Friday, February 20, 2009

Program Placement Mystery

Each year the Superintendent makes a number of program placement decisions. They start with proposals which are then brought to the Program Placement Committee and discussed. The Committee makes a recommendation to the Superintendent, and the Superintendent then makes a decision. These decisions are commonly reported to the Board, but the Board does not vote on them. The usual timeline requires the proposals to be submitted by November 1, the Committee discussions to be done by mid-December, and the Superintendent's decision by late December.

This year, with the Capacity Management Plan in action, the timeline for Program Placement decisions was disrupted. I have an email from Courtney Cameron (nee Jones), the assistant to the CAO who acts as program placement coordinator, in which she says that the program placement decisions would be made in January.

I submitted a proposal for the creation of a Spectrum program at Arbor Heights Elementary. There is no Spectrum program, nor any ALO, in the West Seattle-South cluster, and I thought that the District should fulfill its commitment to have a Spectrum program in every cluster and region.

With the release of the Enrollment Guides I learned that there will not be a Spectrum program at Arbor Heights. I thought that my proposal had been rejected. I contacted Dr. Vaughan about it and he told me that he had not been to any meeting of the Program Placement Committee where Spectrum for Arbor Heights had been discussed.

So that's the mystery. I guess I can accept the fact that I was not allowed to attend the meeting to champion my proposal, but why wasn't Dr. Vaughan asked to participate in the discussion? Was there a discussion? Was my proposal even considered? I do not have a good feeling about this.

16 comments:

SAVE THE TREES said...

Welcome to the Ingraham dilemma, Charlie.
We were told by Mr. Tucker that the decision regarding building on the West side had not been finalized, in March 2008.

However, when we approached the Board it was quickly determined that IT was finalized.

The building as a need for the School District has not been questioned.

SAVE THE TREES-SEATTLE is highly for education, we have teachers, parents and neighbors in our group.
Education is important to us, safety of students, the health and future of High School students are all important to us.

We believe the School District has and is making a bad decision regarding the placement of the Ingraham addition.

We also believe that the School District has used an underhanded, way of NOT communicating with the public to become invested in this project to a degree that most people will finally shrug their shoulders and say: "Well, they have spent to much money to change plans now."

The following are other items we question and are opposed to.

We question the lack of communication with the public (especially the local neighborhood) before a placement of the building was determined and the Architect drew plans. The March meeting with the public was to reveal the plans, not allow comment, and there was only one plan revealed.

We oppose the destruction of a Wildlife habitat that could be used for Botany and Biology classes regarding native Northwest forest, and the City of Seattle's Urban plans.

We oppose the use of District funds to build a high maintenance addition, when maintenance budgets are an area where the Schools in the District suffer.

We are concerned with the safety of students, when crime has turned from occasional fist fights to solving differences with guns. A full Daylight basement places glass between a bullet and the students. At least if the trees stay, the trees can take the bullet for the students.

Yet we do not question the need for the addition, even though after the capacity figures release; maybe we should.

Save The Trees-Seattle are not anti-educational. Every person in the group is very much for improving the educational system in Seattle.

We are holding the District accountable for actions it has taken, communication it has not done, and the underhanded and disdainful ways it has chosen to treat the public near schools.

We are appealing the recent DPD decision.

I just wanted to let the parents, and others here on this blog to know, we aren't against education.

Thanks for letting me share a few of our views.
Save The Trees-Seattle

Seattlehorn said...

Charlie, I suspect your proposal went directly in the infamous, historied SPS round file. With every day that goes by without a response to my emails and phone calls to Dr. Vaughan (about the 2nd grade APP testing anomalies this year), I am persuaded that he, too, has decided that no response is the best response, and the public be damned.

Mercermom said...

What are the "second grade APP testing anomalies"? Are you referring to questions about how testing was delivered; or anomalies with respect to how many kids met the qualifications levels, as compared to other years? If the latter, is data available to show how kids overall tested this year? In past years?

Shannon said...

My son (in 2nd Grade) did the test this year and I wasn't aware of any anomalies.

Seattlehorn said...

I wrote about this in a previous thread. Recently, a Coe parent was told by Roger Daniels in the AL Office the test was given differently to 2nd graders this year. Instructions were not verbally provided and the test was timed. Separate "bubble" answer sheets (which can be machine graded) were used instead of "write in" test booklets.

Parents whose 2nd graders scored weirdly low are questioning the district (our daughter has a baseline, having been tested privately and publicly before, and it is very much at odds with these new results, in one area by over 30 points).

Parents deserve to know if test delivery affected their child's scores, so they can decide whether or not to pursue further testing and/or appeals.

But in the broader sense, this issue raises questions about whether SPS is trying to limit, rather than broaden, APP equity and access. Combine it with 8 am start times for Lowell and Thurgood Marshall, and it begins to look like a plan. A diabolical one.

In other words, just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean SPS isn't trying to destroy APP.

Brian said...

That is very interesting about the "2nd grade anomalies".

Our daughter is also in second grade, and her scores went from mid-90s last year to mid-60s this year.

Please keep this group updated about what you find out.

Seattlehorn said...

I am hearing from more parents with similar score drops. Please send an email to Dr. Vaughan with a copy to your principal. We deserve a response.

hschinske said...

I suggested earlier that perhaps Advanced Learning had started administering an out-of-level test, as they have in fact been recommended to do by the test publisher. If that's the case, it's possible that the tests ended up being graded against the wrong set of norms. If a second-grader takes a third- or fourth-grade CogAT exam, the norms s/he is judged against are supposed to be those for second-graders, not those for older children.

If I remember right, the test was also said to have been administered according to the protocols for older students rather than younger ones, which again would have been a violation of the test publisher's recommendations.

Helen Schinske

Shannon said...

Sorry I didn't see the testing discussion in the other thread. We're dealing with the winter viral onslaught around here :)

My son's test results were similar to those of previous years.

adhoc said...

The test has been given differently between 2nd and 3rd grade for many years. When my son was in 2nd grade we had him tested and he scored very very high in all three areas. We tested him again in 3rd grade as we were considering a move, but were shocked when his 3rd grade scores came back dramatically lower in all three categories than they did the year previous.

When we did some research we found out that the test was administered very differently in 2nd and 3rd grades. In 2nd grade a tester came out to our childs school and pulled him out of class. The test was given one on one with the administrator verbally giving directions, and reading each question to my son and waiting for him to answer it in the test booklet. The test was not timed. In 3rd grade we had to take our son to another school on a Saturday morning for an 8AM test. There was a large group of children that all went into the test room together. They were verbally given instructions, handed their booklets, and then they were on their own. I do not remember if the 3rd grade test was timed or not??

For young children this difference can have a great impact. Especially on young boys that can be easily distracted, or just has trouble sitting still for 2 hours.

When I questioned the district about the difference in test administration and the outcome for my son, I was told that kids who would be successful in APP would be able to stay focused and do well on the test. They were looking for kids who fit the mold, and the mold included focusing and staying on track independently.

It's very interesting.

another mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zb said...

The differences in the 3rd & 2nd grade are a difference int he CogAT. There's a wealth of information available about the CogAT at the riverside publishing site (the publisher's of the test).

http://www.riverpub.com/products/cogAt/details.html

I'd be interested in knowing if out of level testing was used in schools this year -- it is a recommendation of the CotAT for testing into advanced learning programs.

One difference between the versions at 3rd and 2nd grade is the assumption that all 3rd graders should be able to read, while the same assumption is not made for 2nd graders.

Also, in this document: "A short guide for teachers" (linked on the same page), for teachers, about the CogAT, the publishers explain that it is not a "IQ" test, but is an abilities test, which should be well correlated with ability to perform well in schoool in advanced learning activities (which parallels adhoc's hearsay from the school district).

Dorothy said...

For all the folks curious about APP testing (or ANY test the district has administered to your child) I got five little letters for you, five very powerful letters when handled right.

FERPA

Do not call, do not email, use real paper and an envelope and a stamp. Write Bob or Roger or the appropriate office and say that you are exercising our rights under FERPA and would like the following information on your child's test.
the raw scores
the scaled scores
the test version or level administered
The norms by your child's age at date of test and the norms by your child's grade at the time of test.
If neither of those norms correspond with the norm already given to the parent, then you want to know what norming chart they used. Helen might know some better language or something more specific there.

Be polite, be professional. But do it in a letter as required by the law. And if you want, you can tell them Dorothy sent you. Bob and Roger have each gotten FERPA letters from me before, it wouldn't surprise them :)

hschinske said...

In most schools, students are tested on the CogAT in large groups even in kindergarten. The Woodcock-Johnson achievement test is given one-on-one, though.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

"When I questioned the district about the difference in test administration and the outcome for my son, I was told that kids who would be successful in APP would be able to stay focused and do well on the test. They were looking for kids who fit the mold, and the mold included focusing and staying on track independently."

Interestingly enough, my son did better on the group-administered kindergarten CogAT than either of his sisters did (though none of them qualified for gifted programs on that round of testing), despite their generally far greater ability to sit still and cooperate at that age. He also came out of the testing room running for the bathroom. I seriously doubt that it's legal to select children for a gifted program based on their bladder size ;-)

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

I sent a strongly worded email to Director Sundquist - I have written to him a number of times regarding Spectrum for West Seattle-South - and he responded by saying that he contacted Dr. Vaughan earlier in the week on the matter and that he intends to follow up this week on it.

Director Sundquist deserves credit for how responsive he has been on this topic - at least as far as responding to email messages about it.

Let's remember that families of general education students opposed having their children re-assigned to West Seattle Elementary primarily because it was such a low performing school. There are no separate Spectrum classes there, so Spectrum students, if enrolled at West Seattle - and there are 19 there now - would be in those same classrooms getting that same instruction. Little wonder therefore that West Seattle-South Spectrum families have not been enthusiastic about putting their academically gifted children on the bus to this school. They want a Spectrum school with higher academic expectations and they want one in their cluster.

The District, however, will not even discuss the question.