Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Washington M.S. turmoil

This is to track the situation at WMS:

[There's a thread here: on the SaveSeattleSchools blog  also discussing the issues.]

  • Schedules are still not stable as of 9/11
  • Music options have been reduced.
  • World Languages have been drastically reduced.
  • The LA/History classes are being labelled honors but its unclear if the content has changed.
  • Many (all gened?) of the students are being forced to take 2 periods of ELA rather than an elective.

Note Also: https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2015/07/20/a-third-of-george-washington-high-schools-teachers-wont-return/

Apparently the problems at WMS sound fairly similar to chaos Butler left behind at her previous school:

"Butler said she was working around the clock — including scheduling multiple interviews on weekends — to get all the positions filled by the first day of school just two weeks from today.
The same problem happened last year, after Butler was hired late in the summer. Students and parents complained of substitutes filling in for months until teachers were hired."

As a comment: I strongly disagree with much of the logic below which seeks to deflect blame for administration issues on HCC.

"Good evening, Washington Families,
We had a strong start to the week with great community-building taking place in advisories and at an all-school assembly on Wednesday and Thursday.  Due to scheduling problems, Friday was not a strong day at WMS, and for that I am ultimately responsible.

Many of you have questions and concerns about your child's schedule.  To give some context, the schedule was developed by previous administration with the hope that the school would receive an additional teacher allocation, which means that it included a position the school did not have. We were not given additional positions during the summer.  The position we needed but did not have funding for was an English Language Arts position, which is particularly concerning given just 29% of our students not served in any of the district's gifted programs have met grade-level standards.  Throughout the summer, we were also searching for a teacher or teacher(s) for our French and Japanese courses.  We had very few applicants, and, like Garfield High School, we were unable to find anyone to hire.  Given both budgetary and hiring challenges, we decided to use the position to address the bigger priority of not having enough ELA teachers. This was a decision made early on Tuesday, 9/5, after the last lead we had for a teacher fell through and Garfield HS sent out a message to its families stating that first year French and Japanese will not be offered to students until the 2019-2020 school year.  Students who were enrolled in French 1B and Japanese 1B will be given the opportunity to take the course on-line.  Students enrolled in Spanish 1B will take that course.  Despite working late nights, all day on Wednesday and Thursday during Strong Start, and literally all night Thursday evening/early Friday morning, I was unable to get all students fully scheduled for Friday morning.  I’ve worked the majority of today and will work all day tomorrow in order to have them ready when your children come to school on Monday morning.

Many of you have questions about world language at WMS.  I have been impressed by WMS families' interest in and commitment to equity.  While world language is not a content area often thought of on par with English, Math, Social Studies, or Science, it is, unlike PE, music, technology, or fine arts courses, very often a requirement for admissions to college.  Exposure in middle school is important for all students and is a typical part of middle school programs in grade 8.  In reviewing course requests developed in the spring based not only on student interest but also the school's staffing capacity, world language courses were to be taken almost exclusively by students in the Highly Capable program.  83% of the 220 students were slated to take world language were in the HCC program, despite that group representing just over half of our student population; only thirteen were black (20% of our population) and nine Hispanic (just under 10% of our population).  Given the inequity in these figures as well as budgetary issues in other areas, we pushed all enrollment in first level world language to the 2019-2020 school year, and will spend the next budget and scheduling planning year identifying ways to ensure 100% of our 8th graders have access to world language.  
Similarly, our music program has almost exclusively served HCC students.  Seventy-five percent of students who were slated to be enrolled in music this school year were in HCC and just 14% were black or Hispanic, and, due to our offering of four levels of band and orchestra and a course not offered at the high school level in Eclectic Strings, there were no opportunities to offer survey-level music courses which are standard in middle school.  When our famed orchestra teacher resigned two weeks before school started, it was not only a tremendous loss to the community, but an opportunity to increase all students’ access to our incredible music program.  We reduced our performance levels from four to three, which is in alignment with Garfield HS, and while difficult, decided to eliminate the course offering of Eclectic Stings/Fiddlers, which served only 17 students.  Instead, we have opened up four new sections of an innovative, entry-level music course that will enable 120 students who were not previously enrolled in music courses to participate in our music program. 
When you view your child’s schedule next week, keep in mind that we are not only a public school, but also a small, public school.  Washington lost over 500 students in the last year and a half, which was almost half of its general fund or baseline budget.  Additionally, almost 20% of our budget comes from additional Levy and LAP funding, which is exclusively for serving our students living in poverty and not meeting grade-level standards.  That is funding that has not always gone towards that purpose, but in making this year’s revised schedule, it was.  Given our advanced learning programs, we are a middle school that not only needs to offer intervention courses for more than a third of our population that is not meeting grade-level standards, but we also have offered upper-level high school courses atypical for middle school including Algebra 2, Chemistry, and Biology, all without receiving additional funding for students identified as ‘gifted’.  In middle schools, it is typical for all students to take a rotation of PE/health, music, visual art, and computer/technology.  Choice at the middle school level is often limited to whether or not a student opts to be in band, choir, or the general music course.  This is in part because middle school is all about breadth and exposure, while high school begins to be more about depth.  As consistent with past practice, all 6th graders will take Health and PE.  I have worked extremely hard to ensure that all students who requested band, choir, or orchestra were placed in those courses.  Seventh and eighth graders will take a rotation of art, technology, the new music course or PE.  The school may not be able to honor all requests to waive PE courses as was done in the past.  Aside from music, our second largest elective department is PE/Health, with two teachers, and getting physical activity during the school day is beneficial to learning in middle grades in particular with the absence of recess.

I will send another update tomorrow afternoon/evening.  Your patience and understanding is appreciated as we work hard to finish tomorrow.
Mrs. Butler Ginolfi, Principal"


Anonymous said...

Why was Spanish eliminated for seventh graders? The Spanish teacher remains at WMS. Why do such basic questions go unanswered. Why did the principal take scheduling away from counselors and now control it exclusively from her own spreadsheet. This is bizarre behavior.


dave said...

Has HCC only been eliminated at WMS? What is happening at Hamilton? I have not seen any sort of formal announcement from the district indicating that middle school HCC is being eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Regarding equity: In addition, to HC, hs she thought about the fact that she is also taking away opportunities in music and foreign language for the black & Hispanic kids she mentioned.

Seems paradoxical.

The focus instead should be on 10%% on increasing participation in world language & music classes. She has also created a situation where all the kids who attend that school now have less opportunities for foreign language than any other middle school in SPS whether HC or not.

Regarding the honors LA, SS etc. If these classes are not cohorted HC, she is changing the program at the school level without any timely notification to parents & district approval.

@ Dave....No this is not what exists or is happening at HIMS.


Anonymous said...

Some additional information on the music offerings:

It's my understanding that the band/orchestra/jazz options have been reduced from a total of 10 ensembles (beginning, intermediate, junior, and senior orchestra and band, senior jazz band, senior fiddlers) to a total of 7 (beginning, intermediate/junior, and senior band and orchestra, senior jazz band). I believe the intermediate/junior ensembles have been combined. Fiddlers has been eliminated this year in the wake of Ms. Fortune's resignation - that class only dated back about 5 or 6 years.

It's also my understanding that junior jazz band will continue to be offered as a HOST program after school, no word on whether junior fiddlers will be offered as a HOST program.

I do not believe the choir offerings have changed at all. Ditto percussion ensemble and drumline; I believe those will both be offered.

The new music class that has been added is an "intro to music" survey-type class that does not require students to select an instrument.


Anonymous said...

On the issue of LA/SS cohorting - from the postings I've read on Melissa's blog, the concern seems to have arisen because the classes are designated "Honors" on the students' schedules. I have not read anything, or heard anything from my eighth grader, to indicate that the classes are no longer cohorted. I am opting to hold off on passing judgment until I have information.

I would be interested to learn from an HCC parent at HIMS how LA/SS classes are listed on their student's schedule, for comparison.

The situation with world languages is disconcerting.


Anonymous said...

Re: the honors designation and middle school HCC science, as I understand it, HCC students take the new Physics A/Chemistry A combination class in 7th grade and the Biology 1A/1B class in 9th, and "honors and modified designations are available within those courses" (whatever that means). Non-HCC students wouldn't be on that same timeline, so if it shows up on the transcript or schedule as "honors" it doesn't mean it's a blended class or honors for all. It's just a designation they seem to be assigning now, maybe instead of HCC. It's possible they are trying to move from a 3-level (HCC, Honors, gen ed) type model to a 2-model version (HCC gets called Honors, and everything else gets no special designation). Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but it's also possible that's a precursor to some move that's more about blending, AKA elimination of the cohort model. Just regular, and honors.

We'll see

Benjamin Leis said...

Mod Note: As a general rule of thumb: I request that you don't repost material esp. comments from other blogs like SSS. You can always contact me if you think its critical. In this case, I consider the identity of the author of the quote to be unverified so if you're interesting in commenting etc. about this please do it on the original SSS site.

chs said...

According to my 8th grader (not the best source, but the only one I have while we await any official communication from the school or district), his LA and SS "Honors" classes were not cohorted as of Tuesday (the first day he had those classes). If true, this represents a major change to the SPS model, and I would like to know more about the plans at WMS and what is happening districtwide on this topic.

Benjamin Leis said...

I've added a link to a story on Principal Butler's previous experience in Indianapolis on the top post. A lot of what occurred there sounds very similar to what's going on now.

Anonymous said...

@Ruthie To answer your question at least last year it stated HCC LA and HCC SS on schedules. Science and math listed subject. All (science, LA and SS) were cohort except math which was decoupled from HC a few years ago and electives.

Anonymous said...

@Ruthie A friend with student at HIMS confirmed nothing changed at HIMS. Classes still designated HCC and cohorted.

Benjamin Leis said...

One more Moderator Note: please either comment with an authenticated account or use a sign with some handle if commenting anonymously. i.e.

Some comment

This makes conversations much easier to track.

Anonymous said...

@we'll see
science and math at HIMS lists subject like for example Bio or Algebra I. It is not designated as HCC like HCC SS or HCC LA. However the kids taking Bio in 8th are HCC. Math was decoupled from HCC a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 5:52, my comment was based on what’s on the district’s website re: the new science alignment and HCC sequence. Yes, it would be the name of the course, plus (potentially?) some additional designation like honors or modified. Not sure what that lastbone means, but I guess it gives them leeway to even say things like “modified version of high school biology, streamlined for advanced middle school students,” since I’ve heard the MS versions really aren’t as hard or comprehensive. Who know, though. MS transcripts aren’t that meaningful anyway, not at that level of detail.

We’ll see

Anonymous said...

Ms Butler Ginolfi requested and received permission from the district to change the Algebra II class at WMS to an online class this year. Some of the 8th grade parents had a meeting with Ms. Butler Ginolfi. The result is the Algebra II class will be ok this year, however we don't know what will happen next school year. We will need to be proactive if we don't want it to be an online class next school year.

WMS placed these kids in Algebra 1 as 6th graders with the promise there would be a math pathway for them. Like the 8th graders, these kids chose a school and math pathway with the expectation they would beable to take three years of rigorous, in-person math classes in the appropriate sequence.


Anonymous said...

"In light of the recent changes regarding certain courses being offered/ not offered at WMS, the last minute schedule revisions, and all the questions/ concerns that ensued, the PTSA would like to provide parents with an opportunity to ask questions directly to our Principal Emily Butler Ginolfi: Monday, September 17, 7pm at WMS, the PTSA is inviting all WMS parents to this “Q&A with the Principal”. More detailed invite to follow in the next few days via different formats (email/ hard copy/robocall)."


Anonymous said...

Turns out non HCC/ALO students at WMS this year are all suddenly required to have two ELA classes a day. That must be why the Spanish teacher originally scheduled to teach 7th grad Spanish e is now teaching ELA instead. So some kids at WMS only get one elective a day, and no one gets Spanish.