Sunday, June 8, 2014

One Example of Text Heaviness in EnVision Math

On Wednesday, 6/4/14, the Seattle Public Schools administration recommended that the Seattle School Board adopt EnVision Math as its sole K-5 math curriculum. Instead, in a 4-to-3 vote, the School Board voted to adopt the district's third-place choice, Math in Focus.

One of the reasons that Southeast Region School Board Director Betty Patu cited for choosing Math in Focus (an American version of the internationally renowned Singapore math system, upon which Common Core math standards were based) was that Math in Focus presents a more visual approach to math lessons. Director Patu asserted that this language-neutral, visual approach would be especially valuable for Southeast schools' many English language learners.

I agree with Director Patu's assessment. Last Monday I spent the evening at McGilvra Elementary, which is already using EnVision math, and I had the opportunity to review 4th and 5th grade math books. I noticed that each lesson contained a "Writing to Explain" section, which require students to write narratives about their math answers. I then did some Internet research to find out more about the scoring rubric for these questions and found a couple of references, including the following.

EnVision Teacher's Edition, 5th grade math, Lesson 6-6B, Addition and Subtraction Expressions:

I encourage you to examine the link above to review the whole lesson, but I'd like to concentrate on the "Writing to Explain" (Exercise 4) question here. It says:

While I am not a mathematician, I'm a college graduate who completed AP Calculus in high school, and I would say that the answer should be "p-2, because that is the difference between the rows, and the missing three figures are $28, $33, and $38." (I would also suggest that this is a ridiculous example, as no retail store would ever keep the dollar amount of a discount constant as customers made larger purchases. They would at least keep the percentage constant, if not give a larger percentage break for larger purchases.)

This question is Exercise 4 and is therefore worth 3 points, as much as the other 3 questions in this section combined:

This part is interesting. The district has touted that EnVision contains ELL support mechanisms. Here is an apparent example of such support. In the end, you will see that this explanation actually has nothing to do with the scoring of this question. I'm unsure what value this tip provides for students in the context of this question and answer:

And finally, the scoring rubric for the question, with sample answers:

A student who writes a wordy paragraph (and perhaps incorrectly states that you're supposed to choose "p" to be the variable, even though "p" seems to be given as the variable within the question) and gets the right math answer gets 3/3 points, or 100% (A+) for the question. A student who doesn't write a long paragraph but still gets the right math answer gets only 2/3 points, or 67% (D) for the question. And a student who writes some words and gets the wrong answer gets 1/3, or 33% (F) for the question. And please recall that the ELL tip that the textbook instructs the teacher to give to the student actually would not have helped the ELL student at all.

While writing long sentences is a necessary skill, it is one that can and should be covered in language arts, social studies, and science. Our English language learners who may be quite skilled in math should be allowed to flourish in math, and not suffer bad math grades because they aren't yet as proficient in English as their native-speaking peers.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Cleaned Up" SPS Boundaries Map Dated 2/28/14

Someone just sent me this "cleaned up" "future" SPS boundaries map, dated 2/28/14.

This does not reflect any reassessment of Southeast cluster boundaries, which, per a unanimously approved amendment to last fall's BAR, the district is supposed to do after engaging with all our diverse communities. (My block is still assigned to the 8th grade school away from us.)

Changed Assignment Areas:
Van Asselt/Wing Luke
Cedar Park/Olympic Hills
Sand Point/Laurelhurst

I'm posting this here because I'm not sure where/if it's posted on the district website.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Valentine's Day Cards by Maple Students at Georgetown Art Attack: Sat, 2/8

I'm proud to have organized the effort at Maple PTSA for kids to make and sell these beautiful homemade cards!

Georgetown and Beacon Hill kids from Maple Elementary will be selling these handmade Valentine's Day cards during Georgetown Art Attack at A Dog's Dream (5913 Airport Way S., between Jules Maes and Fonda La Catrina) between 6 and 8 p.m. this Saturday, February 8.

100% of sales will benefit the Maple PTSA, which funds art supplies, outdoor school, field trip transportation, and other enrichment programs for children at the school.

Cards cost $3, and we're happy to take credit cards! Each card includes an envelope and a label on the back explaining the project. Stamps will also be available for sale.

Send Mom your love with one of these cute kindergartener-made cards.

Choose something more architectural for your dad.

Not sure what to say to your sweetheart?

"You shall be my Valentine or I shall blow up your nether portal and your emeraldssssss..."

"Slobery kisses and pats on the head -- are time together is a gift. Can you be my master?"

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Give SE a Chance to Be Heard -- Vote Yes on Betty Patu’s Amendment 8

Please email and -- encourage them to vote YES on Betty Patu's plan for the Southeast. Feel free to copy and paste the text below. Thank you!

Give SE a Chance to Be Heard -- Vote Yes on Betty Patu’s Amendment 8

This Wednesday, the Seattle School Board will vote on a new Growth Boundaries plan that has been developed without the input of the diverse communities of Southeast Seattle. Many of these changes will take kids out of the walk zones to their neighborhood schools, and force them to bus to faraway schools.

Unlike most of the city, there are no imminent capacity issues in the Southeast. Therefore, we should take the time to listen to local families in their native languages and get boundaries right for Southeast Seattle. Please support Southeast Director Betty Patu’s Amendment 8, to rescind these proposals while she engages our diverse communities about these changes.

1) Since there are no capacity issues for 2014-15 in the Southeast, we can take the time to engage families on future changes.

2) On Nov. 12, Superintendent Jose Banda announced to the Seattle Council PTSA that “we missed the boat” on outreach to racial and linguistic minorities in the Southeast.

3) For the 5 lower Southeast grade schools with boundary changes, only 11 total comments were received. This is only 0.11% of the nearly 10,000 comments received. It’s clear that our families, particularly non-English-speaking ones, are not aware of the changes in store for them.

4) Only some of the boundary materials were translated, in only a handful of languages, only halfway through the process.

5) Beacon Hill has the worst boundary plan in the whole city: Mid Beacon Hill students living in the walk zones for both Maple and Dearborn Park would be forced to bus to Van Asselt, the eighth school from their homes.

6) Kimball students would be bussed out of the Southeast district up to the Central District for middle school at Washington.

In conjunction with Michael DeBell’s Amendment 7, to add language immersion to Dearborn Park for a year while allowing the community to decide whether to be a neighborhood or option school, these are the right choices for Southeast families. Please vote yes.

Growth Boundaries: 5 Lower SE Grade Schools Send in 11 Comments Total

The latest version of the Growth Boundaries Board Action Report lists all the community input that the district has received about the growth boundaries plan. They say they've received 1,285 meeting comments, 400 "walk the boundaries" survey responses, 3,984 survey responses, 122 postcards, and "several thousand" emails.

If you count "several thousand" as 4,000, that's a total of 9,791 responses.

Given that the district has not done any outreach to the low-income and racially and linguistically diverse families in the Southeast, I was curious what percentage of responses came from the 5 lower Southeast grade schools in particular. All of these grade schools will have boundary changes by 2017, so all these communities will experience the kind of disruption that has the rest of the city up in arms.

The answer? The total number of comments from lower Southeast schools was 11. This represents 0.11% of responses citywide.

Based on the near-total lack of response, it's clear that the city has not engaged these communities about all the changes in store for them. In fact, at the Seattle Council PTSA meeting on Nov. 12, Superintendent Jose Banda announced to the group that "we missed the boat" on outreach to the diverse communities of the Southeast.

That is why the School Board must support Director Betty Patu's Amendment 8 to rescind all proposed changes for the Southeast, until she has time to work with the district to inform these communities and collect their input. There are no imminent capacity issues facing the Southeast, so there is no need to rush through any changes without engaging the affected communities.

Grade SchoolTotal Comments% White StudentsFewest % of White Students Among City Grade Schools
Wing Luke22.41
Van Asselt22.73
Rainier View06.68

Note: Racial data from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction

APPENDIX: Summaries of Public Input

May 28 – October 8
Dunlap: 0
Emerson: 1
Rainier View: 0
Van Asselt: 1
Wing Luke: 2

October 1 – 14
Dunlap: 1
Emerson: 2
Rainier View: 0
Van Asselt: 0
Wing Luke: 0

October 11 - 30
Dunlap: 1
Emerson: 2
Rainier View: 0
Van Asselt: 1
Wing Luke: 0

November 1 - 13
Dunlap: 0
Emerson: 0
Rainier View: 0
Van Asselt: 0
Wing Luke: 0

November 13-14
Dunlap: 0
Emerson: 0
Rainier View: 0
Van Asselt: 0
Wing Luke: 0

Friday, November 1, 2013

Misrepresentation (or error?) about outreach to communities of color in Southeast Seattle

Dear Superintendent and School Board Members–

I’m deeply concerned about a serious misrepresentation (or error?) on p. 4 of the Nov. 1 version of the “Growth Boundaries for Student Assignment” Proposed Action Report. Paired with a list of meetings that specifically calls out Southeast Seattle, this statement implies that the administration reached out to the racial/linguistic minority communities in the Southeast: “Several community-based meetings (included above) were held after the five large community meetings. These targeted meetings provided more direct opportunities for families that might not typically respond to e-mail and/or English language based opportunities for input.”

To be clear, the district has NOT engaged in any special outreach to Southeast Seattle, home to the city's largest minority populations. Here are the meetings listed (my notes in parentheses):

--“October 2, 2013 - Meeting at High Point Community Center” (outreach from the district to a racially diverse group, but in West Seattle)
--“October 7, 2013 - Meeting with Seattle Council PTSA” (not a racial/linguistic minority group at all)
--“October 8, 2013 - Seattle Council PTSA Meeting with Southeast Schools Representatives” (this was not outreach from the district, but rather a meeting hastily assembled in response to the utter lack of outreach from the district)
--“October 10, 2013 - Gatzert Open House” (outreach from the district to a racially diverse group, but in the Central District)
--“October 15, 2012 - Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee” (not a racial/linguistic minority group at all)
--“October 28, 2013 - Meeting with Special Education PTSA” (not a racial/linguistic minority group at all)

It’s ironic that the only mention of outreach to Southeast Seattle is a meeting that was assembled in response to a lack of such outreach. The district had nothing to do with the meeting; no one from the district was even in attendance. And the published outcome of the meeting ( was that, on our own, we were unable to assemble a representative group to provide feedback: “We are acutely aware that the coalition of parents giving input here were disproportionately white and middle class. We believe that the timing and outreach associated with this process have been inadequate for meaningful engagement and dialogue within our community. Any new proposals should be presented to the full SE community, with adequate outreach efforts, in multiple languages, and with enough time built into the process to allow for the fostering of true understanding and meaningful dialogue with our diverse community.”

Some of us have been trying to let minority voices be heard. At the last School Board meeting, my Mid Beacon Hill (Zone 36) neighborhood was represented by members of the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese communities (and we donated one of our speaking spots to an East African woman who hadn’t made the speakers’ list). Our neighborhood is being shut out of our walk zone for Maple, and is not being allowed into the zone for nearby Dearborn Park (which we’re also in the walk zone for), either. Instead, despite our continued protests, the administration wants to send our mostly non-English-speaking community to the EIGHTH grade school from our homes in terms of distance. (Maple, Dearborn Park, Hawthorne, Kimball, MLK, John Muir, and Orca are all closer.) No other group in Seattle is being kicked out of multiple walk zone schools to be bussed away to the EIGHTH grade school from their homes.

We are stunned by the lack of equity in this process. Please understand that despite the commentary in the latest version of the Board Action Report, there has been NO outreach to the communities of color in Southeast Seattle. The district has only done special outreach for minority communities in West Seattle and the Central District. Even though Southeast Seattle is home to the city’s largest racial minority populations, there has been no special outreach here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Two-Question Survey to Help Beacon Hill’s Children of Color Walk to School

In both their latest boundary map, Seattle Public Schools wants to kick Mid Beacon Hill out of the official Maple walk zone (an area so close to a school that bus service is not even provided) and instead make our kids bus miles to school every day.

We’ve been working hard to rally the neighborhood to oppose this change, but the majority of our neighborhood are not native English speakers, and none of the boundary materials have been translated into any other language. At the Oct. 16 School Board meeting, we were supported by members of our local Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese communities, and we spoke about retaining our Maple walk zone, and also the need for native-language outreach in these important decisions. Together with an East African woman (to whom we donated one of our speaking slots, as she was also speaking out for the need for cultural and native-language outreach), we were the only voices speaking about the lack of racial and linguistic equity in this process. (See this blog post, containing a bar graph depicting the lack of diversity in feedback the district has received so far.)

If you also feel it’s unjust that SPS is kicking a majority-non-English-speaking community of color out of its local school walk zone without even notifying affected families in the languages they understand, please fill out this two-question SPS survey before Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.:

Choose Zone 36 for the area of concern, and provide a comment like "Let kids in the Maple walk zone walk to Maple. For a racially equitable process, notify affected families in their native languages."