Monday, December 13, 2010

What Is Spectrum - And What Is Not Spectrum

There has been a lot of confusion over the years about Spectrum - What is it, Whom does it serve, and Why do we need it.

This confusion has been entirely the District's fault. The District created Spectrum. The District defined Spectrum. The District is responsible for the placement of Spectrum programs. But the District has been completely irresponsible when it comes to monitoring the quality and efficacy of Spectrum programs and the District has been completely irresponsible when it comes to enforcing the elements of Spectrum that define it.

These failures by the District have recently come to a head at Lawton Elementary. All of this trouble - at Lawton and elsewhere - is entirely the District's fault.

First, let's be clear about what Spectrum is. Spectrum is a program designed to meet the special academic, social, and emotional needs of academically gifted students. These students are identified by the District when they demonstrate that they have quantitative and verbal cognitive abilities in the top 5% and academic achievement in the top 10% nationally for reading and math. Spectrum classes are taught to the Spectrum grade level expectations which are, generally, one year advanced beyond the regular grade level expectations when it is developmentally appropriate. In addition, Spectrum instruction is supposed to be compacted - teachers don't teach material that the students already know. Spectrum instruction is also supposed to be more rigorous than regular instruction - more ambiguous, more open-ended, and exploring concepts more deeply and applying them more broadly. While the expectation is for work one grade level ahead (generally and when developmentally appropriate), special care is taken that there is no ceiling on student exploration and that students are supported as far as they can go.

All of this - except the grade level expectations - may sound just like good teaching, and it is. Nothing more or less. It can - and should - happen in every classroom for every student. The one distinguishing characteristic of a Spectrum classroom, however, is that it is full of District-identified Spectrum-eligible students. Spectrum is a self-contained program.

At many schools, and particularly in the primary grades, there are not enough District-identified Spectrum-eligible students at a school to form a complete class. In such cases, the school is supposed to select high performing students, that the teachers believe are ready and can succeed with the Spectrum curriculum, to fill out the class.

The self-contained classroom is what defines Spectrum and makes it different from an ALO (Advanced Learning Opportunity).

Please refer to these documents on the District web site:

Advanced Learning - Increasing Understanding

Spectrum - Program Description

The self-contained classroom has been universally recognized - by a large number of experts in study after study - as the best way to serve the greatest number of gifted students. However, some people, mostly for political rather than pedagogical reasons, dislike the self-contained model. A lot of those people work for Seattle Public Schools. This is the root of a lot of the animosity towards the gifted programs in Seattle.

Now comes Lawton. Lawton is the designated Spectrum site in the McClure service area. The staff at Lawton, however, apparently doesn't want the self-contained model. The staff at Lawton are trying to dictate to the District how they will organize their Spectrum program.

Please see these two letters on the Lawton web site:

11/18/10 Letter from Principal Helm

Message from Principal Helm RE: Lawton Open Community Forum

Let's be perfectly clear: if it does not pursue the self-contained model, it is not Spectrum. They can have it, they can do it, it can be beneficial for students, they just can't call it Spectrum.

Just for laughs, I suggest you also read this page on the Lawton web site: Advanced Learning. It is rife with misinformation. It demonstrates Lawton's apathy towards the program.

Here is Lawton's CSIP. There is no mention of Spectrum anywhere in it. Nor is there any mention of advanced learners or advanced learning. If using the advanced learners in mixed skill-level classrooms is supposed to be a strategy for helping the other students you would think it would be mentioned here. It's not.

Perhaps Ms Helm should just ask the District to designate another school as the Spectrum site for the McClure Service Area and organize her advanced learning program however she would like.

203 comments:

1 – 200 of 203   Newer›   Newest»
Maureen said...

In such cases, the school is supposed to select high performing students, that the teachers believe are ready and can succeed with the Spectrum curriculum, to fill out the class.

So. in practice, what happens to the "high performing" kids the next year if more Spectrum qualified kids show up to "fill out the class?" Would I be correct in assuming they get sent back down to gen ed and, in effect, repeat a grade?

Anonymous said...

As we were informed tonight at the community forum spectrum only applies to math and reading. (Students are instructed one grade level ahead.) At Lawton they currently have walk to math and walk to reading. They also stated that they will continue the walk to math program in the future. Therefore, theoretically all children can be taught at their appropriate level in math.
-Lawton Parent

Anonymous said...

Not once did I hear tonight from the staff what is best for the spectrum child? I do understand that it would be easier on the staff to have a mixed room of children in regards to the discipline issue when you take and put most of the highest perfomers in one class.
Lawton Parent

LawtonParent said...

Just as Charlie Mas says, once you move away from the self-contained model it's no longer "Spectrum". Whether they implement the "walk to math/reading" or not, if it's not self-contained, it's not Spectrum. Simple as that. From our own, Lawton website - Spectrum’s primary goal...is to: Use a self-contained delivery model with differentiated instruction at an accelerated pace, with rigorous standards-based curriculum that prsents learning at a pace, depth and intensity that meets students’ intellectual needs and motivational levels. This is the definition of Spectrum on lawtonelementary.org. If Lawtong is changing from Spectrum to ALO, that's fine but we need to call it what it is.

Melissa Westbrook said...

There is no "Spectrum curriculum". I'd like someone to show me what it looks like.

No, Spectrum is NOT math and reading at elementary level. Again, show me where that is written. That is at middle school level unless something has changed.

Most of you already know this but I got involved with SPS politics because of my unhappiness over Spectrum. Not at my sons' school, Whittier, but that I thought we had a fine program and I was dismayed to find that Spectrum is different at nearly EVERY SINGLE school it is at.

How the district knows how WELL Spectrum is working (versus how popular it is by the number of students who can't get in each year), I don't know. How do you have a program where every single school gets to make its own rules?

That APP has always been so much clearer has always troubled me. That the so-called review that Dr. G-J did when she came in did NOT include Spectrum or ALOs speaks volumes as to what she thinks about either program.

It is my long experience that there are parents, teachers and principals who do not like so-called tracked classes. For parents, fine, don't put your student in one. But if you are a school with a program that has been assigned to it, my expectation would be that you fulfill what the district says the program should be, not what you want it to be.

I try to be respectful about this but frankly, my experience with teachers and principals against this is not "all children have things to learn and teach each other and should be in heterogenous classrooms". No, the REAL reason is that they want the highest achieving kids spread out throughout the school. That's it. It's not some higher or more noble thought.

The reason is two-fold. One, those kids tend to be leaders or at least sparkplugs for interest in the class. They keep a discussion going, ask more questions, etc. Teachers love that (and I don't blame them). My son had a friend at Hale (who ended up moving to Roosevelt) who said he was tired of being the one the teacher always called on and looked to for discussions. He said he didn't feel like being "on" all the time and why didn't the teacher expect this of other students? (Why, indeed? Other kids might need more drawing out but they all have thoughts and opinions as well.)

Second, test scores. You want to try to have every class have an opportunity to raise its average. Spreading out the Spectrum kids does that.

At Whittier, kids do interact. They have PE and music with kids from other grade-level class. Every kid in each grade level pretty much knows everyone else at the grade level. (This was my experience.)

To conclude, again I say -this program,indeed all of Advanced Learning, has never had a real champion in any district leader with power. I think that's why it wanes. This district, as a whole, seems somewhat embarrassed by high achievers if they are named as such (except for National Merit scholars but by then I think it's a little late).

It's not that way in other districts. They celebrate academic achievements just like they do music and athletics. They have honor roll in middle school. (Eckstein didn't have it when my sons were there because some kids' feelings were hurt. Seriously.)

Last, I was talking with Phil Brockman and Kellie LaRue about this at the NE regional meeting because Phil had something in his presentation about students helping other students. I asked him if he meant being helpers or aides to the teacher. He was very careful to say no, just that those kids can be a push for a class.

Fine,but no one's child is there to serve as a teacher or teacher's helper. Every single child is there to learn to their potential. No one is asking for any more than that.

Melissa Westbrook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Dophin said...

Maureen has a good point. Hopefully those kids would test in for the next year. Call Whittier and ask. They are quite open about how their program works. When I talked to them 2 weeks ago they told me that they started the year with wait-lists for Spectrum but ended up having room for everyone. Schools do solve these problems, Maureen, and if Ms. Helm had let Mr. Daniels speak further he could have explained how Spectrum works at other schools. Don't flush the program based on hypothetical problems, other schools run the program as designed and figure it out. What about the District's interest in the program. They apparently support Spectrum and only allowed Lawton to deviate from the norm because the teachers make such a stink. The letter from Vaughn says MAP scores must show that students are not suffering academically from Healthy Groupings or the District may step in and change back to self-contained. I think that shows the District's priority is student achievement.

Charlie Mas said...

Maureen's question demonstrate a dreadful lack of faith in our teachers.

As I wrote, a compacted curriculum and an unlimited ceiling is just good teaching and should be in every class. The presumption that a student moving from a Spectrum class to a general education class would repeat a year of instruction is not only pessimistic and baseless, it presumes a grotesque incompetence in the teaching staff.

Charlie Mas said...

"walk to math" and "walk to reading" is not Spectrum.

"Skill-level grouping" as practiced at Wing Luke is not Spectrum.

Whatever they think they are doing for a handful of students scattered across three grades at Aki Kurose is not Spectrum.

Board Policy C45.00, School Effectiveness Measures and Review, makes it very plain that the superintendent is supposed to make an annual report on every program in the District.

"It is the policy of the Seattle School District to develop and maintain a high level of effectiveness in each of its schools and programs as determined by multiple measures of improvement and in relation to established standards. A review of all schools and programs will be conducted annually using a process and criteria as approved by the Superintendent."

But there is no annual review of Spectrum programs (or ALOs) and there is no measure of their quality or efficacy. There is no monitoring by the District to confirm that the programs even exist.

When ALOs were created - and I was there; I was a member of the committee that created them - they were supposed to be subject to annual review by the District and, if found lacking, they were supposed to be de-certified.

Each year the requirements for re-certification got lower and lower and now there are none.

SPS_Parent_2010 said...

The meeting tonight went better than anticipated and was respectfully conducted but still no parent questions were answered re: WHY this is deemed necessary or how it will be effectively implemented so that advanced learning isn't compromised. At least we learned that Vaughan's intention is to split the group into no more than two groups.



From Dr. Vaughan's letter (below) it is clear that he and Dr. Enfield were either not given correct information to make a well reasoned decsion on this or they completely misunderstood the history that was presented. Let's be clear, we're not reverting to anything. Spectrum students have been grouped together since the beginning with the exception of ONE year (2008-2009) That's it. Two large cohorts (the 2nd and 3rd) were split for that one school year.



I really hope it was a misunderstanding on Vaughan's part and not a situation of the "representatives" of Lawton presenting -at best, intentionally incomplete, or -at worst, intentionally misleading, information to the decision makers. That would be incredibly deceptive. And disappointing b/c really, I expect more of our staff. If they are so confident in their position, they shouldn't have to be deceptive to make their case.



Regardless, the whole way this has played out is so distasteful, my confidence in the school is nearly gone. They better do some damage control stat, starting with apologies from everyone involved in this "spring" meeting that didn't even include Spectrum parents.

SPS_Parent_2010 said...

Vaughan's letter:

Dr. Enfield and I very much appreciate your thoughtful, considered advocacy for a Spectrum program offering at Lawton that is more in line with what had been being offered in previous years, including cluster-grouping of students in two classrooms per grade level, rather than all eligible students together in a single, self-contained classroom per grade. Although we are trying to achieve a consistent approach for every middle school service area, district-wide, the numbers of Spectrum students at Lawton now and the near unanimity of Lawton teachers favoring the model you have been following prior to this year argue strongly that we support moving into next year reverting to the previous year's model, and that is the direction will be given to your new principal. That said, this will also be the first year that all Lawton students will begin taking the MAP achievement tests, and the Advanced Learning Office will be carefully comparing the results achieved by the Lawton model to confirm that the outcomes Spectrum students achieve are comparable to those obtained by Spectrum Students in self-contained programs offered in other service areas. The agreement to revert to the prior years' model is, therefore, subject to reconsideration as outcomes and circumstances going forward may suggest.

Charlie Mas said...

Ask this question about the Spectrum program at Lawton (or any number of other faux advanced learning programs):

How is this any different from what you would do if the school did not have a designated advanced learning program?

Spectrum or no Spectrum, wouldn't Lawton still have classrooms of mixed skill levels?

Spectrum or no Spectrum, wouldn't Lawton still have "walk to math" and "walk to reading"?

Then what is done differently because it is Spectrum?

Anything?

And if having Spectrum is no different from NOT having Spectrum, then how do you know that you have it? Not officially, but in real life. If the only evidence of your advanced learning program is the official statement that you have one, then you have one in name only.

Maureen said...

Charlie says:
Maureen's question demonstrate a dreadful lack of faith in our teachers.

As I wrote, a compacted curriculum and an unlimited ceiling is just good teaching and should be in every class. The presumption that a student moving from a Spectrum class to a general education class would repeat a year of instruction is not only pessimistic and baseless, it presumes a grotesque incompetence in the teaching staff.


So explain to me exactly why you think Spectrum and APP have to exist since you believe that every teacher is capable of teaching every child a year or more ahead of all of the other kids in the class. Doesn't advocating for self contained Spectrum and APP indicate a dreadful lack of faith in our teachers?

I'm thinking about the poor kid who could get shifted back and forth across classrooms every few years as the number of identified Spectrum kids waxes and wanes.

Charlie Mas said...

Ah. I see that Dr. Vaughan and Dr. Enfield have given up on Spectrum.

Pity.

Charlie Mas said...

Maureen, is there any such student in reality or is this purely a hypothetical?

Maureen said...

I have no direct experience with Spectrum but I don't see how that kid couldn't exist.

From the principal's letter:
•Lawton has never had enough students designated as Spectrum to create a self-contained classroom environment, therefore, it has always had a mixture of Spectrum and non-Spectrum students; average number of students per grade level is about 16

So about ten non identified kids would be placed in that class. I know of two kids who tested and moved to Lawton Spectrum after 2nd grade. There were probably more than that and they presumably would displace the nonidentified kids and send them back to the other class. Then as class size is allowed to increase, or if some kids head off to APP as they do in higher grades, some spaces could reopen. The nonidentified kids are being used as a buffer to protect the identified kids.

I suppose I am now exhibiting a dreadful lack of faith in administrators who might move kids back and forth like that.

The Dolphin said...

Charlie, you have the patience of Job to stay on this. I was at the meeting at Lawton tonight and it was an orchestrated sham. From the out of context quotes in the "research paper" to the teachers lining up in front of the stage, each saying a sentence of the staff position like they were a second grade class. And the facilitator- he went over the lunchroom rules with us that were on the wall. The Dolphin Code. Be nice, etc. Then he had a give ourselves a round of applause. That's how this meeting went. Patronizing, uninformative(except for Dr. Vaughn's letter) and insulting to one's intelligence.No questions to be addressed to staff at all. Small group brainstorming on generic questions. One parent asked what was on the table regarding Spectrum. No response from the principal. "Then why did we come?"shouted someone. No agenda announced before the meeting, no mention of this format. In other words we Spectrum parents who want to keep self-contained got blind-sided.People were ticked off.

I don't think many parents felt good about being treated like small children. I felt worse leaving than when I arrived despite the happy words of the facilitator. It was actually pretty humiliating and some of the teachers also looked uncomfortable. I think we should all study Advanced Learning research. WA OSPI HCP, NRCGT. Google it, read some documents, it's very educational. Thanks for your continued advocacy Charlie. Maybe you can come to our next meeting.

Jan said...

Maureen, years ago, my child was in Wedgwood's spectrum program, which ran by the book -- self contained except for music and pe. I I think maybe there were some "units" in science and/or social studies that might have been blended, but only on an occasional basis. My child's class started with 27 in 2nd grade, went to 28 for 3rd, 30 for 4th, and 34 for 5th -- in order to accommodate incoming Spectrum eligible kids. That 5th was a bit over the top, but until then the teachers (who were all very good) handled it well. One child didn't do well in the program and left -- but he left the school altogether.

I suppose only the teachers and parents at Lawton know what happened when class size fluctuated, but given that higher academic engagement generally leads to fewer behavioral issues, I would hazard a blind guess that kids were not booted back to regular classes, if they were keeping up. My guess is that as other Spectrum kids came/left, the class sizes probably just adjusted to do the right thing by the kids, whatever that might have been. I also suspect that those doing well took the tests and tested in the following year - since the accelerated pace would help with higher test scores. And, since the whole school was evidently doing walk to math/reading, which are the two most 'linear' classes, where work might otherwise be repeated, even if they did regroup a child into a regular class, it is not like he would be repeating the same math, right?

The comparison with APP is inapposite. There is a big difference between being one year ahead in reading/math ability and being 3 or 4 years ahead, as some APP kids are (yes, I know the standard is 2 years, but many of these kids are out-testing high school seniors when they are in 6th or 7th grade. At a minimum they start 1st grade reading at 3rd grade level. In actuality, many are beyond that, and they continue to learn at a faster pace (more than a year each year) every year they are there. The literature on highly gifted kids is not ambiguous in terms of the need for these kids to be grouped with highly gifted peers and to have targeted instruction that meets their level and keeps pace with it.

dan dempsey said...

Jan,

Just above you mentioned research. I hope it was fake research else it is unlikely to be used by the current admin.

-- Dan

Web design Singapore said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
megha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
megha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie Mas said...

This is really very simple.

The distinguishing feature of Spectrum is the self-contained delivery model.

If it doesn't have that, then it isn't Spectrum.

If the school doesn't want to have Spectrum then the District either needs to move the program to another school or the District needs to tell the school "too bad". But the District should not tell the school that it is okay for them to offer something other than Spectrum and call it Spectrum.

justamom said...

Charlie
Where on the Spectrum website does it say 'self-contained'. The website says 'cluster district identified students on classroom rosters'. If the program is self contained then it should be stated as such.

Anonymous said...

I think if the staff does not want to teach utilizing the Spectrum model of self contained classrooms then they should ask for a transfer to a school without this program.

Lawton Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maureen, are teachers capable of differentiating curriculum? Good question. Are they trained to know how to both teach in that manner and use the curriculum in that manner (two different things)?

My answer is probably not. I think most teachers know, in a common sense, how to reach 3 levels of learners (high, medium, low). Do they do it all the time? I don't think so.

If they have one or two students with behavior issues, even less so. (Having said that, let me be clear. Kids can be bright and still have behavior problems.)

"The nonidentified kids are being used as a buffer to protect the identified kids."

I don't get that statement; could you flesh it out?

I repeat, I do not understand a district program where schools get to pick and choose how to execute? How does the district know it works?

Charlie Mas said...

I think it is hilarious that the District says that they will monitor the program and intervene if the results are disappointing.

When have they EVER done that?

Why haven't they been doing that all along?

Charlie Mas said...

justamom, here is the document you arre looking for.

"All Spectrum programs share the following principles:
o Rigorous curriculum.
o Accelerated standards
o Classes formed by clustering all district-identified Spectrum students, and when necessary, selecting teacher-identified students to complete the classroom roster (i.e., if a building has 15 district-identified students and the class size for that grade is 28, then 13 teacher-identified students would be selected and assigned to Spectrum classroom to reach the class size of 28) (teacher-identified students are not officially coded as Spectrum and are encouraged to apply for testing for future years).
"

It also says this:

"Advanced Learning Opportunities (ALOs) are distinct from APP and Spectrum programs. ALOs are similar to APP and Spectrum programs in that they provide a rigorous curriculum and mastery of grade-level and beyond benchmarks as appropriate based on student learning needs. ALOs differ from APP and Spectrum in service delivery. ALOs are NOT required to serve students through self-contained/cohort service delivery models."

Thanks for asking about it. The District, as you know, does an intentionally poor job of documenting their processes and practices. It is unusual to find a document even as clear as this one.

Anonymous said...

As a long time Lawton parent who spent nearly 10 years at the school I can provide some history into the “inclusion model” philosophy that the teachers are arguing to maintain.

Back in 2000, then principal Larry Jacobs, created a school that serviced the ELL program, severely disabled students, as well as Spectrum. The ELL and disabled students brought additional funding and resources into the school. Lawton promoted itself as an “inclusion model” program. The school accommodated severely handicapped students by placing them in the classroom with an aide, with pullout services. The ELL students were also pulled out for instruction. There was one teacher designated as the Spectrum teacher and students were pulled out several times a week for a project based Spectrum education. (I cannot remember if the Spectrum students were all grouped as a cohort in the main class assignment.) They also had a Friends of Spectrum, where non-Spectrum students would also join the Spectrum students in the pull out program.

Fast forward. Larry left to become a district director. Coe wrangled the ELL program away from Lawton and to the best of my knowledge it still has the program. I am not clear on what happened with disabled students, but know that there is only one student who uses a wheelchair in the school, versus 3-4 back in the early 2000s.

Spectrum was reconfigured so that there was one Spectrum designated teacher in every grade and all Spectrum students were assigned to that classroom. Typically there are 15-16 qualified Spectrum students in each grade, and the class is completed by assigning non-Spectrum students creating a blended-model.

Trouble started several years ago when a cohort of 20 qualified Spectrum students popped up. In 2nd grade they were split between two classes and then Principal Ed Noh, told the parents there were not enough students to create a self-contained Spectrum classroom. This of course was not true; all 20 Spectrum students should have been placed in one class and filled with 8-10 non-Spectrum students, as had always been done.

Enter Beverly Raines, who in fact did this, by reassigning students so all Spectrum students in this particular cohort are in one classroom. (This cohort is now in 4th grade)

The point is that the school model has changed in that there are less special populations in the school to “include.” Yet, the teachers are still trying to argue that Lawton is an inclusion model school in order to divide up the Spectrum students.

Personally, I agree with the poster who says that teachers who don’t like the Spectrum model should ask to be transferred to a non-Spectrum school and replace them with teachers willing to support the district assigned program. If the parents don’t like the program, then they should apply for a seat at Blaine.

Nobody is being forced to work or attend this school. These petitions and meetings distract from the work that Lawton should be doing to give everyone of its students a great education.


Dolphin Alumni

none1111 said...

I'm going to have to disagree with a portion of Charlie's commentary. Might be a first.

But let me start by saying that he's absolutely correct about Spectrum being self-contained. In fact, that's the defining aspect. And it's a damn good model for many, if not most gifted and talented kids. The fact that (some portion of) the staff and (some portion of) the parents are uncomfortable with that model shows a sad ignorance on their part. And the fact that they were able to bamboozle Drs. Enfield and Vaughan into allowing them to thumb their nose at the program is pitiful.

So what is there to disagree with?

Maureen had a perfectly valid question and worry. What does happen when there truly isn't enough room for a building-identified student to remain in a Spectrum class when district-identified kids fill it up in a subsequent year? This was brought up at our school a few years back, and the answer was that they did not have a guaranteed seat in the program, and there would always be a chance that they would be seated in a general ed class.

So now to this: Maureen's question demonstrate a dreadful lack of faith in our teachers.

As I wrote, a compacted curriculum and an unlimited ceiling is just good teaching and should be in every class. The presumption that a student moving from a Spectrum class to a general education class would repeat a year of instruction is not only pessimistic and baseless, it presumes a grotesque incompetence in the teaching staff.


Compacted curricula, unlimited ceilings and differentiated teaching in general are indeed great ideas for advanced learners. But in reality, few teachers are either interested enough or able to do a good job at this. Especially in general ed classes. So while worrying about this is indeed pessimistic, it's far from baseless. In fact, I'd call it the norm. It would unlikely be a complete repeat of the previous year, because Spectrum and APP don't move synchronously with the grade(s) ahead, but it would almost certainly be a huge let-down with a lot of repeated material.

Charlie Mas said...

I must admit that none1111 is probably right and, pessimistic as it may sound, Maureen's concerns have merit.

For kids who leave APP for Spectrum or general education or kids who leave Spectrum classrooms for general education classrooms there is a risk of getting repeated instruction.

None the less, I remain sanguine. Not because they are someone else's kids, but because that repetition is more common and typical than it is unusual.

When I was in the fourth grade, we learned the parts of speech. You know, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and such. We also learned sentence structure: subjects, predicates, objects of verbs and objects of prepositions, predicate nouns, and the like.

Then we learned it all over again in the fifth grade.

Then, in the sixth grade, in English class, we were taught the parts of speech. And in the seventh grade and the eighth grade.

This was the 1970's, so I was also watching Schoolhouse Rock every Saturday morning between episodes of SuperFriends and Bugs Bunny. I got Conjuction Junction coming out of my ears.

So, when I entered high school and the teacher stood at the front of my Language Arts class and asked "Who can tell me what a noun is?" I pulled a Tarzan novel out of my bookbag and started to read.

Students will not be spared repetition. Not then. Not now.

The good news? When I got to college I was allowed to skip the introductory English class and I astonished my instructor by rattling off the three ways to separate two independent clauses (a period, a semi-colon, or a comma and a conjunction).

Will students who leave advanced learning programs have to repeat some work? Sure. Is that tragic? No.

For those who were cursed with a spiraling math curriculum, it would be a blessing. There is no harm in re-reading a book - I do it all the time. As for writing, the best way to get good at writing is to write. It almost doesn't matter what. In fact, since writing is really re-writing (I think we have Capote to thank for that bon mot), repeating assignments is a good idea.

I see no harm in it. School is a buffet. Students take what they want and what fits on their plate. No one gets it all on the first pass. It's good to go though the line a couple times.

SeattleSped said...

I try to be respectful about this but frankly, my experience with teachers and principals against this is not "all children have things to learn and teach each other and should be in heterogenous classrooms". No, the REAL reason is that they want the highest achieving kids spread out throughout the school. That's it. It's not some higher or more noble thought.


sigh... Melissa, we're both parents who love our special-needs child. I'm not disrespecting you. One can read through your post and substitute "disabled" for "advanced learner" in nearly every phrase. The difference is one describes a setting with limitless opportunities and the other, limited. One would never argue that mingling at lunch and recess is inclusion for self-contained special education students. And other posts that suggest disabled children (whose brains often work as well or better than most) need Spectrum kids to "balance" them out....?

It's obvious to me that, through these "peer reviews", lovers of standardized curriculum, standardized tests ICS and plain vanilla want everything to boil down to "differentiated instruction." Except they don't want to have to pay for someone skilled enough to do that with a manageable classroom size.

Maureen said...

I haven't read all of the comments yet, but let me try to clarify my position. I don't object to self contained Spectrum or APP per se. And I'm not even really objecting to filling out a Spectrum class with kids who are capable of doing the work (though that does make me ask-why test at all?) What I object to is the way the kids on the margin are used to maintain a critical mass of kids for 16 or so kids to have a self contained class and then are (presumably, despite Jan's hopes) shipped back to the lower performing cohort when they are no longer needed. I don't KNOW that is how it works (that's why I asked). But I can't see how it would otherwise.

And I REALLY object to Charlie telling me that I lack faith in teachers.

Anonymous said...

3 years ago I tried to contact the higher learning department. I tried for days to no avail and when someone bothered to finally answer the call, he basically said that middle school spectrum was "disfunctional". He thought that the elementary self contained programs were quite successful but, they fell short in the following years. That also, sums up my childs experience. IMHO, little planning, minimal implementation, or interest by the district to strenghten the program.
Another lost opportunity to attract and challenge students.

public school parent

Maureen said...

Thank you none1111.

I'm actually just as concerned about the social aspect of shifting the marginal kids back and forth as I am about the academic aspect. I don't know how many homerooms Lawton has, but those 16 or so Spectrum kids will always be together. The mariginal kids can be with them on a space available basis. If there are only two homerooms per grade that would crate a strange social situation for the few kids who move back and forth (If indeed that happens. Dolphin?) Not to mention the fact that everyone in both classes knows that you're smart, but not quite smart enough. And can you imagine being the teacher who has to chose the last kid or two to move up or move down? Icky.

hschinske said...

As I wrote, a compacted curriculum and an unlimited ceiling is just good teaching and should be in every class.

"Should be" doesn't buy any lattes. How often does this actually happen? I suspect that not only is it not happening in every class, it's happening in hardly ANY classes.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

RE: Non-Spectrum kids moving in/out of Spectrum classes.

The remaining seats are not filled with marginal students i.e those close but not quiet there. They are filled with a mix of students of all abilities. For math, some students leave the Spectrum class for math and others enter the Spectrum class for math.

So this idea that "marginal" students are "downgraded" from one year to the next is simply not the case.

Just like any other school, the most important factor in class placement is getting the best teacher for your student. And that may not be the Spectrum teacher, regardless of your child's designation.


Dolphin Alum

Charlie Mas said...

Yeah, Maureen, you're right. I'm sorry. That remark about a lack of faith in teachers was a cheap shot. I regret it. Your concern, of course, merits consideration. Just the same, I think the kids are all right.

Kids know when classes are tracked. They may or may not care if there is a "smart" class or if they are in it, they may or may not place a value on it, but they know it's there. Students in a school with Spectrum know which of the classes are Spectrum classes - and which are not.

When my daughter was in a first grade Spectrum class at Lafayette, I couldn't tell you which of the 10 kids in the class were not District-identified Spectrum-eligible. I guess it became clear two years later when the class was self-contained and those students were placed in general education classrooms (although some of them tested into Spectrum).

I don't remember there being any drama around it. I don't remember any discussion of self-esteem issues or hurt feelings. And believe me, we talked about the change a lot. Those students became the academic leaders in their new classes, which was a good role for them. It was, I believe, a social and emotional positive.

I think all students should take a turn as a leader, a straggler, and in the middle of the pack. That's actually one of the real benefits of APP and Spectrum, as it shows these kids others who are quicker and more clever than they are.

It has been my observation that teachers in the general education classes at Spectrum schools have a heightened awareness of the Standards as a floor rather than a ceiling, so I don't think the students suffered academically.

Your concern is worth consideration, but I believe that experience has shown it isn't much of a problem in practice.

Lori said...

I don't know the situation at Lawton, but logistically, how does a school get around the issue that Spectrum kids don't come in neat packages of 28 per grade level? Can you imagine the uproar if a school had a Spectrum class of 16 kids and a gen ed class of 32 at the same grade level, instead of two classes of 24? There's already a misconception out there that having your child in an advanced learning program is elitist, and this would only worsen that problem.

So, why can't Spectrum create mixed grade, split classes like APP has done in the past? The few parents I've spoken to who had kids in split APP classes generally felt that it worked out well. I don't understand, when you're talking about kids in the tail end of the bell-shaped curve, why it's so important to group them by age. Heck, we're paying all this money for MAP, why not group kids by RIT scores and subscores in Spectrum?

I heard of a crazy situation recently where a family with a child whose birthday is 9/1 has not been allowed to put their child in APP because the child already got early enrollment to Kindergarten and is therefore "working ahead." My kid made the birthday deadline by just a few days, so she can enroll in APP, yet here's a child with similar abilities denied that opportunity because he or she was born literally a few hours too late on an arbitrary cutoff day. It's insane this rigid adherence to these rules. And it prevents doing what may be best for each child.

So, Spectrum: yes for self-contained; yes for mixed age classrooms if needed; and yes for putting the program at a school that is willing to manage it that way. Oh, and a big yes to no more Spectrum wait lists. Like APP, if a child qualifies and wants to enroll, they get a seat somewhere close to home (err, wait, that close to home part is not applicable to APP!)

hschinske said...

Lori, kids who've taken early entrance to kindergarten are ABSOLUTELY allowed to apply for APP as well. It happens all the time. There have been grade skips within APP, for pete's sake.

I agree about split classes if there aren't enough for self-contained. That happens all the time in regular ed (there were *always* split classes at Whittier when we were there). There could still be awkward numbers, though: if you have 16 first-graders and 16 second-graders, that's too many for one primary-grade class, and too few for two (though I recall one of my daughters once being in a regular class that was that small, or nearly -- 17, I think).

Helen Schinske

TechyMom said...

This child is in my daughter's ALO class. The story is absolutely true, and she missed the deadline by only a few hours. There were two early-entrance K kids last year not allowed to join APP first grade at Lowell. The other one is in private school now. The district is being VERY rigid about this rule right now, whether or not they have been in the past.

Jan said...

I must say -- I am not as mellow as Charlie on the idea of kids repeating (again and again) material they have already been taught. While there are lots of things that can, and should, be revisited -- like writing skills, where practice just makes you better, more than a little of this wastes kids time and leads to boredom. While I agree that moving to a different class might give some kids great new experiences in leadership, "followership?" etc., and a little useless repetition is part of virtually every education (except, maybe homeschooling), I think that schools who routinely fill portions of Spectrum classes with "teacher-selected" non-Spectrum learners owe it to those kids to make sure that reassignment to a non-Spectrum class still provides those kids with a challenging educational placement.

hschinske said...

This child is in my daughter's ALO class. The story is absolutely true, and she missed the deadline by only a few hours.

I didn't mean to imply that I didn't think the story was true (and I apologize for sounding as though I did). I mean whoever is blocking this, whether Robert Vaughan or anyone else, is not going according to any SPS policy I can find, and is not acting in accordance with quite recent practice, either.

They did use to recommend that early-entrance students repeat a year on APP entry, but that's ages ago. If they've gone back to that, especially if it's a requirement rather than a recommendation, it's very, very bad news.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say anything about mingling at lunch or recess. I said at Whittier they put half Spectrum and half the regular class grade level together for PE and music. That's a very different thing.

My son was in Spectrum AND had a disability. I can understand your feelings maybe more than you think.

hschinske said...

Maureen, I just ran across an old post of Charlie's in which he says that Lawton (used to) put Spectrum students in a class with students a year ahead. So the other students in the class weren't especially selected to be accelerated, but rather weren't accelerated at all.

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2007/08/advanced-learning_14.html

Helen Schinske

SeattleSped said...

No Melissa, I KNOW you are sensitive to this....

Anonymous said...

The real problem at Lawton is that Spectrum is equated with evil elitism. A parent last night staked out the moral high ground by proudly announcing that she had not tested her children for Spectrum. I guess because we opted to test and be in the program, we made the wrong choice. So now, Those Who Know Best, are taking that choice away.

I would advise any parent to avoid the program at Lawton like the plague. If you made the error of testing your child, and they are admitted to the program, burn the notice and never speak of it again.

Yet another Lawton parent

Lori said...

Helen, I only know about this case because one of the parents brought it up at a coffee chat when Kay Smith-Blum was there. From the little I know, it sounds like the AL office/district is the one restricting access. The parent and principal, best I could tell, think the child should be in APP and were bringing a board member into the situation. I'd love to eventually learn that it's resolved appropriately for the family (TechyMom, anything happening on that end?). I have no idea how these situations have been handled in the past or why the district is refusing to budge now; I just know it's absurd to put an arbitrary cutoff date above the needs of an individual student.

hschinske said...

I'm glad to hear they're fighting it. Seems to me that parents fought this policy before (someone may even have sued, dunno) and won.

If anyone runs across a written policy, please let me know.

Helen Schinske

TechyMom said...

Sorry I misunderstood, Helen. It sounds so ridiculous, I wouldn't be surprised if people assumed it was a rumor.

Lori, I don't really know what's happening with this now, though I doubt they would move her half-way through the year.

Melissa Westbrook said...

This is so sad. It must be hard to be at Lawton if there is so clear a divide.

Why does the district never act as a mediator in these cases?

Charlie Mas said...

The District needs to set the model for Spectrum and enforce it.

For people who are so enamored with standardization where it is INappropriate, I am astonished that they don't support it in the cases when it IS appropriate.

The failure to remain true to the model robs these children of equitable access to the program.

ParentofThree said...

22 signatures on a petition has resulted in the Spectrum program essentially being dismantled.

Does this mean I can start a petition and get a few signatures to boot Everyday Math?

Sounds good to me...

Anonymous said...

We also know of two children recently denied access to APP because they had already skipped a grade or were "too young". One of them is now homeschooling.

And we know of a "school identified" Spectrum student that was reassigned to a non-Spectrum classroom when more children entered the program one year.

My child was part of a split class and the next year was assigned to a regular class covering the same exact science units and math books. Mind numbing.

It all happens.

Ranting parent

Lori said...

so what happened, Ranting Parent? What did the principal say to you when it was pointed out that your child already covered that material? Seriously, how can they look someone in the eye and say that's okay? I hope there was a satisfactory solution for your family; it sounds absolutely maddening (and it's completely unacceptable).

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lori said...

If Special Education students were
put in a segregated program all day with no contact with typically developing peers, it would be illegal. The fact that APP exists in its current form is ridiculous.
These students should get special education services with their peers.

Parents of students at the high end of Spectrum testing have used their clout and money in recent years to lobby to get their kids into APP. Spectrum students would be typical students in most private schools--they simply are not gifted but are on the upper end of normal.

Schools should be differentiating instruction and should have class sizes that allow it to be done in an effective manner. True APP kids should get help in the resource room model, depending on their needs.

I wish people would recognize how few kids are truly intellectually gifted and how many are very, very normal. Then, perhaps, the energy that has gone into this thread would not be so addled with so much wishful thinking.

Lori said...

the lori with a small "l" is not the same person as the lori with a big "L", just FYI. The Lori with a big "L" has to run to the bus stop now but will probably respond to the new lori later tonight because I disagree with just about everything written.

ttln said...

As my school moves forward to create the Spectrum program for our building- yes, we must create our own for the very reasons already detailed in this blog- we are attempting to address the issues brought up and proactively plan for situations such as:
non-spectrum coded students put into a class to fill it out one year and needing their spot the next year for a coded student;
full program with additional demand;
students coded for AG or AHG at some point in their academic history who no longer demonstrate the same level of ability/are struggling;
students who may need out of the self-contained program for social/emotional reasons but academically require the accelerated progress or elevated level of rigor,
other possible issues of which we may not be currently aware (what is our process for addressing Spectrum specific issues vs. school wide issues).
Our committee has, like many parents on this thread, inquired with the district about the program –which they mandated we implement- and its systems and received no real answers and limited guidance. Working with the limited program parameters and the absence of program curriculum and support, our goal is to develop something that is based on what is best for students and our building's community. The issues raised and concerns voiced here are invaluable to the work we are doing. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, I emailed advanced learning and asked about their policy for students admitted early to kindergarten. They confirmed that these students could not apply to APP first grade, but could apply to Spectrum first grade. And, they could not find the written policy.

Curious to know what happens to these kids for second grade -- can they go to APP second grade, or do they have to repeat first grade once they get to APP.

ballard mom

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan said...

ballar mom: so, I guess what they are saying is that early admits for K SHOULD be in preschool, and Spectrum is therefore a 2 year acceleration? Given that we are talking about missing the deadline by hours, or days, it sure seems arbitrary. Shouldn't they be trying to make an "appropriate placement" -- which MIGHT be Spectrum, for a socially immature child, but might just as easily be APP First Grade?

Ranting Parent: was your child's class a Spectrum/nonSpectrum split? Or was it a grade split: like and 2/3 -- but the teacher taught the 3rd grade curriculum. What they did was wrong either way, of course, but I would be curious to know what kind of split produced a clearly suboptimal result for at least one child.

Jan said...

lori said:

Parents of students at the high end of Spectrum testing have used their clout and money in recent years to lobby to get their kids into APP.

I haven't dealt with APP/Spectrum admissions now for more than a decade, but I would love to know what evidence you have of this. Have they lowered the testing criteria? I assume (hope) you are not literally saying that they pass money under the table to flat out bribe their way in.

lori said...

Jan,

Parents can get their child tested privately and use the results to lobby the AL office. They can also ask the current/former teachers of the child to write letters to advocate for the child.

This has been happening more and more frequently in the past few years.

This is what I meant by money and clout--they have to know that lobbying has potential (clout--being on the inside loop); have the money/access to outside testing; and have the nerve to ask teachers to get their child into a programthe child didn't qualify for according to given protocol.

No one is getting bribed in the sense that you referenced.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ParentofThree said...

So from Vaughen's letter and the princpals letter it seems like they are being allowed to "revert" back to a model where the Spectrum students are split between two classes.

Lawton has 3 classes in every grade, except 5th, there are only 2. So if the plan is to divide Spectrum up into two classes, you will have one class w/o any Spectrum students. And then those parents are gonna be all up in arms.


Seems like they are trading one problem for another problem.

Which brings me to my question, what is the problem having all the Spectrum students in one class v. two classes?

ParentofThree said...

"Parents can get their child tested privately and use the results to lobby the AL office."

I think you mean, "appeal" the decision. And FRL students are also able to participate in the appeal process, at no cost to the family. The appeal process is spelled out very clearly on the SPS AL web site.

No lobbying is done.

lori said...

This practice (lobby/appeal--take your pick) has become much more frequent in the past several years, which is the point.

Some people in the know have been telling others how to get in and it
has worked. I wonder how many kids are in APP now as a result of the lobby/appeal? Lobbying teachers is a big part of the info
sharing, as well as getting that private evaluation ($$$$)

I would not hesitate to say the the percentages in there now as a result of "appeals" have skyrocketed. Maybe some of you who are responding have benefitted from someone telling you the ropes
(hey, I didn't say it was illegal).

APP is viewed as the fast track.
Let's all admit that.

Bird said...

I would not hesitate to say the the percentages in there now as a result of "appeals" have skyrocketed

It sounds like this is all speculation on your part.

Do you have access to some hard data for this? If not, what's the basis for your certainty?

Anonymous said...

I am a parent who used private testing and a teacher recommendation to get my son into Spectrum. some of the comments sound as though parents who appeal are storming the AL office and threatening with lawyers to get our "speshul snowflakes" in this program. No, we are following the rules for the appeal process, and part of that process is providing information that supports our position that our child belongs in Spectrum/APP.

Being upset that some people choose to afford private testing is your problem and is irrelevant to the discussion. It's like being upset that some people can drive their kids to school and others have to ride the bus.

My son was one point shy of qualifying based on the district COGAT test. The private testing, WISC, we had done indicated that he is in the 95th percentile, well within the requirement for Spectrum eligibility (and he has done very well in Spectrum). There is some debate as to which test is better for determining ability. Better or not, it's a different test and it provides additional information for the district to review.

(and before I am accused of "throwing around money & clout" just to get into the Spectrum/APP programs, we had private testing done months before we even moved to Seattle b/c we suspected the boys of being gifted (as did their teachers) and wanted to avoid having unrealistic expectations of them if they were not. Additionally, we moved here very suddenly two weeks before school started. If I'd had any kind of clout my son would have been in Spectrum that first year, but we'd missed the testing dates and the AL office would not budge for any reason.)

As far has having the nerve to ask for a teacher recommendation, so what? Teachers often know their students better than a test (and isn't that the argument against standardized testing?) and can determine if the student has the ability to keep up with Spectrum/APP. I can't imagine any teacher who does not believe a child would succeed in Spectrum/APP would be so inappropriate write a glowing recommendation. They may write one to soothe a parent's ego, but it wouldn't be glowing.

I followed the rules to file an appeal as I suspect every parent who appeals does. I didn't throw clout around or use being "in the loop" I didn't even know there was a loop to be in and no one showed me the ropes. I called the AL office and followed the procedure - something anyone can do. There is nothing wrong with filing an appeal if you are sure your child can succeed in the gifted programs. If the kids truly don't qualify, they don't get in. And if they eek their way in and end up floundering, any responsible parent will pull them out of those classes.

--Stephanie
Lawton Parent

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

continued from above...

My son was one point shy of qualifying based on the district COGAT test. The private testing, WISC, we had done indicated that he is in the 95th percentile, well within the requirement for Spectrum eligibility (and he has done very well in Spectrum). There is some debate as to which test is better for determining ability. Better or not, it's a different test and it provides additional information for the district to review.

(and before I am accused of "throwing around money & clout" just to get into the Spectrum/APP programs, we had private testing done months before we even moved to Seattle b/c we suspected the boys of being gifted (as did their teachers) and wanted to avoid having unrealistic expectations of them if they were not. Additionally, we moved here very suddenly two weeks before school started. If I'd had any kind of clout my son would have been in Spectrum that first year, but we'd missed the testing dates and the AL office would not budge for any reason.)

As far has having the nerve to ask for a teacher recommendation, so what? Teachers often know their students better than a test (and isn't that the argument against standardized testing?) and can determine if the student has the ability to keep up with Spectrum/APP. I can't imagine any teacher who does not believe a child would succeed in Spectrum/APP would be so inappropriate write a glowing recommendation.

I followed the rules to file an appeal as I suspect every parent who appeals does. I didn't throw clout around or use being "in the loop" (I didn't even know there was a loop to be in). There is nothing wrong with filing an appeal if you are sure your child can succeed in the gifted programs. If the kids truly don't qualify, they don't get in. And if they eek their way in and end up floundering, any responsible parent will pull them out of those classes.

--Stephanie
Lawton Parent

lori said...

Many kids who are not "gifted"
have easily dealt with the Spectrum
classroom and have been very successful, as evidenced by the long list of examples of the marginals, etc. in this thread, who move flawlessly in and out of Spectrum. Clearly, Spectrum has long been a program where success is not based on "giftedness" (see Charlie's comment that he could not tell the designated from the undesignated).

Thanks for giving direct evidence to all my points, Stephanie. I reiterate that those who get into these programs based upon appeal is skyrocketing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parents of students at the high end of Spectrum testing have used their clout and money in recent years to lobby to get their kids into APP.

I've asked this before, lori, because you have said the above before - how do you know this with certainty? Getting private testing does not guarantee entrance to APP. Have you met Dr. Vaughn? There is no way he would do that.

It seems many of us are curious about how you know about these increasing numbers of people using private testing to get in.


Fine, if you don't believe in APP or Spectrum. You don't have to have your child participate. It works out well that way. Those of us who have used it, even its imperfect form, believe it was better for our children than being bored in a regular classroom. They were better students for being in the program.

Also, I think it fair to be more clear on your name, maybe all caps so it's not confusing?

mirmac1 said...

lori with the lower-case "l",

I absolutely agree. Speaking as an advanced learner with modest roots(long ago before there was a Spectrum) I made do with the opportunities afforded me and made it into Ivy League. I firmly believe that those who deserve the energy vented in posts like these are those with disabilities, who by virtue of nurture or nature, need all the help they can get. The rest of us can make it on our own two feet. My daughter would still be nonverbal and overwrought, but for the protections (when applied) of federal laws. Now she is an A student with friends and a promising future. Sure, I was an ELL long ago with parents fighting discrimination due to their skin color or accented speech, but we had more tools to form our own future.

Can we have a blog just for Spectrum so the rest of us can work on the overall ills of public education co-opted by education reformists?

mirmac1 said...

And it doesn't take APP to state the obvious. Parents in the know can play the system. It happens. Is that civil rights in all its glory? No, that's the lioness protecting her cubs. In the end, that kind of system is lousy for everyone. Think of D.C. and those wonderful lobbyists. Where did that put us?

There's truth to the axiom "a rising tide lifts ALL boats."

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Speaking as an advanced learner with modest roots(long ago before there was a Spectrum) I made do with the opportunities afforded me and made it into Ivy League."

Spectrum is district created and offered program. So being part of it would be "opportunities afforded to me", no?

I also find it amusing how big and full every Advanced Learning post gets. I find nothing gets people's back up like it. Weird.

I note that lori thanks someone else for evidence and yet provides none of her own. Hence, I doubt anything is "skyrocketing'.

Mirmac, we discuss all things SPS education and public education - gifted education is part of that topic.

mirmac1 said...

78 and counting.....

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bird said...

Can we have a blog just for Spectrum so the rest of us can work on the overall ills of public education co-opted by education reformists?

How 'bout this system -- if you're not interested in Spectrum then don't read the threads about Spectrum?

Would that work for you?

Anonymous said...

lori, I did not give you direct evidence to all your points. I argued that parents are NOT "throwing money and clout around" and used my situation as an example. Parents who appeal are following the rules and procedures that are set forth and available to everyone. I wasn't "in the know," and no other parent gave me tips. I made a simple phone call to the AL office and asked "Is there an appeal procedure?" I'm glad I did, b/c my son is thriving in Spectrum in a way he didn't when we first moved to Seattle and couldn't get in b/c of when we moved here.

I simply asked my sons' teachers for recommendations. What the teachers wrote was up to them. There was no lobbying involved and I seriously doubt any teacher would respond positively to that kind of pressure. The teachers do have their credibility at stake so it behooves them not to cave and make false recommendations.

Yes, private testing is expensive, about $400, but how do you or anyone else know if families aren't stretching to pay for this? Implying that families who chose to test are unfairly manipulating the system is jealously plain and simple. The tests are allowed to be submitted for consideration and complaining that it's unfair doesn't change that.

It's not elitist to want our kids in the best environment to meet their needs; it's parenting.

I cannot speak to your assertions that appeals are skyrocketing. Even if they are, kids are still not getting in that the AL office says don't qualify, even on appeal.

-stephanie

Maureen Mastrobattista said...

I just heard about this blog tonight, took a look, and was quite surprised to see there is another person with my name in our community. Maureen is an unusual name (unless like me you are Irish American), and I just want to make clear that some of the views of the Maureen of this blog are not my own views. No offence Other Maureen, but since there are not many of us I just want to clarify we are not one in the same.
In the highly unlikey event that anyone cares about my opinion, please see me in person or give me a call, or use email.

Maureen Mastrobattista

Beth said...

lori,
You suggested that APP kids be taught in a "resource room" model and that Spectrum kids just need teachers with small class sizes that can differentiate to their different needs. Also, you said that many of the Spectrum kids would be among their peers in many private schools.

Yes, I have friends with kids in private schools that have 14 students per class that differentiate quite well. Most of these private school students have well-educated parents who have given their children every academic advantage throughout life, so they are quite different from many public school students. Also, don't resource rooms have only about 6 students per teacher?

Hmmm...that sounds quite expensive, certainly more expensive than the APP and Spectrum programs we have now. I wonder how a public school district like Seattle would pay for that?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie Mas said...

For the record, it has long been my opinion that Spectrum should be available to all students on a self-selected basis, but with some objective mechanism for students to be dropped from the program if it proves inappropriate for them.

That's just my opinion, though. Look around the District and you'll see how much weight my opinion carries.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SeattleSped said...

The ratio in resource rooms is 22:1. This model would serve kids in "pull-out" on an individual or small group basis. Not a bad idea lori

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous wrote:
"Anonymous said...
have lost faith in this blog and your concept of open thought as the leader of the blog appears to delete all comments that do not agree with his/hers... wonder where elitism was detected.
*for you blog administrator before you delete... think about what your asking the broke Seattle School District to support.
"

Actually, anonymous, your comments were not deleted for their content, but because you did not comply with the rules of the blog. They are clearly posted immediately above the comment space.

Read them here:
"It is the policy and practice of this blog to delete unsigned anonymous comments. If you do not wish to register with Google or Open ID, please select a Name for use with your comments. Your identity will be protected. Please sign your comment (with a pseudonym if you like) if you select the Anonymous function for leaving comments."

So, before you ask other people to think, I suggest you try it yourself.

Charlie Mas said...

Oh! And now I will delete your anonymous comment.

Follow the rules and your comments will not be deleted.

hschinske said...

If Special Education students were
put in a segregated program all day with no contact with typically developing peers, it would be illegal. The fact that APP exists in its current form is ridiculous.
These students should get special education services with their peers.


Students in APP are, for the most part, typically developing (some, of course, are twice-exceptional). Intelligence is not a developmental disorder. It costs much less, and works much better, to serve them in ordinary classrooms such as everyone else has -- they need to be in some class with some teacher anyway, so the cost of grouping them is almost nil. Having a separate classroom and running pull-outs with a separate teacher would cost as much as adding another class to the building, without adding any more students and therefore not getting the building any more money.

In addition, and I found this with self-contained Spectrum classes as well, being in a regular classroom means being labeled LESS, because you're simply in Ms. X's classroom, rather than getting reminded twice a week to go to special classes. Pull-outs seem like all label and no program.

Would you suggest that a fifth-grader would be well served academically by a third-grade placement with occasional pull-outs? If not, why would a third-grader working at a fifth-and-up level be well served that way?

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Seattle-Sped,

APP is understandable for some students, Spectrum isn't. Spectrum students aren't even gifted. It's a single year ahead. 1. And then, 1 single year ahead, in potentially only 1 area. Jeez. These are kids who can be accommodated in general ed with NO PROBLEM. In my school, "spectrum eligible" was 30% of the student body. That's in no way even special. And it isn't about, "if you don't like it, don't apply". The real issue is segmentation at that level. To have special programs for non-gifted, marginally "ahead" students, creates a system that provides enrichment and challenges to some students, but not others. If somebody NEEDS a special placement, that's one thing... and that should be a very, very few.

I support all efforts to kill Spectrum, in favor of advanced learning for ALL who need it, inclusively. Clearly, lots of people in the district think the same thing. Good for them, not bowing down to pressure from the "special snowflakes", as another poster called them. If you want private school, apply.

-Another Parent

SeattleSped said...

I'm not disagreeing, Another parent.

Catherine said...

Does anyone know the history of this two tiered system we have in Seattle? Spectrum and App? Does anyone know of another district that has this? I can't think of one. I'm not arguing for or against this system, just wondering how it developed.

Charlie Mas said...

The history of Spectrum is rooted in a program called Horizon. Eligibility to Horizon was for students who were high performers within their demographic. Horizon had a definite racial integration objective.

So did APP for that matter. Think of where APP (originally called IPP) was placed: Madrona, Washington, and Garfield. There was a specific effort to put the program in the 'hood.

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

The real issue is segmentation at that level. To have special programs for non-gifted, marginally "ahead" students, creates a system that provides enrichment and challenges to some students, but not others.

As always, I'll preface by saying I don't really know jack about Spectrum, since I have no first hand experience.

Whenever the topic comes up, I do, like Another Parent, wonder why kids that are only a year ahead can't be reasonably accommodated in the regular classroom. It doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility.

A kid that is, say, three or four years a head can be a real problem. Even if you can accomdate them early in elementary, eventually you run out of materials, appropriate books, and there is always the problem that they are the isolated oddball. But one year ahead doesn't have these same problems.

I assume, however, that people seek out Spectrum because there are not appropriate accomodations, and the level of rigor in the general ed classes is simply too low. The current math program seems like it is one to two years behind what I did as a kid. No one should be surprised that people want more for kids that are ready for it.

I doubt that abolishing Spectrum will mean and end to a system that "provides enrichment and challenges to some students, but not others". I think it will just mean that no one will get this. Is this a better system?

If the district could show it can meet all kids where they are academically, then there wouldn't be this pressure to get kids into Spectrum. Maybe that's where the energy needs to go, not into simply abolishing a program that is apparently valued by families and then declaring success.

Anonymous said...

How about we work to provide advancement for ALL students, opportunities to ALL students, enrichment to ALL students?.. not just the ones with pushy parents who wish an exclusive education at public expense. The district doesn't have "show" anything. It can simply dismantle the exclusion. That is indeed happening.

-Another Parent

Anonymous said...

From Madrona's school history on the SPS website:

As part of the desegregation plan’s magnet program, in 1978 Madrona was made home of an elementary program for highly capable students, known as the Individualized Progress Program or IPP. IPP students, most of who came by bus from all over the city, shared the building with students in the regular elementary program. In the first few years of this arrangement, IPP students attended separate classes for reading, social studies, and math while sharing classes in music, art, and PE. Later the two groups were completely separated.
IPP was renamed the Accelerated Progress Program, or APP.

In September 1997, the APP students moved to Lowell, reducing Madrona’s enrollment to 295 students.


-Google it

Bird said...

How about we work to provide advancement for ALL students, opportunities to ALL students, enrichment to ALL students?.

Can you give some specifics of how you would like this would work, Another Parent?

If we get rid of all Spectrum and Honors classes, what then? Ostensibly, ALO is supposed to offer this sort of opportunity to all students, but I've never heard a good word about the effectiveness of that program for offering students anything.

We can't just have everyone working on the curriculum one year ahead because, quite reasonably, many kids aren't ready for that.

Would you have ability grouping in the schools?

It seems to me that I read an article in the wayback archives of the Seattle Times about how the schools were officially now going to provide enrichment to everyone, not just kids in advanced learning (unfortunately, I can't seem to find it now). I guess we'll call that a failure, since you feel kids aren't get enrichment now in general ed. What could we do to actually get enrichment, declaring that is will now be available, not surprisingly, doesn't seem to work.

Does some other district have a model that works the way you would like?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"These are kids who can be accommodated in general ed with NO PROBLEM."

"Whenever the topic comes up, I do, like Another Parent, wonder why kids that are only a year ahead can't be reasonably accommodated in the regular classroom. It doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility."

It SHOULD be true. But it isn't. Teachers are not well-trained in differentiating teaching and curriculum. Large class sizes make it very hard for them to do so. And so they teach to the middle.

(Also, you can't get into Spectrum being good in only one area. The test is for multiple areas.)

"In my school, "spectrum eligible" was 30% of the student body."

What school is this and how could you possibly know that?

Spectrum parents are not asking for more. They ask for what ALL parents ask for - their child's academic needs to be met. That doesn't happen in a regular ed classroom in SPS. (I note that places like Laurelhurst that pride themselves on not having Spectrum because of the rigor in their classrooms hired a math tutor to help kids who were working too far ahead to be accommodated in a regular classroom.)

If you think Spectrum is a private school education, you'd be wrong. Most Spectrum classrooms run large.

Catherine, as I have stated, other districts have gifted programs. They are ashamed of them, they clearly state what they are doing and no, they are not just for APP kids.

spsmarketshare said...

Someone identified as Another Parent wrote earlier, "If you want private school, apply."

I have to say that's exactly the kind of attitude that has given Seattle Public Schools one of the lowest participation rates of any major city in the country.

Suggesting that anyone who doesn't like it should get out will drive away those who can get out, leaving behind those who cannot.

And this has already happened to a large extent. Only about 68% of Seattle children attend public schools compared to 80-90% for normal US cities.

High participation rates in our public schools is critical to have community support for the schools, to be able to pass taxes that fund the public schools, and to maximize the involvement of parents in helping the schools. Seattle Public School funding from state and federal sources also is directly tied to enrollment.

The enemy is not the parents who are engaged and are trying to improve our public schools. If anything, we should see the enemy as the forces that push people to leave our public schools and should be trying to attract those who have left back to our public schools. Driving away all the families who are motivated and can afford to leave will destroy Seattle Public Schools.

Anonymous said...

And from here:
http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10022.aspx

THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON CHILD DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH GROUP
A research and service project focused upon gifted children was initiated at the University of Washington in 1974. Our interest was in the identification and nurturance of very young, highly precocious infants and preschool children. It soon became obvious that the needs of this population were great, much greater indeed than we had anticipated. Within days of the first inconspicuous announcement of the study in a local newspaper, more than 300 families had contacted us. Approximately one-half of these returned a lengthy questionnaire concerned with their children's intellectual development. Almost 100 of these families had children in the age range from 2 to 5 years, and approximately 1 in 10 of their children performed at an extraordinarily advanced level in some cognitive domain and/or achieved a Stanford- Binet IQ at least 4 standard deviations above the mean (IQ 164+).

[they started] A kindergarten-through-high-school program for children and young people exhibiting extraordinary advancement in academic skills. This Individual Progress Program (IPP) is run by the Seattle Public Schools in collaboration with the Child Development Research Group. It is designed for students who are achieving at least four grade levels beyond the grade appropriate for their age. Some of these children are included in the longitudinal study. Begun in 1978, the IPP currently serves 75 children, balanced for sex and reflecting the racial makeup of the Seattle population. Developmental funds have been supplied by an ESEA, Title 4-C award, but the program will function with a non-supplemented allotment from the Seattle Public School District.


-Google it

Anonymous said...

If Another Parent is from Lawton, that is an oft used, and I believe poorly researched, if not made up completely figure.

But passing along made up stuff, or at least only part of the story (see the real history of spectrum delivery at lawton from dolphin alumni above) is what allowed Vaughan to be persuaded in the first place.

Lawton's report card actually shows Spectrum kids as 19% of the poplulation.

Until this process is daylighted (someone else's word but so very applicable) I'm questioning how parents are to trust staff to pull this off, when the exact info presented to the district by the same staff was not presented in a particularly trustworthy manner.

-a FED UP lawton parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I forgot which elementary it was (Maple or Kimball?) that, for a couple of years, taught all the students at a Spectrum level. They had great results. They had to use all their "spare" school dollars to tutor some kids who struggled but it paid off.

Did the district try to duplicate this? Nope. Support it? Nope.

So yes, it would be great if ALL kids were pushed harder (because Spectrum is faster and deeper, not more) but our district has shown no inclination to support that effort either by duplicating what happened at one elementary or by making ALOs work.

Bird said...

Lawton's report card actually shows Spectrum kids as 19% of the poplulation.

Was that kids taking a Spectrum seat or kids qualifying for Spectrum?

"In my school, "spectrum eligible" was 30% of the student body."

What school is this and how could you possibly know that?


Of course, I don't know what the actual figures are. (It'd be great if the district published them.) I wouldn't be too quick to doubt this figure though.

The only data point I have are those MAP achievement figures Bernatek published last year. In first grade, the average score for white students was at the threshold for entry into Spectrum. Given that, it doesn't seem unreasonable that a school that draws heavily from this demographic might have 30% of students Spectrum eligible.

Melissa Westbrook said...

30% Spectrum eligible, to me, means you know those students took the test and are eligible. That why I wonder how anyone could know unless Dr. Vaughn or a principal gave you that stat.

To have 30% be eligible would mean that even more kids likely took the test. I'd have to ask Bob but I don't think most schools' test rates go as high as 40-50% of the school taking the test.

Catherine said...

Melissa,

Yes, I know other districts have gifted programs. I'm just not aware of any that have a gifted program and a highly gifted program. I was just curious if someone else knew of such a district so that I could read about it.

Thank you Charlie and Google it. It sounds like Seattle's two programs developed independently of each other.

Anonymous said...

I believe in public schools and the supportive neighborhoods with all the varieties of kids. My child tested (Cogat) because a friend was testing. Also, reading level was high. No pushing, no money to offer. Scores qualified for APP placement and we choose Spectrum because it was challenging. Not too hard or easy. If regular classes challenged all kids to their abilities we would have looked at that option.In my opinion it worked well until ALO where the challenge and motivation waned.

Public School Parent

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

I don't think Another Parent's point requires actually currently Spectrum qualified students.

I think, what Another Parent's is saying is just that along the lines of 30% of kid's in their school could qualify for Spectrum, and, if a third of a class is ready for advanced work, is it really necessary to segregate them? This seems a reasonable question both in terms of logic and what we know from existing data.

Whether the students tested for Spectrum this year or not is really splitting hairs.

(Another Parent will have to clarify, if I'm mischaracterizing)

I'd love to see real data nevertheless.
We're spending a lot of resources on MAP. I really wish the district would release the data on a school by school basis. Hint to district staff: if parents were getting some value by being able to look at the data, they might be more willing to participate in the testing.

There are clear benefits to bringing together kids who might be a singleton for their grade or school. Are there real benefits when a very substantial proportion of kids in a class are already at the higher level?

Charlie Mas said...

If I lived in an affluent neighborhood that was filled with people fluent with the dominant culture where the schools were filled with high performing students - perhaps as many as 30% of whom could easily qualify for Spectrum - I, too, might wonder why the District needs this program. Surely those students are getting appropriately challenging curriculum and a supportive peer group in their general education classroom.

I suspect they are. That's why Spectrum-eligible students stay at schools like McGilvra and Montlake. There have been years when these schools had more Spectrum-eligible students than the designated Spectrum site in the Central cluster.

But not all of our schools are like that. We need to consider what's happening at other schools.

What about the Spectrum-eligible student who enrolls at MLK where only 23% of 4th graders pass the math portion of the MSP and where 70% of the students are in the bottom third for year-over-year gains on the state math test?

Is Spectrum unnecessary for that child as well? Is that child going to get the acceleration and the compacted curriculum in a general education classroom?

Of 74 students in the 4th grade at MLK, only 1 - one - got a Level 4 score on the MSP last year.

How much do you expect the teachers and the school to accomodate the academic needs of that one student among 74?

I'm glad that Spectrum isn't neccessary in your neighborhood school, but they aren't all like that.

hschinske said...

I'm just not aware of any that have a gifted program and a highly gifted program.

Bellevue, Denver and Falcon in Colorado, Los Angeles, Boise, Anchorage, Winston-Salem, Minnetonka -- that's just the beginning of what I've found googling "gifted program" and "highly gifted." I don't get the impression that the two-tier system is that rare.

For those who think a year ahead is no big deal: in that case, why is it such a big deal (academically speaking -- social issues aside for the moment) to skip a grade or be held back?

Helen Schinske

Catherine said...

Thanks, Helen. It is much more common than I thought. Interesting to see how other districts do it.

Thoughts said...

It's really hard for teachers to have 28 children in one classroom that are working at a huge variety of levels. For example, take a first grade classroom with children who are not yet reading to children who are reading at a 4th grade level (and every level in between). Or in math- children who are learning to add and children who are trying to come up with an argument for how to divide by negative numbers. Without any special programs, how should the teacher handle this? Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to come up with an individual plan for every child?

Anonymous said...

From the recently released school reports:

Advanced learners make up the following percentages of each school's student body:

Arbor Heights: 0%
BF Day: 0%
Hawthorne: 0%
John Muir: 23%
Lafayette: 26%
Lawton: 19%
View Ridge: 32%
Wedgwood: 28%
Whittier: 31%
Wing Luke: 11%

As we look at these numbers the 0% stand out; what's going on with those numbers? Also, these numbers do not reflect each grade level percentage but school-wide percentages. Some schools have very high numbers of spectrum at each grade level (perhaps over 50%) if kindergarten numbers subtracted out (because K cannot yet have qualified for spectrum). Interesting that many sites are generally 20-30% spectrum.

By The Numbers

WhatDoTheNumbersMean? said...

One would expect the Spectrum designated schools such as Wedgwood and View Ridge to have a high proportion of Spectrum students.

TechyMom said...

And I think someone (Charlie?) mentioned on another thread that ALO students were not counted among advanced learners on the school reports.

Anonymous said...

Spectrum Waiting Listings

If the district is going to offer Spectrum shouldn't they have have enough Spectrum seats as students who qualify and want a seat at their Spectrum area school? Shouldn't it be treated like APP where all who qualify and want a seat are given a seat if they enroll on time. Why should it be a lottery? A child could be in Spectrum from 1st grade through 5th grade and then get to middle school and be told sorry we don't have enough seats. A student new to SPS in 2nd grade could qualify for Spectrum in 3rd grade, but all seats have already been taken by students who were already living in their middle school area. It wouldn't matter that the new student got 97% percent on the COGAT or a parent didn't know about Spectrum until their student was in 3rd qrade and then had them tested. The student qualified for 4th grade Spectrum but was told okay, but we don't have a seat for you. You need to stay in your regular classroom and continue to be unchallenged.

hschinske said...

Yup: from http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2010/12/school-reports-data-in-question.html?showComment=1291751742702#c4387723171301843751, Charlie Mas said:

When the District counts Advanced Learners I think they only count those who are Spectrum- or APP-eligible and are enrolled in a Spectrum program or APP.

Left out of that count are Spectrum- and APP-eligible students who are participating in ALOs (even though it allows them to retain their eligibility) and those who are not participating in any District-recognized advanced learning program.


Helen Schinske

ParentofThree said...

"I'm glad that Spectrum isn't neccessary in your neighborhood school, but they aren't all like that."

Amen to that...Another Parent most likely lives in the northend and has not had the opportunity to experience some of the schools that Charlie refers to.

Also, I am fairly certain the the numbers of ALs on the School Reports are incorrect, there is another post on this, I believe. So many false stats out there, hard to keep track.

hschinske said...

Spectrum Waiting Listings -- the district likes creating artificial scarcity and pitting parents against one another. The points you raise were already issues when my kids were in kindergarten, and had obviously been around a long time.

I remember asking the principal at Whittier in 1999 why they didn't add Spectrum classes, given that they always had waitlists, and he said there was no room. I asked why they hadn't planned for that in the brand-new building, given that there'd apparently been years of consistent demand, and he said, well, there was always North Beach (which at that time had only a pull-out program and therefore wasn't as popular).

It's not a gifted-specific thing, either -- look at TOPS, look at JSIS, Ballard biotech, etc.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I think, what Another Parent's is saying is just that along the lines of 30% of kid's in their school could qualify for Spectrum, and, if a third of a class is ready for advanced work, is it really necessary to segregate them?"

Again, how does he/she KNOW this if the school is not a Spectrum school? "could qualify"? Based on what knowledge? Sorry, if you don't have hard data that there are that many qualified kids, then you can't make the argument why have Spectrum. Show me the data or how you know and great, but I keep asking and yet, no answer.

hschinske said...

Another Parent most likely lives in the northend and has not had the opportunity to experience some of the schools that Charlie refers to.

Well, if you talk to some of the north end families who leave *their* schools, you'll discover it's not all that rosy for advanced learners just because the building is full of nice middle-class kids who pass the WASL pretty easily. Indeed, such schools tend to rest on their test scores and *not* be especially inclined to do much for their more advanced students, because what's in it for them? I've heard of several south-end schools being way more creative in trying to provide challenge for their advanced students than I ever experienced at Whittier.

Helen Schinske

New Perspective said...

Well after seeing the letters to and from Dr. Vaughn and the Lawton staff, my opinion has gone 180 degrees. Lawton doesn't really need self-contained and the potential for harm to kids' social development and to staff is greater than the risk to student achievement. The office of Advanced Learning has forced Lawton to comply for two years with self-contained. The staff believes so strongly that this is detrimental that they are willing to put up with these fights with Spectrum parents over and over. I can't imagine they enjoy it. I think Spectrum parents have the right to be concerned and I think that communication was sorely lacking, however, the basic principle is one of isolating advanced learners. Studies say yes, it's good- but it must be remembered that Phd's who do these studies like the ivory tower; they don't have any trade schools at UW as far as I know. If you think research bias is a red-herring read this weeks New Yorker. Researchers are researching researcher bias.(3 times fast) It's not intentional but it is real. I think Dr. Vaughn is an ivory tower guy to some extent. I think he's one of those who might drop a line like"one of these kids could solve global warming". Well, it just might be one of "these" kids and one of the "other" kids working together who solve global warming and they can work together because they sat next to each other in 4th grade.

Di said...

re:historical discussion, prior to IPP/horizon there was the "alpha-mentor" program. but i was too young then to know much more.

anne said...

i think lori has a valid point about parents that are in-the-know utilizing the alternate (but publicized) methods to attempt to get their borderline kids into APP or Spectrum. It is not wrong, but it probably does favor well-educated, assertive, english-speaking families. And as a result, APP becomes bloated at the lower edge where you can argue is the population which is least likely to need it if the opportunities existed for challenging work outside the program.

After having been through Spectrum at WMS, and having a border-line APP kid, I now wish I would have pushed to have him privately tested and used any other means to get him in APP because the classes outside of APP were so far below what he was capable of and full of distruptive students. I now have a second child entering the system and this time I will try to get him tested to get into APP 'early and often' because, even though it has its problems, it is the best track in SPS and it's a HUGE drop to the next level down. You can't deny that there are a lot of parents that feel the same way.


I feel bad about this because I know that my children are not in that top tier that absolutely cannot succeed in the mainstream classroom. They are bright and have been exposed to a lot of learning outside of the classroom, so they are ahead of the population of students in a city school district, but they are not early-entrance at the U kind of kids. They just need challenging work in an environment with peers that are engaged. Outside of APP that doesn't exist in some schools and so I will do what I feel is best for my child until SPS fixes the system.

Jan said...

Like Charlie, I have often wondered why the District retains the barriers of the Spectrum program like it does. Once you have had a child in a SPS high school, where they can "choose" -- or not -- AP classes, but it is the child's job thereafter to be able to keep up with the pace, because the teachers don't slow down for the less fleet (I had to drag one mangled child out of the educational highway of AP Calculus at the semester break -- (I had tried to warn him that I thought his pre calc grades were a warning to take regular "honors" calculus, rather than AP -- but we both learned a lot from the experience). I think that the experiences in at least one elementary school of teaching ALL classes to Spectrum (with support for the struggling) is telling also. We could do this on a self selected basis and maybe reach way more kids.
My fear though is that this Administration is MUCH better at taking things apart (and ruining them) than at building and/or repairing anything. MGJ has been here for 3 years. We have lost the old school choice system (some wins there, and some losses -- with LOTS of problems (West Seattle, GHS, RBHS, Madrona, and to a lesser extent Ingraham, crowded NE and N elementaries). We have lost Summit and Cooper. We have lost the old delivery system for Special Ed, and a disaster is in the making in terms of the utter failure of the new one. We have lost LA options at Roosevelt, and may lose hugely successful and popular science courses at GHS and Ballard, unless the Board intervenes to stop the curriculum standardization insanity. We have lost math acceleration options at Hamilton APP that were specifically promised. We lost the Montessori preschool at Ballard.
Frankly, I don't see much in the way of offsetting gains -- except predictability in assignments (sort of good in the north, not so good for the southeast), and HIMS APP (again, some gains, some losses).
I think Spectrum level advanced learning could be done better in lots of ways, but I fear that if the administration touches it, it will be usual case of exchanging a decent (though with flaws) program that currently exists and works, for a "delivery promise" (which this District equates with actual delivery. Spectrum will go away. Nothing (or weak, flabby, name-only ALOs) will replace it. And the whole thing will descend yet one more step. Frankly, I no longer trust MGJ with anything. Nothing that she has done has worked (and no -- school reports don't count, as most of that data already existed and was available, I don't trust any of her data anymore, and we paid a fortune for them. I feel like one of those people stuck in a traffic jam who unwillingly gets their wind shield washed, and then gets shook down by the washer for exorbitant payment for a useless service I didn't ask for).

Count me in for reforming the Spectrum eligibility process -- but only AFTER MGJ leaves and we have a competent leader.

Anonymous said...

New Perspective.

The office of Advanced Learning has forced Lawton to comply for two years with self-contained.

Actually, the point that many (Spectrum and other) parents have been making is that's not accurate. That may be what Vaughan was told, or what he understood, but it's not right. The ONLY year that the Spectrum group was split was 2008-2009 school year (and only the 2nd & 3rd grades, NOT the others b/c the cohorts were smaller). ALL other years the Spectrum students per grade have been together in the same class with other students filling out the rest of the class. It's the same blended model that existed last year and this year. Mr. Noh called it inclusion and it was b/c it blended a group of Spectrum kids w/ other kids. The Spectrum students were grouped together all the years he was there, except 08-09

That doesn't negate your point, but the wrong information keep circulating around and around.

A decision based on incorrect infomation.. should it be reconsidered? Some say yes.

--getting the record clear

Voiceless said...

Whatever it was in the past, currently Spectrum at the elementary level is just Math and Reading one grade level above. Nothing more. Given that the district has such low standards, I am certain most kids would be able to handle the "challenge" of Spectrum's "acceleration". APP should go back to its roots, and serve ONLY those who are truly gifted (those who currently are outliers in APP), and Spectrum should serve the highly capable, I mean, since when being in the 85th percetile (required MAP score to be eligible for Spectrum) is equivalent to being a TAG student? Raising the bar for all students should be possible.

SeattleSped said...

Holy crap! Is 130 comments a new record? Woohoo! What do I win?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan said...

Anonymous at 5:57 -- is there any possibility you would be willing to repost your comment with an identity (no matter how made up) either at the top or the bottom, so your comment is not deleted?

My question to you is -- assuming everything you are saying is true (fairly homogenous school, successful "blended" program rather than self contained, etc. etc.), is it ok with you if the staff/school just blows off the program requirements and "changes" the program to suit itself (and its perception of the needs of kids)? Because frankly, I am ambivalent. There are lots of times I wish staff would just "do the right thing" and ignore downtown. Because my experience with Spectrum was a very happy one in the traditional model, I find myself wanting the "downtown" element to win here -- and clearly, at least some of the parents agree. They want self contained (or as close as the school can get). Practically, you evidently like the results of blowing off the rules. Philosophically, what are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Anothe parent --
Great. And if staff and familes want an ALO model they need to apply for that. Not call it Spectrum when it's ALO. Not tell new families it's Spectrum, when it's ALO. It will be Spectrum in name only. I'm sure many would be supportive of that position (switch to AL0). So do it the right way. Look up the policy - it's on the SPS website.

And the heat staff have sustained is primarily because of the WAY they went about it. No one thinks their motivations are bad. Spectrum, ALO, nothing - no matter what you think about program delivery - a vast majority of parents on all sides agree that the path taken to get there was not direct or open (and that's being diplomatic.) And that is very concerning.

--getting the record clear

hschinske said...

Exactly. Part of the reason for establishing the ALO model was to do everything these folks want. All we're asking for is to enforce Spectrum being Spectrum and ALOs being true ALOs, and then people can know what they're getting into and suit their own educational philosophies. I really don't see why that should be such a struggle.

Helen Schinske

Blue Heron said...

New perspective said that the district forced Lawton to do self-contained for two years. Actually this year it could have reverted to a cluster model but the new principal decided to leave intact the class lists already made last spring. I agree that the Lawton staff is showing incredible bravery in sticking to their principles on this. The amount of abuse thrown at them has been amazing. The other schools in the cluster, notably Haye and Coe, illustrate the teachers' point that Spectrum is no magic bullet to success. Both those schools are models of differentiation and academic success. McGilvry in Madison Park is another example. No Spectrum program yet #1 in 5th grade science for the entire district. There has to be a substantial number of Spectrum qualified as well as APP at these schools and they seem to be well served. No system is perfect, and while Spectrum self-contained may be ideal for some schools, at a fairly homogeneous school in a close-knit community like Magnolia, I feel that students are better served by a more customized model like those available at the other schools I mentioned.

Chile Pepper said...

For starters,

The teachers didn't blow of anything.I don't know if their letter to the district has been published or not, but they brought a signed petition to Enfield and Vaughn with a nearly unanimous number of teacher signatures. These teachers, I believe, had a track record of opposing self-contained. The district felt that they deserved to be heard and their wish too revert to cluster was granted for one year, conditional on satisfactory achievement by Spectrum students. Their request for de facto elimination of Spectrum was denied. i don't call this "blowing off". I call it going through channels.
As far as communicating with parents, I can't speak to that. Personally, I love dealing with people, the edgier the better, but my guess is that elementary school teachers enjoy interacting with children- that's why they went into that line of work. I mean, really, parents do sometimes get a little excited and say some harsh things.
Seriously, the teachers at Lawton are not politicians, they are teachers. They don't have time to sit around and craft carefully worded messages to parents all day, They have jobs and frequently families as well. I say, cut 'em just a little slack. They teach your kids the best they can and thank god they care enough to fight for what they believe.

Jan said...

Chile Pepper: hmm. The verb "blow off" was mine, and maybe packed more negative inference than I intended. My question was (and is) -- for those who like the change, is it really ok to just change a carefully defined program into something else, based on what appears to be a combination of (a) antipathy towards self contained Spectrum (not a valid reason in my book) and (b) a sincere belief, possibly based on credible, observed, evidence, that another model would work as well - or better (theoretically, a valid reason, in my book). The zing in the verb came, I think, from my sense that while the teachers may have carefully crafted a supporting document seeking a waiver, and gone and talked with central administration -- comments from Lawton Spectrum parents suggest they didn't talk much, or maybe not candidly, to the parents (who reasonably thought they might have the right to rely on the district policies as to what Spectrum is, and is not).
I get, and agree with, your point that they are not politicians -- but how on earth could they (who so frequently are ignored by downtown) have thought that doing this in this way would be an acceptable way to treat their parent community? Most teachers who hate Spectrum but teach in Spectrum schools are acutely aware that many parents like the program, including the self contained component. They may think those parents are wrong -- but they are not clueless as to the sentiment. Those parents now feel excluded from the decision making AND they feel as though the teachers "slanted" their presentation of the school's history with Spectrum in a way that got them what they wanted, but was less than honest.

But -- I will retract "blow off" -- in favor of something less pejorative.

Spectrum Model said...

Not all of the spectrum schools are self-contained. View Ridge, at least for first and second grade, has "blended" Spectrum (i.e everybody is mixed in the classes together), so Lawton doesn't seem to be going out on a limb that much.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, but what of the parents? You go on a tour, you read the school website and all say Lawton has Spectrum. No mention that teachers hate it or don't want to do what the district advertises it as being.

What would you have parents do?

Either the district moves Spectrum from Lawton or explains to the school what program placement means. Otherwise, parents are being misled and that is wrong. And no one's high ideals make it right.

Either the Lawton PTA (or whoever gives their tours and writes the website) plus the district at its own website 'fess up about what Lawton staff will or will not offer or it's totally unfair to parents coming in who have no idea about any of this.

As for Hay, Coe and McGilvra, well, they are fairly homogenous schools that are fairly well-off. I would expect they do pretty well, Spectrum or not. As I mentioned previously, even schools like Laurelhurst hire tutors to help their advanced learners (recognizing they can't provide enough in the classroom).

Anonymous said...

I am not a Lawton parent. But, the staff at my school told me that 30% qualify for Spectrum... which makes the whole thing ridiculous. I have no reason to doubt them. The 19% "qualifying" at Lawton alleged by a previous post is equally absurd. If 19% (or 30%) of a school is gifted, then it ain't gifted, sorry special snowflakes. That is less than a single standard deviation above the norm for the school and absolutely should be normalized. As far as I know, Lawton does nothing to hide its advanced learning policy. So no need to cry about that either. Spectrum isn't an entitlement program. The problem with the self-contained Spectrum is that it makes it worse for everybody else... and by the test scores of the schools all around Lawton, doesn't improve them. Coe, Hay, Blaine are all high performing schools without a Spectrum in sight, as is Lawton as is. Why should some students be benefitted by enrichment and advancement and not others? Melissa's own kid got into this marginal program with a note from the doctor. That isn't something we should require nor promote. Let's allow students to enroll by choice in that case and skip the expense of the doctor. In that case, I might support it. The district is doing a good thing to rid itself of this.

Another Parent

Anonymous said...

Spectrum was the best thing that ever happened to one of my kids. The student's school attitude went from "bored $#!*less" to (well, nearly) "brilliant".

The bottom line is spectrum works and is popular with both Parents and Students. The district should spend its time focusing on the many things that don't work so well, and leave the things that work ALONE.

If Lawton doesn't want the Spectrum students, I'm sure some other nearby school would.

Signed: "Accidental" Spectrum parent.

Anonymous said...

"If Lawton doesn't want the Spectrum students, I'm sure some other nearby school would."

Um, I don't think this is a sentiment shared by anyone involved in the situation. It is, at best an ill-informed, at worst an insulting and ridiculous, comment. The whole thing has absolutely nothing to do with "not want(ing)" Spectrum students.

-A not-accidental Spectrum parent & Lawton supporter

Turf said...

Melissa, I think Lawton has tried for too long to sweep this under the rug and deal with it ad hoc. The lasagna really hit the fan this year and it needs some sane and sober work finding a creative solution. Ramming things down others throats is no way to do business. All parties want to do it, yet really only the district has the power to do it. I think job one is lighten up, realize that while there may some personal power plays involved, the key players- parents and staff- have to trust each other.
Defensive teachers(god knows for good reason} makes for angry parents, likewise for good reason, and it spirals into the mess we have right now.

I say to parents, look at the teachers your kid has had, are they good at what they do and do they care about kids? And teachers, can you see that parents are scared and insecure when they can't feel in control?
Anyways, Mellissa. you should stop by Lawton and Magnolia. Homogeneous and wealthy are our two middle names.

Tiger Eyes said...

Jan, Sorry for the delay. I think you and I agree that the problem is teachers working at a Spectrum designated school who don't feel that the program is best for that school.
That sums it up for me. I think they should be clear and upfront about their feelings, let the parents know why they feel that way, communicate their intended course of action, be willing to take some questions- provided everybody calms down and is civil- and then see if a long-term plan can be created that satisfies all parties- district, parents and staff. Maybe it would be clusters at certain grade levels and self-contained at others. That way kids could get the full "cohort" experience in say, 3rd grade and 5th or 2nd and 4th with teacher created mixed classes for the other years. Other options are walk to math (required participation for all teachers) and walk to reading/writing(again required teacher participation). A procedure for identifying students' level for the "walk to" program in addition to the Spectrum test.
I think a written policy such as this would satisfy most Spectrum parents, hopefully the district and give the staff the flexibility they feel they need to maximize learning at Lawton. The teachers want some control, I think that much is clear; the district wants results; and the parents have differing goals . All parents seem to want their kids challenged academically, some parents are also very concerned about social interaction. Maybe we could set a new model for other schools like ours. I know this issue is not unique to Lawton, maybe we can help fix it.

Tiger Eyes said...

You know what the problem is with moving Spectrum from Lawton? Nobody wants it. Coe, Haye and Blaine wouldn't touch the program with a ten foot pole. The are free to design ALO as they wish, They have independence, flexibility and great scores to show for it. They'd be crazy to accept Spectrum and all its baggage. No. Lawton got Spectrum in the mid 90's, there are still teachers working at Lawton who were there. Heard it wasn't too popular even then but the principal at the time Mr. Jacobs signed the school up for it. That's the beauty of Magnolia, my neighbor down the street knows all about those days, her kids are in college now. Real good schools by the way.

McClure Bound said...

If I might change the subject to Middle school spectrum.I have heard there is a move at HQ to expand the AL classes at all middle schools to include non-Spectrum students. Criteria are being developed that will increase access. Whether these are MAP scores or teacher recs, I don't know. I wish AL downtown would put out some info on what they do all day. Again a rumor, but one emphasis is on getting girls in and retaining them as this is the age wher they can withdraw their talents to fit in. Sounds worthy.

Chile Pepper said...

Jan, Sorry for the delay.I have posted and reposted my response to you and it keeps disappearing. I think you and I agree that the problem is teachers working at a Spectrum designated school who don't feel that the program is best for that school.
That sums it up for me. I think they should be clear and upfront about their feelings, let the parents know why they feel that way, communicate their intended course of action, be willing to take some questions- provided everybody calms down and is civil- and then see if a long-term plan can be created that satisfies all parties- district, parents and staff. Maybe it would be clusters at certain grade levels and self-contained at others. That way kids could get the full "cohort" experience in say, 3rd grade and 5th or 2nd and 4th with teacher created mixed classes for the other years. Other options are walk to math (required participation for all teachers) and walk to reading/writing(again required teacher participation). A procedure for identifying students' level for the "walk to" program in addition to the Spectrum test.
I think a written policy such as this would satisfy most Spectrum parents, hopefully the district and give the staff the flexibility they feel they need to maximize learning at Lawton. The teachers want some control, I think that much is clear; the district wants results; and the parents have differing goals . All parents seem to want their kids challenged academically, some parents are also very concerned about social interaction. Maybe we could set a new model for other schools like ours. I know this issue is not unique to Lawton, maybe we can help fix it.

Anonymous said...

On the middle school front - my honors math middle schooler was very excited about her MAP math score because "now I get to stay in honors math - they told us if we didn't get x score (I forget the # she quoted), we might have to leave honors math".

Anyone hear anything similar?

Signed - middle school honors

Anonymous said...

McClure Bound. There's no "spectrum math". There's only the district's "math pathway" at McClure and all the other middle schools. You test into your class by the MAP. And yes, your child might have to sit next to a non-spectrum student. There's a language arts spectrum class. Everything else is all mixed in, and has been for a while. There you have it. Spectrum is a language arts class. Let's fight to the death to keep this special program.

McClure Parent

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Maureen said...

Middle School Honors and Wrong..., was any of this put in writing (email even) or spoken directly to parents? Or was it just communicated to the kids? Is something like that enforceable if it's not written down somewhere as policy?

McClure Bound said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

My child had two weeks of useless test prep that put the class further behind in the material they are actually supposed to be covering. All for the MAP.

You don't know what questions each child will get...so how can you truly "prep" for it? You can't cram 3 years of learning in two weeks. Yet...

Isn't it supposed to be a snapshot of where they are - to help "inform instruction"?

End of rant.

I am with McClure Bound - expand the classes to accommodate the number of students willing and able to do the work.

Signed, Wrong.

Anonymous said...

"High participation rates in our public schools is critical to have community support for the schools, to be able to pass taxes that fund the public schools, and to maximize the involvement of parents in helping the schools. Seattle Public School funding from state and federal sources also is directly tied to enrollment.

The enemy is not the parents who are engaged and are trying to improve our public schools. If anything, we should see the enemy as the forces that push people to leave our public schools and should be trying to attract those who have left back to our public schools. Driving away all the families who are motivated and can afford to leave will destroy Seattle Public Schools."

Totally agree, spsmarketshare.

Families who can get out if they want to are the canaries in the coal mine. If everyone who can leave, does, it's because the SPS education is not good enough. And the only ones stuck with it are families without the means to go elsewhere. And kids without means who deserve advanced level classes won't get it. Sad.

Another mom

Anonymous said...

"Lawton's report card actually shows Spectrum kids as 19% of the poplulation. "

Good point, FED up Lawton parent.

And that 19% includes people from the entire cluster, people who tested into the program and moved to Lawton to enroll in it, and people who but for Spectrum would have enrolled in different elementary schools. Using the wrong number (30%) or even misusing the 19% shows a misunderstanding of who is enrolled in the program.

Another mom

ParentofThree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
magnolia mudhen said...

To get back to the Lawton situation.
From reading the letters to the District the Lawton staff I have noticed that the preferred choice is "blending all students" and in the 2nd choice it says"modified blending keeping at least 8 Spectrum-Designated students in every spectrum classroom. This second option is what the District allowed. That means if there were 15 Spectrum kids in a grade level they would all be together but at 16 they would be split into 2 groups of 8. What the staff would prefer is to be able to group students in any fashion among classrooms. If we revert back to self-contained, option 3, Spectrum kids would be together per grade level no matter the size of the group. The freedom to group all kids as the staff deems best looks the best option for our school. The staff has always been constrained by the Spectrum grouping requirements and has not had the flexibility to design each class as they think best. Do I trust them to make a good choice my my kids? Yes.
I think the school would be better for all kids if there was complete freedom to assign students. With this deal they got from the district they're operating with one hand tied behind their backs. Of course, the counter-argument is go self-contained. The district would like us to do that. They like a standard delivery model. Many parents want self-contained, believing it provides more rigor for Spectrum students. Many parents are against self-contained due to concerns of labeling and reduced social interaction among students. Can rigor be maintained for high achievers under the fully blended model preferred by teachers? Can social and emotional needs be met for all students with self-contained? I don't have the answers. We are on year 2 of self-contained. I don't think we have tried fully blended with complete staff control over class rosters. Maybe we should consider it rather the "halfway" clustering model. I find that option particularly undesirable. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Geez, I finally read the rules of this blog.

-Can't follow instructions

Anonymous said...

yes. my thoughts are why do people keep saying it's reverting to something?

We are on year 2 of self-contained. I don't think we have tried fully blended with complete staff control over class rosters.

Argh. We are not on year 2 of self contained !!! This is like a bad broken record....
Ever since Lawton got Spectrum (1996?) designation, all the Spectrum kids in a grade have been together. We're on year 13 of blended/grouped (never self contained b.c there have never been enough kids for self contained, but grouped ie 14 Spectrum kids all together, the rest of the class non spectrum. It's called blended.)

2008-2009 the 2nd and 3rd grade Spectrum groups were split (not the other grades, they stayed grouped all together). That's one year folks of de-grouping/splitting/cluster grouping...
--getting the record clear

Anonymous said...

Looks like this:
1996 - 2008 - District policy followed; all Spectrum students grouped together at each grade level.

2008-2009 - District policy not followed; grades 2 and 3 each have over 20 kids in Spectrum; those grades split 50/50; grades 1,4,5 Spectrum students grouped together

2009-2011 - District policy followed; Spectrum kids back to being grouped together, even the larger groups.
Maybe that is clearer?
--getting the record clear

magnolia mudhen said...

getting the record straight

Thank you for the clarification. I meant that it's year 2 of self-contained for the two grade levels split in 2008-9. Also it may be year 1 or year 2 of self-contained for any classes over 15 Spectrum kids. Because they will be split next year as well, if they exist. Also you are correct Lawton has not yet had a full class of Spectrum. Noted and agreed to.
What about the actual questions about flexibility to arrange class rosters to maximize learning for all kids and maintaining social harmony in our fair neighborhood?
Bottom line, would you trust Lawton staff to make classroom rosters or not?

-chastened

Melissa Westbrook said...

"What about the actual questions about flexibility to arrange class rosters to maximize learning for all kids and maintaining social harmony in our fair neighborhood?"

Maintaining social harmony? Is that for the kids or the adults?

Well, it's funny how we try to create these islands of harmony and equality in our schools (busing, classroom equalization, etc.)when the real world is nothing like that.

Again, I think the issue is that teachers like the bright kids divided up among their classes and some parents think that if you take the top 10% out, somehow you won't have a top, middle and bottom in the class. I say, taking out the top 10% sometimes allows other kids to be leaders in the class.

I never had my child in a blended classroom. It would have been fine if I knew the teacher had the skills and the class size to be able to differentiate.

I just state my previous premise which is that if the district and the school, on tours, websites and handouts, say there is Spectrum and do not explain it clearly, then they do a disservice to prospective parents.

Just be honest about it. If this is what Lawton wants fine but if it isn't clearly explained, then it's wrong. (

magnolia mudhen said...

Melissa,
To follow your argument to an extreme, we should expose our children to war, starvation, child labor, etc. because those things exist in the real world. I think we should encourage children to learn in the company of as varied a group as possible. Maintaining harmony among adults? Ya, that's the main problem and again, I would say, shouldn't that be a goal in society?

-Fascinated

Charlie Mas said...

The mistake that some folks are making here is believing, erroneously, that Lawton has some license to alter the very thing that defines Spectrum, yet to continue to call it Spectrum.

Do whatever you want but be honest about. And if you don't want to put all of the Spectrum students together in one class then don't, but don't call it Spectrum anymore.

I don't care what you call it - call it Holiday On Ice for all I care - just don't call it Spectrum because it isn't Spectrum.

Why shouldn't families in the McClure Service area have a Spectrum Option? There are five other elementary schools in that service area. All four of the other schools have the high performing students evenly distributed across the classes. If that's what you want you have four other places you can go for it. Lawton, however, is supposed to be the Spectrum school in the Service Area. That option is supposed to be at Lawton. If it is removed from Lawton then it is removed from the entire service area. That choice will go away.

I don't think it is unreasonable to have that choice available somewhere in the McClure service area, particularly when the District guarantees that it will be.

The solution is clear. Designate some other school as the Spectrum site.

magnolia mudhen said...

Charlie,
In fact Lawton does have a "license" to deliver Spectrum in a way hat is different from other Spectrum sites. They have formal permission to split a Spectrum cohort if the numbers exceed 15. There must be at least 8 Spectrum per classroom per grade level.I think Dr. Vaughn's letter is earlier in this thread.
Does the McClure service area deserve a Spectrum site? Good question. Nobody is clamoring for it, that's for sure. In this part of the city it's viewed by many folks as a curse and the events at Lawton this year show why. I agree the district should come out and explain exactly how Spectrum is delivered at the various Spectrum schools. Why don't they do that? Downtown is still a little mysterious to me but after a little interaction I'm starting to get a sense of how things work there. It's like any corporation except the bosses have to be gentler with their employees and customers. The service they provide is very valuable and important. They, more than most, realize exactly how important it is. Yet, the general public doesn't see that or want to pay much for it. Teachers know that what they do is important, they like the work and the summers off, they like working with kids and watching them develop, but they can be pretty ornery employees sometimes. They expect respect, and the administration, almost all teachers themselves understand this, feel it even, and try to give teachers their due. With money, they may get tough, but not respect. Then there's parents, the real hard group to work with. They want stuff, lots of stuff. They take up a lot of time dealing with , frankly, sometimes pretty trivial things. So back to the Office of Advanced Learning. The district wants a program that will get under-represented groups into gifted programs. The disparity is huge between rich and poor in Advanced Learning. Downtown, like everybody in big-league education, wants to fix it. It will definitely help bring up the achievement level in poor performing areas. It will also change the tenor of education to get poorer kids who have the ability, once they are identified and put in these programs, they will lead the way in their communities. But Magnolia doesn't need that and the teachers at Lawton and many parents know that. It will get its gifted kids what they need and the gifted kids are not needed to show other kids that success is doable. There is lots of success here. Queen Anne kids are only a handful at Lawton , I'd guess under 10. Magnolia used to have a choice between Lawton and Blaine and many chose Lawton because it was smaller and stopped at 5th grade.
So back to the district. They have to standardize the program and make it really be available for the poor performing service areas. These kids truly need a place to get away from negative peer pressure and all the ills of being bright. It will make a huge difference to those kids. So what do the district do with a school whose teachers want the flexibility to teach their mostly affluent student body to be good global citizens and not start seeing better and worse at age 6? Dr Vaughn is in a pickle. The teachers are right and won't back down. I was truly amazed to see 16 staff members show up on their own time in front of a group that contained some very hostile parents,and if you've ever been to school board meeting- it gets scary, thankfully the principle kept it subdued, which didn't cool the emotion but protected her staff. Anyways, Vaughn needs to find a way to let the plan vary with circumstance and we get this weird cluster compromise, not real Spectrum like you say. The school should be allowed to go ALO even if nobody else will pick up Spectrum. If parents want it that bad they will be able to go to BF Day Spectrum on the district's dime. My guess is people won't even consider that and will find that the school and, yes, the Spectrum kids will thrive under the flexibility ALO will make available.

none1111 said...

To follow your argument to an extreme, we should expose our children to war, starvation, child labor, etc. because those things exist in the real world. I think we should encourage children to learn in the company of as varied a group as possible.

To follow your argument to an extreme (and one that actually follows a logical path, which yours didn't seem to), if we should encourage children to learn in the company of as varied a group as possible, then we might as well shoehorn kids from APP, Spectrum, general ed, Special Ed, ELL, sight-impaired, hearing-impaired, mobility-impaired all in the same classroom, with one teacher. Cause y'know, that's what it's like in real life (WTF?!). And don't worry about it because all teachers can easily juggle 25 different learning styles -- all while grading papers covering at least 4 different grade levels, because, well because they're superhuman.

It's not impossible to teach kids of different ability levels together in the same classroom. As long as they're not too far apart. But it is unquestionably more difficult, and frankly, most teachers talk the talk, but they don't (or can't) walk the walk. I won't claim to know specifics of Lawton teachers, but I have many, many hours of in-school observation and discussions about this at 4 different schools and many different administrative teams. And I'll tell you that grouping these kids together by ability level works best for most kids, regardless of which program they are in. It's the adults that get all hung up about groupings, and that's really sad.

The staff, and especially the principal set the tone of the school in this regard, and they can make it nearly invisible to the kids if they choose to do so. I've seen a principal swap change a divided, contentious Spectrum building into a harmonious one in the span of 2 years. But it meant some staff had to move on, because they just didn't believe that kids with advanced needs should be allowed to work ahead of other kids. That's the most inequitable, disrespectful aspect of it all. ALL kids should be challenged and encouraged to work at the frontier of their ability - to the degree a building or district can do so.

none1111 said...

The other issue, which Charlie and others have repeatedly pointed out is that it sounds like the building has pulled a bait-and-switch on the parents. Spectrum is a self-contained model, with remaining seats filled based primarily on ability. Don't lie about it and say it's Spectrum when it's not.

So I echo every word of Charlie's 10:10 post (read it twice for good measure!) - until the very last part:

The solution is clear. Designate some other school as the Spectrum site.

Certainly there are other solutions. Placing a strong principal who has a full appreciation of advanced learning needs in the building would do wonders. Teachers who adamantly don't want to teach ability-grouped kids can request transfers to other buildings, and vice-versa. Transfers happen all the time. Eventually the problem will sort itself out. Unfortunately, no solution will be perfect overnight.

Anonymous said...

There are three options that Lawton could pursue, as long as Lawton is the Spectrum designated school:

Option 1: Keep all Spectrum students in one class at each grade. This model resulted in a petition.

Option 2: Split Spectrum students into two classes, leaving one classroom with no Spectrum students. Parents assigned to the “non-Spectrum” classroom will be very unhappy.

Option 3: Split Spectrum students evenly among the classes. Will result in essentially mixed grades as Spectrum students have the ability to learn one grade ahead.

For example, in 2nd grade you will have ability range from low 2nd to 3rd grade (possibly high 3rd grade) which will create a 2/3 split.


Here's the irony, Lawton used to be a completely multi-grade school. But the teachers complained that was too hard to teach to the wide range of abilities. So they eliminated this model, except some years there is a K1 split and parents complain that their first graders are not getting the same education as the 1st graders in the straight grade class.

In any option, Lawton will be required to offer math and reading one year ahead for Spectrum students, so the ”walk-to” program will most likely need to exist. (Will this be OK with teachers and parents?)

I don't get the sense that the parents supporting the efforts behind the petition or the teachers who signed the petition have clearly thought the alternatives all the way through.

No matter what option you pick, there will still be 16 Spectrum students in each grade who will need reading and math instruction one grade level ahead.

What is the plan to deliver this instruction to the Spectrum student if the model is to change?

Dolphin Alum

Lori said...

Option 2: Split Spectrum students into two classes, leaving one classroom with no Spectrum students. Parents assigned to the “non-Spectrum” classroom will be very unhappy.

This is not a snarky question, but why would parents be "very unhappy" that the Spectrum kids who are working one grade level ahead are not in their typically developing child's class? I would think parents would be okay or at worst just ambivalent because it would mean that the teacher would have more time available to devote to each typically developing kid and not stretched too thin trying to address a wider range of abilities.

Am I missing something? Is the assumption that these parents will worry that the class isn't rigorous enough? Or that the advanced learners serve as additional in-class aides, so that will be gone? Or that the advanced learners are just somehow good role models? Neither of those last two scenarios help the advanced learner with their own educational needs, by the way.

Just curious, because this option 2 seems doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to me (although it's not Spectrum, as Charlie clearly explained) [and I have no horse in this race; not at Lawton, not a parent of a Spectrum kid]

magnolia mudhen said...

none1111,

I was with you up the point where you said "they just didn't believe that kids with advanced need should be allowed to work ahead of other kids." Ludicrous.

I would like to look at the how Spectrum serves different parts of our district. The problems that gifted kids can have are real: peer pressure to fit in, ridicule for being smart, boredom from easy material. But these problems exist far more often in schools where the you have a struggling student-body, poor and historically under-served kids, the parts of this city we in Magnolia call the south end or Rainier valley. Things are different there, that's a fact. The Spectrum program doesn't recognize that Magnolia/ Queen Anne gifted kids, as a rule, don't face the problems I mentioned above. Our kids don't need the protection of Spectrum , the probability of good universities is already in their future Spectrum or not.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this conversation is still going on. What a topic. I don't have anything to add except this: The level of discussion is refreshingly high on this blog, the admins are fair and the tone is supportive of public ed.Happy Holidays and thanks for caring about our youth.

signed,
Seattle Schools Supporter

Anonymous said...

"Is the assumption that these parents will worry that the class isn't rigorous enough?"

Yes, that will be the issue, just like parents whose first graders end up in the K1 complain, to the point where Ed Noh had to hold a special meeting several years back to address the concerns, reassure that thier students will get the same rigor etc.

Dolphin Alum

hschinske said...

i think lori has a valid point about parents that are in-the-know utilizing the alternate (but publicized) methods to attempt to get their borderline kids into APP or Spectrum. It is not wrong, but it probably does favor well-educated, assertive, english-speaking families.

That happens any time you have a byzantine, confusing, unfair system. Obviously people with more time, clout, chutzpah, etc., are going to be more successful in navigating that system. The solution is not to make it harder for them, but to make it fair and easy to navigate for everyone -- rather like the way that building codes requiring handicapped accessibility allow everyone a little more elbow room and a little easier entry.

And in response to magnolia mudhen's post: I think you're totally wrong about gifted kids being well served just because they're in classrooms with a middle- to upper-class population, as I said in an earlier post on this thread. The grade-level expectations are the same all over the city, and standardized materials are used all over the city (apart from a few places like Schmitz Park). Anti-intellectual feeling occurs all over the city (it's a rather basic part of American culture, unfortunately).

I will grant you that disadvantaged gifted kids probably need public school gifted programs *even more* than well-off kids do, but that's not the same thing as saying the well-off kids don't need them.

I'm not clear what you mean with regard to universities. I suppose it's true that disadvantaged gifted students are less likely to attend college at all if they are constantly under-challenged and bored in regular programs (whereas richer gifted kids who don't do well, for whatever reason, nearly always end up in some college somewhere anyway -- as do rich non-gifted kids).

Helen Schinske

Lori said...

But mudhen, you left out some very important problems that I bet NW gifted kids do experience: underachievement and perfectionism/risk aversion.

Sure, I bet some Spectrum-qualified kids in Magnolia could tolerate being in regular classrooms, make friends, and generally fit in, and not suffer intolerable boredom. And they'll do well academically, but "doing well" shouldn't be our goal for them. We need to challenge them to do "their best," which is different.

Kids who are never adequately challenged grow complacent; they don't learn how to fail at a time in their lives when the consequences are small, so when they do eventually fail, it's traumatizing. And fear of failure prevents them from trying new things. If something doesn't come easy to them, which is what they've had their entire lives, they question their abilities. They learn to take the "easy road" and underachieve.

All of our parenting practices are derived in part from our own experiences as children, which is why I think schools need to give some credence to what parents of advanced learners are asking for.

My decisions for my child stem from my experiences as a gifted learner who never had access to gifted education. I coasted thru K-12 and never learned how to study or what it felt like to get a problem wrong or not know how to approach a task. I got a scholarship to college and almost lost it the first semester by failing a midterm! That shook me to my core - I failed something?! Maybe I wasn't as smart as everyone said. Maybe I wasn't college material. Maybe I should give up. [I didn't but I thought about it and worried about it as a possibility if I lost that scholarship]

So when my 6-year old was at a school that claimed to differentiate but she always got every answer right and refused to do her homework or practice her too-easy spelling words, telling me "Mom, I'm smart, I don't have study," it was a huge red flag. I want her to have to study! I want her to get an answer wrong once in a while. I'm happy as a clam that in APP this year, she occasionally has trouble with her homework.

Anyway, sorry for the long anecdote. My point is just that we need to trust that many parents of gifted kids have legitimate reasons to want adequate challenge for their kids, even if they have friends and fit in at school. There's more to gifted education that that.

Rufus X. said...

No matter what option you pick, there will still be 16 Spectrum students in each grade who will need reading and math instruction one grade level ahead.

What is the plan to deliver this instruction to the Spectrum student if the model is to change?


A safe assumption would be: it will be the same as it has been for years, regardless of self-contained or blended - Spectrum students and teacher-identified students who are working at an accelerated level will be grouped together with the grade's designated Spectrum teacher for math and reading. That's what's been done for years, during both delivery models. The Spectrum children spend almost half their day together (reading and math) regardless of their assigned teacher/class.

For the years prior to being designated Spectrum, one of my children was assigned to a general ed class and was pulled out for math and reading with the Spectrum teacher. After testing and Spectrum designation, this child was assigned to the Spectrum class, and, again, general ed students working at an accelerated level joined the Spectrum cohort for math and reading. During the "blended" delivery model year, my Spectrum children were assigned to the a non-Spectrum class and were pulled out for math and reading w/ the Spectrum teacher.

In both delivery models, the Spectrum kids still get their accelerated math and reading with the Spectrum designated teacher. So it boils down to semantics and percentages - One could argue that spending at least 1/2 the day with Spectrum peers and advanced curriculum taught by the designated Spectrum teacher qualifies as "self-contained". Because with a blended model, really we're talking about the other half of the day (rotating PE, music, science & social studies). I would be interested in seeing the research that shows advanced students lose IQ points (or suffer reduced emotional intelligence) when they're forced to do tumbling with a child who lags behind in math.

If spending 50% or more of the day with a Spectrum teacher and peers does not satisfy "self-contained delivery model", what percentage of the day would? 75%? 100%? How about physical separation and classes taught in portables? Would that satisfy the definition? And guess what? Once the students enter middle school, an APP kid may be taking honors (Spectrum) math; a general ed kid might be taking APP math; a Spectrum kid might take APP math; an APP kid might be assigned to beginning band; a Spectrum kid might be assigned to advanced band. A Spectrum kid will be in Spectrum language arts, APP in APP LA, general ed in general ed. LA. But absolutely none of them will be taking APP, Spectrum, general ed, or remedial P.E., and to my knowledge, there's no such thing as Spectrum science. My point? It all evens out in the wash, and in a few years our special snowflakes will be in a blended model that works much the same as what's delivered at Lawton through either the current or the 2008-2009 delivery method - they will be grouped with their cohort for math and reading.

Two final thoughts - 1) I sincerely think some of this consternation stems from indignation purely for indignation's sake. "How DARE those teachers go behind MY back and not ask ME what I think is best?" Guess what, Ethel? It's not a co-op preschool. 2) The appointment of Mrs. Raines as principal last year was the starting point of a downhill slide; ineffective leader = inmates running the asylum. I do not believe we would even be having this debate if Mr. Noh were still principal.

Rufus X. said...

No matter what option you pick, there will still be 16 Spectrum students in each grade who will need reading and math instruction one grade level ahead.

What is the plan to deliver this instruction to the Spectrum student if the model is to change?


A safe assumption would be: it will be the same as it has been for years, regardless of self-contained or blended - Spectrum students and teacher-identified students who are working at an accelerated level will be grouped together with the grade's designated Spectrum teacher for math and reading. That's what's been done for years, during both delivery models. The Spectrum children spend almost half their day together (reading and math) regardless of their assigned teacher/class.

For the years prior to being designated Spectrum, one of my children was assigned to a general ed class and was pulled out for math and reading with the Spectrum teacher. After testing and Spectrum designation, this child was assigned to the Spectrum class, and, again, general ed students working at an accelerated level joined the Spectrum cohort for math and reading. During the "blended" delivery model year, my Spectrum children were assigned to the a non-Spectrum class and were pulled out for math and reading w/ the Spectrum teacher.

In both delivery models, the Spectrum kids still get their accelerated math and reading with the Spectrum designated teacher. So it boils down to semantics and percentages - One could argue that spending at least 1/2 the day with Spectrum peers and advanced curriculum taught by the designated Spectrum teacher qualifies as "self-contained". Because with a blended model, really we're talking about the other half of the day (rotating PE, music, science & social studies). I would be interested in seeing the research that shows advanced students lose IQ points (or suffer reduced emotional intelligence) when they're forced to do tumbling with a child who lags behind in math.

If spending 50% or more of the day with a Spectrum teacher and peers does not satisfy "self-contained delivery model", what percentage of the day would? 75%? 100%? How about physical separation and classes taught in portables? Would that satisfy the definition? And guess what? Once the students enter middle school, an APP kid may be taking honors (Spectrum) math; a general ed kid might be taking APP math; a Spectrum kid might take APP math; an APP kid might be assigned to beginning band; a Spectrum kid might be assigned to advanced band. A Spectrum kid will be in Spectrum language arts, APP in APP LA, general ed in general ed. LA. But absolutely none of them will be taking APP, Spectrum, general ed, or remedial P.E., and to my knowledge, there's no such thing as Spectrum science. My point? It all evens out in the wash, and in a few years our special snowflakes will be in a blended model that works much the same as what's delivered at Lawton through either the current or the 2008-2009 delivery method - they will be grouped with their cohort for math and reading.

Two final thoughts - 1) I sincerely think some of this consternation stems from indignation purely for indignation's sake. "How DARE those teachers go behind MY back and not ask ME what I think is best?" Guess what, Ethel? It's not a co-op preschool. 2) The appointment of Mrs. Raines as principal last year was the starting point of a downhill slide; ineffective leader = inmates running the asylum. I do not believe we would even be having this debate if Mr. Noh were still principal.

Rufus X. said...

No matter what option you pick, there will still be 16 Spectrum students in each grade who will need reading and math instruction one grade level ahead.

What is the plan to deliver this instruction to the Spectrum student if the model is to change?


A safe assumption would be: it will be the same as it has been for years, regardless of self-contained or blended - Spectrum students and teacher-identified students who are working at an accelerated level will be grouped together with the grade's designated Spectrum teacher for math and reading. That's what's been done for years, during both delivery models. The Spectrum children spend almost half their day together (reading and math) regardless of their assigned teacher/class.

For the years prior to being designated Spectrum, one of my children was assigned to a general ed class and was pulled out for math and reading with the Spectrum teacher. After testing and Spectrum designation, this child was assigned to the Spectrum class, and, again, general ed students working at an accelerated level joined the Spectrum cohort for math and reading. During the "blended" delivery model year, my Spectrum children were assigned to the a non-Spectrum class and were pulled out for math and reading w/ the Spectrum teacher.

In both delivery models, the Spectrum kids still get their accelerated math and reading with the Spectrum designated teacher. So it boils down to semantics and percentages - One could argue that spending at least 1/2 the day with Spectrum peers and advanced curriculum taught by the designated Spectrum teacher qualifies as "self-contained". Because with a blended model, really we're talking about the other half of the day (rotating PE, music, science & social studies). I would be interested in seeing the research that shows advanced students lose IQ points (or suffer reduced emotional intelligence) when they're forced to do tumbling with a child who lags behind in math.

If spending 50% or more of the day with a Spectrum teacher and peers does not satisfy "self-contained delivery model", what percentage of the day would? 75%? 100%? How about physical separation and classes taught in portables? Would that satisfy the definition? And guess what? Once the students enter middle school, an APP kid may be taking honors (Spectrum) math; a general ed kid might be taking APP math; a Spectrum kid might take APP math; an APP kid might be assigned to beginning band; a Spectrum kid might be assigned to advanced band. A Spectrum kid will be in Spectrum language arts, APP in APP LA, general ed in general ed. LA. But absolutely none of them will be taking APP, Spectrum, general ed, or remedial P.E., and to my knowledge, there's no such thing as Spectrum science. My point? It all evens out in the wash, and in a few years our special snowflakes will be in a blended model that works much the same as what's delivered at Lawton through either the current or the 2008-2009 delivery method - they will be grouped with their cohort for math and reading.

Two final thoughts - 1) I sincerely think some of this consternation stems from indignation purely for indignation's sake. "How DARE those teachers go behind MY back and not ask ME what I think is best?" Guess what, Ethel? It's not a co-op preschool. 2) The appointment of Mrs. Raines as principal last year was the starting point of a downhill slide; ineffective leader = inmates running the asylum. I do not believe we would even be having this debate if Mr. Noh were still principal.

Rufus X. said...

PS - I'm sorry for posting multiple times, IE went wacky on me.

Anonymous said...

Link to Lawton educators' suggested Spectrum Delivery Model:

http://lawtonelementary.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Spectrum-Delivery-Model-for-Lawton-Elementary.pdf

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charlie and Melissa that this is a truth in advertising problem. School should just be clear about what they are really offering and offer ALO as ALO and Spectrum as Spectrum.

If Lawton clearly doesn't want Spectrum, why can't they just move Spectrum to the new Queen Anne Elementary?
That would do a nice job of filling the new building and it seems like it would fit in well with their "tech" focus?

That way families that want to be blended can be blended.

katie

ParentofThree said...

Katie, I had that same thought. Designate McDonald as the cluster's Spectrum school, giving all Spectrum eligible students the option to take a seat (I don't think Hay and Coe Spectrum-qualified students can go Lawton, can they?)

Make it the true Spectrum model and make it known that this is the model, but also include the ability to walk to math and reading so non-Spectrum families know that their child can participate based on abilities.

McDonald fills up, as I would think many non-Spectrum families would jump at the chance to attend the school now, I know I would! It would also give the district a great opportunity to look at advanced learning from another lens.

Lawton is packed to the gills anyway, this move would ease the overcrowding problem considerably and it seems like all the teachers and parents would be happy and they can move on as it seems like this issue is taking up way too much time.

One problem, it just makes sense and we all know that the logical solution is never the path taken.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Laughs of the day (and thank you to their authors):

"I don't care what you call it - call it Holiday On Ice for all I care - just don't call it Spectrum because it isn't Spectrum."

and

"Guess what, Ethel? It's not a co-op preschool."

none1111 said...

Hi Mudhen, love your handle. Mine is lame, but if I change it now I'll look like a newbie!

I was with you up the point where you said "they just didn't believe that kids with advanced need should be allowed to work ahead of other kids." Ludicrous.

All I'll say is that if you spend enough years in the system with multiple kids in multiple buildings in different regions and different programs, you'll see it all. Sadly, the attitude is not as rare as you'd think.

I think Helen and Lori already addressed the other point pretty well, so I won't repeat much. Just that I agree the needs might be more severe in a lower performing school or region, but they definitely exist in high-performing schools as well. This from firsthand experience.

Charlie Mas said...

The conservation on this thread proves the need for a Spectrum community discussion space.

APP has an advisory committee that meets monthly and actively communicates with the community. APP also has a blog for discussion.

Spectrum doesn't have those things. The Spectrum Parent Advisory Committee is dormant, and I'm not aware of any Spectrum discussion blog.

ALOs have even less. They don't even have a history of an advisory committee.

Spectrum can be so different from school to school because Spectrum families don't talk to each other. A district-wide Spectrum community would be an important tool to support more compliance with the Spectrum model and curriculum.

ParentofThree said...

I meant QA, not McDonald.

and didn't Spectrum try to get a group together once?

Maureen said...

The conservation on this thread proves the need for a Spectrum community discussion space.

This, as well as the need for a Spectrum Advisory Council, was a topic of conversation at Sherry Carr's coffee last week. Unfortunately, I don't think there were actually any Spectrum parents there. I think it was APP parents who were proposing it. Maybe they could reach out and mentor the Spectrum folks as they get it up and running?

hschinske said...

The Yahoo group SpectrumAPP still exists (see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SpectrumAPP/), though it gets few posts these days. It was this blog that pretty much did away with the need for it, seems to me.

If a separate place is needed, I think it might make sense to revive that group, so that new parents would have access to its archives, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Helen Schinske

none1111 said...

Rufus started off sounding reasonable, but then, well...

If spending 50% or more of the day with a Spectrum teacher and peers does not satisfy "self-contained delivery model", what percentage of the day would? 75%? 100%?

How about physical separation and classes taught in portables?


IIRC, it's satisfied by grouping in Reading, Math, Social Studies and Science. Not necessarily in PE, art, music, although the logistics can get tricky if you're in a building that strives to mix different classes for those particular topics. If you assumed all topics get the same number of minutes coverage (which isn't true), are you happy with 4/7 ?

Your comment about physical separation and classes in portables makes you sound like a bitter, jealous person. What is it about grouping kids with high abilities together that makes you angry?

And guess what? Once the students enter middle school, an APP kid may be taking honors (Spectrum) math; a general ed kid might be taking APP math;
....
My point? It all evens out in the wash, and in a few years our special snowflakes will be in a blended model


Now you're talking about middle/high school, which is a completely different model. Elementary is designed around (mostly) static classroom rosters. Less transitions works best for younger kids, plus teacher continuity, etc., etc.

As soon as one hits middle school, where classes can be and are often assigned based on ability, then more 'blended' classes makes perfect sense. How kids get tested into those classes can sometimes get contentious, but the idea that all kids should be in appropriately challenging classes is great. From middle school on up.

The trick is how to assign the kids. It's easy in math. (well, if you actually allow advanced kids to take appropriate classes in math, which is NOT adhered to in APP). It's pretty easy in foreign language and band/orchestra. Science is trickier, and LA/SS is even trickier. Until, or unless, we have opt-in honors classes as the norm, it's non-trivial.

As for "your point" about evening out in the wash, I really have no idea what you're attempting to say. If you're suggesting that classroom assignments in elementary should work like they do in middle school, I don't think you'll find a lot of support for that. If you're suggesting that we should ignore kids' needs in elementary because middle school does things differently, I don't think you'll find a lot of support for that either. shrug.

none1111 said...

Charlie made a couple points:

The conservation on this thread proves the need for a Spectrum community discussion space.

Sure seems like it. 184 comments so far, and advanced learning threads are often very active.

Spectrum can be so different from school to school because Spectrum families don't talk to each other. A district-wide Spectrum community would be an important tool to support more compliance with the Spectrum model and curriculum.

As much as I'm against teachers being able to bully (er, petition) their way into duping parents out of a promised program, I also recognize that different families favor different models of advanced learning programs. For example, while View Ridge had a pull-out Spectrum for years (yes, I know, that means it's not really "Spectrum"), nearby Wedgwood had a self-contained Spectrum. But it worked out fine because most families knew the differences and made their choices based on the programs offered. And if a family didn't care either way, no problem.

The problem with changing Lawton is that there is no other Spectrum building in the area, right? So of course families who opted for that model are angry, because it's been ripped out from under them, and they're being forced into another model. It's no wonder they're frustrated. I have no horse in this particular race, so I hope I'm not speaking out of line, but it's what I'm hearing. It's too bad Spectrum/ALO are so poorly supported by the district in general.

Rufus X. said...

none1111, thank you for taking the time to address the content of my post. I will attempt to clarify a few of the points you brought up. And it may be clear as mud by the end.

Your comment about physical separation and classes in portables makes you sound like a bitter, jealous person. What is it about grouping kids with high abilities together that makes you angry?
No, I am not a jealous. I have no reason to be jealous. My children are the very "kids with high abilities" in the Spectrum program at Lawton we're talking about here. Our family's experience at Lawton has been excellent, during all the years when they were designated Spectrum or general ed., in the blended and in the self-contained classes. My children have thrived at Lawton, are good students, friends, citizens, mentors, and learners. So unlike many who have posted here, I do have a horse in this race, and my intent for joining this conversation is because of that. I have past experience which confirms my faith in the intent and in-class practice of Lawton teachers.

As to whether or not I'm bitter or angry - I don't know how to address that assessment by a fellow anonymous participant. I can say that I find it incredibly insulting for the Lawton educators to be called untrustworthy bullies. It's one thing to have an opinion about an individual teacher's style or methods - It's another thing entirely to anonymously call their character or work ethic into question, especially when one has no first-hand knowledge about said teacher(s). That's hitting below the belt IMHO.

I would like to suggest the possibility that perhaps the petition brought to Dr. Vaughan on behalf of the majority of Lawton teachers was in response, at least in part, to a school year spent on a ship without a sail. I will allow for the possibility that their petition was a direct result of the district's unilateral decision to not appoint an effective leader of Mr. Noh's caliber when he departed.

none1111 said...

Rufus, thanks for the response.

I would like to suggest the possibility that perhaps the petition brought to Dr. Vaughan on behalf of the majority of Lawton teachers was in response, at least in part, to a school year spent on a ship without a sail. I will allow for the possibility that their petition was a direct result of the district's unilateral decision to not appoint an effective leader of Mr. Noh's caliber when he departed.

This could in fact explain a lot. And not knowing these individuals personally, I'll ease off a little on my earlier characterization.

But I will say that it's very rare to find a teacher than can and will effectively differentiate to a wide range of abilities (multi-grade levels). I really don't think this is up for debate, there are too many people (many here on the board) that have seen it fail, firsthand. That's why Spectrum (and APP) exist, and why there is such intensity in these discussions. While I don't have a horse in the Lawton race in particular, I do have multiple kids in advanced learning programs in this district, and I've spent a lot of years in the trenches. You may personally be happy with what's happened for your kids, but from the sounds of other posts here, that's far from uniform, even at Lawton.

I'll quote Melissa's early comment about why "kids that are only a year ahead can't be reasonably accommodated in the regular classroom. It doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility"

It SHOULD be true. But it isn't. Teachers are not well-trained in differentiating teaching and curriculum. Large class sizes make it very hard for them to do so. And so they teach to the middle.

With the large classes we have in SPS, even training may not be enough. And as the ability spread widens, the task grows even more daunting. When those factors are combined, even for the best intentioned teachers, at some point effective differentiation becomes nearly impossible. There are certainly ways to mitigate the difficulties (reduced class sizes, hire IAs, etc.), but those "frills" are difficult to maintain here in SPS.

Anonymous said...

Rufus and none, Thanks for offering a respectful and intelligent discussion of the issue. I think Lawton teachers would like full flexibility in class assignment, as staff has at other schools in the cluster. Spectrum limits that flexibility. It's fair to say that the Spectrum program is designed to offer high kids a refuge of sorts to go to their limits. I think this is essential for some kids and some neighborhoods. But at Lawton , it hamstrings what the taechers can do and should be eliminated.

New Day

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually, None, that was someone else's quote that I was saying, yes, I would agree with if I thought it could and would happen.

I note that none of the Lawton folks here explain what is said on tours. What were you told when you first toured Lawton? Read their materials from the district or their website? I think a Lawton tour this year could be very interesting.

So please do the right thing and tell your principal and PTA leaders that they need to be clear with prospective parents. That way you'll get the parents who agree with you and the others will know better (or lobby the district for a real Spectrum program).

I obviously don't have a horse in this race but I did when Hale did this stuff several years back by NOT explaining what direction they were moving towards. It was deceptive and wrong. It took them at least 3 years before their handouts and tours reflected the philosophy of the school. I was told by one teacher they knew they would get fewer people on tours if they made it clear and so they didn't.

Beth said...

Melissa,
What do you mean about Nathan Hale? I think I know, as a parent of a sophomore there, but I'm not sure.

Do you mean that they refuse to have separate honors or AP classes? I've been concerned about that too.

Or is it something more/different?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hale is part of the Coalition of Essential Schools (which is a nationwide loose association of schools). It's a fine group with good goals but it isn't always clear how far each school will go with the goals. (Eckstein is also a CES school.)

One of their features is "inclusion". To that end, a decision was made at Hale to have as few AP classes as possible based on the idea they are exclusionary. They very much wanted as few honors and AP classes as possible.

So when we were looking at high schools for our oldest son, we looked at Hale. We liked it smaller size and that they had mentorship. However, they never explained this philosophy. Not on the tours, in the handouts, on the website.

So as they moved more towards this goal and parents began to understand what it meant, they asked for meetings and frankly, they didn't go well. It seemed the decision had been made and if you wanted separate AP classes (not even Honors), you were made to feel like you were a problem.

Still, the school in other ways suited our son and we kept him there. They have many fine teachers.

But I found it objectionable that they continued to downplay what they were doing. Again, just tell people clearly what you will and will not provide but don't be coy about it.

Of course it's now somewhat ironic that Hale had this plan and now the district goes and aligns the curriculum and beefs up AP courses and the high schools are expected to toe the line more. So Hale has to offer more stand-alone AP AND has enroll more student than they would like (they always liked 1,000 or less).

wsnorth said...

Hale has actually been turning students away when it had capacity to accept them?

When did schools have the ability to do that?!

Melissa Westbrook said...

WSNorth, schools used to have a lot more autonomy. But Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, for better or worse, wanted to align schools and what they offer. Hale managed to fend off growing for awhile but with the new building and a neighborhood plan, that's unlikely to stay that way.

wsnorth said...

I know schools used to have more autonomy, but this is ridiculous. If schools with capacity really were able to turn students away for some vague, unknown reason, then I have finally found the first thing I like about NSAP.

I think it is more likely not many people wanted to go to Hale anyway. As a parent living near that school (which I'm not) I would have been quite torqued at this "policy".

How did they choose who gets in????

Anonymous said...

Hopefully things will get cleared up downtown regarding Advanced Learning. Identifying students, availability of sites and seats, and teacher training. These areas need to be addressed by the district. The district needs to get out some good info about delivery of the program, how it varies from school to school, which it does, and what they see as the future for the program. Also the impacts on the designated schools needs to be addressed. It is a real issue and should not be ignored. Spectrum is upsetting to many teachers and parents and their concerns are real. Let's hope the district can communicate better with all parents and staff.
Concerned

Anonymous said...

Agreed that this is a district issue and one with little district any support or direction. Equally upsetting though, is the change in delivery to Lawton's Spectrum program - the only elementary Spectrum program offered in the McClure Service Area. Many parents specifically chose Lawton and made an informed, deliberate choice to test and enroll their children based on the existence of Lawton's Spectrum program, and it's traditional grouped delivery model. The concerns of those parents (and the staff who agree w/ the grouped delivery) should also be heard and heeded, but it appears the decision has been made. Unfortunately, this seems like one more way that the district is simply letting Spectrum die.

Reading through this thread/comments it appears that splitting the Spectrum groups was something that Lawton admin/staff hoped to accomplish without communication or disclosure with/to affected families. The "license"' to split referred to in an earlier comment is an email from Vaughan to one teacher - doesn't seem like a formal notification. It's what they have, but it's not a formal district communication. The email isn't even addressed to the interim principal (b.c there was no principal at Lawton at the time). A formal notification about a program change comes from the Superintendent, on a SPS letterhead or something.

The decision to change a program at a school isn't made by the Director of Advanced Learning or by any one school. There is a form with proper steps to take, evaluation by committee -- a defined process b.c these are district programs and the district (in theory) needs to make sure the programs are distributed equitably districtwide.

I understand the staff desire to have more flexibility in classroom placements but there are many other considerations as well, including the proper delivery of a district program.

As to the note about parental indignation earlier in the comments…..I imagine I am not alone in finding it interesting that as long as parents are writing checks to support fundraisers and the school, and working-volunteering in class/school (effectively reducing class size and or otherwise helping out the staff) then we are welcome partners in our children's education. When we have opinions or questions on issues that affect our school, and our children, then it seems we are far less welcome partners.

..hopeful dolphin

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 203   Newer› Newest»