Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flexing Parent Muscle

(Apologies; this is a new thread of a post I made on Charlie's thread about APP accountability. I felt like maybe we might want to have this discussion and find out what stops people from stepping up to truly fight for what we want from our district. Arch Stanton had said an APP WASL boycott wouldn't likely happen without advocacy from the APP parent group. Here's what I said.)

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 with letters or requests to write op-eds every day of the week, again, any notice? 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're 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 what to do. Yes, we vote but I never hear real discussion about whether these goals make sense to local PTAs. 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 "wait and see" attitude, well, that will get you nothing.

So for many people, as is the case, they like their school. 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. - and that NO school is immune from what havoc the district can create. But that still doesn't move them.

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.

Lastly, I should publicly apologize to Dorothy Neville. She's a member of the RHS PTSA and posts here frequently. She was at our PTSA meeting and spoke out on a couple of big issues at RHS that our principal, Brian Vance, was explaining to parents at the meeting. She had valid points and stated them bluntly. She was right on her points; she wasn't saying what was done was wrong or that she disagreed with it. She stated that Mr. Vance had not clearly backed up his points/claims and, despite her best efforts, he didn't clearly explain them as he should.

This is a case where other parents should have chimed in and said, "Wait a minute. Answer her question about equity and the data behind it." And the first person to do that should have been me. So for all my talk about standing up, I was distracted and irritated about other things at the meeting and I just didn't do it.

And I should have.

(P.S. Go vote for Children's Hospital to have a new playroom.)

124 comments:

gavroche said...

I for one have certainly not given up the fight for APP -- and public schools in general. So count me in.

gavroche said...

And as I said on the original APP Curriculum post, APP parents are most definitely capable of fighting back -- and did.

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.'"

ArchStanton said...

Melissa Westbrook said: "Arch Stanton had said an APP WASL boycott wouldn't likely happen without advocacy from the APP parent group."

For the record, what I said in response to Charlie Mas' question was that the APP Advisory Committee does not "see advocacy as their role. The last thing I expect from them is to to be agitating the APP community to action."

My point being that APP parents would have to boycott the WASL without the support and probably with the express disapproval of the APP-AC.

I also stated that: "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."

If parents see the value of a WASL boycott, I do think they would do so even with out the support of the APP-AC.

Charlie Mas said...

I will spare you the need to review previous posts in this blog to discover that the only action that students and families can take to exercise some accountability, short of litigation, is to boycott the AYP tests (formerly known as the WASL).

There is no other action.

Yes, we can have words, but words alone are not effective. Action is required.

What actions have actually worked? There are only three things that I have seen that cause a response from the District: the threat of litigation, bad press, and money.

We aren't going to withhold money.

We don't have a Court case.

That leaves bad press. Believe me, a WASL boycott will get press attention and it will embarass the District and so it will cause them to act.

zb said...

"That leaves bad press. Believe me, a WASL boycott will get press attention and it will embarass the District and so it will cause them to act."

Honestly, try out this sentiment on a group of non-APP parents, the ones who generally think that the APP parents are a privileged, well-off section of the SPS community who have managed to get something special and extra for their kids. I wouldn't count on the publicity of a threatened boycot, and its implication: "we're better than everyone else, and if we don't participate, the system will be hurt" coming off particularly well.

Frankly, the associated publicity would smack of a teacher's strike. Yes, much of what they ask for is reasonable, and to the benefit of the children. But, people see them damaging the system, for something that is to their own benefit. The APP parents could well be painted in the same way if they were to pursue a boycott.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

But if you could get a chunk of all the parents...and don't put the focus on APP, that negative image could go away. I don't have a child in SPS right now (though I would in an alternative universe) but I would definitely do all I could to encourage friends who do to participate.

I agree with Charlie, after 11 years, I have seen nothing that will move the District other than as Charlie noted, lawsuits and/or bad press.

TechyMom said...

I have a vague pre-child recollection of a proposed WASL boycott by Spectrum parents, maybe 7or 8 years ago. Does anyone know the history of that? Did it work? Was it percieved as privileged parents being whiney? Seems like there might be some lessons to learn there.

Charlie Mas said...

It shouldn't be just APP students in the boycott. At Thurgood Marshall, Lowell, Washington, and Hamilton it should be EVERY student. Are they or are they not unified communities? Will they stand together or will they fall apart? Do these other students and families want the support of their APP schoolmates? Shouldn't that support be reciprocal?

When APP was only at three schools the boycott would only be at three schools. With APP at five schools now the boycott can be at five schools!

Moreover, what about a Spectrum curriculum? Where is that? Where is the Spectrum community's assurance of quality and effectiveness? And if the Spectrum students go out then shouldn't all of the other students at the Spectrum schools join them in solidarity? Aren't they also all-for-one and one-for-all?

And talk about a lack of assurance of quality and effectiveness, what about the ALO students!?! This APP Curriculum issue is their issue as well. And shouldn't the other students and families at the ALO schools go out in solidarity with their ALO schoolmates?

This isn't about just the APP students opting out of the AYP testing, it is about the students and families who make up the community that Seattle Public Schools is supposed to serve, holding the District accountable for their commitments.

This isn't just to show the District that we have power. It is to show the other school communities that THEY have power.

Sahila said...

I dont have a child in the District either now either, but I would rally with other schools/programme, I would rally with teachers on strike, I am still part of a lawsuit, I do write letters, I do go to Board meetings and put in my 3-minutes worth...

If we can focus on issues that affect the entire SPS community - find some common ground, some basic core value we are all invested in fighting for - and stay away from single interest group issues, (just for the moment while we build cohesion, critical mass and forward momentum), then I do think we can force the Superintendent and Board to take several steps backwards and to actually act on community input...

While we are split and focused on our own concerns, we have no power... classic battle strategy - divide and conquer...

If we can come together, we can change this....

And incidentally, coming together as a unified body doesnt mean we cant at the same time work on each interest group's most urgent/core issue... its a matter of organisation and supporting each other...

Sahila said...

I have a mental picture of us as a community having an overarching umbrella of core values/issues we demand as a community to have taken on board by the District...

And under that umbrella are groups working for all the various special interest needs of our kids...

It takes organisation, distribution of focus and resources, co-operation, communication... a community working on the 'empty centre' model of leadership...

We dont have that now with the many different parent/community groups in the District, each coming from their own perspective/agenda... and its debateable whether any (except for the big-money backed ones, who pretty much dont represent our interests) have any impact...

We could have it... and we would be a force to be reckoned with... we might actually manage to make/claim for ourselves our role as drivers/partners in the critical process of educating our children, instead of having other, vested interests from outside our communities driving that, without any reference to us whatsoever...

Isnt that our responsibility to our kids, and worth trying for?

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.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arch, I do apologize if I misrepresented your views. Overall, I thought you were saying that the APP group likely would not advocate that and thought you meant that parents probably wouldn't do it on their own.

Central Mom, intriguing idea - an Advanced Learning PTA. I wonder if APP parents would join though, given their own advocacy group.

Spectrum did have a community group but because of the varied nature of Spectrum, it was difficult to get parents to join. We did talk about boycotting the WASL but we were never united enough as a program to do it. APP has that edge. However, if APP were to strike out on this road, I bet you'd get a fair number of Spectrum parents who might join in.

Central Cluster Mom said...

I am definitely not knowledgeable on how to start something like this - but I do have PTA board experience - albeit not "President" positions.

As far as APP parents being interested, I get the feeling that the general consensus of many of us is that the APP advisory group is great in many ways; however, they are definitely focused on "not rocking the boat" too much. It kind of reminds me of politicians that have been politicians for too long, they are very cynical about what can be accomplished based on previous history in the district. Again - can be a good thing, but can be detrimental as well.

I think the APP Advisory committee as a group will be effective in keeping the five APP schools connected and provide an "APP" voice to the board, Bob Vaughan and the district.

I think an Advanced Learning PTA could work with the APP AC in many instances, but would provide a larger, broader voice for advanced learning across the district.

I might be interested in working with other parents to research this possibility and talk with other APP/Spectrum parents. Anyone willing to help?

Charlie Mas said...

There was talk about a WASL boycott by Spectrum families in 2003. The national press picked up the story. The District got calls from NPR, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times about it.

Within days the Superintendent, Raj Manhas, sent a promised-filled letter to the home of every Spectrum student. In that letter he made five specific promises. That ended the boycott. Unfortunately, Mr. Manhas did not keep any of the promises. Despite his reputation for integrity, he was a weasel.

When confronted with his failure to keep the promises he first said that he didn't actually write the letter himself. When confronted with his signature on it he said that it wasn't his job to fulfill the commitments in the letter. Moreover, he said that it wasn't his job to supervise those who had the duty to fulfill the commitments. Nice, huh? This is the guy that everybody says was so full of integrity.

Shannon said...

I am new to APP this year and I'm not an education activist. However, I have had a good deal of experience on campaigns for change.

When I talk about a targeted campaign for something there has to be a clear goal. I know that APP should not have been divided and that was a clear issue but now, what is the objective of a boycott or disent? There seem to be so many concerns ranging from process and accountability to maintenance backlogs and equity concerns.

What would be a successful outcome to a campaign?

To look at APP in particular, it is now divided. Melissa says, somewhat ominously, that the writing is on the wall. So what do we want, especially if we cannot trust written promises? IF we boycotted the standardized test, when would we stop? How would the issue reach its conclusion?

I guess this may seem pedantic but I am a parent who is very able to act and willing to raise the profile of concerns with the district. I think that the problem is of dispersal and a very general sense of what people are upset about.

Some of my friends are upset about APP being divided and a perceived threat to its future.

Some of my friends are upset about school assignments in the NE.

Some of my friends are angry about the fact the new SAP will assign their kids to 'uder-performing' South end schools.

Others are upset that the district doesn't listen to their concerns. Then there is the whole issue of the financial mismanagement of the BEX funds as Melissa is so adept at documenting.

I know I am writing from the perspective of an outsider to SPS schools - I am now way inculturated yet - but its hard to organize for results around such a wide issue.

PLUS - as a new family to SPS its hard to meet people. Our kids bus from our door, we meet parents at curriculum night or perhaps soccer matches and its all happy days there.

At what point does this conversation engage with the broader parent community who is unsettled but not actively angry about the direction our schools are heading?

Even within APP this year. While storm clouds may lie ahead, my kid is happy. As far as I know our teacher is working hard to keep up with 29 kids in her class but its going OK.

What is the message you want to send parents like me to take me from ambivalence to action and how are you going to find me in the amorphous parent community?

Sahila said...

Shannon...

I think it would be a great unifier and definer if we came up with a list of what's wrong in the District, a list of what needs to be done about it and a list of how to make that 'fix' happen - resources, human power, timelines, costs ... AND INCLUDE IN THAT DOCUMENT HOW THE DISTRICT HAS REPEATEDLY FAILED TO DEAL WITH THESE ISSUES, OR ATTEMPTED TO DEAL WITH THEM BUT IN A MISGUIDED, INADEQUATE MANNER.

Many of these issue are common to all interest groups...

We could get started on those, and then begin to break down into the specifics of each interest groups' needs...

If we were effective in our communication, I believe we would get buy in from the greater SPS community because they would see the benefit for all our kids, not just for specific interest groups...

We could do this by creating and then formalising a network amongst us parents. All of us know families in other SPS schools - what would it take for us to start spreading the word around the District and gathering in other people?

What I see as the advantage of this approach is that it is outside the already established networks/groups, some of which are identified as having a very specific focus that is perceived as not being very inclusive or representative...

We need a grass-roots movement where all people feel they have a chance to be heard and to be involved...

ArchStanton said...

Melissa Westbrook said:
"Arch, I do apologize if I misrepresented your views."

No harm, no foul.

Charlie Mas said: "It shouldn't be just APP students in the boycott. At Thurgood Marshall, Lowell, Washington, and Hamilton it should be EVERY student. Are they or are they not unified communities?"

It is conceivable to me that Washington and Garfield might be unified communities, since APP has existed in those schools for some time. I don't see how anyone can imagine that the newly merged communities at Lowell (and I have to imagine at T. Marshal, and Hamilton) have had the opportunity to become unified in the 2 1/2 weeks since school started. Possibly the PTA boards and some of the staff and parent organizations have had the time and proximity to get to know one another, but so far, I have met maybe two of the ALO teachers, a couple of parents, and some of the non-APP board members. I hardly think that the communities have had an opportunity to become unified to the point where they would support each other in such an action. If anyone has evidence to the contrary - I am willing to hear it.

I really don't want to be the cranky old fart that just gets on the blog to whine and complain about SPS while never doing anything to create change. Last year, I and many others (mostly newer APP parents) were very motivated and optimistic and took every opportunity to make rational arguments, offer sound data, be visible at board and community meetings, participate in the various processes - and in doing so, get the district to alter its course. Maybe that made me jaded and cynical, but one of the things that I took away from last year's experience is that I, for myself, need to focus my efforts in areas where I feel effective and on things that yield tangible results. For me that means not wasting time with useless petitions or meetings with board members and instead acting locally within my school.

I really appreciate the work and oversight that you (Charlie and Melissa) provide here on the blog, but not everyone can or wants to be Charlie or Melissa. I realize that I may have as many as 18 more years as an SPS parent and that the district has no long-term, big-picture plan. The part-time board seems to turnover about every 8 years and the Superintendent even more frequently. With each turnover, new plans, policies, and closures are threatened. I've heard war stories about going through last year's process every two or three years - that's not how I want to spend the next 18 years of my life and that lack of stability is the thing that will drive me from SPS or at least cause me to retreat into my child's school.

That said, if someone has the wherewithal to rally the troops to an APP-ALO boycott and pose a credible force for change (and regretfully, I am not that person), I will wholeheartedly stand in support.

Charlie Mas said...

For Shannon and others, let me be perfectly clear.

The APP WASL boycott represents the community's effort to hold the District accountable for the failure to implement the APP curriculum as promised. The boycott will continue until the District has kept the commitment with the community by implementing an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum and we have some real (not written) assurance that the curriculum is being delivered consistently in all APP classrooms. That means that the principals will have to be making some sort of check to confirm that the teachers are teaching it and that the students are being tested on it.

We need the curriculum to give the community real reason for confidence in the quality and effectiveness of the program at all five sites. The boycott will continue until the curriculum is implemented at all five sites. So it will definitely be for this year, and possibly be for next year as well.

The District has made other commitments to the APP community and they have yet to fulfill those commitments as well. They have yet to respond to the APP Audit. They have yet to correct their eligibility testing process (they are still using a criterion referenced test for academic achievement). They have yet to formulate a Vision for the program. They have yet to create a north-end elementary program for north-end elementary students. They have yet to revise Policy D12.00. But none of those, either individually or as a group, constitute sufficient cause for action. The failure to offer a curriculum, however, constitutes enough cause all by itself.

gavroche said...

Central Cluster Mom said...

I think an Advanced Learning PTA could work with the APP AC in many instances, but would provide a larger, broader voice for advanced learning across the district.

I might be interested in working with other parents to research this possibility and talk with other APP/Spectrum parents. Anyone willing to help?


CCMom, I think you're on to a brilliant idea. An advocacy organization for ALL the District's advanced learners could potentially engage and unite hundreds of families.

We could demand curriculums and resources for APP, Spectrum and ALO, to give these programs real meaning, and could demand a public information campaign to educate more parents in the District about the programs and the details of the Advance Learning test. We should also lobby for more kids to be tested.

And if a WASL/AYP boycott is what it takes to launch this coalition, so be it.

The fact is, families whose children need these programs have more in common than not.

I agree that the APP Advisory Committee is limited in how it advocates. What you are talking about sounds like a more grassroots, broader coalition.

Count me in.

TechyMom said...

Charlie,
I'm pretty sure you're not going to get the ALO and Special Ed students at Lowell to boycott the WASL in order to support moving APP out of Lowell to a North End location. Just sayin'...

I would also be interested in getting involved in an Advanced Learning PTA, but it would need to include ALO in addition to Spectrum and APP. Asking for defined and implemented curricula for all 3 programs seems like a proposal that could get support from a very large group of families.

Sahila said...

I'm confused...

I thought that Melissa's post was about flexing parent muscle across district-wide issues, not just APP/advanced learning issues...

I have re-read her post, and I think I was correct in my first impression... I think she was talking about flexing parent muscle across a broader front ...

Any enthusiasm here for that?

Charlie Mas said...

Sahila,

I absolutely believe in more effective advocacy by student families across all schools and programs.

One of the primary benefits of a successful AYP boycott by the students and families at the five APP building sites will be the influence it has on other community groups all around the district. They will see how to effectively go about holding the District accountable.

Once this boycott proves successful at five schools, I expect other schools to use the technique to hold the District accountable for their commitments elsewhere.

For example, the students nad families in the Northeast cluster could boycott the tests until the District resolves their capacity issues.

The students and families in Queen Anne and Magnolia could boycott the tests until the District provides them with an acceptable high school solution.

The students and families in any community could boycott the tests until the District fulfills their commmitments to that community.

It just starts with the five schools with APP. It doesn't end there.

gavroche said...

Sahila said...
I thought that Melissa's post was about flexing parent muscle across district-wide issues, not just APP/advanced learning issues...

I have re-read her post, and I think I was correct in my first impression... I think she was talking about flexing parent muscle across a broader front ...

Any enthusiasm here for that?


Yes, Sahila, absolutely. Those of us with ties to the advanced learning community are just talking about a first step, which is to unite the three groups in our community which have been somewhat separate and divided up until now.

Just like the alternative schools' coalition, this would be just one united front for a certain program.

The next, or concurrent, step, I agree, would be to unite ALL parents, schools and programs in the District into a coalition. ESP Vision was based on this premise. I would see that same idea applying here.

Because the bottom line is, we all pretty much want the same thing for our kids, don't we? We want the School District to make decisions that are first and foremost driven by what is best for our kids (-- and not by politics, public perception or shadowy outside agendas).

And, I believe, we all want real District accountability.

Finally, I believe we want this respect, responsibility and accountability for ALL the children of SPS. I know I do.

Sahila said...

I see what you are saying, Charlie...

For myself (being rather impatient to have positive change come for ALL our kids within my lifetime!!! LOL, and not wanting to short-change any more generations of students than necessary), I would advocate for a much bigger approach...

We would need to be very focused, very specific, very organised, very thorough in our research to make that happen effectively...

But... we could have a complete, prioritised list of things we need to have change (along with the solutions required - dont whine without having a workable solution to offer) and then advocate as a unified community to have that happen...

There is a logical pattern of what needs to happen to clear up many of our issues... most are related, few are Catch-22/Chicken-Egg issues... its like a ball of wool that's tangled and knotted... find the end (there's usually two) and begin untying and rewinding... deal with each knot fully and completely as we come across it...

We would start with one or two central issues that affect everyone and then include concerns specific to the various interest groups...

District-wide WASL boycotts, rolling school boycotts, mass rallies, media campaigns...

The other misgiving I have about your analysis, is that its possible APP/AYP community success might not rub off on those other SPS communities that are not as able to organise/dont have as much political/media clout... Its not always true to say that: "If I can do it, you can too"

I am worried they will get left behind/left out in the cold, perpetuating disadvantage and inequity... I think we as a community have a duty to try to do this in a way that would bring everyone along on this tide...

Chris said...

How about a write-in campaign for Charlie Mas? We could branch out into our schools and groups with the message that Charlie's platform can be summed up as "hold the district to their promises." All those who have been shafted say "aye!" - could add up to a big number and maybe make the other board members sit up and take notice.

katweb said...

As a parent with two kids at Washington in the 'regular' program, I would NOT boycott the WASL on behalf of just the APP community. I do not feel unified as my children, along with well over 1/4 of the new Washington community, were forced into this school by closures.

I WOULD however boycott it based on all the other issues that face the WHOLE of SPS families.

I'm not by any means saying a APP boycott is not a great idea to stop the district from trying to break up and amazing program. Just don't count on non-APP families being part of it.

Keepin'On said...

As there is no longer a WASL, I am not sure what this would all accomplish.

Charlie Mas said...

There still is a WASL, they just don't call it that anymore.

For grades K-8 they now call it the Measurements of Students Progress (MSP), and for high school they call it the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE), but it's the WASL.

The key here is that it they are the tests used to determine AYP.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey katweb, nice.

I guess there's no solidarity for you, huh? And when the regular program is in trouble you won't be coming to the APP community looking for help, will you? And you'll be happy if the funds that are raised by the APP community are spent only on APP students? And you'll be happy when APP student achievements, whether in sports or music or academics, are attributed to APP and not to Washington? In fact, why even feel any membership with the regular program? Maybe you only feel connected to the other students in your child's classes. Why stop there? Why feel any sense of connection to anyone else at the school? You're just in it for your kid and no one else.

Nice.

jason said...

As a parent who was very involved trying to prevent the APP splits, I wonder if there is any way to get a high percentage of support for boycotting the test. I can think of several reasons why most APP won't go along with something like this, including, some parents supported the split, many parents just go with the flow, and those who did fight are now pessimistic about any change. As others have mentioned, APP parents were given poor advice early on about how to fight this split (mostly it was don't fight, just make it work), and are turned off. Bob Vaughn spoke at the APP celebration this past weekend about how APP had grown from last year to this year as though that proved people like the direction APP is heading in. It's hearing things like this from people who are supposedly on "your side" that really make me pessimistic.

We have a superintendent who answers to no one and does not care about the community, and we have a passive school board who won't do anything about it. And won't change the board much, if at all, with this upcoming election. It just doesn't look good for the kids in APP or any other program in the district.

Sahila said...

"We have a superintendent who answers to no one and does not care about the community, and we have a passive school board who won't do anything about it. And won't change the board much, if at all, with this upcoming election. It just doesn't look good for the kids in APP or any other program in the district.

The only reason the super answers to no-one is because we let her get away with it...

The only reason we have a passive board is because we let them get away with it...

Charlie - I dont think you read Katweb's comment thoroughly.. he/she didnt say they wouldnt show solidarity, didnt damn the idea of a boycott for APP/ALO issues... he/she said their first priority was to take action that would support all the District's kids, not just one group ...

Which is why I suggested we need an across-the-board grassroots effort, focusing first on baseline stuff we all agree on/want for our kids/communities and then (or at the same time within the broader framework) work on issues specific to individual interest groups...

You wont get buy in otherwise and we wont get critical mass...

Divide and conquer.... watch them squabble amongst themselves... works every time...

Chris said...

I'm happy to hear there is some test with bite for K-8. I do think you should go for a wider effort than APP. I'd love to keep my large over-crowded-comprehensive-middle-school student home on that day, especially because there is no way the zero is going to hurt the kid OR the school. Next best thing to sending your kid out-of-district!

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

Chris, sending you kid out of district doesn't do anything for the good of the cause. The district doesn't really care if you leave the district. I know, I have sent both of my kids to Shoreline for middle school. Nobody from the district has ever asked us why we left. Nobody cares.

In fact when I told Peter Meyer we were leaving he basically told us not to let the door his us in the a$$ on our way out. And Tracy Libros wished us well in our new school.

Sending your kid out of district (unless perhaps done in mass which isn't really feasible) doesn't make this district bat an eye.

Robert said...

Jason I agree that a few folks were in support of the split but was that the split with the promised aligned APP curriculum at the start of the year?

Our biggest concern with a boycott would be exposing our third grader to discontent with the district as we generally tend to focus on the positive aspects of these changes. Like you will enjoy play dates all that much more now that you aren't spending all day in class with your best friends.

another mom said...

Jason- Dr. Vaughan said that APP has grown but by how much and at which grades? What are the grade by grade totals this year vs. last year. And at the risk of offending people...what is the typical profile of the new APP students? If APP grew did Spectrum see an increase as well? I have not seen the data so I don't know. The programs may have grown but was it incremental or by several classrooms? And wasn't the decision to split the program was made after the deadline to apply to private schools? And where is the promised curriculum?

Sometimes putting a happy face on things makes people feel better. Saturday was a celebration.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Maybe that made me jaded and cynical, but one of the things that I took away from last year's experience is that I, for myself, need to focus my efforts in areas where I feel effective and on things that yield tangible results. For me that means not wasting time with useless petitions or meetings with board members and instead acting locally within my school."

And Arch, that's just what the district staff counts on. That somewhat aroused parents will agitate a bit and then settle down and work for their school. You know what that does? That makes your school community stronger for your commitment, a great thing.

It also lets the district off the hook on a number of fronts. One, you're off their back and your action will influence others who see people dropping away from speaking out. Two, as more parent-generated funding goes to things like funding teachers and paying for basic maintenance, well, the district thanks you for paying for what is really their responsibility. This all works out quite well for them, no?

I totally understand feeling jaded and burned out (believe me). But remember, that's what they are counting on.

Sahlia, I get your passion. But you can have the most organized list and action plan in the world but parents won't sign on. One, inertia. Two, lack of belief that it will accomplish anything. Three, suspicion over whether what you have written in actually true. (And honestly, if you were someone out of the loop and read all the things the district promised and didn't follow-thru on, wouldn't you be suspicious?) Four, who are you, they would want to know(as compared to say CPPS or PTA)? Five, you'd find people didn't agree with your list of goals and then the infighting starts.

Nope, it would have to come in an organized action (such as a boycott) that is easy to organize.

Or, longer term, I think an organized group like CPPS or the PTA would have to step up. I don't think the PTA would (it's not their M.O.) but CPPS just might. I'm meeting with someone from that group soon and I'll ask.

Also, I'll have to look it up but I do believe that NYC has some kind of district-created parent union. Imagine that.

Sahila said...

I too like to look at the silver lining in the cloud and offer that up to my child when he experiences uncertainty with change, but you know, sometimes kids have to know that things are not going right and that people have to take action...

I have had so many comments from people about 'using our kids as pawns' and about how we are damaging their chances for success later in life...

I think we have to teach our kids about civic engagement and taking responsibility for the reality we are co-creating --- SPS is this way PARTLY (MOSTLY?) because we havent been more effective/more persistent/more determined/more adamant/more cohesive in our approach... which is why I have taken my son to board meetings and on marches/rallies... and we talk about why such action is necessary and our responsibility...

Once again:
“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”
Frederick Douglass

If now is not the time to put a stop to this ever-increasing pattern parents/community being walked over, then when is?

Sahila said...

Melissa - I agree with short, sharp action and with getting buy-in... I also think we have to have a plan underneath that...

In your search for parents' groups, check out Kenneth Libby - two blogs... one lists two parent groups, one in NYC that fought charters/privatisation and another that was pro-charter and founded/funded by businesses/foundations supporting charters...

Cant remember the name of both groups - both started with a "P"(?) , one is called PURE, I think... sorry I cant help more right now - gotta go get Connor...

j.j. said...

I have considered Charlie's idea to boycott the WASL/MSP since he mentioned it many, many months ago. I have more than one child in elementary APP and I'm planning on using the testing week for a vacation for the kids. My guess is that venues will be less crowded since it won't be a "normal" school break time. It also works personally as I would have a difficult time scheduling time off during the regular school break weeks.

wseadawg said...

I hate to see "class wars" (pun intended) bubble up on this blog. We're all here because we care. Period.

All kids are on a continuum. Some Gen Ed kids will wind up in APP, AP, or IB. Some APP kids will leave APP. Having the wide variety of options for kids at all appropriate levels is what's most important to me.

I hate seeing this "us" against "them" stuff on this list. All our kids will walk the same sidewalks, drive the same roads, shop at the same grocery stores, and likely inhabit the same neighborhoods, no matter what cohort they are currently in.

We all need to unite and support each other as a community, and not just our pet programs. Divided, we will surely fail.

jason said...

Another Mom - I understand Saturday was a celebration, I was there. I mentioned the comment by Dr Vaughn because many times this district will use a fact (growth of APP) to "prove" something else (people love the new APP - look how many are now coming) when they have no proof of the cause and effect. For many kids, APP is the only option for those who can't afford private school.

I wish there were someway to get everyone together again and fight for our curriculum and some accountability for what the district has done to this program (as well as the other programs they closed/changed). I think the divide and conquer worked to the district's benefit.

ArchStanton said...

Melissa Westbrook said: I totally understand feeling jaded and burned out (believe me).

Of that I have no doubt. I don’t believe we have met, but I've seen others who have done this dance over and over - the quiet resignation, the bags under the eyes, the weariness. I respect them for fighting the good fight over and over again. I’m just not sure I want to be in their shoes 10 or 15 years from now.

But remember, that's what they are counting on.

And I’m not ignorant to the fact that the attitude I am expressing is playing into their hands. But, I haven’t surrendered. I’m not rolling over. I will pick and chose the battles that I fight, rather than rally to every cause, protest, board meeting, et al that springs up.

I do care about education for my children (and all children) and I need to demonstrate to them that I am willing to work to better those things, but I also care about the quality of my marriage and family life and the need for balance and I need to demonstrate that to my children, as well.

Sahila said...

but I also care about the quality of my marriage and family life and the need for balance and I need to demonstrate that to my children, as well."

Dont we all, Arch?

Sahila said...

I look at it this way... apart from family life, a child's school experience is the most formative one in his/her life...

Since we arent in the 'job for life' world anymore, school (and the community there) is probably the one system/place in which the child will spend the most of her/his time in life and be most influenced by.

And if he/she gets a crappy experience there, then that's pretty much what he/she lives out for the rest of their lives...

Kids/we get one shot at building the foundations for their futures and for what the future of our society looks like...

If its not working at the education level, its my opinion that's the most urgent issue needing our attention...

reader said...

ZB is the only person here that has made any sense. The boycott thing is all very French. That is, those receiving nice benefits go on strike... not realizing nobody else cares even one tiny little bit. Garfield, Washington, Thurgood Marshall, and Hamilton are all failing schools as is... and no amount of APP testers will help that, no matter how many APP WASLs are opted in or out. It's sort of like saying to all the other kids and families: "See there, we'll show you. We're failing on purpose. Unlike the rest of you idiots who can't help it, we're failing for a cause. We've been wronged. Aren't we great?". I'm shocked that anbody would believe that others would identify with such a sentiment. Afterall, it isn't like anybody else has some wonderful curriculum followed lock, stock and barrel.... to be equally applied across schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Whoa, Reader. Washington and Garfield and Hamilton are failing schools? Are you talking under NCLB (which is nonsense) or some other data? I think parents at those schools would be surprised to hear it.

And no one here has classified anybody as an "idiot". Be fair.

The point you are missing is that parents in this district, no matter what their issue, do have power and don't use it. I pointed out that ALL schools get to worry about program placement, principal movement, etc. No one is immune from worry.

You seem to believe, as many do, that APP kids are getting "nice benefits" or more than other kids. Their program is receives federal money just like any special ed program. It is not special treatment in any way. But please, prove it if you believe your accusation is true.

ArchStanton said...

Enough about me.

It seems like an APP-Spectrum (-and maybe ALO) coalition that is not tied to the bureaucracy, is big enough to be effective, small enough to not be unwieldy, and has enough mutual concerns to not be working against each other could be worth doing just because (boycott or no). I can support that.

Questions:

1) What does APP boycotting the WASL really do. What do good WASL scores really provide to SPS? Seriously, I don't really know. Lower numbers for specific schools? The district? Does it cause a loss of funds? Does it just give bad press to the district and invite more scrutiny?

2) It's fine to say APP should boycott the WASL without providing specifics to parents like myself that are just getting their feet wet. How do we do that? What does that look like? Can we do it in a way that doesn't invite the negative associations described by zb and reader? Has a similar action been taken successfully here or anywhere else?

3) Is a WASL boycott really the only power APP has? Is that really the only tangible threat our community can use to get their attention?

dj said...

I could be on board for a WASL (etc.) boycott if I feel like the APP community, the advanced learning community, or the public school community generally has a specific list of things to request from the district.

I think an aligned APP curriculum would be helpful, for example, but I am not sure who is to blame for the fact that it appears we do not yet have one. Is it the district? Is it that personnel and administration in the newly split schools are busy managing the logistics of booting up two new school communities?

An APP elementary campus in the north also sounds good and like a district promise, but my anecdoctal evidence (i.e., "talking to parents still at Lowell") is that the last thing those parents want is to cope with more change, now.

So, yes, flex parent muscle -- but to what end are we going to flex it?

katweb said...

Charlie, you missed my point. I am not in it for just my own children (or just the APP children or any other specific group), I'm in it for ALL the children.

I only wanted to state that to just assume that all families at schools that have APP will be happy to fight for only APP while leaving the 97% of the rest of the kids in SPS to fend for themselves may not happen.

Mean comments only serves to split parents and the original idea that parents have "muscle" when unified and fighting for a goal.

And just for the record, I have probably spent more hours working with kids that I didn't give birth to than my own and plan to continue doing just that.

WenG said...

I think across the board, parents with students in all areas, not just APP, have good reason to say, "Sorry, we'll be out of town or on vaca during test week." Off to grand parents, at work with a parent, family mental health days?

If this is all you have, use it. Once again, isolating APP families as elitist is crap. Total crap. (Sahila, did you say divide and conquer?)

We've discussed this before. Let more parents know about APP testing, have more kids take it, and then even more families will see how broken the APP system is, and how threatened and disposable this option is regarded by this spend high, low-ball district.

The general theme is this: SPS is over spending, mismanaging, not just gen ed kids, not just APP kids, but ALL kids.

wseadawg said...

Right on WenG! That's what I'm talking about! Almost nobody is safe in this district.

APP gets singled out as an example alot, because, logically, being a strong program with a strong PTA, etc., it seemed like it would be the last thing the district would want to wreak havoc upon, given all the other needs throughout the district.

I think the APP folks are sounding the alarm, saying "look, if they'll split up APP and break up the communities that make their jobs easier, imagine what they'll do to the programs and groups who require the most resources and work!" Nobody is safe or outside the cross-hairs of the Broad-driven, standardization-driven administration. Its about everybody.

gavroche said...

09 5:22 PM

reader said...
ZB is the only person here that has made any sense. The boycott thing is all very French. That is, those receiving nice benefits go on strike... not realizing nobody else cares even one tiny little bit....

Hey, I resemble that comment...! But seriously, what's wrong with storming the Bastille every now and again? It can be quite effective.

In this case, of course, we are talking about the John Stanford Center and the imperial Superintendent and bureaucracy that preside over our kids with wanton recklessness and mismanagement galore.

Speaking of which, how about this demand for our list: a moratorium on JSC adminstration hires, followed by a cut in admin staff, in solidarity with with the cuts they made to our kids' schools and teaching staff, and to make SPS more aligned with other districts, admin-wise? (Now there's an 'alignment' I can get behind!)

This would in turn align with our new coalition's demand that more district resources go directly to our kids and their classrooms instead of being siphoned off to the John Stanford Center, expensive Superintendents and countless anonymous staffers (and "Broad Residents").

I'd also like to declare that District resources be allocated equitably and fairly among schools and programs District-wide, instead of the current District practice which is to pour endless resources into some Most Favored schools (i.e. Garfield, Hamilton, etc.) and totally starve other schools of resources (Nova, SBOC, etc.).

I'll bet we could all think of more demands to add to the list.

And how about if we tell the District that if our demands are not honored or taken seriously, it can expect a District-wide WASL/AYP boycott AND a refusal to vote for the levy in Feb?

aux barricades!

uxolo said...

PURE is "Parents United for Responsible Education," a parent advocacy group based in Chicago. “We intend to spread the word everywhere about what parents can do and how LSC-style school governance works to empower parents here in Chicago,”

Chicago PUBLIC Schools are run by a Local School Council (LSC).Local School Councils are the site-based management team of each school. Their primary responsibilities are to select the school´s principal, renew the principal’s contract, develop the School Improvement Plan for Advancing Academic Achievement (SIPAAA) and develop the school´s budget for the school year.
The LSC is made up of 6 parent/guardian representatives, community representatives and teacher representatives and the principal. High schools have a student rep, too.

Establishing this governing model would be the way to go in Seattle.

reader said...

Look Melissa, the APP is a nice benefit because you don't have to go to school with a bunch of kids who don't value education. It is a nice demographic free of lots of problems, and that is well known. There's a dedicated staff and a working program.... and that IS way more than lots of other kids get. Again, there's no other group that has "an aligned curriculum" from school to school... and there's no great fear that one school might get ahead of another. In fact, we only hear fear and trepidation that the district might indeed have such an alignment.... oh for everyone else. So, I wouldn't expect a lot of sympathy from a boycott. I would expect bad pr for the program, and a district reaction that might be contrary to your intentions.

And yes, Marshall, Washington, and Hamilton are failing under NCLB. You seem to consider that a big problem for other schools, why not these? If NCLB doesn't matter, then neither does a WASL, or a WASL-boycott. Right?

I'm simply pointing out the way an APP WASL boycott appears to others. Ridiculous. If APP WASL-boycott is the "muscle flexing" you meant, then it's pretty flacid... and others have noted that fact. And no, it absolutely is NOT "special ed"... which is defined under the IDEA statute. And no, there's no IDEA funding going to APP that I know of. That isn't the issue at hand. You might use a more nebulous term: "special needs", but then, that doesn't have a whole lot of meaning or entitlements. I'm not sure what proof you're talking about.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, have you met APP kids? They may like learning better than some kids but "free of lots of problems"? I'm sorry, APP and Spectrum kids have their own tics and behavior issues. Ask the teachers how carefree the classes are. Please, these are kids not robots.

There aren't dedicated staffs and working programs in general ed buildings? I could start a list but really, I think that's pretty insulting to most of the programs.

You really fear that one school or another is ahead of your school? Are you keeping score?

The district would not like the attention a WASL boycott would get (because it means parents are really desperate and that reads badly to the public), the district would not like the boycott because it would bring down the scores at more schools and be a problem under NCLB and the district would not be able to crow about some imagined WASL improvement. It's really to get their attention and nothing else seems to work.

I would like proof that APP students get special benefits. You said that so what do you base it on? Oh, your own opinion. That's fine but benefits implies something the district is giving.

My original post was not about APP but about the inability of the parents in this district to get any voice on any level for any action in this district. I note that you offer no suggestions.

Charlie Mas said...

Okay. Let's try this again.

Presuming that families and members of the community want to exert some influence, what could we do?

We have plenty of examples that show that sending emails and letters, making calls, marching around with signs, submitting petitions, are usually ineffective. There are times that they have worked, but they typically don't.

Each of these efforts can be reduced to "words" rather than "action". Would an action be more effective and is there some effective action we could take?

I have put forward the idea of an AYP test boycott as an action that a community could take in protest.

Melissa has suggested that the school PTA alter their spending in subtle but meaningful ways as a protest action.

We can debate these options, but let's try not to tear down these suggestions without offering an alternative. If not these, then what? Are there other actions a community could take that would be effective in altering the course of District decision-making.

I would point out that an enrollment boycott - either planned or un-planned - does not work. The families of the southeast have been essentially boycotting enrollment at their high schools for years. Although the District has taken action in response to that boycott, it has not been the response that the community desired. Families in the northeast have been boycotting as well, sending their children out of district for years, without achieving the desired effect as well. The boycott of the Spectrum programs at Leschi and West Seattle have not produced any desirable results either.

A one-day general student strike could be effective. It strikes the District right in the pocket-book, their most vulnerable spot, because their revenue from the state is based on attendance. But it might also have negative consequences for students. Still, it is something to ponder. It would come after the District has already made unbreakable financial commitments for the students' benefit, primarily staffing.

Other suggestions?

zb said...

Reader didn't say that APP & Spectrum kids were free of all problems, only that they were free of many problems. And that's undoubtedly true. They're demographically in a higher in the socioeconomic distribution (anyone have a stat on the proportion of free lunch)? they are able to exclude students with certain types of learning disabilities, i.e. cognitive disabilities that distribute attention (though not all). People can argue about this until they're blue in the face, and won't change the minds of people who are excluded from a program that they think might benefit their kids.

If APP parents proposed a AYP boycott, and I was in charge of the system, I'd say that I was going to use AYP results to determine eligibility for future years (frankly, I think that's a drawback of the program, anyway that people who test in don't also test out).

I don't believe confrontational actions are going to improve the lot of the city's children. But, if one were going to confront, I think a general strike would be better than a AYP boycott.

zb said...

Blogger uxolo said...

"PURE is "Parents United for Responsible Education," a parent advocacy group based in Chicago. “We intend to spread the word everywhere about what parents can do and how LSC-style school governance works to empower parents here in Chicago,”

"The LSC is made up of 6 parent/guardian representatives, community representatives and teacher representatives and the principal. High schools have a student rep, too."

Long ago, when the LSC's were first being established, I participated in an LSC, in Chicago, not for very long, and long before I had any children (I was a "community representative."). I wasn't able to serve for very long because of other commitments, but participated in the initial process of principal interviews. It was a fascinating model.

I don't know all the ins and outs and it was a very long time ago; the LSC's have been around a lot longer now. But, I think that's a concrete model for parent/community involvement with real muscle that I'd like to see explored in Seattle. It is a constructive model, and it doesn't pre-determine a solution. It does mean interaction with the union, since the main power of the LSC's were to hire the principal (in the old days -- details may be different now).

uxolo said...

LSC would work in Seattle because this is a highly educated (#1 or 2?) city with few kids and lots of folks taking about supporting the public schools who don't even have kids in school.

How to get it going? Let's see who else want sto effect a citywide improvement. CPPS? PTSA?

Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, I quoted Reader exactly so I certainly did not say "all" problems. I know ADD kids and even Asperger kids (and those do present learning disabilities) who have been in Spectrum and/or APP. There is a term for it called twice gifted. For whatever reason, there is a lot of prejudice against advancing learning kids on this blog. Weird.

Next. I'm meeting with someone from CPPS at the end of the week. I'll see what they think about the LSC idea.

Ben said...

zb said: "They're demographically in a higher in the socioeconomic distribution (anyone have a stat on the proportion of free lunch)?"

So are kids who live in the north end!

Laurelhurst FRL: 10.5%
Bryant FRL: 8.8%
Wedgwood FRL: 10.6%
Loyal Heights: 8.1%

The average FRL is somewhere around 40%.

This sort of inequity is only ever a problem when we're talking about APP. When it's neighborhood schools, it's just business as usual. But when it's APP kids benefiting…

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Melissa
I haven't seen much prejudice against "advanced learning," but I have seen some against APP. I think the APP prejudice stems from two things:

1. APP guarantees kids the very best of what SPS has to offer.

We probably all know kids who are off-the-charts brilliant and totally out of the box who we agree need some special services. But we also probably all know kids who tested into APP using private testing, etc., who don't appear any smarter or out-of-the box nerdy (for want of a better description) than the majority of the kids in their regular class. Maybe they just test well, or did a lot of prep before the test, or took the private testing a couple of times, or just got lucky... The point is, that it's a one-shot test to get in, and once in, you're golden through high school. First-grade over-achievers can become 8th-grade slackers, but they still get their APP status.

If the majority of SPS schools offered something even close to the quality that the APP kids get, it wouldn't be an issue. I have a friend whose child is in the program, and she is constantly saying that she believes most kids would thrive in a similar setting.

So parents with bright kids who are languishing in less-than-stellar classrooms might be resentful.

2. APP parents have a tendency to high-jack this blog. You have to admit that a number of threads for the entire SPS population suddenly become APP-focused through the comments.

Though that might just mean that readers of this blog are skewed to APP parents, it can be frustrating to other parents when the general discussion topic suddenly becomes all about APP.

Dorothy said...

Melissa, over the years Very Few twice-gifted kids have been served in APP. Some pretty egregious things have gone on under the radar keeping kids out or "suggesting" kids leave. Things do seem to have improved, with the younger principal and younger teachers, but I do not know if they have improved as much as needed.

I have several friends with grown kids who went through APP over the years and all say it was a constant battle to get an appropriate education. APP has never been a fully implemented well-working program, but always a work in progress with a variety of threats and problems.

Multi-age classrooms? Well go back to the original model of IPP and that's what you would get, yes? Because the focus was on each student moving at his or her own pace. Truly accommodating acceleration. Not like now. There is no acceleration except in the name.

Reader has a point. A positive of being in APP is being in an environment with almost no poverty and a much higher percent of kids living with two parents. While that does not eliminate behavior problems, it does reduce the number. The kids don't notice that really, but it is a big bennie for the teachers who can assign all sorts of things that require parental involvement and access to technology. What the kids really benefit from is the lack of kids with academic skills below grade level. Almost everyone reads and can learn new things relatively fast, so there aren't long interludes of excruciating boredom and the need for patience outweighing their time learning new material. (although given that many teachers did absolutely no differentiation and even without the relaxed entrance requirements gifted kids are still a continuum, such interludes and calls for patience still happen.)

ZB, threat of boycotting AYP exam and the possible consequence. That already happened. Back when talk of WASL boycotts was more common, the district did decide that scores on fifth grade WASL would be used to maintain APP seat for middle school. Lots of dust-up over that. Misuse of the WASL, misuse of the scoring protocols, the irony that the WASL was supposed to offer accountability, but these kids are supposed to be ahead. Grade level WASL provided no accountability for them. I don't know the current status of that.

At the same time, Bob Vaughan was at the Robinson Center and they announced that WASL scores would be *the* method of participating in the Young Scholars program and allowing access to summer classes designed for gifted kids. He swore to me personally that it was a coincidence, just that the Robinson Center didn't have access to any other means of testing.

As to a boycott of the MAP? Well, that seems a bit problematic from a practical standpoint. Isn't it being implemented differently than the WASL? MAP testing class by class in a computer lab? Not as easy to go on vacation for. And also, ironically, the MAP is Finally an assessment that could possibly help APP kids. The WASL was a joke, since they only allowed kids to take the grade level test. The MAP might actually lead to improved quality in the program. It could lead to much better data to show kids aren't being served well, aren't being taught at the frontier of their knowledge. Could tell the principal which teachers are paying attention and which ones are slacking off.

All in all, don't rock the boat because it could be worse, is the mantra of many APP parents. Any further comments I might have on APP "leadership" parents and the advisory committee will not take place in public.

LynneC said...

Yikes -- "prejudice against advancing learning kids" -- really? Maybe just a realization that APP kids are a small minority in the entire scope of kids served by SPS. And, as a parent of one Spectrum-qualified kid and another who is a special ed kid, I've had the experience of putting considerable effort into ensuring that both get the education that they need and deserve. I completely support the APP program and agree that it is being ill-treated by the district, but I agree with those commenting that a boycott on behalf of APP would not be perceived well by the broader community. As to a test boycott designed to address the wide range of issues we all have with the district -- I'm concerned that there are so many issues that you do run into the problem of identifying for the public exactly which of those many issues is driving the boycott. And as a practical matter, what about the issuing of singling out our kids not to take the test? I'm hoping that with the new and shorter test we'll be eliminating the 3 weeks of testing, not to mention prior week of review, but are you really going to tell a 5th grader on up that they're not going to do what all of their classmates are doing?

I don't at all have the answers -- you're right, Charlie, that those of us without other solutions perhaps shouldn't just shut down suggestions such as a boycott. But I do think you need to think about how a boycott would be perceived, and how workable it would be.

Dorothy said...

SolvayGirl, you are spot on.

I think that many readers here do have knowledge of, experience with APP, so that's one main reason APP gets used as examples and then hijacks threads.

Yes, there doesn't always seem to be that much difference between kids that qualify and kids that don't. And yes, absolutely, kids with special needs were denied entrance to APP.

Charlie (and others, but very much Charlie) fought long and hard to reform Spectrum. That's where the money and effort ought to be. Reform Spectrum and you will truly see more kids accommodated appropriately and truly see more trickle down of good educational practices and opportunities in regular classrooms as well. Alas, it was a failure.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I wasn't saying I oppose APP...I was just trying to point out why some might be prejudiced against it and comment that way on this blog.
I believe the real problem is the lack of quality in SPS overall—especially for those of us living in the southend.

I can't tell you how many of my neighborhood friends just expected that their children would test into APP and thus be guaranteed the best SPS has to offer (I realize even APP is not perfect in al ways). Some of their kids did, and some didn't.

So...those parents whose kids are dealing with classrooms where it takes 7 months to read "Lord of the Flies" (the case at Madrona a couple of years ago) just might get the noses out of joint when APP parents complain. It's all relative.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Solvay, the students who test into APP may not "appear" any brighter but they certainly tested into it. And you really can't prep for this test; it's not the SAT. Any child can take the test so there are not likely to be that many bright kids languishing if their parents had them tested.

And the best? Have you seen Lowell? It's not the best building by anyone's standards. The best principal? the best teachers? Again, I say, where is your proof? Have you gone to Lowell and walked thru every room and compared your principal and teachers to Lowell's? If not, how do you know?

And guess what? Maple (I believe) did try the Spectrum approach and it DID work. The kids thrived but also guess what? Did the District follow thru? No. So is the duty of APP and SPectrum parents to tell the district "try this on everyone"? No. And would the District listen?

Tell you what - anyone connected with APP - do not bring up APP if the thread isn't about it. It seems to really rub people the wrong way. However, this thread has a connection to APP so it was valid to talk about it.

However, just to state - I never had a kid in APP so I certainly am not trying to press their case. This topic was about how parents in this district could flex their muscle and APP parents were one example. They have specific grievances and you'll have to forgive them for advocating for promises made to be promises kept.
If you're not in APP, why would you care if they boycott the WASL or not?

The overwhelming majority of threads and discussion on this blog have nothing, repeat, nothing to do with APP. I really don't appreciate that being thrown out there because this is a general education blog.

Again, I say, boy it is really interesting how perception colors everything.

Dorothy said...

Ouch, Melissa, such anger at Solvaygirl! She was just giving her perspective on why there exists resentment. And I think she's right. And there are lots of legitimate significant issues with the choice of and implementation of the admission tests. And there are people within APP who wonder how some kids get in. I had several teachers at Lowell tell me that not all the kids there belonged. Whether that is right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate for them to share, it is a sentiment that some teachers have.

There are lots of broken promises. I believe former Summit kids, former Cooper kids, probably lots more kids have been left with broken promises as well. This APP broken promise thing is perhaps a bit more tangible and clear and with a larger and perhaps more powerful audience, so it is perhaps easier to talk about action.

I like the idea of some sort of powerful action to get reduction in central administration bloat. I just don't see boycotting MAP as feasible, not the same way boycotting the WASL might have been. How do one-day student strikes work with attendance and state funding?

(FWIW, I no longer have a child in the district.)

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Thanks Dorothy...your explanation of my answer is correct. I'm a Libra, so see many POVs. I was just trying to help Melissa understand the resentment she sees from some commenters. And yes, perception IS everything.

And yes, Lowell is far from perfect, but most parents could care less about building quality if their kids are getting a good education (NOVA in the Mann Bldg.). Now Garfield is another story entirely...

I also believe non-APP parents would be less put-out if it wasn't such a one-shot assessment. I still believe kids who may perform admirably at APP as first-graders might not as older students (for a variety of reasons). Perhaps a reassessment at MS and HS levels (other than the WASL or whatever) would be more equitable. I know parents can keep testing their kids from year to year...but that's pretty stressful.

And as others have noted...this would not be an issue at all if more schools were desirable, more true Spectrum and ALOs were in place, etc. It's the disparity that upsets people, not the program itself.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm going to make one last comment and that'll be it for me on this subject.

I may sound angry but I get angry when I hear statements made in posts that are made as if they are factual and then I ask the person who writes the post for evidence and oh, it was just an opinion.

It's fine if you have an opinion or perception. Then say that is what it is. Charlie has made this point several times and I echo that.

Don't say things like APP is the best Seattle public schools has to offer. That's an opinion and not a fact. If you can prove it as a fact, please let us all know what data supports that supposition.

Again, you may believe that it is the disparity and not the program that is the issue but boy, it sure doesn't sound like it in some of these posts. And, if you want more Spectrum and ALO, tell the Board and the Superintendent. Don't try to pick apart why some kids are in APP and some aren't.

P.S. I'm a Libra too, go figure.

P.S.S. I don't know about APP but I know that kids can be exited from the Spectrum program if they cannot keep up with the work. So, no, you can't just get into Spectrum (and likely APP) and just stay if you can't do the work.

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

I know that I threaten to cast APP parents in an even more negative light, but I have to say it:

The idea that APP promises kids the best that SPS has to offer doesn't even make sense.

It's not like teachers "graduate" to APP. The crummy teachers languish in general ed, but the excellent teachers are moved on to APP classrooms. Nor does it work like that for principals. Nor facilities. Nor do APP kids get more overall spending from the district.

So what do they get? (Or, what are they supposed to get?)

An education that's appropriate for them. Which is what all kids are supposed to get.

But still the idea persists that APP kids are in some kind of country club with "the best" of everything. Nope, same food service, same buses, same SPS system. But we're supposed to feel bad for advocating for our kids and for "taking over" message boards.

Robert said...

So Charlie what about starting an APP issues only blog? I would think it would be very helpful to share and discuss concerns that are very much segmented away from the other programs... And aid in combating the big resource stretch to five mixed programs.

Oh and the biggest whine that I have heard against APP is that it teaches to the gifted child's level... Again why aren't we demanding that for all SPS kids?

ArchStanton said...

But we're supposed to feel bad for advocating for our kids and for "taking over" message boards.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

If we advocate for ourselves, in the form of a WASL boycott (because it somehow gives us leverage that others don't have), we are thumbing our noses at the rest of the community.

If we advocate for ourselves to set an example to the rest of the community that they might take similar action, we are being selfish in addressing only those promises that were made to us and not kept and not advocating for the rest of the community.

If we advocate for the rest of the community, we are presumptuous in speaking for others and taking chances with the WASL scores of others.

If we don't advocate for ourselves, we can review a list of broken promises and slowly watch the carcass of one of SPS' more successful (not better or privileged) programs being picked apart.

If people already hate us because they are so sure we're living in our gated country-clubs, and paying off psychologists to test our children into APP so our nanny-chauffeured Escalades can deliver them to our brand-new school, where they have spacious classrooms of no more than 12 students, staffed by hand-picked elite teachers, and receive handcrafted lunches prepared personally by Tom Douglas, play on a finely manicured lawn at recess, are provided personal trainers during Phys.Ed., and a specialized super-secret curriculum that is unavailable to any other students...

...If that's what people really think...

How could they think any worse of us if we did boycott the WASL? What do we really have to lose?

(oh, I forgot the secret handshake)

Rose M said...

I'd be careful what you ask for. You might end up with bad textbooks, pacing guides & coaches making sure the teachers don't deviate.

Some of the schools that I know with strong programs do their best to stay below the radar, so that their good work isn't interfered with.

The joke on the street is that the new plan for closing the achievement gap is to make sure no teacher offers more than a mediocre academic experience. See EDM for evidence. Next up, high school language arts.

Sahila said...

I agree with the perspectives of SolvayGirl and Dorothy regarding the view many people have (valid, deserved or not) of the APP programme and the amount of time on this blog APP issues are discussed or come into another topic...

As someone said, its all relative... but to an outsider looking in/on, it CAN SEEM as though the APP programme is an elite offering to an elite group, offering appropriate education to meet the needs of the few, while the needs of the many are addressed in only a half-arsed manner and they have to like it or lump it...

APP the most appropriate programme for your child? OK, come on in, welcome, we'll make room for you, we'll bus you from wherever. Eckstein the most appropriate programme for your child? You live round the road or 10 miles away? Sorry, no room and/or you have to get yourself here... I can see how people think there is inequity going on and that APP parents/families have it good compared to the rest of the SPS community...

Me, well I would prefer that each individual child's needs are met, at whatever level they are functioning physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, culturally, and that will happen within whatever situation is most appropriate for that child, but then I'm just an unrealistic, naive, idealist...

Maybe we could get back to the gist of this topic, which was about flexing the muscle of ALL SPS parents/community members, to make some change happen?

Charlie Mas said...

I think that there is already an APP blog somewhere. More than that, despite the fact that I know a lot about Advanced Learning issues and my kids have been in Spectrum and APP, I'm really interested in a much broader range of issues than just advanced learning. Plus, I think it's important for people to know what's going on in other programs, other neighborhoods, and other schools.

It is good for people to know what's happening in bilingual programs, Special Education programs, advanced learning programs, alternative programs, Montessori programs, language immersion programs, etc. What you will see is that everyone has the same troubles: the District breaks promises to everyone, the District doesn't support any school any better than they support yours, and the District wants to play you off against each other.

Robert said...

The other APP blog stopped almost as fast as it went up.

And I agree that the SPS community is great and I would still follow it but I would like to see more discussion on the salient gifted education issues (like the splits' of K-8 ed, HS credits for MS work, increases in AP science or the various opportunities outside of SPS/the Robinson Center) and what I am hearing is that the community is a bit haggard by the APP advocacy.

So if not Charlie... Anyone?

Dorothy said...

Melissa started this thread with an apology to me. The reason: Brian Vance, principal of RHS gave a presentation at the PTSA meeting concluding that AP HG was a success. I challenged his assumptions, his definitions, his data. He had no good answers for me. I then pointed out how the teachers did not follow through on the main big promise they made regarding the new curriculum. He admitted the follow-through hadn't happened, did not deny that it had been promised and said it was actually his responsibility (but who will hold him accountable?)

All in all, just as embarrassingly shoddy, without evidence of rigor or logical thinking, as the presentation the SS chair gave in April 2008 arguing for the mandatory AP HG class. Since I privately blasted Ms Grace and Mr Vance in email pointing out all the fallacies and errors in that 2008 presentation, since I got Mr Vance to admit that the data he and she tossed around at the time were faulty (a clear-cut example of how to lie with statistics), I feel like Mr Vance ought to have done a more careful job presenting this time. Alas. No. Melissa now feels bad that she didn't back me up.

So now, if you are still reading, I feel compelled to point out to Melissa something she just wrote, which just doesn't cut it in terms of evidence-based reasoning.

"Any child can take the test so there are not likely to be that many bright kids languishing if their parents had them tested."

Wow. District wide? you really want to stand by that statement?

TechyMom said...

"IF their parents had them tested" which a lot don't. And that's the issue. I'd love to see all kids in K, 6 and 9 given Cog At tests as part of the normal placement process. If you score in the range, then default placement should be in your nearest Spectrum or APP school instead of your attendance area school. Parents would have the option to switch back to the attendance area school or an option school during open enrollment.

Robert said...

Perhaps the new MAP testing could serve to identify bright kids...

I have always thought that the Gen Ed student assessments should have a check box on them for recommend advance learning. Parents/teachers would then at least consider testing for every student.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a funny thing. It is against state law to give school children cognitive ability tests without the parent or guardian's permission.

A few years ago the District tried universal testing. They tested every single first grade student. While the number of elible students identified went up that year, they did not continue the practice because it did not give them the result they wanted. It did not improve the diversity of the program. They were hoping to find a bunch of undiscovered gifted students in historically underidentified groups. It didn't happen.

TechyMom said...

Does it have to be opt-in permission? Or would opt-out, like we have for all the other standardized tests, work?

I don't think the point is to change the diversity of the students testing in. The point is to level the playing field so all students have the same chance, even if their parents aren't on top of this stuff for whatever reason. It also gets rid of one of the 'oh but its not fair' arguments. Not all fo them, but one of them.

Robert said...

Speaking of being on top of it... I believe Thursday is the deadline to submit your parent form for APP testing to your school. 10/8 is the deadline for forms submitted directly to the advanced learning office.

jason said...

People haven't mentioned that entrance is not a one step process, it is a two step process. The COGAT (this is a controversial use of this test) is used as a basic first screen. It can eliminate a child from entrance to APP, but it doesn't guarantee it. A child who does well on the COGAT is then given another test privately called the Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test. Only if you meet the criteria on both tests do you get in.

APP may seem like an elite program because in one way it is. It is designed for any kid who is in the top 2% on the COGAT and top 5% on WJ. The kids don't, however, get other benefits like new textbooks, nice buildings, lead-free water pipes (many sinks have signs over them saying don't drink the water), etc.

I would think many parents would be interested in how the district treats APP. When the district promises your school/program something, you can see from APP's treatment whether or not to believe it. Many of the districts' actions in this last closure process were ill thought-out - closing TT Minor when there looks like there will be major growth there, for instance. It may be your school or program next.

Sahila said...

Jason - with all due respect, there are many of us here who have lived with closures - AAA, Cooper, Viewlands, TT Minor, MLK, Sandpoint, all those others I dont know the names of, threatened closures (AS#1- 8 or 9 times in its 40 year history, twice in the last three years), moves (Nova, SBOC and the others), programme disbandment and 500+ kids scattered to the winds (Summit)...

We already know what the District is capable of and how insecure the futures are for all our schools and kids ...

What is the relevance of it taking two tests to get into APP - where kids are educated at their level, which is more than most kids in general ed (and special ed???) get... how come 'normal' kids dont get tested to set a baseline and then get educated at their own levels?

The majority of kids in the District spend their daily lives in unsafe, unsightly, marginally equipped buildings (with lead in the water), especially in schools where parents/community members for whatever reason cant raise large sums of money for basic amenities, let alone frills...

I'm sorry, but on superficial assessment, the plight of APP seems to take up more blog space than all of those other schools/kids combined ... which might be the reason for the negative reaction from other SPS community members...

another mom said...

Techy Mom,
Parental permission must be obtained in writing before a student is assessed for a gifted program.
Sorry for the cut and paste below but the URL was too long and I have not had much luck with links...

WAC 392-170-047 No agency filings affecting this section since 2003
Parental permission.
Parental permission must be obtained in writing before:

(1) Conducting assessment(s) to determine eligibility for participation in programs for highly capable students.

(2) Providing initial special services and programs to an identified highly capable student.

Parental permission notice shall include:

(a) A full explanation of the procedures for identification and program options.

(b) An explanation of the appeal process.

TechyMom said...

Ok. What a bizarre law. Anyone know the rationale?

jason said...

Sahilia -

I wrote about how the APP process works because people in this thread have been critical of it and they didn't even know the process. If someone is going to criticize something, at least they should have their facts straight.

As someone who has posted on numerous occasions about how your son's early school time was going to affect your family and your son's sleep, I am quite surprised to read APP parents can't talk about their experiences in the district. If only people in "regular" (ie non alternative, non APP) schools can post here, I expect to see your number of posts drop dramatically.

I am also quite interested to see your source for this:

"The majority of kids in the District spend their daily lives in unsafe, unsightly, marginally equipped buildings (with lead in the water), especially in schools where parents/community members for whatever reason cant raise large sums of money for basic amenities, let alone frills..."

Dorothy said...

"Ok. What a bizarre law. Anyone know the rationale?"

There's a long history of abuses of IQ testing in education. I believe such laws against IQ testing without parental consent are in response to that.

Sahila said...

Jason - maybe you could go check out the number of posts that have APP/ALO labels, and the number of times non-APP threads contain APP-related comments...

I'm only one person who often talks about alternative education - I think I am one of three or four who come from an alternative perspective and I do post more than the others do... I also post far more often on non-alternative issues and my perspective doesnt always refer back to alternative education specifically... there are many, many contributors who talk about APP almost all the time... your community is very active, very focused, very vocal - all of which is good, but which can be seen as dominating the conversation... there is very little representation on this blog from 'poor' schools.. I've seen few contributions from people saying they are Sanislo, Olympic Hills or John Rogers parents, for example... pardon my ignorance about south end schools - which is part of my point - people from south end schools apparently dont post on this blog...

As to most kids in the District being housed in substandard buildings -
Have you seen the AS#1 buildings? Have you seen Bagley's interior? Have you seen Olympic Hills? Have you noticed the number of portables kids are housed in? Do you know what Nova and SBOC are having to put up with in their new-old location? Have you checked out the Meng values assigned to most school buildings in the District?... Have you read the blogs about maintenance backlogs? Have you seen the list of buildings that are near to or past their useful lives and are up for upgrade or demolition and rebuild under BEX IV (I think - get confused with all the acronyms used by the District)...

Coming from non-US education systems, I'm appalled at the state of public school buildings and grounds... old buildings, many with little natural light (few windows at people height in case the kids get distracted!), not handicap-accessible, insufficient, non-compliant toileting facilities, dirty... a very few schools are gorgeous, some are good, many are mediocre and a good number are dumps... in my view the mediocre and outright dumps outnumber the gorgeous and good...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Whoa, Sahlia. Again, what's your data that the majority of buildings in SPS are unsafe? I have said most need maintenance but that doesn't make them unsafe. The lead issue in the water has been addressed (and that was thanks to persistent parents).

And if you have seen few comments from parents from around the district well, (1) the blog isn't known everywhere and (2) not everyone who reads comments.

Robert said...

APP/AL blog ... Anyone?

adhoc said...

Last I checked this blog was public and open to all. Anybody can read it and anybody can post a comment on a thread, even anonymously. But how do you control who reads a blog and who does not? Should Melissa, Charlie and Beth hire a marketing agency? Or should they give up their day jobs and market the blog themselves? Seriously, Sahila, what should/could they do? It's easy to complain, but much harder to offer solutions. If more APP parents read this blog than Sanilso parents, well, what are ya gonna do about it?

Chris said...

I vote for APP to stay here. I'm outside that community, but at the heart your issues are everybody's issues - the district shutting out parents. Remember, divide and conquer.

I have been guilty of catty thoughts about APP parents, but in truth, gosh, I just wish more communities were that engaged. Keep at it: annoying as it may be, you're setting a great example for the rest of us.

kanne said...

Wow, reading these comments makes me think of the mommy wars, specifically working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. Can't we all just get along? Well, seriously. I am an APP parent and an ALO parent. Most of the APP parents I know also have a child in another SPS program-- general ed, ALO, or special ed. It's really easy to make this about US vs. THEM but that's simply not reality.

Sahila said...

All I'm saying is that we were talking about - and Melissa's original post was about - flexing ALL SPS PARENTS' muscle.... not just APP...

I'm saying we would achieve more for the whole community if we all got together and flexed our muscles for something that affects the whole community, not just one interest group...

We need a global place to start, something where we can get leverage for forcing change, and then begin to deal with individual issues..

The reason we dont get anything to change here in this city is because each group fights for its own agenda and none (by themselves) have the CRITICAL MASS to make much of an impact... see the last round of school closures, see the bus/bell times issues... nothing cohesive from us as a community and how much notice did the Board/Super take of us? None to speak of... a tweak here and a tweak there and nothing enough to really resolve the problems...

And, the truth is, like it or not adhoc, that the Sanislo community and other disadvantaged schools do not have any clout (they're too busy with survival issues and have cultural barriers in the way to full participation) or anyone to advocate for them, so we should do that as a community... its not OK in my book to say: "Well, I'm alright Jack, too bad about you"...

Divide and conquer... we do it to ourselves when we focus only on our own interests... and APP/ALO interests etc are particularly vocal and well represented on this blog... they often drown out other issues or shift the focus of the current issue onto their own particular agenda, AS IN THIS THREAD... WHICH IS COOL, but which makes the discussion a bit lop-sided... and doesnt leave much room for anyone else...

If this blog is not going to be about ALL the schools and ALL the kids in the city, then its name should change from Seattle Public Schools COMMUNITY Blog to something more accurate...

adhoc said...

"And, the truth is, like it or not adhoc, that the Sanislo community and other disadvantaged schools do not have any clout (they're too busy with survival issues and have cultural barriers in the way to full participation) or anyone to advocate for them, so we should do that as a community"

Agreed Sahila, we should advocate for folks who can't or won't advocate for themselves.

But that is not what you complained about. You complained specifically about APP hijacking the threads on this blog and that you rarely see any comments from John Rogers, Olympic Hills and Sanilso families. That is a specific issue/complaint, and that is what I addressed. How are you prepared to get the Sanilso and other disadvantaged communities to post on this blog?

If you don't have an answer then you probably shouldn't complain about it.

adhoc said...

OK I just read my post above and it sounded way to snarky. I apologize Sahila.

And I actually do agree with you. I would love to see a broader segment of the community post on this blog. I would love to learn what their needs, views, hopes are.

But how do you go about getting them to post here. As you said, they are busy working, learning English, some have social (drug/alcohol/mental health) issues, etc., I'm sure posting on this blog is at the bottom of their priority list.

So I'm not sure what could we do, within our reach, to get them to post on this blog???

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ding, ding ding! One hundred comments (and only half of them mine - just kidding!).

I try, at the public meetings I attend, to bring a half-sheet advertising the blog. I hope to be able to put them out at the boundary meetings so parents will have a place to talk about that issue and discover a place to talk about many issues. I won't be able to cover all the meetings so I hope between Charlie and myself and maybe a few of you that I could send the sheet to (for you to print out), we could cover all the meetings. That's probably the largest number of people to get to at one time. I'd like to send it to all the PTAs but alas, never find the time.

Robert said...

partner with the times and they will come

Melissa Westbrook said...

Do we have to?

gavroche said...

I think we all need to be more supportive of each other’s concerns and cut everyone a little slack under these trying circumstances, especially those parents whose children’s schools have been disrupted, broken apart, dissolved or threatened by the closures.

I don’t agree that APP intrudes on every thread. In this particular instance, Charlie and Melissa started threads that were either APP-specific or prompted. Not surprisingly APP parents joined the discussion. And as someone else pointed out recently, many APP parents also have non-APP kids as well, so they aren't just focused on that one topic.

As I've said before, APP took two major hits in the "Capacity Management Plan" and the consequences of this decision are only now manifesting themselves, so the APP community is paying close attention to what’s happening to its program, and want to express their legitimate concerns for both the future of their kids' program & schools and the direction of SPS in general.

In the broader context (pun possibly intended), the damage being done to APP -- just like the District's threats to our alternative schools -- may be an indicator of this Superintendent's final agenda, which in turn may be to do away with all school choice altogether, clearing the way for privatization and charters.

Of course other voices from other schools and communities would be great on this blog, at School Board meetings and elsewhere. But the voice of the APP community is not the reason we don't hear more from these other groups.

In fact, many APP bloggers are vocal supporters of the schools and communities that are underrepresented in all these discussions, and were actively involved in the efforts to stop the closures entirely.

There’s Meg Diaz, for example, whose invaluable data analysis and Power Point presentation back in January [http://andrehelmstetter.com/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis.htm] and more recent analysis [http://dolcenutella.blogspot.com/2009/09/dreams-and-rants.html] of the bloated overstaffed SPS central office, demonstrate the recklessness of the entire Capacity Management Plan and the financial mismanagement of the District. This data is relevant to ALL SPS schools and kids. Meg is an APP parent.

What you may not know, Sahila, is during the whole school closures battle, behind the scenes the APP community was told to shut up and not advocate for itself. Too many listened to this bad advice and now the program is in pieces and possibly endangered. So to tell APP parents to shut up here is not a particularly helpful message.

I agree that we should all unite across the District and advocate for ALL our kids and ALL their schools and programs. I'm absolutely with you on that one, as I have said elsewhere.

But I’m not going to apologize for advocating for APP -- or Special Ed, or T.T. Minor, alternative education, Cooper kids, Spectrum, SPS accountability, seismically safe schools, healthy school lunches, ridding the District of clandestine privatizing influences, or any of the groups, programs or schools or issues I have discussed on this blog and elsewhere.

Let’s respect each other’s concerns and passions for their specific school communities, acknowledge that most commenters on this blog chime in on multiple issues, AND work together to make this District work better for ALL our kids without bickering amongst ourselves.

I think we all bring different and valuable perspectives and ideas to the discussion.

adhoc said...

Isn't Charlie Mas also an APP parent?

It's hard to even think about this blog without Charlie's contributions....

Sahila said...

I'm not saying Shut Up to APP parents...

I know that some APP parents do advocate across the board and for other communities... just as some non-App parents advocate for the APP community

Most people here do know that APP took two hits during the last changes

Most other schools affected by the changes 'suffered' just as much loss and trauma... AAA, Cooper, Summit, TT Minor, Meany, Nova, SBOC comparatively, we hear very little about/from them...

I counted the number of labels connected to APP/ALO/Spectrum/Advanced Learning/Lowell on the sidebar on the front page of this blog... combined they far outweigh all other labels... as of yesterday afternoon APP had 22 all by itself, the 2nd or 3rd highest number on the list and the only programme that has so much exposure...

I thank Meg for her work (is it relevant that she is an APP parent?)and have used it in my own communication with the Board/District

I'm saying that we need to think about flexing muscle as a community about global issues, not just about issues that affect one interest group...

And we are not doing that...

Melissa - again the (Board) meetings are not well attended by people from disadvantaged schools/communities... I would be willing to help you or anyone else physically go to those locations and ask to hand out flyers for inclusion in kid mail, or to put flyers on school notice boards... maybe the schools would be willing to put flyers up that you (or me) have posted to them...

Maybe each school could be encouraged to identify one or two people who could be the voice for that community on this blog...

But - (parents in) disadvantaged communities often dont have access to technology like the net (though their kids do), so maybe we need to do outreach in the form of face-to-face discussions... or maybe get messages/information to them through the kids through Twitter or Facebook (media they can access on their phones) ... maybe that's something older kids in our more affluent/able communities might want to take on as a project...

Maybe ethnic newspapers would let you put in notices about the blog/articles about the issues free of charge...

These measures would be one way to begin to include all SPS community members in these discussions and perhaps get buy-in and participation in whatever action "flexing parent muscle" manifests as...

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

Melissa,

You don't have to but they and you would benefit from it.

1. You would get cited for all the info and ideas that they are probably already borrowing from this blog anyway, as well as a direct link to the entry and thread.

2. The site would get more traffic with a more diverse outlook.

3. you could directly influence the only city paper's content.

Another idea, and I wonder if my gmail accounts will be evaporated for just suggesting this... There is also locally hosted software that you could use to monetize the site. You guys obviously aren't in it for the money but I am sure you could put it to good use. (Maybe pay 1/2 the salary for an intern in the sups office.) And the advertisers would be targeted to local companies with information that school families would be interested in like summer camps etc.

Seems like a win win to me.

Charlie Mas said...

How could parent muscle be flexed to build accountability into the levies?

That's an issue for everyone.

Robert said...

Charlie have you heard from the CAO?

Charlie Mas said...

I have not heard from Susan Enfield within the week deadline that she set for herself.

Charlie Mas said...

I have a response.

Robert said...

and?

Charlie Mas said...

The response came from Robert Vaughan and essentially said that he was working as hard as he could on a long list of initiatives.

Here it is:

"Mr. Mas,

Dr. Enfield asked me to respond to you, and I am earnestly working on a more lengthy response. In the meantime, I am also trying to launch PSAT exams in all our high schools, manage the complexities of wrinkles in the start-ups of APP at new elementary and middle schools, initiate beginning steps in launching a $2.5 million federal grant to improve AP/IB access for low income students moving up through Aki Kurose, Hamilton, and Denny into Rainier Beach, Ingraham, and Sealth, and oversee the beginning of annual testing for 4000 students interested in applying for Advanced Learning programs, among other things. And, as you may know, my staff includes a receptionist, a test coordinator, and a consulting teacher (We lost a position in this year’s budget reductions.).

Our office has been working throughout the past year on improvements to the APP curriculum; however, it is not yet a document, ready to be published and distributed. This fall, my office is working with staff at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall on changes we would like to see in reading, language arts, and social studies. In science, we are entering the second year of a three process in which we are moving middle school science objectives down into the elementary program so that APP middle school students will be able to study two years of high school science courses prior to 9th grade. This year, at both Washington and Hamilton, 8th graders are taking our district’s high school Biology course, and at Hamilton, 7th graders are piloting the Physical Science course we intend to introduce in 2010. We are also collaborating with a social studies consultant who is working with teachers at Garfield, Hamilton, and Washington, so that APP 8th graders will be prepared next fall to enter Garfield, welcome to take AP World History as 9th graders. Collaboration among teachers and administrators from elementary through middle school into high school has been going on since the beginning of fall 2008, and the work continues. While not yet complete and ready to be published, these curricular changes are the most substantive and far-reaching since the inception of the program. This work has been regularly shared with parents, staff, and administrators who attend monthly meetings of the Superintendent’s appointed APP Advisory Committee. Their next meeting is October 6.

If you would like, perhaps we can meet to discuss where we are more specifically in any and all aspects of our curricular modifications?

Sincerely,

Bob Vaughan
"

hschinske said...

I have to say, I think some of the curricular moves they're making are going in completely the wrong direction, and I've said as much to Bob Vaughan in the past. The point of gifted programming is to give students *developmentally appropriate* advanced options, rather than taking courses specifically developed for mature, organized, high-achieving high school students and pushing them down a year or two without any adaptation.

I would like to see middle-school and early high-school-level courses that teach high-level content, but do not expect students to have higher than average organizational abilities for their ages, nor expect them to do more homework than average for their ages. I've seen too much of courses that had exactly the opposite priorities, as far as I could tell -- all pressure cooker and no critical thinking. The newer courses seem better in that they have more genuine content (I can't say I'm sorry to see a major overhaul of middle school science), but also worse in that they are higher pressure.

That's not to say I think students shouldn't have the opportunity for direct acceleration if they *can* handle stuff like taking AP courses early, but I think it should be by choice. I really distrust these all-or-nothing solutions.

Helen Schinske

Jan said...

So, Charlie, Melissa, et.al -- what now? We certainly don't have the "written, published and tested APP curriculum" that I understand was promised when the ill-advised APP splits occurred. But -- to paraphrase Bob Vaughn's comments:
1. "curriculum stuff is happening"
2. it is a lot more than what we had in the past
3. money is tight and I don't have the necessary resources
4. etc. etc.

It seems to me that this sort of response is predictable, however unsatisfactory it may be. I for one am with gavroche (and many others) -- I haven't given up the fight for all Seattle Schools, including APP, but I suspect that the Board will be willing to see these sorts of things as half full glasses, rather than broken promises. And so will some parents, especially if the proposed countermeasures (test boycotts, "no" votes on BEX levies, etc.) are unpleasant to contemplate and can be cast in a "you are hurting the children" light.

I would love to hear what others think the appropriate response should be, in light of Dr. Vaughn's response. But it seems to me that the best route (could we get the board to enforce it) would be to say -- no more 'deals' where District Administrators and staff get what they want in advance, and parents, teachers, students, and board members get promises -- which are broken or only partially kept. You want to split APP and parents are concerned that the two programs will not deliver the same quality and rigor without a solid (written) curriculum? Fine. We delay the split until the District delivers on ITS end. (What harm would have come from keeping the two programs together one more year? None.)
You want to move the bi-lingual orientation program and NOVA into Meany, but the school is neither seismically safe nor high school ready? Ok, but they don't move until the District has delivered the promised improvements. So what if the programs spend one more year in their current space.
Why isn't it the District's responsibility (to the Board, parents, students, and taxpayers) to deliver its end of the deal first, rather than doing this "chicken little" dance where the Board has to jump first -- and then, voila, no football, Charlie Brown! The other side of the promise either doesn't happen, or happens late or is done only half-way.
None of this even begins to address the problem of simply bad decisions -- the closure of Summit, the APP split (at least at the elementary level), the high school math adoption fiasco, etc. All this addresses is the little mitigating things that district staff promised (but never intended to really deliver, or at least not on time), in order to convince the Board to docilely follow its ill-advised proposals.

(contd)

Jan said...

I was/am all set to march under a banner ("Accountability for All District Promises" had a nice ring, I thought), but we need to develop a list of identifiable broken promises that parents can agree were made and were material (i.e. -- the Board wouldn't have/shouldn't have approved those district requests but for the promises made). Then, I think we need to figure out what the stick is that parents will support (no kids in tests?, no yes votes on BEX levies? - personally, I like the unringing the bell ones -- send NOVA back to Mann, and bilingual orientation back to Old Hay, etc.). And finally, we need to light major fires under Board members to demand that the District perform (not merely promise) before actions are taken that are to the detriment of students and successful existing programs -- even if that slows down implementation by a year or so.
Here is a place to start maybe -- what if the Board went back to the District and said -- hmm. Maybe no STEM program at Cleveland, unless and until you can (1) produce some reasonable data on how many families in the District would opt to send their kids there; (2) explain to our satisfaction what the curriculum would be (will it use the weak Discovery Math texts? If so, are northend/central parents really going to send their kids all the way down to Cleveland for a STEM program based on those math materials? If not -- what materials ARE you planning to use, and what is your plan to get kids who have been taking EDM ready to tackle more rigorous math texts? (After all, if anyone can opt in, you have to assume that a huge percentage of the kids showing up in 9th grade will have failed the 8th grade math WASL -- or whatever the new equivalent is). Remedial work to the extent necessary in 9th grade? And what curriculum for that? Until the District has ALL the details DONE to the Board's satisfaction (including some survey numbers indicating numbers of families interested) -- NO PROGRAM CHANGE!! It remains an attendance area school. If the district doesn't like the delay (because this means they can't come up with these things in April and expect to roll them out in August), let THEM do something about it -- rather than demanding that the Board act unilaterally, while they merely make promises, based on whatever data they come up with (or no data at all). Let them start their process earlier, so parents can weigh in with concerns, let them either meet those concerns and come to the Board prepared -- or be willing to be told that they get either a "no" or at best a delayed "yes"--delayed until they get all the pieces in place.
When they promised a written, ready to go curriculum for APP for this fall, clearly they knew what staffing resources they had available to give to Dr. Vaughn, and none of the other things on his list appear to me to be "surprises." So, why has he been abandoned to juggle all these balls with insufficient resources? Is it because maybe meeting that commitment was never very important? After all, they already got what they wanted (the program split). This is OUR problem now, because the program HAS been split, and the District did NOT deliver, and there is no accountability by the Board. If the deal the Board made had been -- we postpone the split until the curriculum is done and out the door -- whether and when the split occurred would remain the problem of those who have the obligation (and the resources) to make it happen on the BOARD's terms. You want to split APP? Deliver the curriculum! What? Too busy/short-handed, etc. to get a curriculum out? Ok. Let us know when it's ready. In the meantime, our position was, until there is an integrated curriculum, a split doesn't make sense -- so no split.
And -- I apologize for the APP-ness of this post. The same "show me the money first" construct can be applied to any number of bad decisions made last year (or teed up for next year) but only the APP promise has a Vaughn letter there to react to. And this post is now so long I am afraid I am just ranting - for which I apologize.

Robert said...

Bob V is one of the best thing SPS has going and I hate the fact that all this seems to be falling his way. Seriously, this is a check that the district knew would bounce. What do we do now? Fool us 101 times shame on us right?

ArchStanton said...

I haven't quite made up my mind about Bob Vaughan. I suspect that he is perpetually between a rock and a hard place - advocating for APP while trying to keep his job and placate the board and superintendent.

Being a fairly new SPS and APP parent, I had not seen him in action before last year. Before the proposal, I thought he talked a good game and seemed to be a real advocate for APP, but after the proposals I felt that he (like the APP-AC) rolled over and was ready to sell us out. Maybe he was doing what he needed to politically to salvage as much as he could and remain in his position. I just don't know.

That said, despite all the promises, I did not believe that they would have a curriculum in place this Fall. I addition to that and the regular work they had to do, they also had to deal with the splits and relocations. As much as I might like to hold their feet to the fire, I honestly heard "we'll split the programs and have a curriculum ready" as "we'll split the programs and blah, blah, blah".

To paraphrase Charlie, I wasn't disappointed, because I didn't expect them to follow though.

Sahila said...

Jan - I like what you have written and the sense you exude of being ready to 'do' something... you have some specifics in what you write that we as a community could work with...

If you havent already, maybe you should connect up with Dora Taylor and Sue Peters at:
http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

email: seattle.ed2009@gmail.com

there's a broad cross section of people thinking/talking (locally and nationally) about what's happening in education around 'reform' - everything we talk about on this blog is rooted in reform - and Dora and Sue can perhaps point you in an appropriate direction...

I wish we here as a group would come together - physically - and see how many of us are willing to put our money where our mouths are and implement some of the ideas we've been kicking around here for so long...

Would be good if we found a way to work together without duplicating the work already being done by others... maybe form a collaborative group and divvy up the areas of concern/focus...

I'm meeting with some education activists on Tuesday and will see what they think... depending on that discussion, I may volunteer to get this group up and running myself...

Harium still hasnt ponied up with that Broad influence report he promised the group that met at my house several months ago... he avoided answering my question of 'when can we expect it' two weeks ago... guess its time to go to another Baord meeting and nag at him about it, especially as there's now a lobby group being formed to press the state to allow charters, and Pomono School District will be interviewing six candidates for Superintendent position next Monday and Tuesday. Nearly all of the candidates have direct or indirect connections to the Broad
Foundation. The departing Sup is going to work in Obama's
administration (she's a Broad Fellow)...

In Queensland, Australia they have a plague of cane toads and strict quarantine measures to try to prevent their spread outside the sugar-cane growing regions...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A12945017

That's what many of us are trying to do with Broad (rhymes with toad)... quarantine it, minimise its influence/effect/spread...

Sahila said...

For those of you who want to know what we're up against here in Seattle...

This is from Ken Libby
http://www.blogger.com/profile/03396717862506070730

"Check out this page from the New Haven School of Change Campaign:

http://www.newhavenschoolchange.org/scc/businesses

It's the "Business" section of the website. At the top, you'll notice
a quote from Michael Milken. In case you don't know, Milken is known as the "junk bond king" and did 10 years in the big house for
violating securities laws. He also co-founded Knowledge Universe, a major for-profit education outfit offering online learning and daycare centers. Mike is barred by the SEC for life - so he decided to take his schlock-trading skills to the education realm. Classy way to
speak to the business world: give 'em an inspirational message from a
former convict.

There's also this gem:
"Without a doubt, New Haven businesses have an inalienable stake in the success of district schools for economic growth through the creation of both a skilled workforce as well as a viable consumer base. Members of the business community are no strangers to the values
of competition, innovation or progress, which is why their involvement in New Haven’s school reform initiative is so important."

Yep, they'd be right up Eli's (Broad) alley: competition and "innovation." But this is the business sense of innovation (charters, choice, competition); they're not talking about students or teachers innovating - they'll just get more testing, which, incidentally, stifles creativity and innovation.

The critic in me has to point out that the business community
consistently views children as future workers or consumers. I used to think I was just nit-picking about this, getting caught up in words, or making a mountain out of a mole hill (after all, education reformers do have to frame their message to fit the intended audience). But this is a big deal: kids are workers or consumers? What about education for democratic purposes? What about education for the love of learning and desire to want to learn more? What about intrinsic motivations for the childen/families? Sure: education will always play a role in preparing the workforce (and it should), and education can help our kids become smarter consumers. But these cannot be the only two purposes.

I hope every(one) saw that the Broward County Public Schools - a Broad Prize finalist during the past two years - just lost a board member and at least two other public officials to a corruption scandal involving the repairs at district schools and the construction of facilities. It would have been fitting had BCPS won the award: the premier Broad Prize was given to the Houston Independent School District in 2002, the same HISD that was full of rampant cheating and seriously deceptive data. Rod Paige, G.W. Bush's first Sec. of Education, was the superintendent at the time. He's a Broad kinda
guy."


LOL - WV is conamoll - "con a moll?"... are we the molls being conned?

ArchStanton said...

/off-topic

Hee-hee! Cane Toads. I love that documentary. http://www.badmovies.org/movies/canetoads/

Sahila said...

I checked it out... LMAO...

Sahila said...

http://thebroadreport.blogspot.com/

more info than you ever thought you wanted or needed....