a "B" is still a 3.0, whether honors, AP, or IB. A "B" would be weighted as a 3.0 in a non-honors course, 3.5 in an honors course, and 4.0 in an AP or IB course. An "A" in an honors course is a 4.5, weighted.

just clarifying

Anonymous said...

I'm not so much asking about the weighting and transcripts, but more about the teaching and grading in the two different types of honors classes.

1. In an Honors for All type class, where everyone gets the Honors designation, (A) is the class really taught at an honors level, sufficiently challenging to both GE and HC students; and (B) does the same grading scale apply to all, since the same honors distinction applies to all?

2. In a class in which you can opt for either GE or Honors credit, is the "extra" work required for the "honors" designation actually harder, or is it just a greater quantity of GE work? Do students working toward the Honors designation have to spend their days in what is essentially a GE level class, just doing honors-level work on the side?

(still) unclear

Anonymous said...

@unclear, our experience has been that once again, it depends on the teacher. One mixed GE/honors course was the GE class with added work outside of class (not necessarily more advanced, just additional time consuming projects). Another honors course was like a repeat of middle school, despite being labeled honors, and others have really and truly been honors level work. And grading? Also teacher specific.

I'd add a 3rd "type" of honors course - it's simply called honors and students opt in, but there is still a non honors course option. All students in the class have the honors designation on their grade report, and all are expected to meet the honors level expectations (however those may be defined by the teacher).

Anonymous said...

@just clarifying- Thank you for the details and information. I actually was not assuming an equivalent in my example about a B earned in honors and A in core/gen ed, but I can see how you read it that way. I do understand they are weighted differently, thabnks for pointing out how they are weighted differently.

@ Unclear- Here is some information I received from a teacher of both honors & non honors students in same class. This class kids can take for either honors or core credit. Here are the differences between Honors and Core credit:

The tests are different (Honors are harder).“Core” students can retake a test where Honors cannot. They have to know the material well by the day they test on it. Some homework has a challenge problem or 2 that are required for honors students and not required for core. Honors students have extra projects, 2 extra per semester.They are moving at the same pace.

A Parent

Anonymous said...

P.S @Unclear- I agree your answers depends largely on the teacher and probably the school as well. I am sharing what we were told for our classes this year.

The "honors for all" LA class teacher teaches to one set of standards---- all at the higher level. I described above the additional info above about options that exist (can opt to different core only section etc) for students who want core credit instead of honors. However, most students at this high school are high performing and choose honors credit. SS is self contained honors or self contained core at this high school. Algebra II honors and core are mixed and is described above.

There is no apples to apples comparison across the board like others are telling you, it is largely teacher and I would add ALSO "student population dependent. At high schools where almost all students are above standard, the core classes can be very challenging. I have heard honors only classes at other high schools that are less challenging than some "core" classes at this high school. In fact, HC students we know stated they felt "core" chemistry & physics (which have no honors version at this school) are some of the most difficult and challenging classes. This is why they did not create an honors version we are told.

A Parent

Anonymous said...

Thanks. @A Parent, if they are moving at the same pace, that doesn't sound like the state-required "accelerated learning" for HC students. Also, your understanding of Honors for All classes seems to be different than mine, as I did not think students could opt for core credit instead of honors. I thought everyone automatically gets a transcript that reads "honors whatever," and I was concerned that in a school that is not predominantly high performing students like yours is, the set of teaching standards may not be as high.


Anonymous said...

@unclear- I wonder if they could argue that as the class mentioned is two years ahead for the grade (9th/Algebra II) , the material is what is "accelerated". Same goes for Science.

For my student's "honors for all LA", was told class moves at the "right pace" which is teacher determined. Don't know yet about SS honors which is a separate class than core.

When IB or AP classes begin I wonder if the district could argue those classes move at an accelerated pace as compared to "core " or non IB/AP classes.

In middle school there were (at least some) HC classes that also moved at a fast pace, I do remember one teacher describing how they covered same material in a few days for HC, versus 1-2 weeks for spectrum versus 2-3 weeks for general ed.

A Parent

Anonymous said...

@Unclear Your understanding of "honors for all" may be the case at Garfield or another school. I have no idea. Does Garfield also have "honors for all" 9th grade SS?

At my student's school, students have 3 weeks to rescind honors option for a "core section". Apparently also the policies align across the various departmental subjects, Algebra, 9th LA etc. So theoretically it should be the same between teachers of the same subjects at this school. I also assume all the schools will tell you the same. As others have mentioned how honors is implemented varies depending on school etc. We all know also teachers vary.

A Parent

Anonymous said...

Yes, Garfield said they were switching to HFA for both ELA and SS. HFA is different than a course with an honors option, as HFA means all are doing "honors-level" work.

Yes, teachers vary. But also, students vary. Significantly. That's key.

Garfield principal Ted Howard said in a Seattle Times article right before they implemented HFA (2 yrs ago now?) that they had students reading at the 4th grade level through those reading at the college level. It's hard to imagine how a student reading at the 4th grade level could suddenly handle ELA and SS classes taught at the high school honors level, without at least a couple years of intensive intervention to help prepare them. If Garfield has cracked the code, they should share the results with the world.


Anonymous said...

@Unclear- I completely agree with you. At Garfield I would highly doubt that if there are kids reading at a 4th grade level combined with those already advanced the class could truly be honors. I think it is more inclined to work with smaller gaps between students in the same classroom.

However, I understand the intended goal to get the different students to mix more and learn from each other at Garfield. I also think it is noble that Garfield wants so much to close their achievement gap. This is a nationwide issue everywhere with poverty a root cause and I am not certain it is obtainable given our SPS public school resources. Maybe if they shrinked class sizes down to 10! But as an HC parent, I also completely understand concerns about HC and other kids at grade level or above getting the education they deserve & need as well.

A Parent

The Transit Traveller said...

I'm an HCC student at Garfield and I was part of the first year of honors for all. I can confirm that the rigor of the class depended heavily on the teachers, but I can also say (at least for me) that our essays and projects were quite challenging and somewhat difficult to get a good grade on. Though there was a large range of student ability levels, it was reflected in people's grades.

That being said, the hfa classes had serious flaws. Many students were failing and could not catch up to the rest of the class. They also lacked the special feeling of academic focus and competition that i had come to expect from my advanced classes in middle school. This "HCC culture" only resurfaced in my junior year AP classes, which are still quite segregated by ability level (as they should be).

Anonymous said...

@ Transit Traveller, thanks for sharing that. When you say the "large range of student ability levels...was reflected in people's grades," do you mean that students of higher ability tended to get higher grades and people of lower ability tended to get lower grades? If so, it sounds as if lower ability--and/or less prepared--students were to some extent set up for failure or poor performance. If HFA classes are also more heavily weighted for GPAs (since they are "honors" classes), low grades can have an even greater negative impact on overall GPAs.

How was the reading load handled? Principal Howard had stated that many Garfield students are at a very low reading level, but an HFA class should read materials at a high level. Were all students (except those with special ed accommodations) expected to read the course materials? Did everyone read the same materials? Was there as much reading as you'd expect in an honors class, or did it seem light?

Rigor often depends on teacher. In this case, do you know if this was partly because the curriculum varied by teacher, or was there a standard set of readings and assignments across the different classes?

If "many students were failing and could not catch up" as you said, that's a shame. Why are they not discontinuing an approach that dooms many students? It seems so unfair. Principal Howard originally promised an evaluation of the approach, but we have not seen anything. Have any data been shared with the school community, or is your statement based on personal observations in your class? If it's true that many are failing, no wonder they don't want to share the results. Are they truly

Actually, I just noticed that you referred to "the rigor of the class." Weren't there two HFA classes--LA and SS? Which are you talking about above, and was your experience similar in the other?

Thanks for any answers you can or will share!


Anonymous said...

@Transit Traveler Also, honors classes at multiple schools, including IHS, BHS, RHS, etc. are very variable as reported by parents of and HCC students at those schools. It is not just at Garfield. We have heard it (hopefully) gets more predictable at the IB & AP level.

For example my child's LA class is not honors at all, and all students in the class are complaining. However the "regular" science class is really challenging, college level and is comparable in rigor his most challenging HCC class in middle school.

HC parent

The Transit Traveller said...

1. I'm not sure you understand how the honors GPA weighting works. A student's cumulative GPA reported on the transcript is completely unweighted. The honors weighting comes into effect when they calculate class rank. In doing so, they produce a weighted (but unreported) class rank GPA by adding 0.5 to the grade points earned in Honors classes and 1.0 to the GPs earned in AP classes, then take the average across the weighted grade points for all classes taken. This means that getting a bad grade in an honors class is actually better than getting a bad grade in a regular class, at least where class rank is concerned. Also, doesn't it make sense that the higher-performing students would get higher grades than the lower-performing students? One would assume that it is better for a student to get a B in a class where they are challenged than an A in a class where they don't do any work.

2. The reading level in my English class was very low, but the texts we read in World History were more sophisticated. All students were expected to read the same materials. Practically no attempts at differentiation were made. That being said, I know for a fact that we read exactly the same texts as the previous ninth graders read in their non-HFA honors humanities classes. The problem as I see it is that they had low expectations for the ninth grade honors English classes even before HFA started.

3. I asked one of the biggest proponents of HFA and he said that they are not releasing any data because they are afraid that parents will "pick it apart and draw all kinds of conclusions." Yes, they are cowards.

4. When I said "the rigor of the class varied," I was referring to both English and history classes. There were teachers of both subjects that were harder or easier than others.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask any further questions.

Anonymous said...

I heard last year that SPS high schools are no longer reporting weighted GPAs and class rank. Can anyone confirm that their child's high school is or is not providing this as information reported on college applications? A Roosevelt counselor stated it was not an option and suggested that this was an SPS decision, not a school decision, but it isn't clear where to find the current policy.


Anonymous said...

Would college admission offices prioritize GPA over having taken honors courses? I am curious if having a lower GPA, due to having taken more honors classes, is viewed as more undesirable by college admission offices, than a higher GPA having taken a mix of core & honors.

Anyone have any experience with college admission?

I noticed the UW for example lists a high GPA (3.78) for average freshman admission. Would they take into account the student took more honors courses so their GPA is lower? Do they even care if you take honors classes?

Anonymous said...

Board Policy 2420, High School Grade and Credit Marking Policy (Nov. 15, 2017):

The Superintendent or the Superintendent’s designee shall establish and post a Seattle School District Uniform Grading Scale, which details the corresponding percentage grade range for each of the eleven grade marks, with Honors courses receiving an additional .5 Quality Point and courses eligible to receive college credit from an accredited institution, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, College in the High School and Running Start courses receiving an additional 1.0 Quality Point.

The K-12 Counseling Services Manual has typically detailed the weighted GPA and class rank info. Anyone have a link to this year's manual?

The Transit Traveller said...

Not sure if they have stopped reporting class rank, but they never reported any weighted GPA to colleges.

Anonymous said...

Discussion of class rank from the College Board:

Some colleges that used to rely on class rank now use SAT® scores and GPA.

Most large state universities, however, still require applicants to report class rank (as do many scholarship programs) and rely on it to help sort through the high volume of applications received.

At large and small colleges alike, a student's grades in college-preparatory courses continue to be the most significant factor in the admission decision, followed by scores on standardized admission tests and grades in all courses.

Absent class rank info, the College Board recommends counselors provide contextual info to colleges such as school range and median GPAs/SAT/ACT scores. What SPS high schools provide that info in their school profile (none?)? Competitive colleges will tell you they want to see high grades in challenging courses.