Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spectrum in Name Only

Spectrum is distinct from an ALO in only one way: the self-contained delivery model. A Spectrum class is supposed to be composed entirely of Spectrum-eligible students. If there are not enough Spectrum-eligible students to form a class, then all of the Spectrum-eligible students are supposed to be in that class and the rest of the class is supposed to be filled with high performing students selected by the school staff. These students are supposed to be the ones that the staff believes are ready and able to succeed with the Spectrum curriculum. The entire class is then taught to the Spectrum Standards.

Again: the self-contained (or nearly self-contained) classroom is the hallmark of Spectrum. Schools may develop their own ALO model, but they are not free to develop their own Spectrum model. The peer group is an essential part of the program. Without the peer group, it isn't Spectrum.

I'm not saying that it can't be good without the peer group or effective without the self-contained class. Of course it can. It just isn't Spectrum.

Dr. Colleen Stump, when she was the Project Manager for Advanced Learning, told the Board that a middle school Spectrum program needed a critical mass of students to be viable. There are certainly two middle schools in Seattle, and possibly as many as five, that lack that critical mass of students. These schools are suspected of providing Spectrum in Name Only.

These were the Spectrum enrollment numbers, by school, in 2008-2009

Middle Schools:
Eckstein . . 329
Washington . 177
Whitman . . .172
McClure . . . 75
Hamilton . . .73
Denny . . . . 56
Mercer . . . .27
Aki Kurose . . 2

(Note: Meany and Madison did not have Spectrum programs in 2008-2009).

I think it is worth noting that the two Spectrum students who were at Aki Kurose last year were 8th graders and are not there any more. Similarly, 25 of the Spectrum students at Denny were 6th graders; that's growth in the program which should also be noted. I don't know how the creation of a program at Madison will impact that growth.

It is also worth noting that the Spectrum program at Washington has been capped at 180 students for years and years. It is unclear if that cap on Spectrum enrollment will continue or if a Spectrum alternative will be offered to Washington Service Area Spectrum students who cannot gain access to the program. Those in the Eckstein Service Area can enroll in the Spectrum program at Jane Addams K-8. Broadview-Thomson K-8 offers Spectrum in the Whitman Service Area.

I will research and provide the enrollment numbers for elementary schools in an update.

54 comments:

methyl said...

Thank you Charlie,

I have been watching this closely, with specific questions about Broadview. I spoke with the principal recently who said that for this year 2009-2010 that there were not enough first graders to make up a Spectrum class. I haven't yet found enrollment data for first grade, but there were 80 kindergartners in 2008 [(http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/08-09agendas/060309agenda/enrollmentpresentation.pdf] who presumably are now first graders. Theoretically, there would be enough high-achieving kids for a Spectrum class whether or not they scored high enough for the program.

I'm particularly concerned because my son is a kindergartner now, but there are only 58 kids enrolled. How can we find the number of students qualified for Spectrum or ALO (or even APP) but who are not actually served (enrolled) in the appropriate program?

Josh Hayes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Hayes said...

Sheesh, I need to learn to read! I didn't understand that the Spectrum program at B-T is perhaps less vigorous than in years past -- but surely there've been enough kids coming through grade 5 Spectrum to have at least SOME kids in 6-8 Spectrum at B-T? I didn't see that on your table, Charlie. It can't really be zero, can it?

SE Mom said...

We tried for two years to get into Spectrum at Washington (last school year and the year prior). We were waitlisted both years. Our options would have been the much smaller program at Mercer or the really nonexistant one at Aki.

Recently, we've been on high school tours and open houses. The inequities between the schools is crazy. We were on board initially with an open attitude about possibilities, but now are quite discouraged again.

We've heard positive things about the Franklin community but the academics there are not a match for our kid. Example: no way to skip 9th grade physical science. If a prospective student is coming from a Spectrum program or was Spectrum qualified, then all high schools should be able to accomodate their academic needs. I know that at least Ballard, Garfield and Roosevelt, 9th graders can get into a higher level science class if qualified.

Dorothy said...

View Ridge claims to use an ALO model for first and second grade, then a (sort of) self-contained Spectrum model for 3rd and up.

Certification Doc

Information I got from someone with a second grader (so I think I have it right, but this is second hand from me) is that the four second grades recombine for math based on achievement level. (perhaps they used the MAP scores to help?) And that three of the four groups are working above grade level. I do not know how many are Spectrum kids because this model doesn't differentiate them, but seems to work to meet the differentiated needs of all the students.

anne said...

Having experienced WMS Spectrum I'm not impressed. Since you are tested for math placement separately, and they don't have Spectrum science, it's only LA/SS. It's better than nothing, but science was horrible and it's reform math.

My son is turned off by the poor math/science and general oppressive environment of a big school with lots of disruptive learners and teachers that are short tempered from dealing with it for years. He thinks GHS won't be much different and I have my concerns as well. They no longer have a separate class for honors Biology, instead they will try to accomodate it in the regular class. In addition, APP kids are finally being accelerated in science and LA so they will be on a separate path from spectrum students. Add to that a very large influx of FRL kids next year due to SAP, and I worry thay Spectrum kids will be in too many classes like what we experienced at WMS.

It was quite telling when he went on a day-long visit to a private school. The first thing he said was "I have NEVER been in a classroom where everyone was quiet and well mannered like that. It is so different from WMS."

krisaamot said...

My daughter attends the Denny Spectrum program and 56 students seems low. There appears to be one full class at each grade level, and that seems to be enough to sustain a viable program.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Again: the self-contained (or nearly self-contained) classroom is the hallmark of Spectrum. Schools may develop their own ALO model, but they are not free to develop their own Spectrum model."

Charlie, you can say it but it's not true. Many elementaries have their own version of Spectrum and they freely set it up that way. Sure, it may have some kind of self-contained to it but it isn't the same from school to school.

I got active, years ago, over Spectrum. I couldn't believe the lack of consistency from school to school. I couldn't believe that you could test in but they wouldn't make a place for you. I couldn't believe some principals, primarily in the south end, would diss it and not have test forms available. I couldn't believe principals could have it in their school and then ignore it. I couldn't believe the district could think this was a good idea because they had no way of measuring how Spectrum kids did if the program was so uneven.

More than a decade later the answer is they do. I have never seen one person in leadership, either elected or hired, who cared a whit about Spectrum. But, as Charlie as advocated, if all the Spectrum parents decided to sit out WASL, I think some in the district would take notice and care. But when you are happy with your own little Spectrum program and sigh, what can be done about what is not done elsewhere, it will never get better.

Then parents get to middle school and find Spectrum whittled down and, at high school, it doesn't exist. (Sometimes I think that foreign language immersion is being led this way; it exists at elementary and middle school and then drops out at high school.)

I've done research. This is not how gifted programming is done elsewhere in the Puget Sound area and nationwide. I think Dr. Enfield is interested in making it better but I think it's pretty low on her priority list.

Di said...

Dorothy – yes, at View Ridge the only Spectrum curriculum in 1-2 is “walk to math” based on Spectrum eligibility. Starting in 3rd grade there are self-contained Spectrum classrooms. Currently there are 4 classes of each grade 1 and 2, and for math class they are split up by Spectrum/ability (per grade that is, lower achieving 2nd graders are not mixed with 1st graders, and vice versa). Non-Spectrum eligible kids can test into the “Spectrum” math classes (+1 grade EM curriculum) by MAP scores and teacher recommendation. I think it’s a great concept and don’t understand why this isn’t the same for reading/writing as well, or in K? With so many (large) classes for each grade, I’d think team teaching would be a great advantage to give kids the appropriate level of instruction.

My other questions:

Do teachers need any special qualification to teach the Spectrum-specific classrooms? I haven’t found much evidence that SPS has additional training/criteria for Spectrum teachers? Are they really the ‘best of the best’ teachers? I think this is the perception, but not sure how accurate?

Does the district track eligible vs. enrolled numbers? I have a feeling, for ex in the NE cluster where we are, that there are far more Spectrum/APP eligible kids that would enroll if there were a ‘walkable’ option, but are not willing to tack on a bus ride, leave friends, etc for it. I’ve heard of parents not even testing their kids b/c they are not willing to move schools based on the outcome. I don't think the district is looking carefully enough at this - there has to be enough demand for a N end APP, I know several families at our school alone that have APP-eligible kids but are not willing to bus them across the cut, literally adding at least an hour on a bus/day. In the case of Spectrum, offering Jane Addams as a option for kids miles away from Laurelhurst/Bryant/View Ridge (is VR Spectrum capped? I've heard rumors that not all Spectrum kids can get into their own school's Spectrum self-contained classes?) does not make sense. There is no wonder why the JA program is under-enrolled, if it was opened with the pretense that kids would be moving from Laurelhurst/VR/Bryant. Parents in this cluster for the most part will still choose neighborhood schools over a bus ride, regardless of the programming.

Anna B said...

This year Jane Addams had 7 Spectrum kids total in 9 grades. 7 kids in the entire K-8 school.

How do you work with that?

Anna B said...

"It was quite telling when he went on a day-long visit to a private school. The first thing he said was "I have NEVER been in a classroom where everyone was quiet and well mannered like that. It it is so different from WMS."

Sadly this isn't only happening at WMS. It is happening across this district in many of our middle and high schools. Why is this? Why do our teachers, staff, and principals allow it? Why have they given up on enforcing basic classroom behavior expectations?

When our child was in another district his classrooms were quieter and kids were much better mannered. They weren't allowed to fall asleep in class, wear hoods in class, wear earphones, or text. Talking down to their teachers was not tolerated, nor was challenging their teachers or disrupting the learning of other students. When it happened, and sometimes it did, off to the office the student went. Kids learned that the behavior wasn't tolerated. I believe the strict enforcement of classroom behavior expectations, starting early on, resulted in less severe behavior problems later on. Few, if any, kids were suspended, and I don't recall even one expulsion.

Now, back in an SPS high school (a good one, mind you), it's back to the same old same old. A lot of disruptive kids, kids that disrespect authority and challenge teachers on a daily basis and get away with it, the few rules that are in place are not enforced. Kids wear their hoods, and hats, and earphones, and text. They disrupt their peers and challenge the teachers. It's sad. And I don't know why we/they put up with it?
The classroom chaos is just awful and nobody (teachers, principals) are doing anything to change it. How has this happened?

Fremont Mama said...

Melissa -

How disheartening that Spectrum has been run this way for so long! It takes the "wind out of my sail" so to speak.

I thought the whole reason for condensing Spectrum to only one school per attendance area was so that they would have enough for a self contained classroom. I'm sure they put it at B.F. Day to try and draw students there...or maybe they put it there because they want it to fail.

Di - I don't think that Spectrum teachers are the "best of the best" per se, but they are supposed to have additional training in working with gifted children.

I would also be very curious to see the numbers of kids who test into APP/Spectrum and those who are actually enrolled in the programs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anna, I can only tell you two things about the reason for lack of behavior management (especially in middle and high school.

One, educators and administrators like to shrug and say, "oh it's the age" even though none of us were allowed to behave like that in middle or high school. And, they like to pick their battles and you have to ramp things up a lot to get the average high school teacher's attention.

Two, it comes from the top. If the principal just shrugs, then it's whatever any teacher wants to do. Please don't get me wrong. There ARE teachers who have class rules and enforce them. There ARE teachers who do not tolerate bad behavior in the halls (I know one at Roosevelt that the kids know to not eat lunch in the hall near her room.) The principals in high school have their own battles to fight with both teachers and students. As long as no one gets hurt or too noisy, they just don't care.

But they don't realize how kids at that age take any kind of shrug as a license to do what they want. Wear what they want, talk how they want, etc. The kids are disrespectful to both the custodians and their schools by eating in the halls and yet very few teachers call kids on it. The kids can look at phones, have headphones in, hoods on, be asleep and teachers (some) do nothing.

I am not for uniforms or marching kids to class in a line or jumping on kids for being loud and lively. (I have teenagers myself.) But there have to be boundaries. There has to be respectful for what the teacher is trying to do in class as well as respect for others in class who do want to learn.

I have complained and nothing happens. There are really few behavior standards in SPS middle and high schools. There are some exceptions (Marni Campbell used to run a tight ship and the kids hated it, oh well.) I don't think most schools are in any way out of control but the level of behavior that is tolerated is just way beyond what most parents would expect to see.

iamrobin2 said...

I know this post was initially about Spectrum, but can anyone speak to the ALO model? What does it look like? Does anyone feel it is working for their child?

SeattleNWMom said...

I'm curious, my child goes to Whittier. There are around 75 children in kindergarten, split into 3 classrooms. So in 1st grade (when Spectrum starts), do a third of them enter a Spectrum classroom? Or is Spectrum in addition to the 3 regular classrooms of kids?

methyl said...

Anna B.,

How did you find your statistics for the number of students enrolled in the Spectrum program? Is it published anywhere?

Anna B said...

methyl, I got that number from the principal, when I inquired right before school started this year.

You can see the number of Spectrum students at each school and their disaggregated test scores on the SPS annual reports of each school.

Here is a link

http://www.seattleschools.org
/area/siso/test/smallsisoschoollist
.xml

Select the school you want and then select

"WA assesment of student learning"

then select
spring 2009, and from that drop down box select current year summary.

It shows numbers of students, and WASL scores for bilingual, special ed, gen ed, and Spectrum students.

Note- there is nothing for Jane Addams because this is the first year the school is open, so there is no historical data.

Fremont Mama said...

SeattleNWMom - yes, I believe that in first grade there are two "regular" classrooms and a Spectrum classroom. I would imagine that is why is it near impossible to get into Spectrum there. I'm also betting that a lot more kindergarteners from Whittier are taking the placements tests in the first place.

Charlie Mas said...

I'll try to answer some of the questions that were raised.

methyl asked: "How can we find the number of students qualified for Spectrum or ALO (or even APP) but who are not actually served (enrolled) in the appropriate program?"

The District has this data but they rarely make it public. They should now to support their Spectrum program placement decisions. Children do have have to qualify for ALOs. The additional challenge of the ALO is supposed to be open to any child who chooses to accept the challenge.

Josh Hayes asked about the Spectrum enrollment at Broadview-Thomson. I don't have numbers for the 8th grade last year - not sure why not - but there were 50 7th graders and 74 6th graders. I'm sorry I didn't provide those numbers before; it was an oversight.

SE Mom mentioned getting waitlisted at Washington. For as long as anyone can remember, Washington has capped enrollment on their Spectrum program at 180. What will the District do if there are more than 180 middle school students in the Washington Service Area who are Spectrum-eligible and want to participate? They should have made Madrona K-8 the Spectrum site in the Service Area.

Dorothy mentioned how View Ridge uses a different model in different grades. Even the schools with strong programs usually can't create a self-contained first or second grade.

The eligibility criteria for Spectrum are different in the first and second grade than they are in the third, fourth, and fifth grade, and different again in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade. In the first and second grade, children qualify based on cognitive ability alone, without regard to academic achievement, but the cognitive ability has to be there in two of three areas: verbal, quantitative, or non-verbal. In the third, fourth, and fifth grade, the students need to qualify with both cognitive ability and academic achievement in two of the three areas, and in middle school they need to have both cognitive ability and academic achievement, but only in reading, not in math. Crazy, huh?

Charlie Mas said...

Melissa notes that schools have all kinds of Spectrum programs, and that they don't conform to the District-mandated model.

Yeah, I know. The District doesn't enforce it. This is entirely to the District's shame.

Di asked "Do teachers need any special qualification to teach the Spectrum-specific classrooms?"

No, they don't. Washington State does not offer an endorsement for gifted education and the District doesn't expect it. Moreover, the local schools of education do not provide classes in gifted education. There is no reason to believe that a Spectrum teacher is any better or worse of a teacher than any other teacher.

iamrobin2 asked "I know this post was initially about Spectrum, but can anyone speak to the ALO model? What does it look like? Does anyone feel it is working for their child?"

There is no standard ALO model. Every school develops their own. It could be a pull-out, a push-in, or a walk-over. It could be skill grouping. There are some schools that claim to provide an ALO but don't do anything different than they would do if they didn't claim to have an ALO. The District, however, does nothing to confirm the presense or assess the effectiveness of these programs. There is absolutely no quality control or accountability at all.

Megan Mc said...

I have friends at Broadview-Thompson whose kids did not test into Spectrum but make up the high performing regular kids that fill out the Spectrum class. Every summer they are on pins and needles to find out if there is still room for their kid as more spectrum qualified kids are added. If their kids get squeezed out, they will have to repeat the same grade level work the next year since Spectrum works one year ahead.

Why would the district set up such an unstable situation? I feel bad for the kids whose parents feel like this unpredictable situation is the best opportunity for their child to be educated at an appropriate level.

The end result is that the school is essentially tracked and the regular classes are shunned by families seeking to escape the slow pace brought on by the high numbers of ELL and IEP students.

SE Mom said...

Charlie,

OT:

Lol, who is the photo of you're using for your blogger ID?

Melissa Westbrook said...

This unevenness and lack of coherency from school to school is what makes this situation so bad. If parents knew they would get Spectrum as it is at Whittier (I know Whittier so I'll use it as the best example I know of self-contained), I bet you'd see full 1-5 classes at every Spectrum program in the city. When people don't see a vibrant program, they wonder about moving their child to a Spectrum school. When they hear no enthusiasm from the principal it likely has an impact on parents as well.

You need a committed core of Spectrum teachers as well as acceptance from the rest of the staff (because teachers, like parents, have differing ideas of how to serve kids across the "spectrum") and a principal who supports the program. The district has never committed itself to this cause.

Why not? Because it's just not important to them. Plain and simple. Most people do believe that bright kids deserve the least help, will always come out okay in the end and their parents are pushy, helicopter parents. After raising my children, this is what I have heard and seen time and time again.

Now, of course, you really should be support ALL kids because that is what public education is about but really, those bright kids - they'll be okay.

One last thing to keep in mind; most teachers don't like it not so much because they don't like separate classes. It's because they want those kids in THEIR classes because of the students' abilities to drive class discussion, spark other kids' interests (kids do learn from peers) and lastly, the kids' ability to help other kids. Now my child is not in anyone's classroom to help the teacher. That's not any child's job. All kids have something to contribute, not just bright kids. But teachers do sometimes lean on bright kids to help them in their teaching. Hence, you don't want them out of your classroom (and that goes double during WASL time).

Think about it and then it makes sense why the district operates like this.

dave said...

I'm trying to figure out the deal with who gets in to Spectrum entering middle school. Our daughter is in 1st grade at Stevens and is Spectrum-eligible. We checked out Muir and it looked OK, but we'd prefer to stay at Stevens as it's much closer to our home and we've been happy with her teachers so far. Once she gets to 6th grade, assuming she tests into Spectrum again the winter before, would she have just as much chance of getting one of those 180 spots at Washington as a kid who was in Spectrum at Muir in 5th grade, or is there a preference for kids who were in the program in 5th grade? Should we be planning on moving her over to Muir at some point in the next few years to assure her a spot in Spectrum at WMS? If we do that, is there still a chance that she could get waitlisted for Spectrum?

Keepin'On said...

Spectrum middle school is lottery. If the middle school is your attendance area school, then all the spectrum-qualified students assigned to that school have to apply to the spectrum program, and get assigned the spectrum program as a lottery. So, you can be wait listed. Happens every year, at every middle school. AND you can also be displaced by a sibling, even if that sibling is out of area. Nice, huh?

You can have a child who has been in the program for say, 5 years, and then get booted out of it in 6th grade, because the middle school cannot/will not accommodate all the spectrum students assigned to it. This differs so greatly from APP - for that program, if you qualify, you get the program. With Spectrum you don't get a guarantee for the program. This has always ticked me off.

zb said...

"AND you can also be displaced by a sibling, even if that sibling is out of area. Nice, huh? "

I don't think that's true anymore -- since attendance are trumps out-of area siblings. And, isn't sibling only a tiebreaker for the school, not for the program?

I think you can still be waitlisted, though.

But, to answer the previous spectrum enrollment in 1st grade (or 5th) will not affect your daughter's chances in the middle-school lottery for Spectrum (well unless non-enrollment in Spectrum changes her academic achievement). And, I'm wondering, if it doesn't, what's the point of Spectrum?

Is there any difference in academic achievement between those students who test into Spectrum, and don't enroll v those who do? For the same matter -- is there a difference between the academic achivement of those who enroll in the APP program, and those who test in but don't enroll (and stay in other schools in SPS)?

Keepin'On said...

ZB - that is the way it is supposed to be in the new plan - but for the transition plan year, sibling trumps attendance area for Spectrum Middle School seats.

Trust me - people are NOT pleased about this one. I thought the whole point of the plan, was to get us to go to our neighborhood schools. Why out of area student siblings get priority for Spectrum over neighborhood students is being blamed on the all-too convenient VAX.

So families who don't want McClure, say, if they have managed to get out of that school, and gotten a kid into Whitman or Eckstein spectrum - if they have a younger sibling, that sibling will displace a neighborhood child from the program.

Since those programs always have wait lists, this is going to be a problem.

Yes, I am a bit cranky about this.

Dorothy said...

In the past, sibling tiebreaker included programs. So before everybody had to pay for K, the free full day and half day kindergartens at popular schools like Bryant were unevenly divided, because siblings filled the full day kindy. Non siblings got a half day program and had access to a PTA sponsored (with tuition) program the other half day. Perhaps similar things at Washington? Out of area siblings of APP kids could bump other kids from Spectrum slots.

The question of achievement for kids identified as Spectrum or APP but not enrolled in the program is an interesting one. Unfortunately, they don't seem to keep good data on kids who have ever been identified (as opposed to identified the previous year). Try asking a high school principal how many kids enrolled there have ever qualified for Spectrum or APP and they won't know.

zb said...

"ZB - that is the way it is supposed to be in the new plan - but for the transition plan year, sibling trumps attendance area for Spectrum Middle School seats."

Thanks Keepin on -- I wasn't considering transition plan issues.

But, am I right that under the new SAP, the sibling tie-breaker won't apply to programs? That's what I'd deduced. (and, I think what's relevant to the previous poster with a 1st grader)

Aurora said...

Watch it Megan Mc, my IEP preschooler can read, so don't automatically exclude special needs kids from being intelligent enough for Spectrum and similar. Special needs does not equal dumb. Also don't automatically blame IEP students for issues arising in other classrooms.

Keepin'On said...

Yes ZB, that is what they say will be the rules in the new plan. So you are correct, the first-grade person doesn't have to worry at this point. It is just those of us with entry grade students getting screwed over at this point.

However, I think everyone needs to know that you can't trust what they say about anything with this plan. Who knows what they will do by the time said first grader hits middle school. I think Spectrum will be gone by then - because we will all have quality schools, with miraculous teachers who can differentiate in classes of 15 kids, who all come to school ready to learn each day, and we will all get a pony too.

(Yes. I am still cranky about this whole thing.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Right, Bob Vaughn said that the sibling tiebreaker for programs won't be in effect under the new SAP. Apparently it will be for Year one of the transition plan but why I don't know.

Charlie Mas said...

More questions to answer - and still no enrollment numbers for elementaries.

Megan Mc asked: "Why would the district set up such an unstable situation?" Because they really aren't thinking about individual students. They hope that either there will still be room in the program or the high performing students will test into the program or the program will be eliminated. The students and families can only hope that if they are bumped out of the Spectrum class, they will land in a class where the teacher is able to differentiate instruction. Good luck with that.

SE Mom asked: "Lol, who is the photo of you're using for your blogger ID?" That's me. When I attended SakuraCon last year I cosplayed Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop. I will be there again this year, again as Jet Black. If you're there but don't see me around the con, I will be working the information booth at times. If none of these words made sense to you, don't worry. Suffice to say that it is an obscure hobby of mine.

Let's remember that "unevenness and lack of coherency from school to school" is not only due to the schools' lack of interest in Spectrum but also due to the District's lack of interest in Spectrum. The District is more concerned that schools have the Spectrum label than they have a legitimate Spectrum program. The District absolutely refuses to demand any fidelity of implementation here.

The rules for assignment to a Spectrum middle school program are spelled out on page 23 of the New Student Assignment Plan document. It states:
"Spectrum will be offered at each attendance area middle school. Students assigned to their attendance area middle school must still submit an application requesting assignment to Spectrum.
Students may apply for assignment to a school offering Spectrum that is not in their service area. It is important to note that the sibling tiebreaker is applicable for assignment to a school; it is not used as a tiebreaker for admission to a program within a school. Specifically, the tiebreakers for assignment to Spectrum are: (1) service area and (2) lottery.
Standard transportation eligibility applies.
"

Sibling is not a tie-breaker. I can't say if the rules have been different or if they will be different during any transition years. I haven't seen any specific discussion of it in any transition plan documents.

Keepin'On said...

Charlie-

Oh, I wish you were right about siblings and spectrum, but you are not. The reinstatement of the tiebreaker is tucked away in the transition plan, and was given no publicity whatsoever. So, of course you have not seen the discussion of this issue - they didn't want ANYONE to see it. Kind of like the no geographic zone for option schools and the whole two-year not five year transportation thing. I can't wait to see what else they tucked in there that I may have missed.

Here is the link:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/09-10agendas/012010agenda/nsaptransitionattachment.pdf

ttln said...

So, how might a program look if it were to include flexible capacity? This is our concern at Madison. We do not want exclusion of any student from a program due to some arbitrary set of rules and a seat limit. If a student needs advanced math, they will get it even f their reading scores are on grade level. What if skills are stronger in reading and a kid doesn't qualify in math?
How might flexible capcity work?

LynneC said...

SE Mom, I have a 9th grader at Roosevelt and am not aware of any opportunity for students to skip 9th grade science. With all of the focus on spectrum at the elementary and middle school levels, I think parents don't realize that unless you are at Garfield, there are almost no opportunities for advanced coursework in high school in 9th and 10th grades. With the exception of math, at Roosevelt all of the 9th graders take all of their classes together with the exception of math. Other districts handle this differently -- my niece at a Shoreline high school was able to take honors classes beginning in 9th grade.

Re the disrespectful behavior, my son and two of his friends went from private middle school to RHS, and the #1 difference they have all commented on is the lack of respect for teachers in the classroom.

Charlie Mas said...

ttln, in the middle schools, the math placement is by the math placement test, not by APP- or Spectrum-eligibility. The Spectrum program will only appear in the Language Arts/Social Studies block and students will only have to qualify based on their reading ability and aptitude to get into that class.

Now, the chances that the number of students who qualify for the Spectrum LA/SS class is an even multiple of 28 (or 30 or whatever is the class size at Madison) is highly unlikely. The school will simply have to create enough sections of the class to accomodate all of the district-identified students and then fill in with other high-performing students that the school identifies.

It's not hard.

The problem comes at schools like Washington where they have arbitrarily determined that Spectrum enrollment will be capped at 180 and deny access to the program for qualified students who are not among the first 180 selected for admission.

ttln said...

We are supposed to be getting the Lauf. Spectrum kids who formerly had spots at WAMS . That should open up about 26 seats there.
'In name only' troubles me. For what is in a name? There is no curriculum for ms Spectrum. I've done some snooping to see what Spectrum kids do in various schools including Eckstein, Whitman, and McClure and asked how Spectrum differs from the gen ed programs in each setting. The answers I got were about levels of scaffolding vs. independence expectations- Spectrum kids didn't need skill instruction. (Really? Or is it they don't need as much? The answer worried me, regardless.) I met with Vaughn, he showed me student work from WAMS and showed me a syllabus. I didn't see a huge difference, if any, from what we already do for all kids. We already provide honors and grade level above assessment/ instruction in a gen ed setting either when requested or when warranted by students' skill readiness. So, if it is not content of a course that makes it Spectrum, is it a class title? Is it a combination of course title and cohort grouping? Would our program be 'in name only' if we back fill classes with kids who did not test in?
Look, at Madison we are all about doing it right- not just meeting the letter of the 'law' but fulfilling its spirit with the utmost integrity. We were informed about a potential program placement in September and have been wrestling with how to make political bodies happy without compromising our belief in full inclusion for all abilities. Researching the Spectrum and APP programs has led to the discovery that our data is good- our ALO works (see pages 16 & 17 of APP audit where it can be deduced that our AHG kids fair better on the WASL than those in the contained programs). We looked at our code 10 kids with regard to their MAPS data and found that our kids grew more last year than those with like abilities compared nationally. Our data fell on deaf ears.
We want to do it right without losing what works, maybe even doing that better. I am here for suggestions.

ttln said...

That should be Lafayette. Sorry.

Charlie Mas said...

ttln has an excellent point. In the absence of a curriculum isn't all Spectrum in name only?

Yes. It is.

We can talk all we want about who is in the classroom and it won't mean nearly as much as what they do once they get there.

This curriculum has been promised for years and remains absent.

Of course, even if there was such a curriculum, who would enforce it and how would they enforce it?

ttln also jumps to a lot of conclusions that are not supported by the evidence. Before presuming that we know the causes of any given outcome, we should take some time to consider other possible causes for those outcomes. There are a lot of things going on in students' lives other than what happens with them at school. There are outcomes that appear statistically significant but are not. There are outcomes that could be the result of starting with a self-selected group.

I'm not saying that the outcomes are not as ttln suggests. I'm not even saying that the causes are not as ttln presumes. I'm saying that I haven't seen enough of the right kind of data to do any attribution analysis - and neither has ttln.

The key part was this:
"We already provide honors and grade level above assessment/ instruction in a gen ed setting either when requested or when warranted by students' skill readiness."
I'm delighted to read that this is happening at Madison. The simple truth is that it doesn't happen at many of them and it certainly doesn't reliably happen. In the absence of that reliability the District has mandated a program where it is more likely to happen. Even if the staff don't make it happen in that program, families can rely on the peer group to make it happen.

Then there is the other side of the coin. Families don't only want Spectrum for what it offers, they want as escape from the general education classroom. They fear that the general education classroom won't have sufficient challenge. They fear it will be a too disruptive an environment for learning. More than anything, they fear their child will be subjected to peer pressure to under-achieve.

ttln may think that these students would get everything that they need and would be served just as well at Madison with the ALO there, but why, then, were 26 a year going to Washington or Denny? It's one thing to believe that you're providing what people want; it's another thing for THEM to think that you're providing what they want. I have always heard from the majority of West Seattle Spectrum families that they find the ALO at Madison to be inadequate.

SE Mom said...

LynneC:

Kids at TOPS get three full years of science in middle school that is above and beyond the usual in curriculum. I know that kids have taken a test at Roosevelt to skip
9th grade science. This is quite a small cohort, but it has existed.

I believe that Garfield has allowed similar kids to skip ahead in science without a test with teacher recommendation. Can't recall what I heard about Ballard.

Sully said...
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Sully said...

"They fear that the general education classroom won't have sufficient challenge. They fear it will be a too disruptive an environment for learning. More than anything, they fear their child will be subjected to peer pressure to under-achieve."

I think this sums up, very well, the feelings of many parents with high achieving kids.

FYI SE mom, Eckstein and Jane Addams offer three years of science for all MS students too. This is fantastic and above district requirements, however even though all kids take three years of science, they are taking middle school science courses, and are not working a year ahead of grade level. In other words 8th grade students are not taking high school level physical science, and are therefore not prepared to go straight into biology when they arrive at HS. Not even Spectrum kids work a year ahead because Spectrum doesn't include science (it's only LA/SS in MS). At Hale, as far as I know, all freshman take Physical Science despite many students feeding in from Eckstein and Jane Addams with 3 years of MS science. It's different than math, where an 8th grader can take take 9th grade math (algebra I) and thus be prepared to go straight into geometry when they get to high school.

Sully said...

There is one more side to explore on the incusion VS Spectrum models. I have high performing, motivated kids, neither of whom test into Spectrum. My family prefers schools that offer inclusion or a self elected honors or ALO program.

Schools that have self contained Spectrum programs are not as appealing to us, because all of the Spectrum students are siphoned out of the general ed classrooms, leaving those gen ed classrooms to move at a much slower pace, and with more disruptions. So for us, schools without self contained Spectrum actually work far better. There is a wide range of performance and ability levels in all classrooms. The pace is slower than a Spectrum classroom, but much faster than a gen ed classroom where all spectrum students have been siphoned out.

That said, if I had a Spectrum eligilbe student, I might very well prefer a school with a self contained Spectrum program. So I understand both sides.....

SE Mom said...

Glad to hear other middles schools
offer three years of science.

TOPS must be in a class by itself. They definately learn science material above grade level including stoichiometry, organic chemistry and some biology. I guess they are in a unique situation which is great for my kid, who loves science.

Dorothy said...

Middle schools didn't used to offer three years of science, that only became the norm with the science wasl. Eckstein has an absolutely awesome 6th grade science class. 7th and 8th grade used to be only a semester long. I don't know what the new year long classes are like. If they have the talent of the 6th grade team, they ought to be good and 9th graders ought to be well prepared for Biology or some other honors science course.

Roosevelt's semester long 9th grade science was lame lame lame. I have heard the science department argue why they needed everyone to take the new year long 9th grade class, but I don't buy their argument. It doesn't really sound that compelling. It sounded more like they are trying to protect the science teaching jobs.

I am under the impression Ballard offers advanced 9th graders Biology. And doesn't Ballard offer an honors history for 9th grade leading into AP Euro? Or have they been compelled to water down their SS offerings as well?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"...have been wrestling with how to make political bodies happy without compromising our belief in full inclusion for all abilities."

First interesting statement.

"So for us, schools without self contained Spectrum actually work far better. There is a wide range of performance and ability levels in all classrooms. The pace is slower than a Spectrum classroom, but much faster than a gen ed classroom where all spectrum students have been siphoned out."

Second interesting statement.

Well, you do have a problem at Madison because Spectrum is about being self-contained (as well as working with the same curriculum as all other students except at a faster/deeper pace).

I honestly don't know what to tell you because this is a philosophical divide between some parents and some teachers. Some believe there should be no division according to ability in any classroom and some believe there should.

But both those statements point out the need for great differentiation happening for Spectrum students to be in a regular ed class. In order to meet the needs of ALL students, you HAVE to have a teacher who knows how to differentiate the curriculum. And, the teacher has to be able to do it (meaning, the class size cannot be large making it impossible to do).

I do not believe enough teachers have that training nor small enough class sizes to make it work in our district. You end up teaching to the middle and, of course, then the first priority is to help those who are behind leaving those at the top waiting (or bored and waiting).

I will also say this "everyone in one class" is interesting because even within an inclusion class, the teacher is going to end up doing some kind of grouping by ability. It has happen since forever in education. So you may not sort them physically out of the classroom but there is certainly sorting going on within the classroom.

I do not know the answer to this problem but I do know that I am glad that we have different kinds of classrooms in this district.

Sully said...
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Sully said...

OK so middle schools used to only offer two years of science and with that it was appropriate for high school students to take physical science in 9th grade. But now that more middle schools are offering 3 years of science, high school freshman are ready for a higher level science class than "physical science". Sounds like the district should be analizing and addressing this and not leave schools to flop around trying to accomodate families on a school by school and/or case by case basis.

My son took science in 6th grade at an SPS school, and then honors science in another district school for 7th and 8th grade. Now back in SPS, at Hale, he is bored to tears in physical science. There is no reason at all that he should be in that class, but it is the only option for 9th graders at Hale (as far as I know).

SPS needs to work on this....

Mercermom said...

It seems to me that if Spectrum parents organized and demanded to know what the rationale is for not including science in the advanced Spectrum curriculum, the District would be very hard pressed to answer. Is the District going to say that Science is less important than math and language arts? The District could say that existing Science classes provide adequate challenge . . . . but if APP is now advancing the science curriculum to enable program participants to accelerate into the high-school curriculum, what is the justification for not allowing Spectrum students to also accelerate in science, at least one year ahead of peers? What if a group of parents who are in science-related fields showed up to challenge this?

Also, is it the case that a Spectrum student is guaranteed a Spectrum spot, but not necessarily in cluster? I.e., if there are too many Spectrum-eligible kids at WMS, does the District say you can then attend the Aki Kurose Spectrum program? But how is that consistent with the District's supposed principle of providing services where the students live? If more than 180 students eligible for Spectrum live in the Central Cluster, how can the District justify not providing sufficient Spectrum seats there? If you were qualified for special ed for learning disabilities, obviously the District wouldn't say, "Sorry, we only have 180 special ed seats in the Central Cluster." That's because they are legally required to provide special ed; but it is inconsistent with the District's articulated principles to refuse to provide appropriate education for kids who qualify for a program based on an arbitrary number. I know this has been said before by others, but it seems worth really pressing the District to answer how you can say that two kids are capable of working a year ahead and really want to do it, but you'll only make it available to a set number of kids.

adhoc said...

Why does the district offer only LA and SS Spectrum in MS? It's not just because of the WASL, because WASL doesn't yet test SS. So why doesn't it include science? Anyone know the history or rationale??

chris said...

I have a fourth grader who just tested into spectrum. I had heard that the test is good for two years. I don't want to move him his last year of elementary but was hoping this years test results would work to get him into spectrum at Eckstein.

Mamabird said...

The last comment here was a few months ago so hopefully Charlie or Melissa will still see this and offer some advice.

My daughter is currently in the regular program in 6th grade at Washington. She is also a Rainier Scholar (http://www.rainierscholars.org/)
Hopefully you are familiar with the program, but it is designed to help close the achievement gap in minority students. They start with a 14 month program in which they attend the equivalent of 120 additional days of school and complete more than 500 additional hours of homework. After completing the first summer session, she finally tested into Spectrum for next year.

And you can guess what comes next: she has been waitlisted. I am extremely frustrated by what I have read here so far on this subject. That WMS caps enrollment at 180 and there has been waitlists every year as a result is very disapointing. There are no other options for her in the central area that are comparable so moving schools isn't a viable option. This is so disheartening b/c my daughter has worked so incredibly hard to get to the level she is at now, thanks to RS, but I am really concerned that she will be derailed altogether by having to stick with general ed. She is already in honors math and the rest of her classes are a breeze. Feel a little like she has been training for a marathon and now it's been cancelled.
Any advice on how to handle this? Have there been any parents that have successfully challenged this type of thing? I wish I could find out the identities of the other parents of waitlisted kids so we can band together to demand that they find space for our kids.
Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

greenlakemom said...

I was curious if there are parents out there who can share their experiences with elementary ALO programs that have been successful. After testing into spectrum, we have decided to stay at our local school which does not offer spectrum but which has an ALO model. My feeling is that not only do the ALO programs vary from school to school, but also vary a fair bit from teacher to teacher. Aside from PTA funds, are there ways that parents can help support the program? How is ALO implemented at other local schools? It seems that in theory this is a nice concept, but in practice how is one teacher expected to divide her time between teaching the core subjects AND teaching additional accelerated material to a subset of students?