I'm a habitual self-plagerizer, so once having written something I cannot resist the temptation to re-use it. Here is what I sent as reasons that the District should not move forward with the split.
At the elementary level the primary reason that APP should not be split as part of the Capacity Management plan is the simple fact that the idea represents really poor capacity management. The plan tries to get 434 students, the number the District wants to put into Thurgood Marshall (see Appendix H, page 80) into a school that can only hold 366, the functional capacity of Thurgood Marshall (according to this report). That just isn't sound Capacity Managment.
I suppose that they will manage somehow. They will probably repurpose an art room or a music room as a classroom. Ironically, in the plan, APP families were supposed to bring art and music to Thurgood Marshall. This was supposed to be one of the promised benefits of this program placement. It seems that APP will actually cause the neighborhood program to lose art and music resources.
Of course, the neighborhood program won't be very big. The District intends to place 236 APP students in the building. With a functional capacity of 366, that only leaves room for 130 students in the neighborhood program. The minimum general education cohort is 146 students. That's one full classroom at each grade (23 in K-3, 25 in 4-5). Honestly, though, I'm not sure that a single class per grade is a sufficiently sized cohort. Didn't Dr. Vaughan say that the minimum cohort for APP was two classes per grade? If that's true for APP then isn't it true for general education as well? Can one class per grade form the critical mass necessary for a viable learning community? Again, this represents some poor capacity management practice.
Maybe the split isn't about capacity management. Maybe it's about equity and access. If Thurgood Marshall has 236 APP students and 146 general education students, that would fill the school - in fact overfill it - with 382 students. There will be no room for growth. So how will access be improved if there is no room for the program to grow?
There may not be much room for APP, but there will be even less room for the neighborhood kids. It's bad enough for the general education program to be squeezed from 251 students to 146, but some of those seats are likely to taken by siblings of students in APP. All families like to have their children together in the same school, APP families also. If there is just one sibling requesting assignment to Thurgood Marshall's general education program for every four APP students in the building, that would be about 60 siblings. Since the sibling tie-breaker comes before the reference area tie-breaker, those APP siblings would futher reduce the number of seats available to neighborhood students. The District will have to right-size the Thurgood Marshall reference area to encompass only about 90 elementary students. That's pretty tiny. It doesn't allow much access to this wonderful ALO that the District promises to develop.
Maybe this isn't about equity and access. Maybe the District thinks they are doing this to follow the recommendations from
The new ALO that the District plans to develop at Thurgood Marshall - you know that they have one already - will be installed in accordance with the recommendation from the APP Review (see the last page) in which the outside experts recommended that the District "situate this program in ALO settings where talent development of all learners has been identified as a priority among educators in the building". The recommendation goes on to say "it is ill-advised to situate this in a low-performing or other divisive school setting as this only stands to further the divide between the APP students and parents and general education students and families." Thurgood Marshall, is, of course, a low-performing school. What could be another divisive school setting? I don't know how the District intends to avoid the sort of culture-clash and friction that made IPP at Madrona such a crashing failure, but forcing two-thirds of the Thurgood Marshall students out of the building isn't a good way to start. It's going to be pretty hard to convince the Thurgood Marshall community that APP isn't "taking over" their school when their community is decimated. Their numbers will fall from 251 to 90. That has the potential to become divisive.
The APP Review also had this recommendation about co-housing: "In order to maximize the benefits of this model, it may be wise to hire a gifted liaison to negotiate between the two groups of teachers. This individual would be charged with co-planning with teacher teams (comprising both APP and general educators at the grade level) who can facilitate the genuine sharing of resources and expertise between the general education and APP faculties." I don't think the District is doing this.
The APP Review specifically recommended that the District not attempt any split of the program until the District has developed an overall curricular vision for APP and all of Advanced Learning that is consistent with a program vision and goals statement. "If Seattle decides at some point to create another self-contained APP setting beyond Lowell or Washington, it will be critically important that these foundational pieces are established and are functionally in place. In the absence of guiding documents and tools, the issue of highly-variable teachers will create exponentially larger issues for ensuring quality curriculum experiences for all APP students." The District doesn't have any of the foundational documents that the experts insisted we develop - and have functionally in place - prior to any attempt at a split.
The District hasn't even taken the first step, a vision for Advanced Learning. At the presentation to the Board on December 9, the Superintendent discussed how the Capacity Management plan would impact Special Education, Bilingual Education and Advanced Learning. There were Vision statements for Special Education and Bilingual Education. The Special Education Vision referenced Integrated Comprehensive Service Delivery, least restrictive environments and Individualized Education Plans. The Bilingual Vision referenced a system-wide instructional program and the needs of English Language Learners. The Vision for Advanced Learning, however, was: "Our strategic vision is that every student meets or exceeds grade level expectations and graduates from high school ready for college, career, and life" If that sounds familiar, it's because it is essentially the same as the District's Vision and Goals for every student: "All students achieve at high levels, receive the support they need and leave high school prepared for college, career and life;". There is no vision for advanced learning other than the generic Vision for all students.
Maybe this split isn't about following the recommendations from the APP Review. Maybe the District is doing this to provide a least restrictive environment for the Special Education students at Lowell.
The Special Education program at Lowell is a low-incidence program. Many of these students are severely and profoundly disabled, both physically and cognitively. None of them have inclusion as part of their IEP. Not one of them has an element in their IEP that requires participation in the academics of a general education classroom. The APP students and the Special Education students do interact. The mix of these two programs, in fact, is a defining element of the Lowell culture. Whatever time the Special Education students need with non-disabled or typically developing peers they can get with the APP students. The Special Education families at Lowell are thrilled with their children's placement there, delighted with the care and empathy the APP students show, and are NOT demanding any moves. In fact, when a move was recently proposed, the Special Education families successfully opposed it.
Choice and the student assignment plan have a role here. It is a little known item in the proposal that APP families can choose between the program sites, but that the District will not provide out-of-cluster transportation. Check the document; it's there. Think of what that means for APP families living in the Central Cluster. Lowell is closer to home than Thurgood Marshall for nearly all of them. If they don't live within walking distance of Lowell their child can take the bus there as Lowell is within their cluster. Of the 236 APP students living in the south-end, 101 of them live in the Central Cluster. The south-end program is already smaller than the north-end program. The imbalance will become worse if a significant number of Central Cluster APP families choose to keep their child at Lowell - avoiding yet another transition (they have all had one already to get to Lowell and many of them have had two if their child was in a Spectrum program) and staying closer to home - rather than move their child to Thurgood Marshall. While this would ease the crowding at Thurgood Marshall, the north-end program will be MUCH bigger than the south-end program. It will be nearly impossible for the District to convince anyone that the two programs are equitable.
This might not be the case if the District could find a north-end location for the north-end program, but the District says that they can't. Failing to find a north-end location for the north-end APP students violates Policy D12.00 which requires that the programs be equitably distributed among the clusters. They are not equitably distributed among the clusters if they are both in the Central Cluster. Policy C56.00 governs program placement and says that programs should be placed where students live. The north-end students live in the north-end, so that's where their program should be placed. The goal of equity and access is not satisfied if the north-end program isn't in the north-end. That isn't very equitable or accessible for those families. This is very poor program placement practice.
In April of 2007, the District made a commitment to the APP community that they would engage the community when making a plan to reconfiguring the program or propose any splits. The District made a commitment to do it within the context of the new student assignment plan. The District is now trying to break that commitment. This is not how trust is built. This is not how honorable people conduct their affairs.
To sum up, this split does not work as capacity management, it does not work to improve equity and access, it does not follow the recommendatios from the APP review, and it is not required by IDEA, by any IEP, or by the Special Education families at Lowell, it does not comply with District Policy, it does not reflect good program placement practices, and it breaks a commitment made to the APP community less than two years ago the last time the District tried this. The District should not do this. And what is creating the impetus to do it? What is the driving need? There really is none.