Thursday, September 24, 2009

APP Curriculum

Over two years ago outside experts conducted an audit of APP. The District has yet to respond to it. It is a project of the Strategic Plan, but one without a timeline, without a plan, and without any progress. The auditors were specifically asked, by the District, to offer an opinion about splitting the program. The auditors responded that they could not make any recommendation either for or against any sort of configuration BUT they absolutely and unquestionable warned that the District should not - under any circumstances - split the program until they had an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum in place and functioning.

As we all know, the District has moved forward with splitting the program. When they did, they promised, as sincerely and solemnly as they ever promise anything, to have the APP curriculum up and running this fall concurrent with the split.

Well the split is here, where is the curriculum? It is nowhere to be seen. It is a fundamental element of Standards-based reform and a fundamental requirement of accountability for the performance goals - the expectations - to be clearly and explicitly stated in advance. For students, that's the Standards and the academic expectations, in short, the curriculum. So, rather than having the document but not disclosing it, it is necessary for both accountability and Standards-based reform that the curriculum be made public - in fact, that the students and their families be made explicitly aware of it. Yet there is none to be seen.

I have written to the Manager of Advanced Learning, who promised me that the curriculum would be in effect with the start of school this fall, and asked for the curriculum but I received no response. I have written to the Board asking them to ask about the APP curriculum, but have received no response. I have also asked about the training given to teachers on the curriculum but have received no response. I am beginning to suspect that the APP curriculum has not been implemented. I am beginning to suspect that the APP curriculum has not been written.

This would be an egregious failure by the District and would put a their credibility into an even deeper hole.

It is time for every person to ask: Where is the APP curriculum that was promised to be implemented this fall?

86 comments:

ArchStanton said...

I've been wondering about this myself. I remember the promises that they would have it in place by this fall. Not that I would know what it looked like if it appeared, but I expect they would be tooting their own horn if they actually kept a promise.

There were a lot of concerns about creating equitable schools with the split - a standardized curriculum seems like no small part of that. (Not to mention the question of disparate demographics and class sizes at the two elementary schools.)

Might be worth attending the APP-AC meeting at Hamilton on October 6th to bring up.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie said:
"This would be an egregious failure by the District and would put a their credibility into an even deeper hole."

Deeper hole for these folks is just not possible for me as the depth is already beyond my ability to measure.

ArchStanton said:
"I expect they would be tooting their own horn if they actually kept a promise."

No Doubt.... and as usual very quiet.


Still delivering a fairytale and apparently no plans to do otherwise.

It is impossible to bring about SPS accountability and any attempt to do so seems only to motivate the SPS to enlarge their fabrications posing as truth.

another mom said...

Rather than just bringing it up at the October 6 APP-AC, contact the chair and put it on the agenda. It deserves that much. Teacher training should also be on the agenda. Unless a curriculum was purchased off the shelf, how can it possibly be written, taught, and tested in such a short time?

kanne said...

In related news I hear that Julie B. is allowing "walk overs" from ALO to APP at Thurgood Marshall. Apparently she is "going rogue" with this-- Bob V. is not on board.

She might be trying to solve a short-term problem (evening out class sizes) but I think it brings up issues of fairness. Are parents now going to work around the APP testing process to try to get their kids in? Just send them to T.M?

ArchStanton said...

I'd like to make another pitch for someone to take over the Elementary APP blog http://discussapp.blogspot.com/
or start a new one.

It's not something I can take on right now, though I have considered it.

wseadawg said...

Many of us heard it wouldn't be ready this Sept, as early as April or May of last year, despite Dr. Vaughan and his folks working 7 days a week on it. Maybe the CAO leaving had something to do with it. Who knows?

The APP community is taken for granted, because truly, where are they going to go? Private school at 20k per year? Back to Spectrum? Nope. They're pretty much stuck unless they choose an Alt Route, or maybe IB.

Fortunately most of the APP teachers are talented and savvy enough to meet the kids needs, while rolling with whatever nonsense is thrown at them and what promises are broken. By necessity, the entire community has learned to keep its eye on the ball while the district plays its shenanigans with the program.

Dr. Vaughan has worked hard and certainly supports the program, but I suspect he's dealing with a lot of staff who simply don't understand the special needs nature of the APP program, and instead think its just a bunch of connected, affluent, over-bearing parents, as a result of the community rising to protect itself from damage inflicted on the program by the split.

As far as equity and accountability, I won't hold my breath. The district was indifferent whether splitting the program would weaken it. To no one's surprise, they've left it up to the APP community to fix their damage, while the Board and staff has moved on to other things. (Hacking up Alternative schools maybe? Gearing up for another round of anti-union teacher bashing with the help of the NCTQ? Stay tuned on that one, btw.)

The walk-over matter has blown up because nobody is clear on what its about. Vaughan said last year that APP being at TM along with ALO was the plan, but that APP classes would remain self-contained. Now, Julie B wants to mix classes, apparently, without explaining it and revealing the goal of it? Is it about learning science? Or teaching kids to get along while learning science? What's the priority: Education or Socialization? Rumors are flying and nobody seems to have a clear answer, or handle, on what the plan really is.

APP parents were promised that the program would be the same, or better, than what they had at Lowell & Washington. These days, it's sounding like the powers that be have further, bigger ideas about changes they want to make to APP, which has a lot of parents feeling betrayed and abandoned by the powers that be.

Toss in the lack of curriculum, and what does that mean? Starting from a blank slate, or what?

Take a successful, thriving program, split it up, throw it into chaos, then blame the community if things go badly. And they talk about Accountability? Wow!

SPS mom said...
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another mom said...

Kanne, Archstanton, and wseadawg

I would urge all of you to get your issues on the APP-ac agenda. There is a defined process for APP eligibility. It published and on-line for anyone to view. While testing is a huge component, the process involves more than just testing. If there is an alternative way for a student to gain eligibility for the program, it needs to be defined and published. Besides the confusion and bad feelings that backdoor/adhoc eligibility engenders,it creates the potential for a law suit. I doubt that Ms. Briedenbach has thought about the ramifications. Principal at school A contacts Julie B. and says hey I hear you have room in APP and I have this student who seems very capable and may do well in the program. Where does she draw the line? This needs vetting. Or you set up a separate program -I think that Charlie suggested this sometime ago- that allows parents to place their children in an accelerated program without going through the eligibility process. this is the proverbial can of worms.

hschinske said...

Mixed-grade classes have historically been very common in elementary APP, due to each grade's enrollment not always coming in convenient class-size blocks. The teachers are used to those issues.

Helen Schinske

Robert said...

With the APP elementary split also came hundreds of ALO seats (combined at Lowell and TM). Where did the district anticipate they would identify/recruit all these advanced learners ready for rigorous accelerated reading and mathematics curriculum? Seems a stretch to me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hadn't written a thread on this but I had a talk with Dr. Enfield who I found to be very easy to talk to (she's kind of the like the Good Cop to Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's Bad Cop and maybe that is part of why she was hired).

She is a big gifted education proponent. I don't know if any APP group has spoken with her but I feel a slight ray of hope that finally gifted programming in our district might have champion in leadership. I'd go to her.

As far as Ms. Briedenbach, well, I thought that site-based management was getting pulled back. Just as at Madrona, if parents don't feel like they are being listened to or told the truth, then it could cause problems.

Where can APP parents go to? Well, if we someday get charters in, you can start your own school and the district would have no one else to blame but themselves.

jamie said...

I'm pretty sure it would be illegal for a charter to use ability testing to restrict entrance, would it not?

Melissa Westbrook said...

It probably would. However, charters have a charter. They can say that it will be higher level, faster paced and that children will have to keep that pace to stay in the school. That wouldn't be illegal.

Jeanne said...

Can anyone clarify where the idea about ALO walkovers to APP at T. Marshall is coming from? To my knowledge, as a Marshall parent, nothing has been said on this topic, and neither of my children have experienced this in their APP classrooms so far this year. I may be out of the loop, but I am curious whether this is a fact (someone has first-hand knowledge)or whether it is just another rumor working its way around.

TechyMom said...

Where will the kids come from to fill ALO classes at Lowell and TM? From the Central cluster, where our Spectrum program is terrible, and where there are too many seats in programs that concentrate on below-grade-level learners, and not enough seats in programs that concentrate on at- and above-grade-level learners. Remember that ALO classes are a mix of advanced and 'regular' learners, including kids that are ahead in only one subject, and kids who are almost-Spectrum-qualfied, so you don't need full classes of advanced learners to make it work. Though, honestly, I think there's enough demand in Central to fill 3 ALO classes per grade. The 3 full K classes (2 at Lowell and 1 at TTM) seem to bear that out.

Charlie Mas said...

I sent an email asking about the APP Curriculum to the Board, the Superintendent, the CAO, and the Manager of Advanced Learning.

I recieved this reply from Ms Enfield:

Hello Charlie,

I will look into this and get back to you within a week.

Susan


So apparently, although I have never met her, we're like drinking buddies or something and on a first-name basis. So I got that going for me.

I wrote back and asked her:

Ms Enfield,

Get back to me on what?

On the existence of an APP curriculum?
On public access to the APP curriculum document?
On the implementation of the APP curriculum?
On training for teachers and administrators with the APP curriculum?
On the steps taken to assure that the APP curriculum is being taught?
On the timeline, plan and progress of the APP Audit Response project?
On the review and revision of Policy D12.00?
On the lengthy list of commitments that District staff have failed or refused to fulfill?

Which of these should I expect to hear about within a week?

- Charlie Mas


I have no reason to believe that she will meet her self-imposed deadline and I really wish that she had not set it. It can only cause trouble. If she does get back to me within a week, I would have been just as happy about it without the promise. No real upside added. But, if she doesn't get back to me before next Thursday afternoon, she has dug herself in deeper. It's all downside.

Charlie Mas said...

Moreover, why doesn't she already know about the APP curriculum? Surely she has had a meeting or two with Dr. Vaughan since she took this job. Surely she asked him what he's working on. Surely he said that his top priority was the APP curriculum. Surely she asked him how it was going. So surely she knows the status of the project. Doesn't she?

jason said...

Saying that current parents at Lowell and TM who have kids in the ALO program chose that program seems to be a big leap to me. I have kids at Lowell in APP and have spoken to several ALO parents who had no idea what it was. Many kids currently in ALO did not choose it. TT Minor kids were assigned to Lowell and some of the TM kids chose to stay - they didn't chose ALO. Many of the ALO kids at both Lowell and TM were also assigned there by the district - the district is not asking for parents to opt in. While I am sure many kids could benefit from the ALO program, I fear it's now just another of the district's unfulfilled promises. It sure looks nice on paper, though. Why wouldn't the ALO ideas be something that the district just does and a course of action? Seems basic to me - meet kids' needs.

jamie said...

Yes, it does seem very odd to say "at this school we will meet your child's need for a higher level math, but at that school they'll just have to sit there and doze off"

TechyMom said...

Well, maybe I have a sampling bias, but it does seem that most of the K families at Lowell chose it. I know we did (it was #2 on our public school form, and we chose it over the 2 private schools where our daughter was admitted). An ALO in an environment that understands advanced learning was very appealing to us. I agree that most of the 1-5 families who were moved from TTM did not choose an ALO, though Marshall did have one before the merge. I don't know how many kids who didn't come from TTM joined Lowell in 1-5, but I wouldn't really expect that many parents would take a kid out of a school where they were established to move them to a brand new program, so I don't think this year is really a good test.

Will people be choosing it next year? Well, that depends on how the SAP boundaries are drawn, and whether there's room for any kids from outside the attendance area. The unproven ALO looks a lot better than the proven-bad Spectrum program at Leschi, and it looks a lot better than an attendance-area assignment to Madrona.

Maybe it's BS. I certainly don't trust the district. But, I think I might just trust Mr. King, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt on getting the ALO up and running. We shall see...

Robert said...

I didn't know that TM had a AOL program before. Does anyone know how many classes there were?

And I agree with Jason in that it seems that all students should receive differentiated education based on abilities but with ratios of over 25-1 how does that happen without some stratification.

TechyMom said...

What I remember from the tour was that all the 1-5 classes at TM were ALO. ALO is in-class differentiation and walk-overs, not separate classes.

j.j. said...

The walkover proposal was not a rumor; you can verify with the 2nd grade teachers at TMarshall. I do hope Bob Vaughn held Julie to the APP as separate requirement, as my volunteer experience in the school makes it clear that many of the non-APP children are behind the curve and most definitely not ready for advanced learning in math, science, or reading. There are some exceptions (that I have seen), but most I met were not at the same level as the children I know in Spectrum classes.

Robert said...

You sure that they had AOL last year at TM? There are no WASAL scores for advanced learning and I can't find it on their 08 annual report...

(Thurgood Marshall offers three distinct programs: Gender-separate classrooms for implementation of
instructional strategies that are effective for boys and girls, Bilingual Orientation Center (BOC) for students new
to the country with the emphasis on English development through communication and academic instruction and
the Autism program that focus on communication, academic and life skills for students with autism.)

But yeah I would think you are right that both programs will get better over time...

TechyMom said...

The gender-separate classrooms ended a few years ago (maybe 3?). The outgoing principal was there at our tour, and she said there was an ALO. I have no reason to doubt her, though I didn't verify it. I don't know any details about how it worked.

My understanding of ALO programs is that they are more just an acknowledgement that differentiation goes above grade level as well as below, and that a first grader who is reading really well might walk across the hall to the second grade class for reading. I wouldn't necessarily expect to see test scores separated out. Are they for the north-end schools with ALO programs?

Also, having an ALO doesn't necessarily mean that any advanced kids signed up for it. TM had a pretty bad reputation before APP was moved there,

hschinske said...

I don't think test scores get separated out for ALOs at all, even when, as at West Woodland, the bulk of the ALO students qualify for the program through test scores.

Helen Schinske

SPSMom said...

Has anybody had any experience with an ALO? I have and it was a JOKE. My student was "teacher identified" and all we ended up getting was a different report card. No differentiated curriculum, no walking over to another classroom at a higher grade.

I would love to hear about anybody who has had a great experience with an ALO program.

jason said...

I am extremely disappointed that APP has no promised curriculum. It was one of the few promises the district made to placate the upset parents.

There are quite a few teachers new to APP this year (at least at the elementary level), and it has got to make their jobs that much harder that they don't know what to teach.

SE Mom said...

OT:

My student has been taking MAP tests at school for reading and math.

Has anyone heard when and how the scores will be made available to families?

SPSMom said...

My understanding about MAP testing is that parents will not receive any results - that is phase II, I think. This was covered at a board meeting and Harium was asking this same question. If memory serves me, that was the response.

SE Mom said...

Well, that's intersting, because according to info on the Advanced Learning webpages, MAP testing will be utilized for achievement scores:

"What kinds of tests are administered? All students will take a test that measures their cognitive ability (the Cognitive Abilities Test). In addition, reading and math achievement tests may also be required. We will
use achievement test results from the WASL (Spring 2009) or the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress, newly administered in our district beginning Fall 2009)."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's something to consider about the MAP results; what data you receive and when. I note that no matter who I ask - school or district - there are no results given for the PSAT last year. Sure, you know your student's result but what about at grade level? School? District?

So with MAP will you get a student score? Will you know how your school is doing at your child's grade level? District-wide?

Good luck with that if they don't like the results.

SPS mom said...
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Ben said...

My son is in 2nd grade at TM, APP. I know that the gen ed classroom next to his is identified as an ALO. Is TM doing anything different this year, or just taping different signs outside the classrooms?

Also, he hasn't seen any walkovers that he knows of.

Charlie Mas said...

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what ALOs are and how they work.

The purpose of ALOs is to provide the same acceleration and rigor found in Spectrum in an inclusive setting at a neighborhood school and to make it available to any student who chooses to participate. There is no set model for ALOs; each school designs their own. Some may include small grouping within a class, some may feature skill level grouping among classes, some may feature "walkovers" and some may be done with structured differentiation within a class. At Madison they have a "challenge" program in which students can choose to attempt the challenge assignment in their class instead of (or in addition to) the regular assignment.

The test scores for ALO students are not segregated. There should be no testing required for participation in an ALO. The District has absolutely no way of knowing which students or how many are participating in ALOs.

Spectrum-eligible and APP-eligible students who choose ALOs preserve their Spectrum or APP eligibility if they choose to use the appropriate progress report instead of the general education progress report. Other ALO students get the general education progress report.

Thurgood Marshall did have an ALO. It was one of only two in the Central, South, and Southeast clusters (Dearborn Park has the other). ALOs are much more common north of downtown where there are only a handful of neighborhood schools that have neither Spectrum nor an ALO.

I don't know the model of the Thurgood Marshall ALO. It should have been described in a document on the District web site, but these documents are notoriously vague and even if it were detailed it might not accurately reflect what actually happens in the school.

I do know that the APP classes are supposed to be self-contained, at least for the core academic subjects (reading, writing, math and science). That was an assurance that was given with the splits just as assurance of the written curriculum were given.

It would not be hard for parents of APP students to casually ask their children's teachers how much training they got with the new APP curriculum. We could learn a lot that way.

hschinske said...

SPSMom, that's an interesting critique of the MAP. I have also heard that scores tend to jump around a bit. However, IN THEORY there should be plenty of room for advanced students to show growth -- much more so than on traditional one-grade-level tests. I still think the design looks promising, and I will be quite disappointed if the MAP is as unreliable as all that.

I also have a hard time taking anyone seriously who can say "For example, I have had students who were very strong in algebra who could not add fractions or perform long division if their lives depended on those lower skills. The low level skills had minimal bearing on their higher level successes."

I have certainly known kids who didn't get really fluent with operations on fractions UNTIL algebra (me, for instance), but the idea that you can solve algebraic equations without being able to add fractions is ludicrous. Certainly if you do not UNDERSTAND fractions (which I think is implied in the "if their lives depended on it") you don't have enough number sense to do algebra. Division likewise -- in fact, fractions and division problems are very much the same thing in terms of the underlying number sense required.

Another section that struck me: "To see this problem we must ask, "Is it reasonable to believe that students declined more than half a year, or gained more than 1 year, in just half a year?" Such change would be highly unlikely - particularly, if changes in both directions occurred in each classroom." Presumably the author knew these students and knew that they were in fact progressing in a more ordinary fashion, but on the face of it progressing more than a year in just half a year is something that happens *all the time*. There is nothing particularly unlikely about that result for advanced students, who tend to proceed in jumps and plateaus even more than average students do.

No one is saying that scores on standardized tests can tell us the *whole* truth about students' achievement, and of course students do learn in a holistic fashion that can't be totally captured using a linear model. But well implemented, the tests can tell enough to be of considerable use.

Helen Schinske

Ben said...

Thanks, Charlie.

I think I'm still confused. If that's what an ALO is (self-selecting, flexibility in how it's implemented, no formal eligibility requirements), why aren't ALL classrooms in ALL schools ALOs?

Sahila said...

"For example, I have had students who were very strong in algebra who could not add fractions or perform long division if their lives depended on those lower skills. The low level skills had minimal bearing on their higher level successes."

I totally get this... this happened to my elder daughter... thanks to mixed laterality (mixed dominance) she totally got the process, understood the fundamentals of higher level math, but could not (without a calculator), even at the most basic levels of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, produce a correct answer...

Mixed laterality made it impossible for her to remember number patterns... and letter patterns also...her spelling was off just enough to be a problem (would get all the letters in a word but usually jumbled the ones in the middle, and could read and speak Japanese well but not write it because she couldnt remember the placement of the Kanji brush strokes).

This is quite a common problem, affects many children, is tested for in the first few weeks of school in New Zealand. Its not dyslexia... its that the brain hasnt assigned dominance to one hemisphere and information/input gets passed from one side to the er before being lodged somewhere for processing... this takes time and energy, which detracts from performance...

My daughter wasnt diagnosed until the end of the first year of high school. She's right eyed, left eared, right handed and left footed... her sister and brother have it to a lesser degree... have to find someone here who can test my youngest. Brain gym and physical activities like trampolining help to some extent, more so if its diagnosed early.

My daughter (now 29) still cant tell you which side is left and right without using an aide - she holds up her hands and knows the one with the letter L formed between the thumb and index finger is left... its bizarre watching her drive and having to do this if you tell her she needs to turn left or right at the next intersection...

Have talked about this issue with teachers here in the US and most dont even know this condition exists and could account for the difficulty many youngsters are having with reading, writing and math...

So, I dont really have much faith in the views of those who think that kids are failing math because we have moved away from classic math (direct) instruction - you have no idea how many hours we would drill our child in the basics - she would manage to remember times tables for about a week/10 days and then that information would fade out again...

Her poor math performance (because she didnt get credit for understanding the process, only for getting the right answer and most forms of testing punished her for getting the wrong one) was resolved when her (private) high school said - "no problem, let her use a calculator", which to some people here apparently is akin to heresy...

Imagine how much more successful and confident she would have been if she had been given that aid/tool in all of those years of primary (elementary) school...

Who cares how kids get to the right answer, as long as they understand the process? To be crude and probably offensive to animal lovers, there's more than one way to skin a cat (and my two kitties are quite safe, well and happy, thank you for your concern! LOL)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good question, Ben. You should ask Dr. Enfield.

Why would teachers differentiate curriculum to reach all learners and why would the district say to do it?

Dorothy said...

I agree with Helen that that MAP critique is lacking logic. Plus, it is completely anonymous. I could find no name or other identifying information. First rule of thumb in trusting something on the internet is can you tell who wrote it and what their agenda is.

The MAP actually would be very helpful in the case of an student with a significant deficit in one area such as fractions. The MAP would be very useful in identifying the gap in knowledge, so a child with an issue like Sahila's could get diagnosis and targeted help earlier.

As for gifted students showing lags, well, that's because gifted students in general are not taught at their frontier of learning or anything. Year after year Tennessee shows this with their value-added data. The scanty value added data SPS created shows it as well. Lowell APP kids showed about the worst value-added scores of the district. Most high performing neighborhood elementaries also had bad scores. Partly it's because kids who are ahead get to coast and slide (and yes, in APP as well) and partly because the tests didn't measure achievement at the high end accurately. The MAP data does measure achievement across grade levels more accurately, so can be a more effective tool for those pesky parents of gifted kids who don't just want their kids to slide and coast in school. Seems like the teacher (?) who wrote that critique didn't like that.

TechyMom said...

Ben asks
"I think I'm still confused. If that's what an ALO is (self-selecting, flexibility in how it's implemented, no formal eligibility requirements), why aren't ALL classrooms in ALL schools ALOs?"

An excellent question. Apparently, this is largely true in the North End, but not in Central or the South End. There is now one more school in Central where this is true: Lowell. Let's hope this is the begining of a trend.

SPS mom said...
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Bird said...

My somewhat cynical impression, gathered from school tours, is that the motivation for ALO, for both the schools as well as for some parents, is less about matching kids to the right academic challenges and more about assuring kids entry into Spectrum and APP in middle school.

One could imagine that an elementary kid tests in to the gifted program, but their parents would rather keep them at the local school. Because they want advanced classes for their child starting in middle school, however, and they aren't sure their child will be able to test in to the program at a future time, they feel compelled enroll them in a school with Spectrum or APP anyway -- unless, of course, their school has an ALO program, which guarantees them ongoing access to advanced learning.

The ALO helps the local elementary retain those top students ( I heard principles talk about "losing students" before instituting the ALO program.) It also helps the parents retain the right to advanced middle school classes.

The actual details of the ALO program, I take it, are left to the school. I gathered there is some complicated bureaucratic process they had to go through, which involved at the very least writing up a document that Charlie mentioned

BF Day has such a document (try google: BF Day ALO)

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

Not to pick on BF Day (which is a fine school), but most of the document is fairly silly. It lists a bunch of things that I'm sure the school was doing before being declared an ALO school, including book fairs and chess club. The items related to actual academic acceleration are, on the one hand, common practice (reading groups and guided reading) and, on the other, still pointlessly rigid (kids can 'walk to math', but only one year ahead).

I'm not surprised when parents say they've had wildly different experiences with ALO. I don't think as a parent I would feel any assurance that my kid would necessarily get adequate academic support, if needed, throughout elementary school. I'd only feel assurance that my kid could take the advanced classes in middle school.

Give the fuzzy definition and erratic practice of ALO, it seems to me just another way to build inequities between students. If your kid goes to an ALO school, they can meet a testing threshold anytime in elementary and be admitted to advanced middle school classes. If they don't, they'd better test well in that 5th grade year, if those classes are important to you.

I will tip my hand and say I think by middle school, advanced classes should be available to all who are willing to try them (with fixed standards in those classes, of course). Whether there should also be a self-contained APP group at that point, I'm willing to leave open. I don't know enough about any of this to say.

It should be added, I only have a Kindergartener in the school system, so my real world experience with any of this is zilch. I'm just sharing my imprssions from what district employees have told me and district documents say.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Bird, I think just from your limited view, you have it right except for one thing. I don't think initially that ALOs were thought of as a well to keep your child eligible - I think parents just figured that one out on their own.

The district needed to be able to say they were doing something for highly capable students in each classroom so ALOs were invented. Of course, for a district that wants to align curriculum, it is curious that all Spectrum programs are different and all ALO programs are different. I have no idea how the district knows how well the programs work.

As well, with the advent of the WASL, more than ever, principals wanted to keep more highly capable students in their schools. This was a way to do it. (Well, that and not telling parents about Spectrum and APP which some principals did and went so far as to not have any materials out during the testing period and/or telling parents it was not a good fit for their child.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Bird, I think just from your limited view, you have it right except for one thing. I don't think initially that ALOs were thought of as a well to keep your child eligible - I think parents just figured that one out on their own.

The district needed to be able to say they were doing something for highly capable students in each classroom so ALOs were invented. Of course, for a district that wants to align curriculum, it is curious that all Spectrum programs are different and all ALO programs are different. I have no idea how the district knows how well the programs work.

As well, with the advent of the WASL, more than ever, principals wanted to keep more highly capable students in their schools. This was a way to do it. (Well, that and not telling parents about Spectrum and APP which some principals did and went so far as to not have any materials out during the testing period and/or telling parents it was not a good fit for their child.)

Sahila said...

"The MAP actually would be very helpful in the case of an student with a significant deficit in one area such as fractions. The MAP would be very useful in identifying the gap in knowledge, so a child with an issue like Sahila's could get diagnosis and targeted help earlier." - Dorothy...

I think you miss the point... this is a physiological/neurological problem that cannot be cured... it can be accommodated, but not cured... children with this issue will probably never remember their times tables or ever spell correctly without the help of a spell checking programme...

And yet MAP and other tests - on which results so much of academic success/tracking depends - dont allow for a primary biological causation - they just jump to conclusions (the answer is wrong), label (lazy, stupid children) and punish (humiliate)...

http://www.ldrc.ca/contents/view_article/212/

Teachers already know - very early in the piece - which kids have problems with basic math and literacy processes... standardised testing doesnt provide any further insight at all - it just says these kids are failures... what we need is baseline assessment early in the school experience and individualised learning plans for EVERY child... and stop making assumptions that because kids cant handle fractions they cant do well at higher math - they can - they just have to be allowed to use the appropriate tools and we need to stop being puritanical, educational snobs about that...

Bird said...

Of course, I don't mean to impugn everyone's intentions related to ALO's. I'm sure there are parents and district employees that believe that ALO's exist to support student learning, and are not simply a formality to maneuver a bureaucratic system. (Whenever Charlie writes about ALO, it, in theory, sounds great!)

I also don't think ALO was initially intended solely to retain high achieving students in their local schools.

That said, I think the fact that the only guarantee associated with the program district-wide is related to the retention of Spectrum/APP eligibility, probably undercuts the commitment to the program's stated intentions. I can imagine school staff thinking that the details of the implementation don't really matter, since, perhaps, parents are still getting something for keeping their students in the program.

I doubt anyone would want to get rid of this aspect of the program, particularly when Spectrum programs are not evenly distributed about the district.

I will continue to be bothered by it though, as well as by the fact that people's experiences with these programs can vary so much.

Most of all, I hate having to sleuth around to figure out what the 'real' deal is compared to what little information is available on these programs from the district.

Seriously, if so many readers of this blog, don't know what's involved with ALO (as evidenced by this recent thread), then most parents ( who don't spend their free time reading about BTA III ), certainly don't know.

I'm tired of purely relying on information from a 'friend of a friend' to find out what's really going on in schools.

Has the district ever done parent satisfaction surveys? I've seen on the school metrics pages, surveys of staff and students about school climate. I'd like to see parents surveyed about their satisfaction with their schools and the particular programs in them (ALO, special ed, ELL, etc.) And I'd like to see this published on theweb. I'm sure other parents would like an additional data point when looking at schools in the district. And I would hope that the district would want this information as well. It boggles my mind that they don't.

Every year, when I do a job performance, I get input not only from my co-workers, but also from my clients. Of course, I want to know what they think of my work. The district should be the same.

Is a parent satisfaction survey the sort of thing the school board could enact via a policy change?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bird, there is a handout at every Board meeting about how a citizen can initiate a new policy. So yes, it could be done.

wseadawg said...

Bird: WORD!!

What a dead-on description of so many of our experiences in this district. I have brought this lack of marketing problem to so many board members on so many occasions, I'm exhausted. They clearly focus their aim and attention to the outside public, and act as if they have no idea how, when, or even why to market to their actual "customer base." In my business, my richest referral source is my own client base. And who's isn't? Its the most direct, most effective, and most cost-efficient marketing there is, but this district and board just plain stink at it.

The focus seems to be on getting parents of 4 year olds to buy into public schools. Hence, bilingual, IB, International, etc. Grow, grow, grow. But once someone commits, they are on their own after that.

We had no idea what APP was, or that it even existed when we started, and I only new about Spectrum because a friend in the program told me about it. We heard alot more about both when we met principals and toured buildings, but neither program was in our neighborhood school, so without the "inside information," we'd have never known until we enrolled somewhere, then would've had to go through the pain and anguish of switching schools.

When SPS thinks "marketing" it's all to those outside the system. Those already here are on their own. Yet they like to act like they are "running a business." Wow.

hschinske said...

Just got the Superintendent's E-News, which says that MAP results will be available at student conferences in November.

"This fall Seattle Public Schools is taking an important step towards our goal of
ensuring an excellent education for every student. Teachers will begin implementing
the Measures of Academic Progress(TM) (MAP) assessment for students in kindergarten
through Grade 9 in 76 schools across the District. MAP is a brief computer-based
assessment that will allow teachers to track student progress and use assessment
data to provide personalized instruction. Information about student academic progress
will be available to teachers more frequently and will help them adjust instruction
based on students' needs. Teachers will be sharing initial MAP results with families
during parent-teacher conferences in November. Additional information about MAP
is available here [http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102724737161&s=9707&e=0015PJcMg1fV44jfc_8g1T7XiUAZoOVq_reyn3EG4BIa8iqhgf0YJGxQaagMgWFpw9nCcjbyxIwk6iPArAIfV0Y17trCCRMLcHdRHT4zpOL-ZhaaUi4w8fD2MmUDyPpNCz9WLr25T6gdu7BByC2S0NYFHCmAQ7EMgeGQXrrEXYdDJA5AvUKUyNewMQVkEZzSNS4abBjcIu5zTpGE4yfnzi6qUECddzl9LMv]."

That whopper of a URL seems to be the same as http://www.seattleschools.org/area/m_news/comp.dxml?app=Story&storyId=2357&settings=default. Or try http://tinyurl.com/ybwlffy.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

Ah, yes, the enigma that is Advanced Learning Opportunity.

Ben asks, and quite reasonably, if all an ALO provides is acceleration and increased rigor provided to individual students as appropriate, why does that have to have a name and a program and a structure? Why isn't that just done anyway in the course of good teaching?

I give up. Why isn't it? First of all, in a lot of classrooms in a lot of schools it IS happening in as an ordinary part of good teaching. Let's not lose sight of that fact. There are a lot of great teachers doing a lot of great work.

In the classrooms where it isn't happening, there could be any of a variety of reasons: an ineffective teacher is one reason, but it could also be because the teacher just doesn't have the time to create differentiated lessons, or the teacher might not have the extraordinary talent necessary to differentiate instruction, the teacher may not know that a student is ready and able to succeed with more challenge, and, worst of all, the teacher may not want to accelerate individual students' learning for fear of distubing the vertical integration of the curriculum or out of some misplaced political commitment to equality. Whatever. The reason it doesn't matter.

Why it isn't happening isn't important. The important thing is that we know that it isn't happening and what are we going to do about it?

The ALO is supposed to give families some assurance that it IS happening. The problem with this, of course, is that ALOs are not subject to any review so there is, actually, no assurance of quality or effectiveness of any kind. There is no assurance that the school is doing anything other than claiming that they have an ALO. When ALOs were created, they were supposed to come with an accreditation process, but the District quickly dropped that.

Even when the District institutes its Performance Measurement System and (supposedly) starts checking to make sure that teachers are teaching the curriculum, that won't mean much if it doesn't check to make sure that APP teachers are teaching the APP curriculum, and that Spectrum and ALO teachers are teaching the Spectrum curriculum.

Bird's insight is excellent. What is the one thing that we can say for certain about ALOs? They preserve eligibility for Spectrum and APP. People aren't stupid. That's the one thing that we know ALOs do, and that may well be the one thing that people are using them to do.

The other thing that ALOs have been proven to do is keep those students in their neighborhood schools. So the schools that were concerned about the loss of high performing students to Spectrum and APP created ALOs as a means to retain students. You could say that it was to serve the students, but look at the facts.

In the Central cluster, where the Spectrum program is weak and not a threat to steal students, the only ALO was Thurgood Marshall. That ALO dates back to the days when Ben Wright was the principal there and is his creation. I don't think any Thurgood Marshall principal before or since would have created it.

Same story in the south, southeast and north clusters where the Spectrum programs are not attractive, the there is only one ALO per cluster. And the one in the southeast cluster just started this year.

In the West Seattle-South cluster where there is no Spectrum program to poach students there is no ALO either.

The incidence of ALOs is so highly correlated with the drawing power of a Spectrum program in the cluster that it cannot be coincidental.

The only oddball cluster is West Seattle-North, where there is a strong Spectrum program at Lafayette, but no ALO. I'm not sure what's up there except that all of those schools are full and are not worried about losing students.

Charlie Mas said...

Oh! I can't believe that I haven't mentioned this yet!

If it turns out, as I suspect, that there is no APP curriculum implemented this year, complete with teacher and principal training prior to the start of classes in September, the only appropriate response from the community would be a WASL boycott.

I, of course, promoted the idea of a WASL boycott starting last year and continuing until the promises are kept, but surely the community needs to take some action now to provide accountability and there really is no other action that the community CAN take.

Ben said...

Charlie—

Can you (or anyone) explain to me about ALOs and Spectrum or APP eligibility? I don't understand what ALOs have to do with Spectrum or APP.

Thanks!

hschinske said...

Ben, see for example http://www.seattleschools.org/area/advlearning/documents/ALOPlanWestWoodland.pdf, which states in part:

"Advanced learners are first through fifth grade students who have been tested and qualified for Seattle Schools Spectrum or APP programs and are expected to be performing at least one grade above their current grade level expectations. They remain qualified for these higher level
designations by participating in our ALO program and receiving the ALO report card. Success in our program along with strong teacher
recommendations, allows these students to enter available spaces in Spectrum and APP classes, at anytime, including middle school programs. We serve our advanced learners within the classroom and include other students capable of above grade level work."

I thought for a while this extended eligibility was something that only West Woodland was pushing (they make a really big point of a lot of APP/Spectrum-qualified students choosing to stay at West Woodland), but apparently B.F. Day does so as well, and maybe it's now standard practice. As far as I know, though, an APP-qualified student is *not* allowed to stay in a Spectrum program for elementary school and yet remain qualified for Washington/Hamilton entry in sixth grade. Anyone hear different?

Helen Schinske

another mom said...

Eligibility is continuous as long as the student is enrolled in an Advanced Learning Program. The implication for APP qualified is that either Spectrum or ALO enrollment retains APP eligibility. If eligible for APP and enrolled in an ALO at the 5th grade allows the student to enroll for APP 6th grade.

From Adv. Learning web pages:

"Students who enroll in the Accelerated Progress Program, Spectrum, or an Advanced Learning Opportunity (ALO) school, retain their eligibility through the 8th grade as long as they remain enrolled in one of these programs."


http://www.seattleschools.org/area/advlearning/eligibilitystatus.htm

another mom said...

Sorry for the really bad sentences or non sentences...guess I am not advanced.

another mom said...

Ben, just think of an ALO as another option for families with students who are either APP or Spectrum eligible. ALO's are available at many N.End elementaries and parents sometimes choose to stay at the neighborhood school (one with an ALO) rather than change schools.

SPSMom said...

Still looking for just one parent with a postive ALO experience?

Anybody?

Ask friends.

Otherwise, I am left of the opinion that ALO is a JOKE.

Charlie Mas said...

The failure of ALOs as an effective means for students to get an accelerated and rigorous academic opportunity is directly attributable to the District's utter failure/refusal to provide any kind of quality assurance for the programs. I have to say again - I was there when ALOs were created. I was a member of the committee that created them. Their creation was absolutely predicated on the District's commitment to closely review them annually for quality and effectiveness.

In the absence of those reviews, there is no quality assurance and no accountability. The schools, realizing that they could get credit for promises without actually having to fulfill them (a Seattle Public Schools speciality), make the claim without feeling any obligation to do the work.

The same situation exists for Spectrum. The District makes no effort to review the programs to confirm their quality or effectiveness. Consequently a number of the programs are Spectrum in name only. The schools are under no pressure to improve their program, and the District feels no obligation to relocate programs that aren't working. The schools with small programs didn't have enough people demanding improvement to make a difference in the site-based decisions.

APP, because it existed at only one site per grade, didn't suffer from comparison and had enough voices demanding quality to get it. Now that APP has been split, there ARE two locations and the voice at each location has been cut in half.

The curriculum was supposed to be the assurance of quality. In the absence of that curriculum, the APP community has no assurance of quality whatsoever. Certainly nothing from the District level. We can now anticipate APP's downward spiral until it as spotty as Spectrum and, eventually, as universally meaningless as ALOs.

Stu said...

APP, because it existed at only one site per grade, didn't suffer from comparison and had enough voices demanding quality to get it. Now that APP has been split, there ARE two locations and the voice at each location has been cut in half.

Charlie,

I've been searching around online for a quote from one of the APP meetings last year, while they were making promisesd and tearing apart the program. I thought it was on the record; I'm sure that I heard it said, though it was a casual remark. It was along the lines of "I would really like to see APP split again in the near future so that there are four evenly distributed APP schools across the district." I remember because someone next to me muttered "and I'm sure they'll all be located south of I-90."

Do you know who made the comment? It was someone official.

stu

Ben said...

Stu, they want to split APP again and again, until APP™ exists in every school. At which point, they will finally have killed APP.

hschinske said...

I was under the impression that an APP-qualified student who enrolled in a Spectrum program remained *Spectrum*-eligible, but eventually lost their APP eligibility. That certainly used to be the case, and absent a specific guarantee that things have changed (the language on the Advanced Learning website doesn't seem to me to rule out the former interpretation), I wouldn't base any important decision for a child on the assumption that it was now otherwise.

Helen Schinske

jason said...

APP will have died long before it gets to every school. Before the split the district kept saying over and over that splitting APP will provide opportunity to more kids. They were asked over and over to explain this and never did. How will having APP kids in the building suddenly create all these kids who are in the top 2%? At any given school there won't be more than 10 or so kids who would meet this criteria, no matter who else is in the building.

With the talk of combining APP and non APP in standard classrooms, the demise clock has already started ticking. Teachers just don't have the time to differentiate to this extreme.

ArchStanton said...

I am trying to get a sense of how different the demographics are between Lowell and Thurgood Marshall.

These are the numbers I have for Lowell:

K = 42
ALO (General Ed) = 57
APP = 295

FRL % = 21.6%

Can anyone provide the numbers for T.M. or tell me where to find them online? (I'd call the office, but it's Saturday.)

Charlie Mas said...

If the APP community isn't discussing a WASL boycott, then I sure would like to know why not.

If the APP Advisory Committee isn't advocating for some accountability then I sure would like to know why not.

Aren't the APP Advisory Committee the appropriate people to be organizing the community, demanding accountability, and taking action?

Stu said...

There's still a WASL? I thought that was cancelled.

Did I miss something or just misunderstand?

stu

ArchStanton said...

I'll try and respond to Charlie, starting with the second part of his post.

Charlie Mas said:
If the APP Advisory Committee isn't advocating for some accountability then I sure would like to know why not.
Aren't the APP Advisory Committee the appropriate people to be organizing the community, demanding accountability, and taking action?


Unfortunately, the APP-AC avoids any sort of activist or advocacy role, something that many of us were frustrated with last year and did not realize until it was too late. Below is a snippet of a recent email from the APP-AC chair.

APP Advisory Committee
Email 118: A re-View from this Chair
June 19, 2009
From: Stephanie Bower, Chair APP Advisory Committee

"...While many fought the splits, or it's probably better to say fought to keep the cohorts together, some welcomed the splits and cohousing of APP with more programs and the placement of APP closer to their homes. Exactly what to say and do in response was a fine line to walk for the PTSA's at Lowell and WMS as well as the APP AC, which is an advisory committee, not an advocacy group...


I guess that they advised us. In the heat of things last fall, when many parents were mobilizing that first Thanksgiving weekend, they were caught by surprise. They advised us to slow down, wait and see. They advised us that they had been through this before and knew how to handle it. They advised us that many in the district disliked the APP program for various reasons and would like to see us taken down a notch. They advised us that we might not escape this time.

The APP-AC may serve a useful function as a liaison between the district, board, schools, parents, teachers, etc., but they certainly don't see advocacy as their role. The last thing I expect from them is to to be agitating the APP community to action.

ArchStanton said...

Now for the first part of Charlie's post.

Charlie Mas said:
If the APP community isn't discussing a WASL boycott, then I sure would like to know why not.

I won't presume to tell you the minds of others, but I can tell you some of what I think, feel, and observe as a fairly new SPS and APP parent.

The APP community is fragmented into five schools instead of three. Like our childrens' friendships, the networks that we were beginning to form last year are now split by distance (and in some cases enmity). Sure, it can be overcome, but it is harder to maintain connections and work together when you don't have those face-to-face interactions that happen when you are picking up, dropping-off, and volunteering.

The APP community feels defeated and exhausted. Nothing we did or said last year made any difference. (Anyone who frequents this blog knows the details.) Now we are left to pick up the pieces and try to make the new arrangements work - and I can tell you from personal experience that there wasn't enough time to get all the ducks lined up, that despite best intentions, many things were unforeseen, forgotten, or simply put off because there was too much to do in a short amount of time. I have already spent a fair amount of energy working in areas where I know I can be effective.

Personally, I don't have the knowledge and experience of the "old salts" on this board. I don't really know how an APP boycott of WASL would affect SPS and whether the threat of one is enough to gain anything. I don't know how the students and families that would boycott would be affected. It's hard for me to advocate someone else boycotting the WASL when my child doesn't yet have to take it.

I'm not saying that a WASL boycott is a bad idea - just that I don't know enough or feel that I am in a position to lead the charge.

ArchStanton said...

Stu,

From the OSPI site http://www.k12.wa.us/assessment/wasl/default.aspx

"The Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) was given as the state’s primary assessment from spring 1997 to summer 2009. It has been replaced by the grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE)"

As I understand it, it's not the WASL, but effectively it's more or less the WASL.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arch, I don't see a lot of downside to a WASL boycott. Yes, the schools AYP will look off but it'll be a blip. Look at it as muscle flexing.

Which leads me to...parents have muscle. Oh, we do BUT only in numbers. If we massed at the Stanford headquarters, do you not think there would be notice? If we blitzed the City Council, you don't think they won't notice? If we blitzed the Times, again? If we all staged a one-day walk-out in general protest?

BUT, just as APP is split, so SPS parents are fragmented. Mostly, and I mean this kindly and not coldly, people just don't like to rock the boat. Either they think it won't work or they worry about some unforeseen repercussions. For some, it would be more of a bother than they believe it's worth.

That's sad really because parents in large numbers really could move mountains.

Just as Arch said the APP group isn't likely to advocate or be activists? Very scary. You might be thought of as pushy or annoying or aggressive or nagging or yikes! negative or the worst thing that can be hurled at you "You are hurting the kids."

The PTA? It's the same thing. The Washington State Council tells the Regional Councils and in turn the Seattle Council tells the locals. I have rarely, if ever, seen a local council say no to a proposed list of goals or agenda. I have never seen anyone stand up and say, "We have power as PTA. Let's use it." Because, in case you didn't know, PTA is the largest parent group in the country. Those are real numbers.

What if PTAs said, you know what? We're going to raise money for enhancements for our schools but this year, we're not putting money into the school. No paying for teachers, materials, desks, landscaping. We'll do the book sales and support the music and the arts and the chess club. But no money directly to the school. Do you think the school would notice? Do you think the district would?

Of course.

People love, love, love to complain about this district. And, they will tell you they have written to the Board and written to the Superintendent. And that's good. But words won't work here. Only action and you either have to have some fire-power on your own (hard to come by) or you need numbers. If I could get 1 out of every 3 people who complain, to really speak up and out, it would be great. But that 'ol "wait and see" attitude, well, that will get you nothing.

So for many people, as is the case, they like their school. In most cases, they would love for the district to just leave their school alone. But they see that the power the district has over every school - principal selection, program movement, building condition, etc. - well, no school is immune from what havoc the district can create.

For APP, I see the writing on the wall and believe now is the time to fight back. I really believe the Superintendent is not all that interested in gifted programming and it may be too late for Dr. Enfield (who professes a deep interest) to do anything about it. But that's a choice that community has to make.

I mean, my original dog is the fight long ago was Spectrum. And you can see how far I have gotten with that.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arch, I don't see a lot of downside to a WASL boycott. Yes, the schools AYP will look off but it'll be a blip. Look at it as muscle flexing.

Which leads me to...parents have muscle. Oh, we do BUT only in numbers. If we massed at the Stanford headquarters, do you not think there would be notice? If we blitzed the City Council, you don't think they won't notice? If we blitzed the Times, again? If we all staged a one-day walk-out in general protest?

BUT, just as APP is split, so SPS parents are fragmented. Mostly, and I mean this kindly and not coldly, people just don't like to rock the boat. Either they think it won't work or they worry about some unforeseen repercussions. For some, it would be more of a bother than they believe it's worth.

That's sad really because parents in large numbers really could move mountains.

Just as Arch said the APP group isn't likely to advocate or be activists? Very scary. You might be thought of as pushy or annoying or aggressive or nagging or yikes! negative or the worst thing that can be hurled at you "You are hurting the kids."

The PTA? It's the same thing. The Washington State Council tells the Regional Councils and in turn the Seattle Council tells the locals. I have rarely, if ever, seen a local council say no to a proposed list of goals or agenda. I have never seen anyone stand up and say, "We have power as PTA. Let's use it." Because, in case you didn't know, PTA is the largest parent group in the country. Those are real numbers.

What if PTAs said, you know what? We're going to raise money for enhancements for our schools but this year, we're not putting money into the school. No paying for teachers, materials, desks, landscaping. We'll do the book sales and support the music and the arts and the chess club. But no money directly to the school. Do you think the school would notice? Do you think the district would?

Of course.

People love, love, love to complain about this district. And, they will tell you they have written to the Board and written to the Superintendent. And that's good. But words won't work here. Only action and you either have to have some fire-power on your own (hard to come by) or you need numbers. If I could get 1 out of every 3 people who complain, to really speak up and out, it would be great. But that 'ol "wait and see" attitude, well, that will get you nothing.

So for many people, as is the case, they like their school. In most cases, they would love for the district to just leave their school alone. But they see that the power the district has over every school - principal selection, program movement, building condition, etc. - well, no school is immune from what havoc the district can create.

For APP, I see the writing on the wall and believe now is the time to fight back. I really believe the Superintendent is not all that interested in gifted programming and it may be too late for Dr. Enfield (who professes a deep interest) to do anything about it. But that's a choice that community has to make.

I mean, my original dog is the fight long ago was Spectrum. And you can see how far I have gotten with that.

gavroche said...

ArchStanton said:

...The APP community feels defeated and exhausted. Nothing we did or said last year made any difference. (Anyone who frequents this blog knows the details.) Now we are left to pick up the pieces and try to make the new arrangements work...

Actually, Arch, a lot of us are as angry as we were when the split was first proposed last November, and have not given up in any sense.

We have made many people aware at various levels of state and local government what went on, protested in various forms, done a lot of research into what's REALLY going on in SPS, and have not surrendered.

Also, while it's true that most of the APP community's arguments against the split, sound and logical as they were, were pretty much ignored by a School Board and Superintendent with a preordained agenda to split the program (and, I would argue, a lack of understanding of APP and the kids who need the program), Lowell is still open -- which was not the original plan.

The Superintendent and School Board DID encounter pushback that manifested itself in various ways, from the activists in the APP community and others in the District whose schools and programs were idiotically and irrationally threatened by Supt. Goodloe-Johnson's decidedly non-excellent "Capacity Management Plan."

There were petitions, rallies and protests that made front page news and lead the TV news. There are lawsuits and appeals still pending. The Superintendent and Board do not come across well in any of this.

This isn't over.

Also remember that the original plan was to close Lowell and send half of APP to Hawthorne, half to Thurgood Marshall, and Special Ed to nowhere specific. The APP and Special Ed community fought back and saved Lowell from closure and saved Lowell's Special Ed kids from eviction.

It may well be up to ordinary APP parents to survive this current situation and make the program stronger, but I believe it can, and it will be in spite of the District.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and her band of 5 rubber-stampers on the School Board go down on record for irrationally voting to split apart one of the strongest schools in the District.

Frankly, I think it makes them look pretty stupid.

And if they do continue to slice and dice the program into oblivion, it will make them look stupider still.

People will look back on SPS history and say, "Once upon a time Seattle Public Schools offered a great program for its most highly capable learners that kept the kids with their same age group but taught them at an accelerated level.

At the elementary level the kids shared the school with some of the District's most medically fragile Special Ed kids to create an amazing and diverse community. It was truly a visionary school for which the District should be proud and commended, and was.

But then one year a highly paid Superintendent from out of town and a compliant School Board voted to break the school apart.

Their names were: Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Michael DeBell, Steve Sundquist, Cheryl Chow, Peter Maier and Sherry Carr.

And then they broke the school apart again, and again, until nothing was left.

And they called it 'excellence for all.'"

Charlie Mas said...

Okay. So the APP - AC now denies that they have any advocacy role.

Fine.

Then it is time for another group to form to take on the advocacy role.

Maybe its the PTA at each school. Maybe it's time for APP to form a Program PTA much as there is a Special Education PTA. Maybe it will be some other new group.

Doesn't matter who does it so long as someone does.

So it isn't called the WASL anymore. Fine. So it's called the MSP and the HSPE. Fine. Whatever. It doesn't matter what it's called, APP students shouldn't take it this year. And that's at the high school level as well. They can pass it on one of the four other chances they get.

The next step, I guess, is to get a schedule for the PTA meetings for each of the five schools and get a spot on the agenda for the upcoming meetings. There the advocates of the boycott can make their pitch for accountability, rally support, and spread the word.

I would expect that ALL of the families at these five schools would refuse the tests. The non-APP families should boycott in solidarity with their APP classmates. The only exception would be students at Garfield who sincerely believe that they need every chance they can get to pass the tests.

Central Cluster Mom said...

Charlie said:

Maybe its the PTA at each school. Maybe it's time for APP to form a Program PTA much as there is a Special Education PTA. Maybe it will be some other new group.

I love this idea. I am an APP parent - but I think we should go further and look at an Advanced Learning PTA - including Spectrum parents. Spectrum families have received the short end of the stick for many many years in the southend and all those families on the waitlists in the northend - if we added in Spectrum families - we increase the number participating all over the city.

Advanced Learning at both levels is what needs advocacy - we need to work together.

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

Also remember that the original plan was to close Lowell and send half of APP to Hawthorne, half to Thurgood Marshall, and Special Ed to nowhere specific. The APP and Special Ed community fought back and saved Lowell from closure and saved Lowell's Special Ed kids from eviction.

To be honest, this annoyed the hell out of me when it all went down. Like many other APP parents, we found out about the closure stuff while away on vacation. We fully expected our APP Reps to come out swinging but, starting day one, all I heard was that the split was a "done deal" and that the best we could hope for was to control some of the damage. They fought to keep the building open but approached everything else as a negotiation when, looking at the logic and numbers, it should have been a "no way can we let this happen."

We have to remember that these are political decisions that are being made and have nothing to do with equity or quality of education. The board and superintendent must be fought on THAT level; the decisions they've made are already biting them in the ass and this has to be kept in the public eye. The biggest threat we have is not the boycott, though a district-wide boycott by ALL advanced learning programs might grab some attention; the biggest thing is the no vote on any levy that doesn't have specific remedies built in for non-compliance.

As far as getting a new advocacy group together, the most powerful group to have would be a collection of Spectrum parents from throughout the district. APP got screwed for sure but Spectrum is really the advanced learning "shame of the district." Spectrum is not only getting short-changed educationally but even politically they're out of luck. The board and superintendent are SO concerned with appearances and south end success and yet they completely neglect Spectrum. This needs to be shoved in their faces until they do something.

stu

Charlie Mas said...

How do we go about forming an Advanced Learning PTA?

ArchStanton said...

I think we need to call it something else to remove any associations with existing groups and their ties to the district. PTAs and ACs imply that we are following those models - and therefore not advocating or agitating.

Advanced Learning Advocacy group?

gavroche said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gavroche said...

Stu said...
To be honest, this annoyed the hell out of me when it all went down. Like many other APP parents, we found out about the closure stuff while away on vacation. We fully expected our APP Reps to come out swinging but, starting day one, all I heard was that the split was a "done deal" and that the best we could hope for was to control some of the damage.


Stu -- I agree; many of the supposed leaders of the APP community bizarrely told the rest of the community to give up from the start.

I have heard that, last year, before the Superintendent announced her closures plan, the District approached "community leaders" throughout the District to try (threaten?) to get them to buy into the closures plan and then sell it to their constituents.

I know of one such leader who said No way! (much to her credit), and then found the District no longer returned her calls...

So I suspect that happened with APP as well.

There was something so strange about the way many of the APP "leaders" sold the community out from the start, told parents not to fight, told parents 'there is no north end location available' (ie. so give up), who told parents they were expected to 'raise all the boats' with their kids and resources (an insulting insinuation to all concerned, including the kids & staff at Thurgood and Hawthorne). APP parents were also told 'it could have been much, much worse.' --all efforts to silence or dissuade dissent.

So I suspect that some from the APP community were also approached in advance of the announcement and told to suck it up and sell it to the rest of the community.

And I believe that, shockingly, a number of them did.

So the pushback I was referring to in my earlier post was the efforts ordinary APP parents did IN SPITE OF what APP 'leadership' told them to do. And I know that a lot of efforts were made by some to save the school and the program, some of which are still manifesting themselves in other ways.

True, these parents didn't manage to keep the program whole, but it's kind of amazing that they accomplished anything at all seeing as how much the deck was stacked against them.

So I think you and I see the whole debacle similarly.

And at least now we know who APP parents can rely on to fight for the program and who they can't rely on at all. Painful, valuable lesson.

ArchStanton said...

Also remember that the original plan was to close Lowell and send half of APP to Hawthorne, half to Thurgood Marshall, and Special Ed to nowhere specific. The APP and Special Ed community fought back and saved Lowell from closure and saved Lowell's Special Ed kids from eviction.

As much as I would like to believe that we had at least that much influence, I'm fairly certain that that was part of their strategy. Just like gavroche, I felt like we were sold out by some. I also think that they had no real intention of moving APP to Hawthorne and T. Marshall. That was their lowball offer to set an example of how much worse it could be, so that when they threw us a bone of T. Marshall and Lowell, we could feel like we got something, even if it wasn't keeping the program together, or a true North-South split. The same thing with Montlake - I didn't believe for one moment that they would close Montlake and send them to Lowell. They just had to threaten some schools that were perceived as North or privileged while they were closing Central and South schools. Montlake gets called out to do that dance every couple of years, but nothing happens.

Maureen said...

If anyone with APP kids at Garfield is still following this thread: Can you tell me if your kids say that nonAPP kids are poorly prepared for the AP classes they are taking at Garfield? In other words, do they feel exceptionally well prepared for the courses they take in HS--do they leave the kids from TOPS or the other comprehensive MSs or the non-APP WMS kids in the dust?

If not, do you expect this to be the case once the APP curriculum is set?

(I have no snarky intentions whatsoever--I'm really curious. My kid is at RHS and doesn't seem to know anyone who came through APP.)

Sahila said...

APP will have died long before it gets to every school. Before the split the district kept saying over and over that splitting APP will provide opportunity to more kids. They were asked over and over to explain this and never did. How will having APP kids in the building suddenly create all these kids who are in the top 2%? At any given school there won't be more than 10 or so kids who would meet this criteria, no matter who else is in the building.

Actually, its possible... at Room 9, they are trying a vertical curriculum in math... everyone in the school - k-8 - has math at the same time in the morning, and kids go to whatever level they are capable at... if your child is doing math 2 grades ahead of his/her peers, they go to whatever teacher is teaching that level... if your child is working 2 grades lower than his/her peers, they go to that level... the focus is on each child working to the best of HIS/HER ability, not to a standardised grade level, comparing him/her with other children... this is reinforced by the mixed grade (3 year span) classes...

In Australia, many schools are going grades 1-12, and have instituted vertical curricula so that kids can work at their own level...

Its totally possible to educate APP-eligible/capable kids within a general school population, IF there is the political and pedagogical will...

And the additional advantage is that academically gifted kids get to stay with their own age group socially in an inclusive, diverse environment, which for many is a need because they generally dont have advanced social skills and tha maturity that comes only with age and more experience... my gifted child skipped two years in primary school (think she was 8) and never felt comfortable with her older classmates as her school years passed by...

hschinske said...

Maureen, I really can't answer your question, as my daughter in APP transferred to Nova before getting to any AP classes, but I have to say that it never occurred to me that APP curriculum in elementary and middle school was *meant* to be particularly a preparation for AP classes, except in the case of math, where being ahead is what gives you enough time to get to at least one AP class and perhaps two or three. It certainly doesn't surprise me if students from other programs do well.

Incidentally, I am very suspicious of any course that's taught specifically as a preparation for some other, especially when it's presented as an endurance test that you *have* to get through in order to be qualified to do the cool course somewhere down the line. I've generally found that the courses where you hear the most about what students are learning THIS year are the best preparation for the future ... much better than courses where you're always hearing about what's supposedly going to happen in some OTHER year.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

Well it has been a week since Susan Enfield told me that she would get back to me within a week, but I haven't heard from her.

Setting that deadline for herself was a bad, bad idea. No one asked her to do it. It becomes just one more promise they failed to keep.

I sent her a message this evening noting that the deadline had passed and asking the questions again. I asked them in a fairly pointed fashion.

I'm not a nice man.

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