Sunday, February 01, 2009

APP: Where Do We Go From Here?

MadronaGreen had asked my opinion about APP and its future. That's a tricky question for me as I have never had a child in APP (one son who I thought would test in, didn't, and the other one did but we chose to keep them at the same school). I toured APP when it was in Madrona. I thought I saw good things happening but I could sense the tension the moment I walked into the building. Things seemed separate and it just had a bad vibe. I can't really describe it any other way. The tour guide did not mention any interaction with the regular ed students.

So, I would ask APP parents what their perceptions are.

The question was also what do I think APP does well and what could be done better?

I won't go into APP (formerly IPP) history. It was started before Spectrum so I believe there was the recognition the these were students who had learning needs that needed to be served. Even for people who don't like separating kids there is a realization that some gifted kids don't function well in a regular ed class room either from an academic or behavior standpoint. (Sometimes it almost feels like people understand the separation more for the behavior differences than the academic differences.)

Given that the overwhelming majority of parents whose children test into APP, go into APP, I'd have to say it works for them. Maybe they wish for better but it meets their needs more than a general ed classroom. I have heard from APP parents that the work isn't really accelerated or enriched but that's a story for them to tell. But I believe the APP community HAS built a community and a strong one at that. The cloud over APP is how white and middle-class it is (which I have addressed in another thread). There are also the occasional (but steady) stories about the few minority kids in the program getting picked on or experiencing out and out racism (by other kids). To that I say, it could happen (and probably does) at any school.

It is surprising, however, that the largest part of the Advanced Learning program almost never gets discussed and wasn't part of the audit and that would be Spectrum. Spectrum used to be called Horizon and I think it was created more for enrichment than acceleration. The plus side was that parents did not have to send their children to just one school (a la APP) but possibly closer to their cluster. The downside? Spectrum gets no real attention from the district and every single Spectrum school runs "their" version differently. How is this good? Some schools have pull-out, some have mixed classes (teacher nominated kids in the class) and some are entirely self-contained. Then you have any number of schools who say they don't need Spectrum because they have such great rigor. And that may be true but I also know at least one elementary that has a parent-paid for private tutor for kids who excel in math because...their needs aren't being met in the classroom.

The reality is that there educators and laypeople who just do NOT like separate classrooms. Now some of this is that kids get "tracked" and once they are on a track never leave it. I would agree with that as there can be the occasional problem of a student who can't keep up and how to exit him or her from Spectrum or APP? I would also agree there are students who may start slow but come on like gangbusters and need more especially (especially!) in one area. This is one failing of the district - not providing extra help for students who shine in one area (no matter if they tested for Advanced Learning or not).

These educators and laypeople say they believe in "inclusion" and that kids all have things to learn from each other. Sure but that doesn't mean everyone's academic needs are going to be met in one classroom if the curriculum isn't differentiated and the teacher has training to do so (and time to do it).

So back to APP. Well, again, the ending of gifted programming at high school is not standard. Many districts have gifted programs in high school. Just having AP and Honors is NOT a gifted program. (Many people get upset that Garfield has the most AP courses but the district made the decision that if not a real program, then one high school has to accommodate those advanced learners. It should be a plus for Garfield but I don't know if there is enough space for anyone who wasn't in APP to get into them.)

The future? Well, more AP in all high schools with the possible eye towards ending the APP push into Garfield. I don't think it will work. Now we have a split of both the elementary and middle school programs. I believe the middle school one will work out well. Hamilton has a good principal, a new building coming and already has Spectrum so the teachers are on-board with teaching highly capable students. The elementary end is more problematic especially with Thurgood Marshall. The program has a strong leader in Bob Vaughn although it sure would be nice to have a champion further up the leadership chain either on the Board or in the top tier of administrative leadership. Further, what is vexing to me is that we spend most of our state grant on testing.

Now Bob Vaughn is going to be spending most of his time, for the rest of the year, on these splits. Not on new and interesting curriculum or teaching ideas. Not on how to get more minority kids in these programs (because there are bright kids in every single corner of this district who could benefit from this program). But no, his time is going to be on organizing and carrying out the split.

87 comments:

ArchStanton said...

I don't think we know enough to hang a prediction on, yet. When we see who the principals are, who makes up the design teams, and the different school communities begin to interact - then we'll get a sense of whether this is going to work.

How that begins to shake out will determine whether our family puts its escape plan in motion.

I think enough people are better informed about the challenges ahead, partly as a result of Madrona, and my sense is that even though this wasn't the outcome most desired, those that aren't leaving the program are determined to make this work and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

And yes, fixing Spectrum would have done far more in terms of improving access and equity for underrepresented populations than the split.

hschinske said...

Students in APP have *no* priority for AP classes at Garfield (and they aren't *required* to take a single AP class, though of course most do). If you have the prereqs you can sign up. I don't know whether there are ever problems getting into AP classes (my daughters are only in 9th grade, and one's just transferred to Nova anyway), but if there are, as far as I'm aware the students who are shut out are as likely to be in APP as any other program.

Helen Schinske

dj said...

I attended an APP-type program growing up and admit that I base at least some of my favorable feelings about APP on my own life experience. They didn't start the program in my district until the third grade. Prior to being moved there, I was bored off of my keister. I had to go to upper-grade classes for reading and math, and that made it hard for me to make friends in my assigned class. My teacher often gave me busy work to do in the back of the room. I started having discipline issues. Moving to a self-contained program didn't make things 100% better, but 75% better was a pretty vast improvement.

That program was co-housed with a general education program. It worked fine, although I had pretty much no interaction with the general education kids and might as well have been in a stand-alone school.

I am worried more about the amount of disorganization and the ramp-up costs here than anything. When my school district started the program I've described, they started with one classroom each of two grades. Here, we are talking about perhaps hundreds of students, and we are not exactly in an era where the district is looking to devote resources to new programming.

Charlie Mas said...

I have a lot to say about APP.

I have one child who has been in the program for five years and is in it now at Washington, and one who was in it for four years and left it at high school to attend NOVA. Each of them was in Spectrum from the first grade until they moved to APP.

My observations verify everything that Mel wrote about APP.

I believe that pretty much every family would like it if their child could get an appropriate academic opportunity at their neighborhood school. That is certainly our story. It is only when the weight of the neighborhood school's inability or refusal to provide that opportunity overcomes the resistance to change schools does a family make the switch to Spectrum or APP.

Some schools are more honest than others. My elder daughter attended kindergarten at our neighborhood school, but when she qualified for Spectrum they told us that they could not assure us that they would meet her academic needs. They would do their best, but they acknowledged that it isn't their focus. I wish more schools were this honest.

There are, of course, a number of schools that can and do support students working beyond Standards, either within the structure of an ALO or through the talent and hard work of individual teachers who are able to differentiate instruction effectively. In every case it is easier to do when there are multiple students doing accelerated work.

There are also a number of schools that either deny the presence of advanced learners in their classes or deny them opportunities for acceleration - sometimes because they can't and sometimes because they won't.

I understand those who can't. Differentiating instruction is difficult and labor intensive. It not only requires technical ability but also talent. The technical ability can be learned by anyone, not so the talent.

I have more trouble with those who won't. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people - educators - who think it is right to keep all of the children on the same lesson - usually in the name of "equity" - even if some of the children are ready for the next lesson. While this might have some sort of appeal from a political perspective I cannot understand the pedagogical justification. Sometimes families of advanced learners are told that it is good for the student to sit through lessons about what they already know because it teaches them how to work with people who don't learn as fast as they do, or it allows them to develop a greater mastery of the material, or because it affords them the opportunity to coach their peers, or some other fairy tale.

This is like a nighmarish extrapolation of some Soviet-era vision of equity in which no student learns multiplication until every student learns addition. It's insane.

If sitting through a lesson about what they already know were so beneficial for children, then why don't we have all third graders spent half the day in the first grade class so they can have these benefits as well?

I have also heard people make the argument that acknowledges that the advanced student doesn't benefit from the lack of acceleration, but that the object of public education is not necessarily to advance each child's education that way. They say that the student will get the fifth grade material when they get to the fifth grade and that is soon enough. These people seem to think that the benefit that the advanced students bring to the other members of the class outweighs the inadequate education that the advanced student individually suffers. I have yet to see any evidence of the benefit that advanced students bring to the classroom.

This is why families choose APP for their APP-eligible students.

I believe that middle school APP will not only survive the split, but will be stronger for it. The cohorts of 225 are big enough to form viable learning communities. I have every confidence that the Hamilton program will prove as challenging as the Washington program and that both programs will be better than the Washington program is now. The improvement at Washington should come with the introduction of some better electives and earlier access to world languages.

Hamilton is going to change a lot when there's no room for 275 students from the Southeast Region to enroll and when the Spectrum program grows from 90 to 180 or more. Think of Hamilton when 40% of the 1,000 students there are in Spectrum or APP. The count will be the same at Washington, but at Washington it will be a reduction from 60%.

I think that more north-end families will choose the program when it has a north-end location. I think that the presence of APP at Hamilton will re-energize the Hamilton Spectrum program and make Hamilton a more attractive choice for Northeast Region families and relieve the crowding at Eckstein.

I am gravely concerned about the elementary program split. At the root of the concern is the District's failure/refusal to select a north-end location for the north-end program. Lowell starts out with 25 more students than Thurgood Marshall and when the Central Cluster families choose Lowell over Thurgood Marshall (and they will) the imbalance will only get worse. If - or rather when - the imbalance exceeds a tipping point, I think somewhere around a sixty student gap (280/220), it will have impacts both real and perceived. If the District cannot keep the programs equitable, the split will fail.

I am also concerned about how the program, the students, and the APP community, will be received at Thurgood Marshall. There is almost no way that they will not be seen as "taking over" the school. This perception will worsen as the growing APP population (and their siblings) squeeze the neighborhood students out of the building. Regardless of how things start at Thurgood Marshall, the general education program will quickly be reduced to one class per grade - 146 students. I believe that at least one third of those students will be APP siblings from outside the neighborhood. That will leave only about 90 seats for neighborhood kids.

The APP families will dominate the PTA, the Building Leadership Team, the volunteers in the classrooms. Their expectations will drive decisions about art, music, P.E., and before- and after-school opportunities. It will be the same situation that we saw at Madrona - both when it was home to IPP and recently when local White affluent families enrolled their children there.

I don't know how much of what now identifies Thurgood Marshall will still be there in two years. I doubt it will be much.

I suggest that the District not even create a reference area for Thurgood Marshall. Not only will this relieve them of the task of trying to draw one that won't encompass more than 90 students, it will make Thurgood Marshall a choice school, so families with students in that program are the ones who chose that situation instead of having it thrust upon them.

I do think that the general education program at Thurgood Marshall will be improved by the presence of the APP community, just as they have proven a benefit to Washington and Garfield.

I don't think the situation at Lowell will be as tense because there is the perception that it was already APP turf. Also, I'm concerned that only about 100 T T Minor students will choose to make the switch. I think we'll see numbers similar to those we saw in the last school closures. In that case only about half of the T T Minor students will accept the assignment, so as few as 100 general education students may appear in September.

That would leave a lot of space available in the school for more APP students, wouldn't it?

MadronaGreen said...

Thank you for your comments and analysis. Very much appreciated.

While watching last Thursday's school board meeting, multiple Directors commented on how splitting APP would benefit the district. Others have said this at other times.

Mel (and Charlie) - how would you recommend the APP community - which is not really in a very good place right now - engage with the district to get straight answers as to what their long term vision is for APP, and what are these benefits they expect to get from splitting APP at both the elementary and middle school level?

Thanks

Ben said...

I am certainly no expert on APP or SPS, but I do have a first-grader in APP at Lowell.

If not for Lowell, I don't know what we'd be doing now. He was bored out of his mind in kindergarten, and I assume he'd be just as bored in general ed right now. Saying, "Tough luck, Einstein" to kids who are capable of doing work years ahead of their peers is no solution at all. (Not that anyone here has suggested that.) Lowell's work doesn't seem all that accelerated to me (based only on what goes on in my first-grader's class).

I have serious misgivings about the split. I don't support it, but now that we're stuck with it, I'm ready to work on it.

Everything I've heard and seen during this whole closure process tells me that the District has no institutional memory, so I fully expect to see the "sins" of Madrona repeated at Marshall. Marshall will perceive itself being "taken over" but the "rich," "smart" white kids.

Maybe I'm wrong, and everything will work out just fine. Wouldn't that be great!

I still don't understand the reasoning behind the split. That is, I still don't buy any of the stated reasons for the split. I don't buy that the split will lead to increased diversity. I don't buy that the split will improve access. (Everyone in the city who passes the test now has access. Free transportation—and free testing! There's already access!)

Charlie says "Believe it or not, there are a lot of people - educators - who think it is right to keep all of the children on the same lesson - usually in the name of "equity" - even if some of the children are ready for the next lesson."

I don't know if this is how I would describe the superintendent, but it is clear to me that she is uncomfortable with "special" programs. They rankle her. And so APP had to go.

Charlie Mas said...

There are no answers available.

The district has no long-term vision for APP. They are making it up as they go.

As evidence, consider this presentation to the Board from the Superintendent on December 9. It states a Vision for Special Education and a Vision for Bilingual Education but the Vision for Advanced Learning is no different from the Vision for all students in the District. They have no Vision for APP or for Advanced Learning.

As for benefits from the splits, I think APP families should push - and push hard - for:

1. Three full years of accelerated science at each school

2. Access to world languages in the sixth grade at Washington

3. A full-blown music program at Hamilton

4. Better, more challenging and interesting, electives at both schools

5. For the District to actually write and for the schools to actually teach and test the written, taught and tested curriculum that has been promised

MadronaGreen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zb said...

After reading Charlie's wishlist, I wondered if parents should ask for a pony, too.

All of the requests (full-blown music, world languages, . . .) are targeted at having equity between two schools that already have extensive resources -- it's just as rational for parents at the new K-8 at Addams to ask for them.

I think that rather than asking for a wish list of services that would be requested by all affluent, education oriented parents, APP parents have to make the case to the district of why their children *need* services that are different from the rest of their same age peers. From an educational standpoint, that's the justification of the APP program. It seems to me that parents have the highest chance of being successful if they outline the parameters of the program that is needed for their kids, and used the "need" language, not the "want" language to justify it.

Dorothy said...

I have a question. The mushroom model at APP was well established and now seems to be changed. Additionally, APP fit in Lowell comfortably for years before the population explosion. Along the same time, admission requirements have been reduced. Have they been reduced too much?

Three first grades? In the past, APP teachers were especially adamant about first graders' achievement level. Kids *had* to score something like Reading 3.1 and Math 2.5 on the Woodcock Johnson Individual Achievement Test in order to qualify. And remember, this testing takes place Fall of Kindergarten. Their philosophy was that they were not set up for kids -- no matter how gifted -- who were not solid readers with good comprehension skills yet. Is that still in place? But with three times the number of kids? Has Seattle become that much more gifted?

In my experience (five years at Lowell), first grade was the only grade that really did try to work two years above grade level. (Sorry, Ben. And yes, my son entered with scores well above the cutoff and was quite disappointed.) The culture was very much against actually working two years above grade level as well. In order to be "fair and equitable" every year when the population doubled, all the existing kids were shuffled around and blended with the newcomers. No matter how gifted the newcomers, they had not been taught at two years above grade level in their previous programs, so weren't ready for it now. An environment where they would read and discuss and write about complex challenging texts? Nope. But they used a lot of sculpy. Are there still tables full of Fort Vancouvers made from pretzels? Art projects lining the walls masquerading as "book reports?" Read them. Lots of pretty pictures but absolutely no analysis or critical thinking. How many pieces of poster board used each year vs how many engaging discussions of challenging ideas?

Walk-overs and other such ideas? Unheard of in the day. Maybe things have changed. Could be significant progress. Maybe Charlie's optimism in finally getting APP to walk the walk is well placed. Me, I am not so sure. Middle school, maybe, elementary? I doubt it.

Using WASL for admission, kids must what? Demonstrate grade level mastery and be working on mastery several years ahead? How do they judge that? Do they offer out-of-level WASL testing?

And the "two years ahead" bit is based on state standards. Many people claim that the Washington state academic standards are weak. Many compare them to California, for instance to show that we are a year (or more) behind. So kids working at two years above grade level here are really only working at one year above grade level in other states.

And there's this line from the district's description of APP.
"Students who are academically highly gifted present significantly different learning styles, learning pace,..."
See that, PACE, they not only can work two years ahead, they work at a FASTER PACE. So a program that simply works two years ahead, with no acceleration, no faster pace, is not serving the needs of the students for whom the program was originally intended.

Spectrum was broken so instead of fixing it, the district has turned APP into Spectrum. Now it's too big and the district's solution is to spread it around to multiple locations.

Nevertheless, I think the middle school split is potentially good. Middle school APP in particular needs a big shake-up and this may do the trick. But the unintended consequence will be that it will attract many more APP eligible kids from the North End. And that will give the district even more ammunition to kill the APP at Garfield guarantee.

Robert said...

Funny how we struggle to establish rational attributes to a system that is completely illogical at best or corrupted at the worst... Lord help us all.

Ben said...

"Along the same time, admission requirements have been reduced. Have they been reduced too much?"

Are you sure about this? I thought you still needed to score in or above the 98th percentile on two of the COGAT tests.

Or something.

jason said...

The relatively new requirements for APP eligibility are 98% on two areas of Cogat and 95+ in math and reading on the Woodcock-Johnson. It is my understanding that the WJ scores were lowered about four years ago from 98 in order to bring in more diversity. It didn't increase diversity much, but it did explode the population as a whole.

Dorothy was mentioning that kids work at a faster pace in APP. This has been my experience. The kids at Lowell don't have much time for dilly-dallying and need to pay attention to keep up. The teachers go at a fast pace. I know that getting used to the quicker pace can be a challenge for the new kids. This is one way where entering APP at 1st grade can be a benefit. In the older grades, kids can get used to working slowly and the quick APP pace can be frustrating.

I am concerned about walk-overs. Most people in APP left general ed. because the teachers weren't able to differentiate enough in our old neighborhood schools. I am very concerned about the rigor that we do have being watered down in the name of "equity."

I believe a lot of problems in APP (and with our perception in the district) is due to the "dumbing down" of the US as a whole. We don't value intelligence, we value celebrity. People don't think it's inequitable to only have one star quarterback or even a varsity team where not everyone makes the cut, but having separate classes for APP kids is "elitist." Someone said this analogy to me once - forcing APP kids into the regular classroom is akin to forcing Andre Agassi to only play beginning tennis players. There is some truth to this. Being an APP kid is just a different learning style like so many others that the district needs to deal with.

Dorothy said...

Um, no. I said that these kids can work at a faster pace, but the program is not set up to do that. Maintaining two years above grade level is not working at a faster pace. Look at math, most of the rising APP 6th graders take the equivalent of 7th grade Honors math at Washington (unless there's been significant improvement at Lowell in the last three years). The kids who started with my son all would have been 2+ years above grade level in math when they walked in the door in first grade. So why did most of them take 7th grade math in 6th grade? That's not even maintaining two years above grade level, much less working at a faster pace.

My kid never experienced a pace that was challenging, certainly not *too* challenging. The only times he ever had more than a minor amount of homework, the work involved creating a diorama, coloring, gluing etc. Again, his cohort year is in 9th grade these days, things may have changed. But at the same time, admission requirements were reduced.

Jason's experience may demonstrate increased rigor. But the quality of teaching was wildly divergent. Is it still? That's one of the issues, is it not?

As for the admission requirements. There are three elements to the CoGat. Verbal, Math and a third, non-verbal? I cannot recall its exact name. Used to be, the non-verbal one was only administered to ELL kids. The requirements were 98% on both Math and Verbal. Allowing the 2 out of 3 scores is also new and increased enrollment. It's debatable whether a program that relies on high aptitude in both verbal and math is well served by increasing the pool to those who did not demonstrate giftedness on those attributes, but on another attribute --- one that does not closely align with the curriculum.

Also, they used to do the individual achievement tests more often or at least had access to ITBS scores which have a higher ceiling than the WASL. Now, whenever possible, they use the WASL.

jason said...

Oops, sorry Dorothy. I re-read what you wrote and realized I missed the "no." My family was very pleased with the quicker pace we found in APP after a very hard year in kindergarten.

I hope that after this latest closure/merging fiasco, the APP community can come together and find a way to work with the district to get our kid's needs met. I guess we'll hear how serious the district is about making this work when we hear the principal announcements on Friday.

Lowell parents heard today that the boiler is broken and the building will be cold tomorrow. One more thing falling apart in the program.

Dorothy said...

What I said: Jason's experience may demonstrate increased rigor.

What I should have said: Jason's experience may demonstrate increased rigor, then again, it may indicate what happens when admission standards are relaxed.

I don't know. Rigor may have improved, I hear occasional rumors to that effect, but the audit didn't show it. Admission standards have relaxed. That's indisputable.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not exactly sure what zb is trying to say. APP parents DO NOT have to make the case to the district of why their children *need* services that are different from the rest of their same age peers. That case was made long ago and is the reason that APP is here. We don't need to justify the program annually.

If you want a rationale for each of the four items on my list, here it is:

Three years of accelerated science because science is a core academic subject and has always been part of APP.

Access to world languages at Washington because that is what they have at Hamilton and the programs need to offer equitable opportunities so they are perceived as equitable and the split is successful.

A full-blown music program at Hamilton because that is what they have at Washington and the programs need to offer equitable opportunities so they are perceived as equitable and the split is successful.

Better electives because that is what has been missing at Washington and is included in the APP Review as a recommendation.

Charlie Mas said...

By the way, it is starting to look like the elementary APP split is spiralling into failure already.

The Carr amendment to the Capacity Management plan, which grants access to Lowell for elementary APP students living within the Lowell walk zone may extend to as many as 30 students or more.

If 30 south-end elementary APP students enroll at Lowell instead of Thurgood Marshall, then the Lowell program will have 291 and the Thurgood Marshall program will only have 206. It may be an enrollment imbalance that will make it impossible for the District to convince people that the two programs are equitable in strength and quality.

If the two elementary APP programs are not regarded as equitable, the split is doomed to fail.

Ben said...

And what exactly will it mean if the split does "fail"?

I have been among the nayest of the naysayers when it comes to the split, but what will the result of failure be? SPS won't say, "Oops—we blew it. We're going back to the way it was." So what WILL happen?

Will Marshall's APP just languish? Will it be cancelled? (How could they do that?) Will MGJ lose her job?

Martin Cron said...

Maybe I'm too pessimistic, but I see three distinct "failure" scenarios.

1. APP at TM isn't appealing enough. Those people who can continue going to Lowell will choose to do so. South/Central families will choose neighborhood schools, private schools, or to leave altogether.

I actually heard a conversation between two parents planning on moving out-of-district over this. It's not what I would do (when it looked like "North APP" was going to TM... I was optimistic that we could make it work, even with the much longer us ride) but I understand that people don't want their kids used as test cases in a grand experiment.

2. APP at TM is too appealing and APP kids (with their siblings) squeeze the neighborhood kids out.

3. APP at Lowell and TM will continue to be a nominal success, but still doesn't reflect the diversity of the community. I honestly hope that more under-represented minority kids who qualify will enroll in APP as a result of these changes. I also hope and that these families have a better overall experience, but it's possible that the image issues will linger, limiting APP's appeal.

It's possible that a healthy balance will be reached, and I'm hopeful that the community can make this work.

dan dempsey said...

It was said:
Further, what is vexing to me is that we spend most of our state grant on testing.

District-wide PSAT testing happened in October. Students have received their results. Not a peep yet from the SPS on the results. When will they be posted?

Dorothy said...

District-wide PSAT testing happened in October. Students have received their results. Not a peep yet from the SPS on the results. When will they be posted?

Dan, actually this isn't completely true. RHS has delayed giving 9th and 10th graders their scores. 10th graders are supposed to wait for small group sessions and 9th graders will have individual conferences with them, so roll out could take months. Most other high schools played by the rules and gave scores in January. However, RHS parents take note: As of February 1st, your student (or you as parent) can create an account with College Board directly and access scores and a detailed report including the actual questions and answers.

The bigger question though, the one Dan is looking for, is what is the district going to do with this information. I think it's a gold mine of information, best the district has ever had to evaluate the relative effectiveness of different middle school and high school math texts and teaching.

Unfortunately, when I asked Brian Vance about that, he seemed surprised and seemed to believe that there wasn't going to be any analysis. The purpose of the grant was to inform the students, not the schools.

Last year, when just Garfield had the grant for school-wide PSAT, Bob Vaughan told APP parents that he was using the scores to lobby for better courses for their kids, more AP classes and earlier access to AP classes at Garfield.

Again, a place where the concentration of effort is on the APP kids and nothing to consider the needs of the Spectrum or highly capable students in other high schools. The bulk of the APP kids are not that significantly different from the bulk of the Spectrum kids. But this sort of behavior and attention just artificially divides into haves and have-nots. I predict the APP->GHS guarantee will not last in its present form more than four years.

bj said...

"And what exactly will it mean if the split does "fail"?"

In my opinion, in this current climate, it will mean no APP. School districts are not required to offer APP programs; they are unpopular with many educators; they produce segregated classrooms.

That's why laundry lists of what will make APP parents/children happy isn't going to be the effective way to make this work for them/us.

And, honestly, to argue that there is an educational consensus on any issue, including the need of children to work 2 grades above standards if they test in the 98% on the cogat & woodcock-johnson, is pretty suspect.

JTW said...

Hamilton and Washington don't need identical electives in order to be "equitable." In fact if they both try to offer sameness, then likely both will become mediocre.

HMS should focus on international and WMS on music. Then allow some choice to parents as space permits. Busing is to your closest one only, of course, but parents could drive or carpool. Allowing some self-selection and choice would meet more student needs and be more equitable.

The one class that must be offered at both HMS and WMS, in order for the two to be equitable, is Integrated 3 math.

That's a small group that will become two even-smaller groups after the split.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm going to write another thread about APP simply because I found some interesting reading in the Strategic Plan that may shed some light on G-J's plan.

Ben said...

If APP goes away, count on another few hundred kids leaving SPS.

Mercermom said...

Regarding standards for APP: While they may have been lowered in terms of percentiles and 2/3, the audit also showed that the District-administered tests have a pretty significant margin of error (as much as 4%), yet are used as an absolute cutoff for admission (at least during the initial acceptance/rejection round; I don't know if someone could appeal based on pointing out that his/her child is within the margin of error alone). What I see in the audit is a lot of anecdotal concern expressed about watering down the program (as well as of people who appeal through private testing), with no showing that the kids who are ultimately admitted differ in any measurable way in terms of capability. It is obviously a challenge to keep integrating kids with aptitude but not APP experience. I have heard from a supplemental teacher who has worked with groups at the same grade level at Stevens and Lowell that in the Lowell groups, she is able to take projects to far greater depth.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't know what you heard from Bob Vaughan, but he told a group that I was in that the PSAT was to find students outside of APP who should be taking AP classes. He told us that he regarded it as a talent search tool.

If the elementary split fails because one program is perceived - rightly or wrongly - as meaningfully stronger than the other program, the District can do one of two things.

They can either take effective action, which could be as simple as putting the north-end program in the north-end, or they could just tolerate the imbalance as they do now with Spectrum programs. I can tell you for sure that the Superintendent will not be fired and will not quit as a result of the failure. Nor do I think they will either close the program or re-unify it. I believe that they will most likely just live with a failed split and expect APP families to live with it also.

It's like a friend of mine used to say "Failure isn't an option. It comes standard."

I wouldn't consider it a failure if APP students squeeze the neighborhood kids out of Thurgood Marshall. On the contrary, I believe that is the plan.

Nor would I consider it a failure of the split if minority and low-income students continue to be under-reopresented in the program. Anyone who thinks the split will fix that problem is insane.

I would remind bj and others that there is no need for everyone to believe any one thing about how best to serve gifted students. Participation in APP is not mandatory. So if you don't like the program the way it is structured you're under no obligation to enroll your child in it. Don't like it? Don't do it. You're free to enroll your child in a Spectrum program, an ALO, a neighborhood school, an alternative school or to take the kid out of the district entirely. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head.

And no, Hamilton and Washington don't need to be identical to be equitable, but they do need to be comparable. No one said identical, so it is goofy to pretend that was the standard that was set. Families have limited choice between the two schools because the District will provide transportion to only one of them. That's why they cannot be too divergent. They don't have to offer all the same electives, they don't have to offer the same world languages, they don't have to offer the same instrumental music classes. But for one to have one of the best music programs in the country while the other has one music opportunity as a once-a-week after-school program isn't equitable. For one to offer world language in the sixth grade while the other doesn't isn't equitable.

JTW said...
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Dorothy said...

Charlie, I attended an APP parent meeting last winter where Bob V spoke. Yes, he said it was to be a talent search tool at Garfield and I have heard nothing to indicate it being used as such a tool anywhere else. In fact, it is highly likely that RHS freshmen will not get their scores before time to register for next year's courses.

Additionally he did tie the wealth of high scores (mostly from app kids, but of course from any GHS student) to his efforts to increase AP class offerings for freshmen and sophomores at GHS. This was directly tied into his announcement that they were planning to teach high school biology to WMS APP 8th graders. I asked him if the biology class would be available to other WMS students and was told no. This was of course before the split was being considered. Will HMS APP kids also have HS biology?

seattle citizen said...

I would be interested if APP courses could accomodate "walk-over" students who are not in APP but have the skills to take, and could benefit from, classes such as HS Biology taught in MS.

Can this occur, to maximize the opportunity for non-APP students who are ready for classes two levels above?

Melissa Westbrook said...

One of the issues around gifted programming (and I heard this about Spectrum but it may apply to APP) is this issue of students who may be able to work ahead in one subject (math or, as Seattle Citizen mentioned, biology). The cry always was "Why do ONLY these students get this enrichment/acceleration?" Of course, the obvious answer is "Because they can handle both or at least that's what their test scores would lead you to believe."

Don't get me wrong; I think ALL classes should be as enriched as possible. It makes for a better class. But enriching a class is not just something the Spectrum or APP teachers can do. Nothing is stopping other teachers. The combo of enrichment and acceleration is a different thing.

I agree with the way math placement is handled in middle school (either you were in Spectrum or APP or you take a math placement test). (I just perceive math differently than other subjects.)

My feeling on other single classes is that parents should tell principals - if my child (via their teacher's endorsement) is able to do higher level work in subject X, I'd like him/her put in that class. Is that possible? I don't know - it certainly would be work for the registrar and maybe problematic for kids who end up not being able to do the work.

But I can't see putting a regular ed kid in Spectrum or APP based on their abilities in one subject area.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa,
I'm not sure I follow your logic. I'm not asking about enrichment, but instead about classes one or two levels above grade level, such as Bio in MS.
Why NOT put a "regular ed" kid in a higher level class if the kid is at that higher level?

The argument many would have is set up in the Bio comment:

APP at WMS might have access to HS Bio. What if a "regular ed" student at WMS showed that they were at that level, and could perform? How would it be fair to deny the student that opportunity?
Why should a child be above level in more than one area to access above-level classes?

Not saying I know, just looking for rationales. I know that the cohort model has advantages, but do they outweigh equal access to appropriate levels of education (in individual classes) in a building? How do we tall Johnny he can't take HS Bio, because he's not "APP"?

Some of the other APP subjects, such as LA or History, seem not to go to higher grade levels, per se, but serve more as enrichment: students get higher-level thinking skills at grade level, rather than actual higher grade levels. They don't get LA10 in MS (or do they?)

But even then, if a gen-ed students is capable of such work, I don't know why they could be denied access. Seems inequitable.

JTW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

I will forever argue for the elimination of "grade-levels."

Offer a variety of levels in each subject. Those that complete, say, Level 10 in Reading Comprehension move to Level 11. If they are still in Level 9 in, say, numeracy, then they stay at that level.
So a student could be a variety of "levels" in any given year.

Why grade levels? Anyone? Anyone?
(besides the obvious benefits of efficiency?)

Charlie Mas said...

JTW, I am reading what you are writing. Are you reading what I am writing?


JTW wrote: "Kids in Spectrum at Mercer don't have sixth grade world language so why should kids at Washington APP?"

I don't know. Why don't they? What does one thing have to do with the other? If the students at Mercer want access to world languages in the sixth grade then they should work to get that. The fact that the students at Mercer don't have it, however, does not preclude Washington families from trying to get it. Why should it? Why should we all be constrained to the least offering anywhere?

"Equitable APP at Hamilton doesn't mean a carbon copy of Washington installed there."

No one said carbon copy. Where did this standard come from? The music program at Hamilton does not need to be everything that the music program at Washington is - there's no way that it could be. But there does have to be a music program for equity. The world language offerings at Washington don't have to be the same as those at Hamilton but there has to be something for equity's sake.

The District has a special obligation to make these two programs equitable. They have accepted that obligation and they are supposed to use design teams to create it.

I'll say it again just for good measure: the programs do not need to be exact copies of each other for equity, but they do need to have a number of elements in common. Something more than just Integrated 3, which, by the way, it looks like neither will offer.

Maureen said...

Why grade levels? Anyone? Anyone?
(besides the obvious benefits of efficiency?)


Well, there you go, efficiency is it. Registrars (counselors) don't want to deal with it. It is a pain to have kids out of schedule with the rest of their cohort.

RANT WARNING
At RHS, incoming 9th graders can take a test to place out of 9th grade (1/2 year lame) science. They bend over backward telling you that virtually no one ever passes. If you talk to the 9th grade science teacher, they say that they can't tell you about the exam, they don't have a syllabus for their course and that you should go look at the 9th-10th grade EALRS and that they need to know all of that to pass. If you talk to the counseling office about the exam, they tell you that they have to give it to make sure the kids can pass the 10th grade WASL (making you go dig through the OSPI web site for example questions from the WASL to show your (oh so thrilled to be studying this BS) 8th grader). So your kid shows up for the exam (it is nothing like the WASL)cranks through it and comes out saying--I understood all of the topics, but I think I failed because I hadn't memorized the periodic table and they didn't give us one.

You get the scores back and your kid (and 3 out of 4 of the other kids from his school) passed, but BARELY. The counselor says they need more work on chemistry so they are not going to place them into Bio. You call the counselor and try not to sound like one of those: My kid is brilliant parents, you know they hate, and talk them into placing him in Bio (he did pass afterall).

He shows up for Bio. Scores As from day one, has seem virtually all the material and is spending a disproportionate amount of time on group projects with kids who seem to have no science background (or interest)whatsoever. He does like his teacher and is thankful to have gotten out of the 9th grade class.

You go to a PTSA meeting where the chair of the science dept claims that the placement exam is the final exam from the 1/2 year 9th grade science course. When you mention that the kids taking the test could have done better if they were given a periodic table, the chair looks somewhat stricken for a second and then stares down at the table. You decide it isn't worth using your limited political capital at the school pursuing this subject (You figure they already find you annoying).

When your kid talks to the one kid from his school who didn't pass (by one point) and had to take 9th grade science. She says that the final was nothing like the placement exam (much much much easier) and that the course taught her nothing new.

Meanwhile, the chunk of your kid's 8th grade class that went to Garfield went straight in to Bio, no exam, no questions asked and is doing just fine. AND your kid was placed in to Math 3H purely on the word of his MS math teacher (who is perfectly ok, but nowhere near as exceptional as his MS science teacher.)

And you're still waiting for your kids PSAT scores when his friends at other HSs had them a month ago.
END OF RANT

I know, we are lucky to have a place at RHS. It is a very good school. But there does seem to be a culture there of: if it's good for one, it's good for all. That may be true of all other HS administrations and it is just the huge mass of APP parent pressure that allows some level of tracking at GHS. I don't know, but it makes it all the more ridiculous that kids can't enter APP after 7th grade. I believe the MS APP split will lead to a HS APP split (or dissolution) if so, will RHS (and other schools) improve it's policies for kids can do advanced work or will GHS become more like RHS is now? Can we hope that SOMEONE at SPS is thinking ahead about this?

SPSMom said...

Ballard 9th grade students received their PSATs scores, why the delay at RHS?

Dorothy said...

The College Board assumes that kids need a little counseling in order to understand their PSAT scores and thus gives the high schools a window (January) in which to act paternalistic and dole out the scores along with counseling. However, even the College Board knows when enough is enough. Therefore, Maureen, register with the College Board and get scores today. Tell all your friends, tell your kids' friends. You have a right to the information.

ArchStanton said...

Warning: this post may exceed your RDA for snark

Ben: And what exactly will it mean if the split does "fail"?

Trust me, it won't fail. Not by the district's standards anyway because they aren't likely to define what constitutes a failure.

On the other hand, if they get even a handful of students from underrepresented populations, they will loudly proclaim it to be a success - because that is the motivation for the split.

Glaring inequities between Lowell & Marshall or Washington & Hamilton, you say? That's okay because we've enrolled a few more highly capable immigrant and black children into APP.

Families are fleeing the APP program in droves, you cry? Well, they're mostly white and middle-class, so now we have more diversity in APP (even though it's a little smaller).

SUCCESS!

JTW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Why grade levels? Anyone? Anyone?
(besides the obvious benefits of efficiency?)

"Well, there you go, efficiency is it. Registrars (counselors) don't want to deal with it. It is a pain to have kids out of schedule with the rest of their cohort."

Well, jeez...this is the 21st century! Remember the World's Fair? The Future Is Now!
There are so many new ways for students to learn than there were back in the day when this system was put in place. If the registrars are struggling, reconfigure and add resources to make their jobs easier. Students should climb the ladder just as soon as they are able (okay, a little redundant "down time" might be okay here and there, to teach the aforementioned patience of the real world)

It's possible for a student, now, to get an entire high school curriculum online. They needn't see another person. Not good, no, but it shows that education can be had in many ways, to meet individual needs.

My niece was not being served by her middle school science. Her mom pulled her out; she now gets great science online. Her district also lost 0.2 of a student funding as she is not in the school all day.

hmmm....

Dorothy said...

I agree that the split won't fail, mostly because "We failed" is not in the district's lexicon. Also because families will do their best to make something work.

However, Charlie keeps doing interesting analysis that says APP will crowd out the regular kids at TM and perhaps Lowell as well. He concludes that the district might as well acknowledge and prepare for it. Here's a different possible outcome. When APP (and perhaps sibs) crowd out regular kids too much, why not just split again! If two sites are better than one, surely four sites are better than two! And the first split was so successful we know that the community will work together to pull it off again! Imagine that! Why not one in every cluster? Finally, perhaps the district will acknowledge serious shortcomings with Spectrum, but instead of finally fixing it --- well, why should they, they already have APP everywhere, let's just make one gifted program. So much easier on everyone, isn't it?

JTW: Hamilton and Washington will no doubt be able to handle Int 3. Eckstein manages to offer it to the handful ready for it each year. I think that's workable. Especially since there will most likely be non-app kids also ready for it. It's a current issue between Hamilton and Eckstein. Hamilton families will be very happy to help push for this.

Charlie Mas said...

The APP AC is meeting tonight at Garfield and the agenda includes

* a follow up on past weeks/months

* APP Essentials list

* Design teams update

* Report from Dr. Vaughan/Advanced Learning

* Lowell walk zone
* changes to APP AC to incorporate new schools

I don't think that families should be the least bit abashed about asking for what they want. If you are at a school that doesn't offer a music program and you think it would be good, then ask for a music program. It doesn't mean that you're going to get it, but you shouldn't be inhibited from asking because there are other schools without music programs.

Asking is not demanding. Asking doesn't presume a sense of entitlement. It's just asking. No is a viable answer.

JTW said...

Thanks, Dorothy, for the encouraging news about Integrated Math 3 potentially surviving at both Hamilton and Washington. I'd certainly look forward to supporting that effort.

Ben said...

Asking only indicates a sense of entitlement when the asker is an APP parent.

Danny K said...

Part of being an effective parent, for me, is getting over the vibe that says, "Your kid is nothing special, they should be happy with what everyone else gets, sit down and shut up."

The fact is, and research backs me up here, when you take a gifted kid and keep them in a class that's too easy for them, bad stuff happens. Girls doodle and boys play the clown, or vice versa. They figure out quickly that they're trapped in a situation that has little to offer them and they get discouraged and cynical. APP was a liberation from that and it means a lot to me.

Dorothy makes some good points, but right now it feels to me like she's talking about the family car not being a Lexus, when my worry is about the Honda Civic getting scrapped for two Yugos.

As I mentioned on a previous thread, music and math are my kids' two favorite things (although science is catching up fast) and they are high priorities for me in a school. I'm prepared to do some work to make this happen, I know it won't come on a silver platter. Integrated 3 is very important -- right now there's a small group of kids who take it every year at WMS, as far as I know. If that group is cut in half, how will the schools handle it? If they don't offer it, I'd like them to have a liberal IEP program to offer alternatives for advanced math kids -- it is not acceptable for them to spend a second year learning the same stuff.

I wish the principals were known -- I'd really like to know what the Hamilton and TM principals think of all this. If they feel the APP kids are being forced on them and they're going to fight the transition every step of the way, it will be a disaster. And yet, all too plausible.

Dorothy said...

Dorothy makes some good points, but right now it feels to me like she's talking about the family car not being a Lexus, when my worry is about the Honda Civic getting scrapped for two Yugos.

And I understand. I am mostly trying to offer perspective. My take on all this is that APP has been dying slowly ever since it morphed from IPP into APP. And the relaxed requirements, the split with the vague promise of design teams are just nudging it along. At least in elementary school.

See here, for those of us for whom APP was not enough, for those of us unlucky enough to get the weakest teacher almost year after year, for those of us who wanted to talk about the lack of rigor, the overemphasis on projects and group work with fun! art! but no intellectual challenge, we were told to be quiet. Privately folks would agree with me, but publicly no. The Honda Civic is better than the Yugo, so be grateful. At least we don't have the same issues as regular classes or even Spectrum. It's a rite of passage. Once through Lowell and Washington, one gets the golden ticket to Garfield. Hang onto the Civic and you will get the Lexus.

Charlie has acknowledged that there are some significant issues with WMS APP. While there's some great things there, there's some aspects that are not-so-great. He is wisely capitalizing on the split to try to rectify some of those. I have no opinion on the details of language and music, but overall, the program needs some re-evaluation and improvement and the split might help make that happen.

However, in elementary school? Where is that curriculum, where are the standards? Where is the accountability to be truly meeting the needs of the highly gifted? I cannot see how the split will help those happen.

The truth is, all this need for cohort and truly different educational needs are really arguable for the highly gifted, but APP is more and more a program of moderately gifted. As MercerMom points out, it's almost the flip of a coin as to whether one moderately gifted kid gets the Civic that turns into the Lexus or not.

So be optimistic, try to make it work. But don't be blind. Don't dismiss MGJ's comments about accessibility, even though they don't make sense. Melissa said she's got some analysis from the Strategic Plan. Wonder what that will bring.

AutismMom said...

I guess I don't quite buy the equity thing either. Or why there's some special entitlement to it for APP, but not others. Lots of kids, who by all rights should have gone to Roosevelt and been enrolled its "Asperger's Program" were instead shipped off across town to Cleveland. If there's an entitlement to equity, didn't these students deserve "equity" too? Of course they got NO equity. There's no comparison on any level to things they would have gotten at Roosevelt (and do need) to the things available at Cleveland. And, like the 2 APP's, it's the same program. And for schools that are more or less already equal like the elems(that is, not RHS vs Cleveland), I don't understand why there's any special requirement for "standardization" between TM and Lowell. It seems to me that having different programs might actually be a good thing. Standardization hasn't really been a good thing anywhere else in the district. There are a few upsides to site-based decision making.

Robert said...

"And, like the 2 APP's, it's the same program."

When they dissolve 30 years of successfully educating kids with highly gifted syndrome its not the same program(s)… just like those for down's, asperger's or autism any good programs should be retained not divided in the hope that it will replicate. How about this... george and ringo you are on the that team paul and john you are over there... now lets go make music!

JTW said...

We don't want to leave Washington either and I don't think anyone does. My point is that APP parents should focus on priorities and be realistic with expectations given the current environment. My responses were directed at post 2/2/09 1:55 PM, above. I can see where the new APP at HMS should offer three full years of accelerated science same as WMS does now, because that's a core academic requirement for APP. Likewise with Integrated 3 Math, which doesn't even benefit my kid directly but I'm encouraged to hear Hamilton parents want too. I'm eager to join this effort because it's part of APP that's at risk due to the split but that should be preserved at both sites for the same reason.

What I do question is "push" number 3, the assumption that APP parents can realistically expect "A full-blown music program at Hamilton" in place by fall, or that such is necessary in order for the "split to be successful". Starting a band and orchestra program during the school day is a more realistic and potentially attainable goal. Reading "full blown" to me means the writer expects an APP split to offer every elective at HMS that their student has now at WMS which isn't realistic. When we get a comparable program I interpret that to mean equity in the self-contained core academics with rigor and transportation. It doesn't mean APP can go into an established international middle school and demand identical electives we are used to from Washington. I spoke to point 3. world language in sixth grade at Washington already, as a special feature of Hamilton because it's the international middle school, not an elective expected at other middle school sites. The languages at WMS are satisfactory and I don't remember hearing parents wanting sixth grade world language there so I assume if language was a big priority for some families then they would have chosen HMS already.

As far as "4. Better, more challenging and interesting, electives at both schools" goes, that's vague and subjective so it's hard to guess what people are going to want. Realistically I think parents might be better off focusing on making sure the design teams can get the rigorous academic core classes are in place by fall before pressing for "interesting and challenging" electives. Hamilton offers similar kinds of computer electives and after school "HOST" type clubs as WMS plus a world art program which may fit the bill for most people already.

We may have to be satisfied with john and paul playing music while george and ringo learn Spanish.

Just one man's opinion of course. Have a good day.

anonymous said...

Speaking of relaxed entry standards for APP and testing margin of error, here is a question. I heard from someone who heard from someone who supposedly heard from a teacher that one reason they wanted to split APP to be co-housed with gen-ed is so they have a non-APP classroom to transfer struggling students out to whenever some of them can't keep up, because that's happening more now. Has anyone else heard this or is it a baseless rumor?

Melissa Westbrook said...

From the RHS Parent Bulletin:

We now have both PSAT and PLAN results back and will be giving the scores to 10th graders in AP Human Geography classes the week of 2/23. We are asking students to share the results with their parents/guardians, so be sure to ask your student to see the scores if they have not voluntarily shared them with you by the end of that week, 2/27.

We will be giving PSAT results back to 9th grades individually, as we meet with them to complete the High School and Beyond Plan students started working on in their history classes first semester. Those planning meetings will start the first week of March and continue through most of second semester, as counselors make their way through their 9th grade case load."

Okay so no folks, they didn't give them back the minute they had them because they had a plan. And guess what? The plan was to sit down with every single 9th grader, help them understand their score and how it works with the state-required high school and beyond plan. Is that happening at every single high school? I have no idea. What is the plan to use the data either at a district or high school level? I have no idea. But don't get all worked up before you actually know any details. This is the first time for this event, you know.

AutismMom, the room at RHS is finite. You said "by all rights". What does that mean? Do you know with certainty who got into the program and why others didn't? I have heard that Ballard is full as well. Those students had to go somewhere. Yes, the schools are different but to say there is a nefarious reason for this you need to provide accurate facts and proof.

Robert said...

"We may have to be satisfied with john and paul playing music while george and ringo learn Spanish."

And that is a band that you would pay money to see?

The dedicated and finite resources we call Lowell (Staff, Administration and Educators) right now are going to be divided leaving to chance the education of Seattle’s highly gifted students.

hschinske said...

I have not heard of there being any more struggling students in elementary APP than usual, much less a plan to move them out into regular ed classes. But it's tough to prove a negative.

Of course there are always a few students who struggle with the homework load (which is sometimes poor time management on their part, and sometimes excessive homework being assigned, and sometimes both), or have specific weak areas such as having terrible spelling or handwriting, but I don't know of any big problem with kids who can't keep up conceptually.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy said...

Melissa said But don't get all worked up before you actually know any details.
Don't make assumptions. I knew these details. That's explicitly what gets me "worked up." Brian explained them at the January PTSA meeting. I do not agree with the planned roll-out. I do not agree that providing scores needs to be delayed longer than the other high schools.

This is for many kids the first nationally norm-referenced test they have had. In fact, the first norm-referenced at all, thanks to the WASL. It is valuable and useful information. It belongs to the student.

Making students wait until the counselors can find time for them late in the semester is paternalistic and control-freaky for no good reason, in my opinion.

The 10th graders are all already in a school mandated AP class. The school claims that all are ready for college level work and rigor. The 9th graders will be expected to be ready for that in the Fall. What then is the justification for not providing scores in a timely fashion in small groups or homeroom in January? That's what other schools did. Other schools that do not require all students to be ready for the rigor of AP as sophomores.

The College Board website provides oodles of counseling advice for both parents and students. They provide age/grade appropriate advice on this test which some will have found challenging.


This is the first time for this event, you know.

Yes at Roosevelt, but not at Garfield. This is their second year with the grant. So what did Garfield do? Did they have trouble with kids handling the information and delay roll-out? No. Students got their scores in January, as the College Board expects. That's why the College Board provides the scores to the school more than a month before them make them accessible to students on-line.

Capitol Hill Dad said...

Has anyone posted a summary of the APP meeting last night?

AutismMom said...

Melissa, what I meant was "by all rights" is that students live close to RHS and should have access to it. Those students were shipped to Cleveland. There's absolutely no reason to send them there, and nothing particularly appropriate or special about Cleveland, indicating they should to go to Cleveland. Furthermore, unlike APP, they can't even "opt" out of their assigned program and just go to RHS without the program. If the program is full, they should add another teacher (as they would in APP program, right?)... in that case, the program isn't full any more. Just like... those students living closest to Washington in APP... will be sent to Washington, not Hamilton. And if more students are enrolled than last year, they'll hire more staff. BTW. Sure the room is finite, but RHS serves among the lowest number of sped students in the district... so, it should be looking to increase that participation. Students are usually served in high school until age 21. That means they're taking up spots for a very long time. There's no reason to ship other kids off, across town, for 7 years or so... instead providing the needed staffing and access at RHS.

My point is, there isn't any equity in these other programs, which are also supposed to be the same. I completely agree that parents should certainly try to get the extra programs they want, but I don't see a particular reason to make them the same. In the case of APP, both programs will be so large, there's room for them to diverge, and maybe even, diverge significantly, without it being a problem.

And Robert, you're not making sense. They divide and split up programs all the time. All the various different programs, ostensibly the same program type, but they are all radically different. The district doesn't guarantee any equity, equality, uniformity, or other sameness. It's only a problem when "it's a problem"... not just because they're different from each other.

hschinske said...

There are a lot of reasons why students might want their PSAT scores back earlier. For instance, if you wanted to apply to this program:
http://www.educationaladvancement.org/pages/programspages/apprenticeship.html
They do rolling admissions, and the early application deadline is March 16th.

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...

I have no problem with kids meeting with their counselors to discuss their scores. I just hope they sorted the scores first and scheduled the appts so kids who scored surprising high or low meet first and are given guidance in time to plan their fall course selection (this would be the 'identifying kids capable of AP part.'). It also might be nice if they offered kids who scored very well the option of taking AP HG in one semester and not two.

What I don't understand is why they can't give the kids their scores before they meet. And Dorothy, it looks to me like you need the code from the score sheet to register to see the scores(!) maybe I'm missing something.

Robert said...

"The district doesn't guarantee any equity, equality, uniformity, or other sameness. It's only a problem when "it's a problem"... not just because they're different from each other."

Actual Autism Mom, The district has split Lowell with its finite resources in two with the hollow promise that it will guarantee, equity, equality and uniformity across the two programs because it was so successful in teaching highly gifted children as a whole. Oh and it's doing that against all the best paid advice, historical record and the will of the Lowell PTSA … And to really throw it a curve; minus unified curriculum for teaching children two grades ahead while you are adding new students to the program in every grade and class annually.

hschinske said...

If you already have a College Board account from previous talent search testing, I think the PSAT scores go into the same one. Otherwise you do need the number off the printed report. Maybe that number could be put on the student's Source page?

Helen Schinske

Dorothy said...

When my son registered to take the SAT in December, they linked him to the PSAT, confirming that they knew he took it in October, but said we needed the code until Feb 1st. As of Feb 1st, it's been available to me without any school provided code. I believe all that linking happened before I actually paid the fee for the SAT.

If it isn't working, I'd call your son's counselor. The intent on the website is to make it available to parents now.

Maureen, last year, course registrations were due the week after mid-winter break. The Thursday, I believe. So no freshman would have any opportunity to know their scores before registering, according to the school's calendar.

On another topic. Something else Mel said made me think. About RHS having no room. Well, Hamilton International students will be getting priority to RHS or so I've heard. That's why RHS is ramping up their Foreign Language courses. Does this mean any Hamilton student gets priority to RHS? How big is the actual Language program at Hamilton? Are the kids designated as being in the program or not? Will APP kids have access to the rigor of the Language Program or is that strictly for kids coming from JSIS?

Here's what I am thinking. If APP kids can take advantage of the foreign languages offered at Hamilton, would they be able to take advantage of the priority to Roosevelt? And still maintain the APP priority to Garfield? If I had an APP student assigned to Hamilton, I'd for sure look into it.

Imagine a student living a block north of Ballard in this situation. A dream come true, eh? True, actual choice among Garfield, Roosevelt and Ballard? Couldn't ask for more.

hschinske said...

I thought it was the families north of BHS that weren't supposed to be able to get in under the proposed new boundaries? or was it south? Doesn't really matter at the moment. Anyway, according to what I heard on the Hamilton tour, any student who enters Hamilton with sufficient fluency in Spanish or Japanese can be in language immersion classes. The "WASL subjects" (math, science, and language arts) are taught in English, so one could do those at APP level. One handout specifically says "Immersion classes are scheduled to allow students to participate in other specialized coursework. For example, we have students enrolled in the language immersion classes who may also attend Special Education, Spectrum, Honors, and English Language Learner classes."

I wonder why Roosevelt and not Ingraham. You'd think Ingraham would make more sense, continuing the international focus and all.

Helen Schinske

James W said...

Apparently the new Lowell principal will be Greg King, from T. T. Minor. I know nothing about him, but on the surface this looks like a decision driven by convenience and the side-effects of the closure process than by the needs of APP.

Not a good sign, especially if anyone wants to avoid Madrona redux. Elementary APP has done well when the principal has been allied with the program, and has not done well when that wasn't the case. I suppose we'll be told that he's a stellar guy and it will all work out, just trust the district...I suspect next year at will start with a lot of apprehension, both at T. Marshall and at Lowell.

Ben said...

But if Breidenbach had remained at Lowell, wouldn't we be saying the same thing about APP at TMarshall?

Or should they have fired TMarshall's and TTMinor's principals, and hired a new APP-appropriate principal for TMarshall?

There's no way this can be done elegantly.

Lendlees said...

James-

Greg King's daughter is at Lowell--she's in my son's class (and a great kid). So he is obviously a proponent of gifted education. I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt here.

This appointment makes sense if they want to make the TT Minor families feel more welcome at Lowell and Lowell families feel more welcome at Marshall.

agibean said...

I agree. With so many people worried about "APP Lite" at TM and at the same time talking about how great the program is at Lowell, wouldn't moving the person running the show currently to the new location help with the fears of a less-than-equal program?

Mercermom said...

I am a parent of a child who will go to WMS, and who will likely be in APP or Spectrum. Still, I am very concerned that the District is apparently not allowing students who attend or were planning to attend Meany to participate in advanced learning testing. The District says that one goal of its changes was to improve access to advanced learning opportunities. At Meany, kids could participate in ALO without testing for eligibility. That may have caused families of kids who could meet Spectrum or APP requirements that there was no need to test. If the District does not allow them to test now that they do not have the ALO option they were planning on accessing, they can only be part of the general ed program at WMS. Does anyone know if the District has definitively said "no"? It would be totally contrary to the repeatedly stated goals of the District to say to a large group of kids (Meany kids and fifth-graders who planned to attend Meany) that they are foreclosed from participating in any advanced learning program due to changes they could not have foreseen and planned for. It doesn't seem like an exaggeration to say that this could limit a child's academic progress and options in the future.

JTW said...

Has anyone heard if the principle will be changed at Hamilton or Washington for middle school APP?

hschinske said...

As far as I know there is no change for the principals at Washington and Hamilton. Presumably some teachers will be moving from Washington to Hamilton, but we don't know who yet.

Greg King was hired partly for his experience with Montessori schools, which also sounds interesting. I think it's probably a good idea to swap the principals this way.

Helen Schinske

JTW said...

That's a typo, darn phone I meant PRINCIPALS not principles.

How hard can it be to bring ALO intact from Meany into Washingon next year. From what I hear these are enrichment projects set up to enhance the gen-ed social studes curriculum. That sounds transportable and provides continuity for Meany kids already participating in ALO. Wouldn't that be another good way to expand access to advanced learning to every gen-ed kid at Washington? If they use existing materials (maybe even move some teachers in from Meany, to implement?) there's no excuse that costs are associated because they aren't re-inventing the wheel.

I also wonder why Meany kids that are already in ALOs can't go directly into Spectrum next year without more testing. And have ALO also as an option, if they prefer the inclusive model. I think they have both ALO and Spectrum at McClure.

Thanks.

hschinske said...

The Spectrum program at Washington is limited in size -- they take a certain number of kids and then that's it. Some north-end parents of middle-schoolers in APP were wondering if they could get out of moving to Hamilton by switching to Washington's Spectrum program, and Bob Vaughan said that would not be a smart move as the program would be full.

Helen Schinske

Seattlehorn said...

After receiving a crazy-low CoGat score for her first grader, a friend called the AL Office, which confirmed among other things that the test was given differently this year for second graders: no verbal instructions from the administrator (who happened to be ESL in this case), timed cutoffs, and bubble-type rather than hand-graded tests.

I find this interesting, as this year's scores for our Spectrum-eligible 2nd grader (who was tested publicly and privately before), saw a significant dip.

Such a method for administering the CoGat to 2nd graders is not standard (per my Google search) and raises questions as to rationale. Saving money? Reducing APP admissions?

I've contacted the AL Office for an explanation, but no response yet. I do think other parents should know about this.

hschinske said...

The CogAT K-2 tests are read aloud to the student and answers are marked directly in the booklet. If the second graders were given a separate answer sheet to fill in, that may mean they got the third-grade test, which is what SHOULD happen for selection for gifted programs (the authors of the test recommend that gifted students be tested one or two levels up to avoid ceiling problems), but didn't use to happen.

However, even if the third-grade test is used, it is still allowable to administer it orally if it's for second graders. I remember David Lohman mentioning that point specifically in a talk to district staff in 2005. I don't know about the time question, but it would make sense to me that all the test administration details should be developmental, and only the content of the test be higher.

Here are some of the notes I put on the SpectrumAPP list after hearing David Lohman speak in 2005:


--use level of CogAT *at least one* and *possibly two* years ahead of grade level if testing for gifted, because otherwise there aren't enough hard questions, and random
errors can reduce scores unfairly (on the grade-level version, scores at the highest levels have *big* error bars)

--it is okay to use the third-grade test with first-graders, even ones who don't read well, and allowable to read them questions they cannot read to themselves. Reading
ability needed on the third-grade test is minimal, though. The questions are difficult because of logic, not because they are hard to decode.

--no one test should be used to keep kids *out* of programs; you miss kids if you rely on only one test, because even correlations that seem high don't result in
very many kids getting high scores on all

--the latest version of the CogAT has a way to analyze score sheets where one section seems far out of line with the others, so that it is easier to find the kids who did things like missing one of the questions and answering a bunch of the section one line off

--high-potential but not yet high-achieving students should be identified by comparing their scores to their peers (e.g., children who have been learning English for three
years should be judged on how well their verbal scores compare to other children who have been learning English for three years) -- the extremely large sample data
available for the CogAT make this kind of thing possible

--non-verbal tests are turning out to be far less useful than everyone hoped -- the only case in which high non-verbal ability is important in school situations is in
combination with high math ability; by itself it seems to have little predictive value (indeed, high non-verbal ability *without* commensurate high verbal or quantitative
ability seems in some cases to be a recipe for doing badly in school) -- high verbal ability COMPARED TO PEERS (see above) is a much better predictor

[NOTE: The talent search folks make a big deal out of spatial abilities, but of course in that population you are by definition dealing with kids who do have the ability in math or verbal realms as well.]

--students who are candidates for programs involving high achievement should be compared to the skills needed to do well in the program (those with high potential but not high achievement should be nurtured in some other way until their achievement rises)

Helen Schinske

JTW said...

I hope Meany parents who want to see Spectrum expanded to accommodate their kids at Washington next year are able to organize to get that message across to the principal during the PTSA meetings. I think there would be support there from other parents. As to the issue of northern APP kids trying to stay at Washington by switching to Spectrum, the tiebreaker for Spectrum has been by distance to the school so as long as they add just enough seats to accommodate central region kids who applied for Spectrum at Washington during open enrollment they should be able to control for that.

Guess I can't see any logical reason why kids who can do Spectrum work should be held back by arbitrary capacity ceilings. Do they honestly want to expand advanced learning for minority kids, or not? If so, they can prove it NOW with Meany at Washington. It doesn't cost any extra for Washington to have two classes of Spectrum each period instead of one. They just designate it a Spectrum class, assign kids then teach one grade level ahead for LA/SS block. No extra teacher hiring or training is needed, just tell one of the reg-ed teachers already there to teach one grade level ahead during those class periods.

To me, expanding Spectrum at Washington to meet the needs of neighborhood minority kids speaks more to equity in advanced learning than which electives they might add.

Shannon said...

Just to let people who have NOT received scores yet. I received an email from the office yesterday:

"We have about 2000 more eligibility letters still to mail. I thought I would have those decisions today, but determinations are still being made. Letters should go out Friday or possibly Monday. With the decisions being made on school closures and changes in location for the Accelerated Progress Program (APP), our manager was kept busy with many other things, and decisions were unavoidably delayed."

Shannon

hschinske said...

"Guess I can't see any logical reason why kids who can do Spectrum work should be held back by arbitrary capacity ceilings."

Oh, I quite agree, but that's been district policy for ages -- APP they make room for everyone who tests in, Spectrum they don't. It makes no sense at all. I know one of the things we were worried about when we were first thinking of sending a child to Lowell was that she would lose her Spectrum place if Lowell didn't work out. We'd either have had to put her in the regular program, or put her in yet a third school.

Helen Schinske

Jeanne said...

By the way, I just noticed that there is a new FAQ up on the SPS website under Capcity Management regarding the Design Teams. In it, it states:

Q: Will self-contained APP classes receive mitigation funding if not fully enrolled?
A: APP classes will remain self-contained at all APP sites.

Hopefully, with that in black and white, it will put the question to rest.

jason said...

Thank you Jeanne for posting the quote about self-contained classrooms. I have been concerned about shared classes, and it's nice to see in writing that they won't be.

I am cautiously optimistic about the new principal at Lowell. It's nice that he has a kid in the program and is familiar with APP.

If anyone from TT Minor reads this, I would love to read your take on him.

James W said...

Lendlees -

Yes, now that I know a bit more I am definitely less concerned (about that piece of the puzzle, anyway). Greg King could be in a good position to "bridge" the two communities, which will be critical in the first years. But he's got a challenge ahead of him, as does Julie.

none1111 said...

Jeanne wrote: "Q: Will self-contained APP classes receive mitigation funding if not fully enrolled?
A: APP classes will remain self-contained at all APP sites.

Hopefully, with that in black and white, it will put the question to rest."

Is there any particular reason you trust that the district won't follow up with "Oh, but that doesn't count for PCP. Music isn't really a classroom."?

It's not hard to imagine an attempt to shoehorn the programs together somehow by slicing up the classrooms for PCP . If the program can be sliced up, why not the classrooms? If people have concerns, ask the district for clarification. But my guess is you won't get any right now.

agibean1958 said...

none1111-are you saying that you don't wish the APP students to interact with the general ed population at all? I realize that our children are more accelerated, but is it REALLY necessary to keep them separate from others in art, say, or music? And what about PE?

Wouldn't ALL children benefit from a robust music and art program? And why if at all, should APP students get a segregated PE class? Is a mixed lunch ok?

Are you simply concerned that this would lead to mixed core classes or do you truly feel that the two populations should not ever mix?

none1111 said...

I knew this was coming.

agibean1958 said: " I realize that our children are more accelerated, but is it REALLY necessary to keep them separate from others in art, say, or music? And what about PE? "

Those subjects are not all equal in nature. For example, if you think our kids' acceleration is not relevant in music, then you are woefully ignorant of Lowell's music program. It's not just singing songs, like when we were kids. It's an academic classroom, with academic thinking/learning/teaching. This cannot be blended. If you have doubts, ask the music instructor.

PE might be different. If it could be done by taking entire classrooms at once, but would that require a 2nd PE teacher? If, on the other hand, it means slicing up classrooms in an attempt to force kids to mix, that sucks. These kids will have already lost 1/2 their friends next year, they don't need to have 1/2 of those remaining taken away again in every PCP class. Opportunities may exist, but remember the mantra: do no evil.


>> and: "Wouldn't ALL children benefit from a robust music and art program?"

Are you saying that the kids won't have a robust music and art program unless the classrooms are cut and spliced?! Sorry, this makes no sense. Certainly ALL children DO deserve to have a quality music and art program, and they should continue to get the best program possible as they do now, on a classroom by classroom basis.


>> "And why if at all, should APP students get a segregated PE class? Is a mixed lunch ok?"

Your use of the word "segregate" is deliberately deceptive. Think about the history of this program and remember that our kids were assigned to their own building because of inter-program friction. In short, other kids/families don't like us. Unless you want to aggravate the situation, let the kids blend in *natural* ways and situations.

To your question: lunch is of course a great, natural place to blend, as it's where kids from multiple classrooms *already* join each other without slicing up their classrooms. That's just the way it works! To separate the programs during lunch would be as unconscionable as splitting up the classrooms for music/art. Either would be unnatural.

So where else can blending occur naturally? Anywhere it would with any other classrooms! Instrumental music. Lunch. Recess. Chess club (and others). Wherever kids from different classrooms mix right now! Splitting up classrooms in an attempt to force kids from different programs together would be a (poorly) veiled attempt at social engineering, which is a Bad Idea.

>> and: "Are you simply concerned that this would lead to mixed core classes or do you truly feel that the two populations should not ever mix?"

If I thought this would be the first step to mixed core classes I would be *extremely* worried. I'm not right now because I don't believe that will happen. It goes against all best practice and doesn't make sense at all.

As to mixing, let it happen to whatever degree is natural. To attempt more will certainly cause unneeded friction, which we really don't need, especially now.

none1111 said...

Oops. I wrote "do no evil" (too much Google on the brain), but I meant "Do no harm".

Here's an abridged definition from Wikipedia:
----------------
Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means "First, not to harm."

The phrase ... is a fundamental principle for emergency medical services around the world. Another way to state it is that "given an existing problem, it may be better to do nothing than to do something that risks causing more harm than good."

It reminds the physician and other health care providers that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit. Since at least 1860, the phrase has been for physicians a hallowed expression of hope, intention, humility, and recognition that human acts with good intentions may have unwanted consequences.
----------------

Everyone should consider this carefully when making changes to any program, but especially one which is/was successful. Your chance of harming is greater than the chance of helping.

agibean1958 said...

None1111-according to what Dewannda Cook Weaver said at the the meeting of the Cultural Diversity Committee meeting earlier this week, it appears that the district is, in fact, heading towards having PCP classes be drawn from a mix of kids from both programs in the schools where APP will be housed next year.

I see it less as cutting and splicing as a way to make the school one rather than two-allowing kids from both programs to interact as much as possible.

You say "In short, other kids/families don't like us." That may have been your experience in other schools, but it was not ours, and not the experience of a number of other families I've spoken to. Some of their kids really miss non-APP friends they left behind.

I firmly, firmly believe that if we go into the mergers with the attitude of "you don't want us, we don't want you, let's just stay out of each others' way," then all hell will break loose and there is NO WAY that the mergers can possibly succeed. However, if we approach it from the old Girl SCout song point of view "Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver, the other gold," perhaps our kids can and will make NEW friends who "like them" despite being from a different program.

And as far as music at Lowell being, what-too complex for kids from non-music backgrounds-as it is there's a mix of music knowledge even right at Lowell. There are kids who read music, who play instruments and kids who do not. Why can't the instruction continue in a similar fashion at a blended school in this subject?

none1111 said...

The split is a high-risk proposition already, in general, even without slicing up the classrooms. It seems the true meaning of "do no harm" seems to be over the heads of most people in the district. i.e. you don't take action if there is reasonable chance of making the situation worse, especially without assurance of concrete benefits.

>> it appears that the district is, in fact, heading towards having PCP classes be drawn from a mix of kids from both programs in the schools where APP will be housed next year.

Yes, and it's unfortunate our Lowell APP design team rep appears to be without the experience and historical perspective in the program to understand issues like this. Instead a relative newcomer who was supportive of the split from the start was appointed without any public process. There should be an experienced parent on the team who shares the same worries as the vast majority of the families in the program. As it is now, the parents are not *truly* represented on the design team.

>> I see it less as cutting and splicing as a way to make the school one rather than two-allowing kids from both programs to interact as much as possible.

This is disingenuous, or at the very least, over-the-top idealistic. It is by it's very nature forcibly splitting classrooms, dividing the kids. It is divisive and antagonistic by nature. If the incoming kids to Lowell were from Montlake, would you still be pushing to dice and splice kids from different classrooms?? Really?

You also never answered my question about why serving kids on a classroom by classrooms basis does not provide a robust music and art program for ALL children! It most certainly does, and it's insulting to the teachers to imply otherwise.

>> You say "In short, other kids/families don't like us." That may have been your experience in other schools, but it was not ours, and not the experience of a number of other families I've spoken to. Some of their kids really miss non-APP friends they left behind.

Please don't take liberty with my words - I never said this was our personal experience in our school. Of course kids make friends with other kids in their neighborhood school before Lowell. The reference was to the history of APP and inter-program friction. That is a well-known, well-documented fact. After you spend a few years around the district talking with LOTS of people from LOTS of different schools in all different areas of the city you will find there is a great deal of animosity toward our program. If you are new to APP and haven't spent time in-the-trenches, here's a warning: in many settings you'll want to avoid saying what school/program your kids go to because of the dirty looks and ugly responses you'll get. It's not fair, but it's the culture of this city and it's also well understood by parents who have been active in the program for many years.

>> I firmly, firmly believe that if we go into the mergers with the attitude of "you don't want us, we don't want you, let's just stay out of each others' way," then all hell will break loose and there is NO WAY that the mergers can possibly succeed.

Welcome to reality. There were only a handful of people in the affected elementary buildings who actively wanted this merger. Why would you think the attitude will be anything other than "let's just stay out of each others' way"?? And honestly, in the near term that's almost certainly the best chance of NOT having "all hell break loose". Dicing up the kids even further is not going to make anyone happy - it's rubbing salt into the wound. Longer term, if we find tensions can be kept low, maybe it would be worth carefully and mindfully exploring with a couple classrooms to see what issues arise and go from there.

>> And as far as music at Lowell being, what-too complex for kids from non-music backgrounds-as it is there's a mix of music knowledge even right at Lowell. There are kids who read music, who play instruments and kids who do not. Why can't the instruction continue in a similar fashion at a blended school in this subject?

Wow, I hate to repeat myself, but you really don't seem to be getting this. You are talking about "kids who read music, who play instruments", which is *instrumental* music. As you can read above, I fully support blending instrumental music. It is a pull-out program, and therefore blending does not rip apart the classrooms, affect planning time or anything else; it is a blending that can happen *naturally*, and therefore without antagonizing anyone! Hurray! In fact, I believe *separating* instrumental music by program would be indefensible.

But that is completely different from "music class", which is taught by classroom, and has more of an academic flavor at Lowell in the APP program than you are probably aware. I hope ALL the design team members talk with the PCP teachers before walking down this path, to understand issues specific to each subject. If this "2nd split" is seriously being considered, it would be negligent not to do so.