Wednesday, January 21, 2009

So long WASL, hello WCAP

Randy Dorn just released details on replacing the WASL with a new assessment, called Washington Comprehensive Assessment Program (WCAP), beginning in Spring 2010.

I'm excited to see Dorn make a clean break from the WASL, as opposed to spending time and money on an overhaul. The WASL had so much baggage that its reputation could not be redeemed with most families and teachers.

What will the WCAP be? According to OSPI's site:

Measurements of Student Progress (MAP) test in Grades 3 - 8

The MSP will differ from the WASL in numerous and significant ways. The grades 3-8 tests will be used as tools for teachers to evaluate the progress of students with almost immediate feedback.

The grades 3-8 MSP tests will be:
--Shorter, both in time required to take the test and the number of days needed to administer it.
--Less expensive and tied to technology.

High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE)

The High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) will measure whether students have learned the required basic skills in reading, writing, math and science. These will be used to meet the state reading and writing graduation requirements.

Dorn includes more details on the tests, along with some detail on math and science tests, on the WCAP main page.

I don't think Dorn has the power to singlehandedly change the test (I haven't had time to dig deeper on this front). However, given the WASL's shaky reputation and high costs, I can't imagine Dorn will face much resistance from legislators.

44 comments:

Denise Gonzalez-Walker said...

I'm having an awful time with Blogger formatting at the moment, working to make this post visible...yikes!

hschinske said...

Okay, read the below in a teeny-tiny chipmunk voice ... :-)

"The MSP will differ from the WASL in numerous and significant ways. The grades 3-8 tests will be used as tools for teachers to evaluate the progress of students with almost immediate feedback.

The grades 3-8 MSP tests will be:

# Shorter, both in time required to take the test and the number of days needed to administer it.
# Less expensive and tied to technology.

High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE)
The High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) will measure whether students have learned the required basic skills in reading, writing, math and science. These will be used to meet the state reading and writing graduation requirements.

Dorn includes more details on the tests, along with some detail on math and science tests, on the WCAP main page.

I don't think Dorn has the power to singlehandedly change the test (I haven't had time to dig deeper on this front). However, given the WASL's shaky reputation and high costs, I can't imagine Dorn will face much resistance from legislators."

Denise Gonzalez-Walker said...

Whew! I've dealt with funky stuff posting on Blogger, but never microscopic text. It should be fixed now (looks okay on my computer).

adhoc said...

Wow! Yesterday we waived goodbye to Bush, and today we are waiving goodbye to the WASL!!!

I know in an earlier thread someone mentioned that 9 schools had been piloting the MAP test. Do we have any feedback from them? Anybody hear anything?

Anybody know anything about the new HS test?

I am still sad and unhappy that we are still participating in high stakes testing. I don't believe that a standardized test should be tied to graduation. I believe standardized tests should be used to see if a state, a district or a school is doing it's job, and are not used to measure individual students performance.

Charlie Mas said...

Yes. Education reform was supposed to be about accountability for schools and districts. The WASL was supposed to measure their performance, not student performance.

So where is the accountability? Where are the high stakes for the responsible adults?

none1111 said...

adhoc said: "...I believe standardized tests should be used to see if a state, a district or a school is doing it's job, and are not used to measure individual students performance."

Um, that was what the WASL was supposed to be all about. Are you saying you want it back? ;-)

All joking aside, I really have no problem with using standardized tests for graduation. Without *something* that shows the kids actually learned something in their 13 years of public education, the degree doesn't mean anything. Employers have said as much.

But the WASL, in addition to being really expensive, is being used for purposes that it was not designed for. Not only graduation requirements, but look how it's being used in determining Advanced Learning eligibility for grades 4-7. Why? "Because it's what we have". Totally inappropriate.
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/
advlearning/ansgiftelig3.htm

Let's hope that if the new tests are going to be used in ways that affect student graduation, eligibility, etc., they are actually designed for those purposes.

Momma Snark said...

none111, you commented: "All joking aside, I really have no problem with using standardized tests for graduation. Without *something* that shows the kids actually learned something in their 13 years of public education, the degree doesn't mean anything. Employers have said as much."

Randy Dorn said something similar on The Conversation today, about how he used to be a HS principal and knew he was handing diplomas to kids who had the credits, but not the skills.

Here's the thing I don't get: shouldn't the TEACHERS be "vetting" the kids' abilities and performance in their individual CLASSES? Why do we feel that we need an additional test to assess a kid's abilities in, say, reading and writing, when that student has gone through four years of English in high school?

If teachers are simply giving kids a "pass" despite their inability to demonstrate competency, then such an "exit" test would be necessary. If this is in fact the situation, however, then the reforms should go much deeper than standardized testing!

adhoc said...

none111, what I said was that I agree with standardized tests being used to make sure that the state, district and schools are doing their jobs. I don't mind my sons taking standardized tests at all. I just don't like their diploma being tied to that test. I think it is really, well, ridiculous. As I said I am ahappy to waive goodbye to the WASL and welcome the new test, but am sad to learn that the District will continue to tie passage to a child's graduation.

While standardized tests are effective at measuring the performance of groups of students, I do not think they are effective at measuring an individual students performance. I do not think that a students entire academic HS career can be measured on one day, in one test. I think graduation should be based on cumulative data collected throughout a students HS career. Teacher input is far more valuable to me than a one day "test" snapshot. And along with class finals, classroom tests and quizzes, teacher assessment, portfolios, etc, a child can be held accountable over a long period, which of course gives a much more balanced picture of what that child has done.

If the DISTRICT and SCHOOLS were held accountable to standardized test results wouldn't that make a diploma valuable in the community?

TechyMom said...

I still don't understand why we don't just use the GED as the HS graduation test. We already award diplomas based on it.

Similarly, I wonder why we don't use an existing, proven test for lower grades, such as the Stanford Achievement Test.

That said, this looks very much like a step in the right direction.

hschinske said...

There's an interesting article about the MAP (which I've been interested in for a long time and think looks quite promising) at http://www.aasa.org/publications/saarticledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=7941

"We found a real bonus from MAP related to our outliers — those students performing significantly above or below grade level. Because each item is anchored to a vertically aligned scale covering all grades tested, the adaptive test for each student was not tied to grade-level content. Teachers, for the first time, were receiving information about the actual performance level of these students and about content appropriate for their needs.

"The grade-level equivalent scores we received from traditional tests long had been a source of confusion because, in spite of frequent explanations, nearly all of our parents interpreted an 8.5 grade-level score for their 5th graders as evidence the students were capable of and should be working on 8th grade content. This myth often was perpetuated by teachers new to the school district who didn’t yet understand that grade-level equivalent indicated simply that these students had responded to items from their own grade level similarly to average students in the higher grades.

"In contrast, the adaptive test selected item difficulty and cognitive complexity based on each student’s response pattern, moving outside of grade-level constraints as appropriate. With this information, our teachers finally could create an instructional plan that would support challenging and reasonable academic growth for every student, not just identify a few proficiency targets that were impossible for some and already achieved by others."

Helen Schinske

Teachermom said...

I am really happy about this. It seems like every district or every state has thought they had to re-invent their own method of testing. Very costly and ineffective when there are good tests already out there.

I am excited that the MAP/MSP will adjust itself to meet the students where they are at. My life revolves around special education and advanced learning students, and the WASL has not been a good measure for either....

Teachers are told to "pass" kids who don't have the skills. This is a top-down decision. Yes, reform is needed.

dan dempsey said...

Social Promotion is a significant problem. When the SPS refuses to follow D44.00 and D45.00 and has no required grade level necessary skills and employs no interventions because the SPS has no idea what the "required necessary skills are" (at least they are not telling us) of course with 13 years of this lack of focus we graduate ill prepared individuals.

Let us start seeing some of that holding people accountable. Let us start with the administration's total neglect of the items raised in the Phi Delta Kappa $125,000 curriculum audit.

Education has largely disappeared and been replaced by politics.

adhoc said...

"If teachers are simply giving kids a "pass" despite their inability to demonstrate competency, then such an "exit" test would be necessary. "

I would hope that the use of standardized tests won't allow a teacher to simply give kids "a pass". Wouldn't that be reflected in that school or that teachers performance? The test should be a safety net. It should be used as a way to hold teachers and schools accountable and make sure they are doing their jobs. If school A is doing very well on it's standardized test, and school B with students of similar demographics is not doing well on the same test, then we know school B is not doing a very good job. The test should allow us to identify these types of situations.

Standardized tests can be effective in measuring the over all performance of a school. They should not however be used to measure the individual performance of a student. What if the student is attending school B?

Denise Gonzalez-Walker said...

One important thing I overlooked...

Yesterday, I cut and pasted the text from OSPI's site about the tests, where they wrote out "Measurements of Student Progress (MAP)." Today, it's apparent that was a typo, and they've edited their site so that it says "(MSP)."

This is a big difference, because the MSP tests Dorn plans to implement will be homegrown, just like the WASL. They will not be the MAP tests that Helen shared such interesting information about.

Darn.

Both today's Times and PI have interesting articles on Dorn's plans. Seems like no one is clear yet whether he can unilaterally change the tests, or will need legislative approval.

TechyMom said...

If a student hasn't mastered the material of 3rd grade, it does him a disservice to promote him to 4th grade. That's true even if his school and teacher failed him. He needs an intervention to get him caught up before he can start 4th grade. It doesn't matter whether or not it's his fault. Standardized tests are the best way we have to find this out, obviously with other options for kids who have difficultly with standardized testing.

Teachers and schools who have more students in this situation than would be expected based on demographics also need an intervention. In this case, fault does matter, and the adults at fault should see consequences, up to and including termination.

adhoc said...

Techymom, I don't know if your comment was in regard to my last post?? But just in case, I will clarify what I meant.

I was in no way advocating that a student who "hasn't mastered the material" should be promoted. I just don't think that one single test, given on one single day, could possibley be an accurate measure of the students "mastery of material". I think teachers should evaluate whether the student has "mastered the material" through a broad range of assessments and data including finals, quizzes, teacher evaluation, portfolios, etc. Isn't this the whole reason that we hire teachers? Isn't this why we give report cards and grades? Isn't this why kids either pass or fail a class? If we do not value a teachers assessment of our student, why even have teachers? We could just have schools that have rows and rows of cubicles where kids can work online and just take a test to show when they "master the material".

If school B is not doing their job then a standardized test will show that and there should be an intervention by the District, and of course support for student who were the victims of school B's inefficiency.

adhoc said...

And, darn....to another home grown test. I'm tired of this district re-inventing the wheel and experimenting with our children. The MAP sounded promising.

hschinske said...

Dorn has championed the MAP in the past. My impression is that he wants to commission a specific form of it to be used in Washington and call it the MSP. See http://www.sequimgazette.com/topstory/articleDetail.exm/Index/article/2009-01-21_Washington_state_schools_superintendent__WASL_is_out/

"Bill Bentley, Sequim schools superintendent, said the new grades three-eight test system looks like one Sequim teachers already use: the Measures of Academic Progress.

Taken twice annually — once at the beginning and at the end of each academic year — MAP tests show how students are progressing or regressing, Bentley said.

“(Dorn’s proposal) all sounds like MAP to me,” Bentley said. “If that is the case, then we would be very supportive of that. We strongly believe the system we have in the district does all of those things. It provides teachers ... a much better way than the current assessment system. A growth model is a key to having a reliable (testing) system. That looks really positive.”

Helen Schinske

AutismMom said...

The whole "let's fail 'em if they can't meet standards" is a pretty simple-minded solution to a complex problem. And so is harping on school board policy that may imply that course of action. And the whining about "social promotion". Do you really want teenagers in kindergarten because they didn't meet some standard? I doubt it. And not practical. We've been down that path before, and that doesn't work either. More of the same education is unlikely produce some standard. And, we already have interventions. The fact is, people develop at different rates... and enacting a policy requiring uniform development won't accomplish a thing either. (and there's loads of data supporting this). The other issue is that lots of stuff is retaught many times in different grades. So what? It's called review, spiralling curriculum, and lots of other things. If you don't get it in third grade, you'll get it in forth.

adhoc said...

There are differing opinions on social promotion autism mom. I disagree with social promotion. I do not think that a child who has not mastered the material at his grade level should move on to the next grade, unless there are special circumstances. It does the child a disservice to keep promoting them. They fall further and further behind. It is difficult for teachers, and unfair to the other students in the class who have mastered the material and are ready to move forward.

Many states and districts do not follow the social promotion style that Seattle does, and your exageration of teenagers in kindergarten is non existent. Our neighbor district in Shoreline won't promote a child who hasn't passed his classes. They do lots of intervention for kids at risk of not passing....they offer tutoring, remedial classes, summer school, etc. But after the intervention if a student hasn't mastered the material they do not move on.

Personally, I agree with this method. I like the intervention strategy, and I like that they hold kids accountable.

Do you perhaps look at the social promotion issue from only a special ed or disability stand point? Have you thought about the kids who goof off, show up without their books or supplies, skip school, refuse to do homework, and generally don't care about school? Should they be promoted too? Is there any point you would agree with not promote a kid?t would you not promoting a kid? Should we have a 10th grader who can't read or add 10+10?

Where is the line?

adhoc said...

And Autism mom your use of words like "whining", "simple minded", "harping on" is very irritating and condescending. It makes you sound bitter and angry.

AutismMom said...

It is only exaggerating a little. There are definitely kids with kindergarten skills in 5th grade at some schools, at mine in particular. Would you suggest that such a student actually be in kindergarten? That is, a 12 yo actually sitting in a kindergarten? In fact, they've tried that too. They put a 12 yo back into a K for big chunks of the day. Would you like that in your K? I believe it was highly inappropriate. They made up some song and dance about the reason... so the kid didn't feel bad.

Now, these are students with disabilities, but schools WILL be serving these disabled students in age appropriate classrooms. And no, it doesn't have to be a big doomsday for the student, or a diservice to anyone. In short, if they are going to be doing this for disabled students (and they absolutely are) then they might as well figure out how to differentiate appropriately for everyone. Otherwise, instead of "social promotion" we'll simply have "special ed promotion"... and the same students who you now think aren't ready.. will still be moving on. And we already find huge amounts of inappropriate "special ed promotion". That is, students placed in special education because of teaching deficits, early birthdays, and lots of reasons... other than actual disability.

It isn't bitterness to point out some obvious facts, and problems with simple-minded solutions. It is a complex problem you know. These sorts of things need to be determined on a case by case basis. Will it be better for this particular student to go on... or will the student benefit from repeating a grade?

adhoc said...

Autism mom are you suggesting that a teacher should be able to differentiate instruction in a 7th grade classroom to accomodate a student with kindergarten skills,1st grade skills, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, and the kids with advanced kids too? Doesn't that sound a bit unrealistic to you? That's just not going to happen, and even if it did it could not possibly be effective. My son went to a school with mixed level classes. That is two grades mixed together like 3rd and 4th. The teachers constantly spoke of how difficult it was to differentiate instruction for the kids at the lower end of the 3rd grade spectrum through the very advanced kids in 4th grade. They did it, and did it fairly well but it took tremendous effort. Now you suggest differentiating 7 or 8 grade levels?

I had a feeling you were only speaking about special ed students, I however, was not. Obviously disabled children need tailored accomodation, or, IEP's which I think they get. If a 12 year old student has a 5 year olds academic ability isn't that built into his IEP? Isn't his expectation or "pass" based on his level of ability?

But lets remember that special ed students only make up a small percentage of kids that are not "passing". What do you propose to do with the rest? What about the ones who skip school, don't do homework or classwork, goog off in class and dont give a darn about school? What about them? should they get passed too?

AutismMom said...

All I'm saying is that if you institute a policy of "failing" everybody that doesn't meet some bar, then you will end up classifying a bunch of kids as "disabled". Because these "failing students" will simply be placed in special education (in the SLD category) rather than failed. This already does happen. Kids transferring in from private "Waldorf" schools (where reading is frowned upon and actively discouraged until 3rd grade or so) get placed in special education because they can't read or write. Are they disabled? No. They simply weren't taught the skill. I'm saying you have instruction that people participate in at their level. It isn't really that radical. Of course you also need support for people that are far behind or ahead... special education really isn't so special, and lots of people could be in it... or not. And, there are many multiage classes as you mention. I guarantee you, if students are many years behind (as you indicated was possible), you will not want them in classrooms with very much younger students. That is also unfair. And that too is unrealistic. We often hear about students many, many years behind in math when they get to high school. The answer will not be to keep them in 3rd grade until they "get it". Maybe they're good at something else. Skills don't always come evenly distributed in a person.

The name "social promotion" has very negative cannotations, but the fact is, learning social skills (and learning attitude) is a big part of what happens in schools. And you must have age appropriate (or close) classroom peers for that skill.

AutismMom said...

If a 12 year old student has a 5 year olds academic ability isn't that built into his IEP?

Passing isn't really a concept in SPS. And I've never seen anything like it in an IEP. Everybody moves to the next grade. General ed and special ed. In fact, if you want to retain your child in the same grade for an extra year... it's almost impossible and you must fight hard for it. My child repeated K... as did a few others. It wasn't a big deal then, as the district had too many first graders and actually requested this of us due to their capacity issues. But I know of many others who have had really, really big battles trying to get their kids to repeat. (In both special and general ed).

adhoc said...

When we were kids there were remedial classes for kids who did not have the skills to be in regular classes. They were grouped with the same age kids - there were no 12 year olds put in a kindergarten class. The remedial classes were for the kids that were so far behind that they couldn't keep up in a regular class. And yes, some kids did get left back if they couldn't make it in the remedial classes. Most of those kids had attitude problems not aptitude problems. I never ever saw a child left back more than one year. That and/or a summer spent in summer school and the repercussions from their parents was usually enough to motivate them to do better.

That Waldorf child that was never taught to read would be ostracized in a 3rd grade class. Perhaps that child could be in a 3rd grade class with a tutor or pull out for reading, but to expect the teacher to accomodate this child is unreasonable. It is unreasonable to expect a teacher to provide "instruction that people participate in at their level", when "the level" is 4 grades below the class she is teaching. Kids "participating at their own level" would be expected when the level is within an acceptable range for the age/grade.

If we are to have no enforcible performance expectations or "passing and failing" why give kids grades? Why issue report cards? Why have prerequisites for certain classes? Why have a test to get AP credit? Why have a test to get into Lowell? After all shouldn't all teachers just be able to differentiate? Why have graduation requirements? Heck, why issue a diploma? Isn't issuing a diploma or not issuing a diploma passing or failing a kid?

Again, I am not talking about mainstreamed special ed students. I understand that they have special needs, IEP's and aides that assist them when their needs are more than the classroom teacher can accomodate. I am talking about regular ed students.

AutismMom said...

The fact is, we do not have enforcible performance criteria. It's really that simple.

That Waldorf child that was never taught to read would be ostracized in a 3rd grade class.

Not really. They got a little special ed pullout, and it was no big deal. And really, there are bullying standards and classes these day too. BUT, yes the teacher of the 3rd grade absolutely, and unequivocally had to teach the child... and in the third grade for 90% of the day. Sorry, public school, you don't get to choose.. and you don't get to "fail"... even if that's what they did when you were a kid. Report cards report where somebody is... I guess I don't see that as related. No, if you get all 1's.. you still don't fail, (have you ever heard of it in SPS? I haven't.) but your parents do have an idea of the progress you are making and you can take action based on that.

AutismMom said...

Oh and by the way, why do you think that kids only got "left behind" for 1 year back in the good ol' days? Because after that, they went back to "social promotion".... not because anybody actually met any standard. They didn't really have them like they do now. I know what you're talking about... I was there too.

adhoc said...

"The fact is, we do not have enforcible performance criteria. It's really that simple"

Oh yes we do. It's called a diploma. If you fail enough classes in HS then you don't earn enough credit to graduate. If you don't earn enough credit, you either drop out or return for another year or more until you earn enough credit and get your diploma.

What do you think happens to all those kids who got passed along and socially promoted for all those years? They are the kids who do not have the skills to pass their HS classes? All those years of getting "passed" finally catches up with them. They become the 50% of SPS kids who drop out.

adhoc said...

A Free Panel Discussion with the Community featuring newly-elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn will be held on Thursday, January 29, 2009 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Shoreline Room of the Shoreline Conference Center . Randy will lead a panel discussion with the community about educational enhancement during a time of economic distress. Others on the panel will be Tom Mesaros, President/CEO of The Alford Group, one of the five largest fundraising consulting firms in the U.S. , and Frank Minton, nationally prominent executive in planned giving and endowment programs. The event is free and open to the public

seattle citizen said...

It's a sticky wicket: Let's say a 4th "grade" student is "at level" in reading and writing, but not in math. Should the student be retained in 4th "grade" until she/he gets the math? Of course not. But that means the student goes on to the 5th "grade" without that level's math skills.
I agree with AutismMom on this one:
"lots of stuff is retaught many times in different grades. So what? It's called review, spiralling curriculum, and lots of other things. If you don't get it in third grade, you'll get it in forth"
The trick, and the stickly part, is to have the resources in place to help the students get what they're missing.
Frankly, the whole "grade" thing is somewhat mystifying, and a legacy of the golden olden days when students were widgets. We've since learned that, as AM says, students develop at different rates in different skills; they have different backgrounds and environments; they each have unique challenges and aptitudes.
Me, I'd be in favor of some system that had no "grades" at all: Students master subjects or not, and if not, then developmental resources are applied to give the extra push.
In this view, ALL students are "special ed": Each has unique needs, each would have an IEP and an SLP, and resources would increase or decrease according to student needs (which would include external resources dedicated to addressing outside factors, factors of environment and parent/guardian ability, or lack thereof).
But this would, if not properly designed, be a logistical nightmare, and would also require a paradigm shift in the way we look at, assess, and reward education: Is its purpose to educate the child, or pass the child through a series of hoops so the child can enter society on society's terms (or not: capitalism requires various levels of expertise, and even a pool of unemployed - having some students "fail" at getting through the hoops fills the low-pay, low-skill slots and allows for a mobile and available workforce for those jobs that those who jump through the hoops successfully can choose not to take.

seattle citizen said...

Not incidentally, the district is, as we speak, developing a three-level system of intervention (I forget what it's called): One level is none; a student is at level. The second is developmental resources at slightly lower levels, for instance the Read 180 program, which focuse on students between the 300 and 800 lexiles. The third would be developmental resources for those FAR below level (in reading, below the 300 lexile)

Good stuff, if we can afford it, and if parents, students and staff can wrap their minds around the idea that it's okay for a student to be getting "remedial" developmental work, that it's not a stigma. Many believe it is: "Johnny is brilliant! Why is he getting BASIC skill instruction?!"
So let's at least give a hand to the district for addressing developmental needs (and the aforementioned safety net needs) All these new initiatives require time, money, and buy-in tho': Some other things might have to give. Are people willing to give up some things to get others?

adhoc said...

Wow, I hadn't heard about the three step level of intervention, thanks for sharing Seattle Citizen. That sounds like a solid plan, and I hope that we do fund this program adequately so it can be implemented successfully. If a 3rd grade Waldorf transfer student can't read, there would be resources to catch her up to speed without detracting from the classroom teachers limited time and resources or from the other kids instruction time. In my opinion social promotion, that is the passing of a kid on to the next grade who is not prepared for or does not have the ability to handle the classwork is just as big a tragedy as "failing" a kid and having him repeat a grade. This 3 level intervention seems like a good middle ground. The student isn't just "passed" along, nor is the student left behind. Seems like a win win all around.

seattle citizen said...

Yes and no, adhoc...win/win, except the student who needs some interventional resources will be missing something else that is going on the general classroom (or, if in MS or HS, will miss an entire period). Unless the system is improved to differentiate IN the classroom, so a variety of needs are being addressed at once, then students will miss other lessons or opportunities. So we need to change the system to one where students are all getting lessons at their level while not missing something else. This would also serve to take some of the stigma off those who are "behind"; we're ALL behind in something. Ask me about trigonometry...

adhoc said...

So how exactly does a teacher differentiate in the classroom without the child missing out on what is being taught to the other students in the classroom? If you have an 9th grade student in algebra I (basic math class for all 9th graders), but the students is performing at a 4th grade math level, how does the teacher differentiates for this child, catching him up on 4th grade work, while the rest of the class does is learning 9th grade algebra and geometry? Doesn't the student miss out on the "algebra" lesson anyway? Wouldn't it be better for that 9th grader to go to a support specialist who can work one on one with him until he can work at the 9th grade level and then mainstream back into the class where they are?

Not a teacher, so I'm just wondering how this 5, 6, 7 year grade span of differentiation actually works in a classroom, and if gen ed classroom teachers can or should be expected to do it?

adhoc said...

I guess I should also add that when I think of differentiation I think of a teacher who can work with kids that are a little behind, or a little ahead of the rest of the class. We have Spectrum for kids working one whole year ahead of their peers, and APP for kids working two years ahead. In HS advanced kids can choose honors or AP classes. There are many options for them.

Now lets think about what is available to kids working below grade level. Kids that are 1, 2, 3 years behind their classmates, or 7 years behind them like Autismom's scenario. What are they offered? Why isn't there a remedial class for them? Why not place kids that are one year behind in a remedial class for kids that are one year behind? Why is this type of service hailed for kids needing advanced services while parents shoot spit balls at the thought of the same service being offered for kids that are behind? Why are self contained classrooms (or one on one support) considered a disservice to kids that are behind, when it is norm for advanced kids?.

Try telling the parent of a child a Lowell that their student should go to RBHS and the classroom teacher will differentiate the instruction for their student. It wouldn't go over very well would it?

seattle citizen said...

You're right, adhoc, AS THINGS NOW STAND it is difficult to picture how all students get their needs met. So let's dream:
No grade levels, only graduation requirements (EALRs and GLEs).
Student is given regular common assessments (by, say, a school assessment coordinator) to determine need, and then is assigned to one of, say, three levels in any given subject: below, at, above level. Each of those levels has some range of ability represented in students, but not the hugely disparate range often found in today's gen ed classes.
Teachers are teamed, and have sufficient parapro resources.
Lessons allow for multiple access points: Skills are taught before concepts, tasks can be accompished in multiple ways.

It involves a paradigm shift in the way we think of classrooms. This is most apparent in the elementary level, where students are moved up, en masse, whether they have ALL the "required" knowledge at the given level or not. In MS and HS, there is more flexibility in assigning a student who excells in reading but lags in math to an advanced reading course and a developmental math course.

seattle citizen said...

In a future, better model I WOULD tell a parent at Lowell that their child can go to RBHS and get what they need, whether its advanced or remedial. Not all APP students excel in all areas. EVERY student can stand to learn more in SOMETHING. Why are we "checking them off" in only certain subjects, and at certain levels, at certain ages, when a child's mind can always be filled with more knowledge?

anonymous said...

adhoc, you know that Lowell is an elementary school, right? Going from there to RBHS would be quite a leap, even for those bright youngsters.

AutismMom said...

Why are self contained classrooms (or one on one support) considered a disservice to kids that are behind, when it is norm for advanced kids?.

Because self-contained special education classes have been a disaster. One on one, most people like, but is rarely paid for, and is sometimes not so great. They almost never work or appreciably develop any skills. Because nobody gives a crap about them, in any way. Most remedial classes have also been shown to be ineffective.

We may wonder if "differentiating" works... but we absolutely know that self-contained special education programs do NOT work, or does NOT work well. I'm not a big fan of the advanced learning self-containment either... at least, as it stands, with the ever growing list of kids who claim they can not be served in "regular ed" determined at the ripe old age of 5 and want special privileges. If we have a small group of kids, whose needs absolutely can not be met in a regular classroom, then fine I get it and support it. But what we have now is a large group of the most privileged families claiming to have "special needs"... when really, that advanced material should be available to everyone. Because advanced material isn't available to everyone, I would claim that the sort of segregation hasn't been really successful and has only served the interests of a few. Furthermore, you test in K and never again have to prove anything. In that case, the exclusivity is actually what the families enjoy.

PS. The kid who is many years behind... is always being threatened with self-containment. And they definitely don't want it, and nor do they view it as beneficial. So, there you are... the kid will be in your class, and the kid DOES get something out of it. That too is a big myth. If you don't understand everything, you almost always understand something and learn something.

AutismMom said...

BTW. There isn't really ANY symmetry between special education and advanced learning. Many, many, students with disabilities have advanced learning "needs". These are never met, and advanced learning is never offered... because many people have this symmetrical notion.... you're either behind... or ahead. There's nothing else. When in actuality, you're just simply different and are very, very often... very far ahead AND very far behind.

hschinske said...

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/advlearning/documents/StudentsWithDisabilities.pdf

The district *does* at least pay lip service to the idea that students with disabilities may require advanced learning programs. I have heard various anecdotes about whether it works out well in practice, but it's misleading to suggest there's no policy at all in place.

Helen Schinske

Teachermom said...

It is not true that advanced learning and special education never cross paths. I am a special education teacher and have and do work with kids in advanced learning.

It can be tricky, maybe rare, but it does happen.

In some schools, there is "walk to read" and maybe "walk to math" (?) where kids travel to different classrooms to receive instruction at their level in specific areas. It can be very difficult logistically, but some see good results with this type of program. But it doesn't fit with the "everyone in __________ grade will be doing this" philosophy.

adhoc said...

Autismmon why do self contained classrooms work for Spectrum and APP, but not for special ed? I know that you voice over and over again that you don't LIKE self contained Spectrum/APP, but despite your dislike of the configuration you must acknolwedge that not only does it WORK, it is highly desirable to families. We see evidence of it working in that children are successful academically, the program is full, there is a very low attrition rate, and parents are currently fighting to retain the self contained classrooms.

So why do self contained special ed or remedial classrooms not work? If you are going to make these types of sweeping absolute statements then you should support them with factual information? Not saying your wrong, just saying if you want people to hear what your saying then instead of just saying "it doesn't work" you'll need to say why and back it. Otherwise it's just an opinion.

And how about other self contained programs like Montessori? SBOC? Why do they work?

My youngest son gets pulled out of his 5th grade math class once a week to work with a group of students who need extra assistance. It works great for him. His math skills are steadily improving, and the teacher has made it a poitive experience...she brings popcorn, plays soft music, etc.

Same thing happened to him in 1st grade. He was pulled out to work in a small group with a reading specialist. Same positive results.

This is not full time self containment, but it is definately separating kids by skill level, and I can say first hand that it worked very succesfully for our son.

Why does self containment work for some programs and groups but not others, and why does it not work for special ed specifically Autism mom?