Friday, June 19, 2009

Seattle Cleveland HS STEM thoughts and Rigor

Director, 6-18-2009

Attached is a very recent publication from Columbia University on Understanding and Reporting on Academic Rigor. I hope you will find it a useful resource.

As you consider STEM for Cleveland ask: How does STEM fit into a comprehensive plan for improvement? Is the current path as outlined and practiced by Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson consistent, rational and capable fulfilling objectives over the long run?

AP classes and IB classes emphasize that the real preparation for these classes begins in the primary grades. Seattle has a graduation rate of about 60%. So what produces the 40% drop out rate?

There is plentiful research that finds leaving grade 3 below grade level is an incredible deficit that is often never overcome. Project Follow Through looked at disadvantaged learners in k-3 attempting to find the most appropriate learning model. The SPS neglects PFT results.

The Seattle public schools operate in a state with exceptionally large class sizes and with a Superintendent that thinks class size is not important. Class size is not important when the plan is to socially promote children instead of effectively educating all the children.

I find the neglect of the Promotion / Non-promotion policies and their required effective interventions for struggling students totally incompatible with the AP - IB thrust as well as any plan to close the achievement gap.

I urge you to find out more about STEM and assess it. Is STEM appropriate for Cleveland? Is it appropriate for other Seattle High Schools?

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Unfortunately many Board decisions are made without examining relevant data.

If you have time I urge you to scan the attached Columbia Rigor brochure. On page 3, you will find:
A curriculum that exemplifies academic rigor is focused, coherent, and appropriately challenging. In the case of mathematics, such a curriculum focuses on a small number of topics at each grade to promote in-depth/mastery learning and sequences topics across grades in a coherent manner, reflecting the logic and structure of the academic discipline. Finally, such a curriculum is appropriately challenging from a cognitive or intellectual perspective in that topics are not excessively repeated but move students into an ever deeper and broader exposure to the discipline moving from basic concepts (e.g., meaning and operation of whole numbers) to more developed ones (e.g., the rational number system and its properties). William Schmidt is University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at Michigan State University.

The fact is that the k-12 Seattle Math instructional materials do not do what Schmidt defines as "Rigor".

I will attempt to find out more about STEM but at this point it seems that Seattle may be grasping at yet another straw instead of making the fundamental changes necessary to have a successful math program for all students. A program that ends the discrimination of educationally disadvantaged learners by heeding NMAP recommendations is sorely needed.


Dan Dempsey


Charlie Mas said...

I am troubled by the decision to move forward with the STEM program at Cleveland without an assessment for the demand for a STEM program at Cleveland. Who wants this? Who will enroll in this school? Will the enrollment be greater or less than the current enrollment?

If there isn't any significant overlap between the students in the proposed STEM program and the students now enrolled at the school, then how does the introduction of this program help the current Cleveland students?

I'm concerned about how the new student assignment plan will work in southeast Seattle if Cleveland is an option school. There are 1,812 high school students (Fall 2006 data) who live closer to Rainier Beach than any other high school. There are 1,105 students who live closer to Cleveland than any other high school. That's 2,917 high school students looking for seats in south Seattle. The functional capacity of Rainier Beach is reported to be 1,016. So where are the other 1,901 students going to be assigned? There are 169 available seats at Franklin. Garfield is full. So where are the other 1,732 students going to be assigned? It's not clear to me.

In the new Student Assignment Plan every student must get an initial assignment to an attendance area high school. The District is going to have to seriously overbook some schools and rely on a lot of students making other choices.

Cleveland, by the way, has a functional capacity of 928. Even if Cleveland were full - and filled exclusively with south-end students - there would still be 800 high school students in southeast Seattle without a seat at a local school. Of course, a number of them will be enrolled at a service school, such as South Lake or Interagency, and some of them will choose The Center School or NOVA, but there will not be any slack in the system. Let's remember that there won't be any space available at north-end high schools. Since we can reckon that Ballard and Roosevelt will be full, that will force the balance of north-end students into Ingraham and Hale. They can't get into Garfield (also full) so they will have to accept their Ingraham and Hale assignments, taking up all of the available space in those schools.

The solution is easy. The District should re-open Lincoln as a comprehensive high school and place high school APP there. Lincoln could then be the high school for Queen Anne and Magnolia, so Ballard could be the high school for Ballard. It would also serve students in Wallingford, Fremont, and on both sides of the Montlake Cut. That would take some enrollment pressure off Roosevelt which would take pressure off Hale to become something that it doesn't want to be. By placing high school APP at Lincoln, the district would give the program a location that is easier to reach - right between I-5 and Highway 99 - from all parts of the city (have you ever tried to get to the CD from northwest Seattle?). It would also free up 400 seats at Garfield for south-end students. Finally, it would give the new high school instant drawing power for families in its attendance area.

None of these machinations would be necessary, of course, if the District first confirmed that there is sufficient demand for a STEM school at Cleveland before they moved forward with the idea.

Anonymous said...

When you start making sense, people are always going to do the opposite of what you say. There are far too many variables to make an adequate assessment. MGJ gets an award for sorcerer's apprentice...good luck with this one.