Tuesday, April 05, 2011

High School Curriculum

As requested, an open thread to talk about any and all high school curriculum issues.

I can start off by saying I do not understand this opt-out testing for Physical Science that is only for Ballard students.  Why?  Also, one of our Ballard High science teacher readers, India Carlson, told DeBell at his last community meeting that the test created is extremely difficult (so it would seem that few Ballard kids would pass it anyway).

Other suggested topics:
  • science
  • math
  • language arts
  • electives
  • foreign language
  • oc-ed
  • uneven teaching quality (I found this more apparent in high school than any other level; this was at both Roosevelt and Hale.)
  • counselors

88 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

We're paying a consultant, Education First, I think, over $750,000 to work on high school curricular alignment.

I don't think we're getting our money's worth.

Charlie Mas said...

The superintendent says that she wants the District to become a Standards-based district in which the same minimum set of knowledge and skills is taught across classrooms and schools. I share that goal. Lots of folks share that goal and have shared that goal in the past.

In fact, in 2001 the District announced that they had achieved that goal. Dr. Enfield wasn't here at the time, so she couldn't know, but the District announced Mission Accomplished on that goal ten years ago. Who still has their daruma?

No effort to achieve this goal - curricular alignment - can be credible without a discussion of the obstacles that have prevented us from achieving this goal in the past and a discussion of how those obstacles will be overcome this time.

I haven't heard the superintendent talk about the obstacles or how to overcome them. Have you?

G said...

I wonder if the APP kids would be able to pass that test? I really wonder. But they won't have to because they had physical science in 7th grade. And biology in 8th grade. Is there a test for biology equivalent to the physical science test incoming 9th graders have to take? The current Garfield 9th graders who had biology in 8th grade last year are not familiar with mitosis and meiosis (a teacher told me this - exact words). When my kids were in 8th grade they had a culminating project creating big posters/diagrams of meiosis and mitosis. Something is very wrong. Dumbing it down for everyone else, not allowing kids who are clearly capable to accelerate their learning unless they were labled APP anywhere up to 8 years ago, with no further testing required. I don't get the barrier, especially in high school.

Anonymous said...

My kid is taking BIology this year at WMS in 8th grade and they DO study mitosis/meosis. So, I guess you can always find a kid who forgot stuff that he has learnt ...

hschinske said...

Would that be the kids from Washington or Hamilton, or both? Because I have heard that the first year of bio at Hamilton did not go so well, and that there's a different teacher for that class this year.

I will admit to getting very confused over meiosis/mitosis myself, though at least I did learn the terms.

Helen Schinske

bj said...

"So, I guess you can always find a kid who forgot stuff that he has learnt ..."

Yes, but then, they shouldn't be skipping the material and taking another course merely because they were once identified as APP while another child isn't permitted to skip the same course (even if they can demonstrate tested knowledge of the material).

I can see the requirement that you need both evidence that you have covered the material & a test, since a test cannot cover everything you should have learned/been exposed to. But, that coverage could be demonstrated by a variety of types of classes (distance learning, advanced summer classes, . . . ). And, everyone should have to take the test.

My guess is that it is only being offered to Ballard students because any such test needs to be piloted, and Ballard has the most pressing needs.

I think it's reasonable that the test is hard, though (it's not clear to me that the teacher who said it was hard also thought the students wouldn't be able to pass it).

h2o girl said...

Sorry, I should've read this before replying in the questions for Dr. Enfield thread. I don't have the Ballard science test letter in front of me, but I believe it did say that they are piloting this program this year.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry BJ, thanks for pointing that out. Yes, the teacher meant she thought it would be too hard for many students to pass it at all.

G said...

There was an small discussion on the APP blog about the way the 10th grade Marine Bio and Genetics classes at Garfield will change when only 9th grade APP students and juniors and seniors are allowed to take them (they will be offered as electives now to upperclassmen) when the alignment takes full effect next year. This was the question on the APP blog:

We just got freshman cource registration package for Garfiled. For APP kids, there is a choice of Marine Biology, Genetics or Ecology (no choice of Chemistry though). For regular ED-Physical Science (no Biology on the form).

So, am I correct in thinking from now on only APP students will be able to take Marine Bio before their junior year? (Since Bio is a pre req and all nonAPP kids can't take that until they are sophomores.) Does that mean that the APP freshmen who go on the big trips will be going with Juniors and Seniors? Or will they not be allowed to go? (I think there is a big difference in maturity between 9th and 10th graders) Or maybe they just won't do trips any more?

Actually, it seems pretty likely that the class will change significantly since the nonAPP kids who are really into science won't have space for it in their schedules (most of them will feel like they need Chem and Physics before Marine Bio.). Maybe the class has always been full of APP kids? I don't know.

March 30, 2011 1:56 PM

This was my response:

Anonymous said...
For all non-APP kids at Garield, Marine Bio will now be an elective. The new alignment forces kids to take Physical Science in 9th, Bio in 10th, Chem 11th, Physics 12th. Marine Bio can be taken in addition to these classes, is my understanding. The Marine Bio trips, which up until this year have been exclusively 10th grade trips, will change completely. Not only is amazing science taught on these trips (I've chaperoned Eastern Washington and Deception Pass), but they have been enormous community building within the grade level experiences. Defining that oh-ten, oh-lev etc spirit. Segregating APP, which is essentially what all this acceleration is doing, is going to change the very nature of what it is like to be at Garfield. APP kids will not be in class with other kids in their same graduating year that are not in APP, for the most part. That class spirit will disappear, to a large degree, I'm afraid. It is sad, because that spirit is a powerful thing.

And then there is the whole issue of kids coming from other accelerated science curriculums, both public and private, who have no avenue to redress taking physical science in 9th grade. It is such a waste, and I am just hoping there will be some adjustment made for the sake of kids who love science, have also had physical science (and bio and chem and physics)in middle school, and want to continue to accelerate their learning and love of science, even though they are not in APP. Seems rather arbitrary to exclude advanced kids in high school. You make the grade, you can stay in the class. It is up to the student in high school, and that is the way it has been at Garfield. I don't understand the barrier. Who is it serving? Certainly not the kids.

March 30, 2011 4:05 PM

Maureen said...

I think the test of whether or not the test is appropriate should be that the kids who will be enrolled in Bio as 9th graders should all be able to pass it. So the test should be piloted on the APP 8th graders and if any of them can't pass it it should be readjusted until they can.

My kid was amongst the last to pass out of 9th grade science at RHS. He barely passed their exam with 68%, he said he could have done much better if they had given him a periodic table to use (or had warned him that they expected the kids to memorize the atomic masses etc. of more than the most basic elements). From the look on the science chair's face when I told him this, I'm guessing the proctor just 'forgot' to hand out the tables when he administered the exam. (FWIW he has aced Bio, Chem and Physics so far.)

G said...

And there was a follow up question about AP Chemistry on the APP blog:

So, with the new science path at Garfield it seems that regular ED kids will not be able to take AP CHhemistry since there will be no time for it left...

March 30, 2011 4:23 PM

My response:

Anonymous said...
Bingo about chemistry - and you know, in many cases those kids that scored in the 94th percentile in 2nd grade come into high school with passion and a work ethic that I would think the APP community would welcome into their kids' grade level classes. And those kids have always been welcome, both academically and socially. It has been what has made Garfield awesome for everyone. But no more. I know kids graduating this year going to Williams, Brown and Cornell who were never in APP. But now kids not in APP will not have the benefit of taking the most difficult classes at Garfield, and their transcripts will not look anywhere near as strong as their APP peers. Again, who is this benefitting? Certainly not the kids. Any of them.

G said...

Can we refrain from calling students not in APP "regular"?

zb said...

"I will admit to getting very confused over meiosis/mitosis myself, though at least I did learn the terms."

It's easy to get mixed up over the names. But one means the division/multiplication of non-gamete (i.e non egg/sperm) cells and the other the division/formation of egg/sperm.

The first is mitosis, the second meiosis. If I were checking someone's knowledge, I'd want the to know about the two kinds of cell division, but wouldn't care whether they knew the names. When a teacher casually reports that the kid didn't know this, I'd want to know which they didn't kow.

zb said...

"Can we refrain from calling students not in APP "regular"?"

What's the correct term?

hschinske said...

What I see on this thread isn't *students* being called regular, but the *program*. What's wrong with calling the default program that most kids are in "regular ed" or "the regular program"? As labels go, that one seems about as straightforward and nonpejorative as you're going to get. I could be missing something, of course; what do you see as problematic here?

Helen Schinske

G said...

zb -I think the point is whether is it fair that the only kids who are asked what they know are the APP kids? APP does not have a lock on the best curriculum, they just have the political power to have their agenda approved.

I don't know what another term might be instead of regular. How about students who for whatever reason are motivated and qualified for accelerated learning but never tested into APP, either because they missed the cutoff early on and found a way to make school work for them in a non-APP setting, or families just chose to stay in the neighborhood/homeschool/alternative/private and never bothered testing. Kind of a long explanation, but regular is not really a great definition of "all others" either.

Dorothy Neville said...

I thought that India Carlson's point at the DeBell coffee hour was that the test was so hard that very few would pass. But at the time, I thought she said that passing the test was going to be a requirement for taking bio as a 9th grader. So a big point was that the population of kids hasn't changed. And many Ballard 9th graders take bio and do just fine throughout high school, graduate and go to college and all that. So this placement test would artificially block that pathway to kids.

And, since the test would not be offered until June, that sets course and teacher scheduling completely out of whack til summer which would be a mess. (Since they would not know until then how many sections of biology and other science classes to offer.)

But in reading Kay's letter, it says something a little different. It says that kids who do not pass will simply be required to take physics sometime as an upperclassmen. So, that makes it seem like they are saying go ahead and take biology, but we will make you take physics later.

So why in the world is this just at Ballard? Why not give this to all eligible 8th graders (who are advanced enough in math) no matter where they are, so they can take biology as a 9th grader and some will then have to take physics later?

Teresa said...

One of the great things about Garfield has been that students from various feeder schools join together in one big class in which everyone has the same opportunities. My son’s experience has been enriched by the APP students he has been in classes with, as well as by non-APP students he has been in classes with, and there is a strong sense of 2011 as a class. My son had the opportunity to take AP and honors classes that helped him gain entrance to a highly selective college (Williams), which he is very excited about attending in the fall. His grades are just off a 4.0 and his SAT and ACT scores were high. I am writing this only because he managed it all without going through the APP program. He attended Stevens Elementary and then TOPS for middle school. There are many other students who have taken similar paths.

My daughter’s experience (as a sophomore) has been somewhat different, though maybe not yet different enough to be a big disappointment. She finds her Genetics class so engaging and inspiring that it may influence her career path. There are some APP freshmen in her class, who she observes are not particularly well prepared. They are certainly not as prepared as, for example, TOPS students—who, interestingly, were able to learn together in “regular ed” science in a “regular ed” school with “regular ed” kids. In the next two years, though, Genetics will be cordoned off for APP students only—since they will have had the privilege of taking biology (of some kind…) in middle school. So will the very popular Marine Biology, famous for its tenth-grade class bonding experiences, including trips to Hawaii and Eastern Washington. These were a huge part of my son’s Garfield experience. Now they will be reserved for APP freshmen—though perhaps a few other students will manage to join this young select group by squeezing in the additional “non-science” elective in later years. (cont.)

Teresa said...

With the new curriculum alignment, slated to take effect next year, non-APP students will not even be able to take biology as freshmen anymore. I guess this would at least reassure APP parents their kids are indeed two full years accelerated. The fact that they remain accelerated, independent of new test information, grades, or any other input, should confirm the program’s irrelevance at the high school level—and I would argue even at lower grade levels as well. But instead of classes being opened up for students who are ready and able to work at a higher level (as non-APP students have continually demonstrated they can do), this APP private fast track is being codified and made more exclusive.

It also means that the class years are increasingly divided. APP freshmen are now mixed with sophomores for history (which my daughter experiences), and the next step is to create an accelerated path for language arts as well. Perhaps the old Shakespeare class will be brought back, and the APP students will have unique access to that, too, since they will have completed the other requirements? Or what other inspiring “extra” will they receive, while others complete the normal track? Class unity is being dismantled, rather than improved, and opportunities are being taken from non-APP students, rather than increasingly opened to them, as the stated goal has been. The only classes where students of the same grade level will find themselves together will be some of the electives.

For some families, this may be most significant of all: Colleges look to see that applicants have taken the most challenging courses offered at their high school. Many of these will now be impossible for non-APP students to take, while at the same time it is being made EASIER for APP students to take them. Imagine two candidates for a highly selective college. (It’s easy for me to imagine, because my son just went through this process.) One has been forced along the regular track of Physical Science, Bio, Chem, and Physics, while the APP student has been placed in the track of Marine Bio/Genetics or AP Bio, Chem, Physics, then AP Chem. Add to that whatever the rest of the special APP history and language arts curriculum will contain: again, more advanced classes to show the admissions officer, all in an accelerated progression. The non-APP student had no choice, no opportunity to take some of these more advanced classes. This would have to be explained in every instance, and it would be very awkward—if the admissions office would even believe it. And in any case, the non-APP student, regardless of grades or test scores, will be at a distinct disadvantage. This should be an outrage to anyone coming up in seventh or eighth grade who is not in APP.

This tracked and segregated community is not the Garfield I thought we were all aiming for. Indeed, I feel we have been misled, to a large extent, by the APP advisors who have consistently claimed they would like to keep all opportunities open to everyone. Many people have worked hard in previous years to make Garfield more cohesive, and I’m afraid those efforts are being squandered now. I am mostly sorry for the entering freshmen, who will not have anything like the experience my son found so rich, and which prepared him for entrance to the college he most wanted to attend.

Teresa said...

With the new curriculum alignment, slated to take effect next year, non-APP students will not even be able to take biology as freshmen anymore. I guess this would at least reassure APP parents their kids are indeed two full years accelerated. The fact that they remain accelerated, independent of new test information, grades, or any other input, should confirm the program’s irrelevance at the high school level—and I would argue even at lower grade levels as well. But instead of classes being opened up for students who are ready and able to work at a higher level (as non-APP students have continually demonstrated they can do), this APP private fast track is being codified and made more exclusive.

It also means that the class years are increasingly divided. APP freshmen are now mixed with sophomores for history (which my daughter experiences), and the next step is to create an accelerated path for language arts as well. Perhaps the old Shakespeare class will be brought back, and the APP students will have unique access to that, too, since they will have completed the other requirements? Or what other inspiring “extra” will they receive, while others complete the normal track? Class unity is being dismantled, rather than improved, and opportunities are being taken from non-APP students, rather than increasingly opened to them, as the stated goal has been. The only classes where students of the same grade level will find themselves together will be some of the electives.

For some families, this may be most significant of all: Colleges look to see that applicants have taken the most challenging courses offered at their high school. Many of these will now be impossible for non-APP students to take, while at the same time it is being made EASIER for APP students to take them. Imagine two candidates for a highly selective college. (It’s easy for me to imagine, because my son just went through this process.) One has been forced along the regular track of Physical Science, Bio, Chem, and Physics, while the APP student has been placed in the track of Marine Bio/Genetics or AP Bio, Chem, Physics, then AP Chem. Add to that whatever the rest of the special APP history and language arts curriculum will contain: again, more advanced classes to show the admissions officer, all in an accelerated progression. The non-APP student had no choice, no opportunity to take some of these more advanced classes. This would have to be explained in every instance, and it would be very awkward—if the admissions office would even believe it. And in any case, the non-APP student, regardless of grades or test scores, will be at a distinct disadvantage. This should be an outrage to anyone coming up in seventh or eighth grade who is not in APP.

This tracked and segregated community is not the Garfield I thought we were all aiming for. Indeed, I feel we have been misled, to a large extent, by the APP advisors who have consistently claimed they would like to keep all opportunities open to everyone. Many people have worked hard in previous years to make Garfield more cohesive, and I’m afraid those efforts are being squandered now. I am mostly sorry for the entering freshmen, who will not have anything like the experience my son found so rich, and which prepared him for entrance to the college he most wanted to attend.

Maureen said...

And isn't GPA (or class rank at least) now weighted by whether the class is AP or Honors level? If so, it will be almost impossible for a nonAPP student to be in the highest ranking (since they can't fit into as many AP classes as virtually any APP student.) What's worse is that the rank issue won't impact high achieving students to the same extent at the other HSs. Will college admissions offices understand this? How long will it take for them to adjust for it?

hschinske said...

Teresa, I would like to point out that plenty of APP parents have spoken out against these changes, for the very same reasons you are. I have also been speaking out against separate IB classes for APP in 10th and 11th grade at Ingraham (there is currently a mix of separate and blended IB classes planned, which I still don't see any good reason for).

I feel as if APP parents had been asking for years to get a broken leg set, and then finally someone comes through and says brightly, "Congratulations! We've got the amputation scheduled at last!" and proceeds to cut off the leg that wasn't even broken.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Teresa for you POV. I have children who are late bloomers and who were never identified or encouraged to test for ALO (and not all schools have ALO). We are not the only family facing this situation. We thought our kids were bright, but not necessarily exceptional. They got A's and B's, even an occasional C's in middle school.

Our 2 kids have been writing plays, and short stories since they were 6-7, concoting "experiments" in the kitchen, asked for and got the $300 microscope for X-mas one year in 5th grade. To us it all seemed normal. We did look at EPGY math for one child, but didn't pursued it in middle school as we thought it was too much on top of his regular HW. The other child loves science and writing and carried the microscope on our last beach backpacking expedition to view planktons.

I know we missed the APP boat, but we hope the district will retain some ways for these kids to pursue their passion. I hope the APP community and the district would embrace and support for ways these kids can come under the APP tent for coursework. I hope this attempt to align HS curriculum will NOT do away or limit opportunities for capable (demonstrated by testing/project) kids to take on more challenging coursework.

-An appeal from a non-APP parent

Maureen said...

Helen, who do you think Bob Vaughan is listening to if not the APP families?

My impression is that he knows GHS is crowded so he's not willing to do anything that might make it more attractive to kids who weren't previously identified as APP because that would put pressure on the APP cohort and risk its dismantling.

He's willing to consider new APP entry for Ingraham IB but only if that doesn't displace existing APP identified kids (I have seen language that implies that new entry will be on a space available basis if it is implemented next year.)

G said...

I know one of the motivating factors driving the pushing down of high school curriculum into middle school for APP was the perceived lack of rigor in the 9th grade classes at Garfield. By no means is that opinion exclusive to the APP community, but they were the only group with the ability to change course for their identified students.

The thing that was broken was the lack of rigor in 9th grade classes, not the fact that other highly capable and motivated kids were also languishing in those classes. Now, APP kids have a solution, while their academic peers from outside APP will continue to languish, only worse, because they can't even take biology as 9th graders.

It seems like there should be a reasaonable solution at the high school level to keep all kids who have the motivation and ability on the path to the colleges and universities of their dreams. But when we start taking away the opportunity to take the most challenging classes your high school offers simply because you didn't test into APP before 8th grade, those transcripts will not hold up in the college admissions offices. Is this in any way fair to bright and hard working students? They are being told you cannot take classes simply because the answer is no. Not based on recommendations from middle school science teachers, not a thought given to what this is doing to so many kids' futures. It is a travesty.

Charlie Mas said...

There has also been - for years -a perceived lack of rigor in the middle school science classes for APP students at Washington.

Befuddled said...

(X-post from Questions thread)

This is the suggested science sequence from a random college-prep high school (Stanton College Prep, a public magnet school in FL):

Science

For Honors students, the common sequence of Science courses is:

•9th grade, Biology I Honors

•10th grade, Chemistry I Honors

•11th grade, Physics I Honors

•12th grade, AP Biology+Biology 2, AP Chemistry+Chemistry 2, AP Physics+Physics 2, or AP Environmental Science.

◦- if you have a clear career goal, choose your science accordingly:

■Health and medical related careers - AP Chemistry and AP Biology are better for Pre-Med;

■Engineering and Architecture related careers - AP Physics is almost a must.

■Ecology or any Earth Science related careers - AP Environmental is an excellent course for any physical science, or ecological careers.


With SPS's proposed science alignment, how would this pathway even be possible?

As an aside, the only requirement to get into the public magnet is that a student has taken Algebra I. From there it's a lottery.

Yep. No special testing. No requirement to be in a G&T program in middle school. If you're up for the challenge you can go for it. You just have to win the lottery...

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

SP said...
Where is this written that all freshmen will be required to take Physical Science? Is it written in the new science alignment documents (with available link)?

Also, I would like to see where this is written in SPS policy, as right now the graduation requirement is simply for 2 science credits, "Select from approved course offerings" and “At least one credit of the two science credits shall be in a
laboratory science” WAC 180-51-060.

Dorothy- you also referred to Kay's letter, is there a link?
Thanks!

I ask this because I have heard at WSHS that last year & this year students who had above ave. grades/scores were placed into Biology in 9th grade automatically and skipped the physical science altogether. Also, at Sealth with the IB apparently it has been a regular practice to have IB bound students start with Biology in 9th (I think it was so they could take chemistry in 10th and be ready for IB Biology in 11th). Does anyone know this for sure? Is this going to have to change also?

Dorothy Neville said...

I got Kay's letter to constituents in email.

Try this link

hschinske said...

Helen, who do you think Bob Vaughan is listening to if not the APP families?

I have seen Bob Vaughan "listen" to families and then turn around and do something different any number of times now. This is no different. They are claiming to have "listened" to families because when they asked them to rank seven different factors of a high school experience, "classes with non-APP students" ranked last. See the survey at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/advlearning/documents/APP_IB_Survey_Summary.pdf.

On a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being 'Least Important', and 7 being 'Most Important', how important are the following features to you in a high school?

Rigorous curriculum
Classes designed for gifted students
Classes with non-APP Students
Strong Music program
12th grade internship
Wide variety of classes available
Wide variety of extra curricular activities

I don't believe most people taking that survey knew that separate IB classes for APP were even on the table, and they had to put *something* last. Nor did people know what was meant by "classes designed for gifted students" -- they just latched onto it because it was something that actually acknowledged different learning needs for advanced students, and we haven't heretofore seen a lot of that acknowledgment at the high school level.

Frankly, that survey is a silly bit of fluff, and didn't provide the kind of information they should be basing actual decisions on. I could have ordered those priorities a dozen different ways and not actually MEANT anything very different by it. I honestly have no idea now how I *did* order them.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy Neville said...

There has also been a perceived lack of rigor in middle school science in general. There is also a perceived lack of rigor for highly capable kids who are not in APP.

Vaughan's focus on isolating the APP kids even further, giving them and only them the opportunities for advanced coursework and supposedly more rigor will certainly backfire. It will make true the perceived segregation of APP kids at Garfield. The new program at Ingraham is completely based on segregating them. It will make it all the most more desirable for eligible kids to enroll by 7th grade, creating even more pressure on WMS, Hamilton and Garfield. That will reduce sympathy and support in the district for keeping the cohort together and considering the APP kids an asset to GHS as a whole.

A friend with advanced degrees and a science background is appalled at the biology class her child is getting in 8th grade APP. Not anywhere close to matching a high school curriculum. Said there are almost no labs either. Can anyone with kids in 8th grade APP comment because I only have this one second hand anecdote.

So why shouldn't app kids have to take a placement test for high school science, just like other kids?

Maureen said...

I think the APP Advisory Committee should have a representative for Advanced Learners who are not currently enrolled in a program. I think they are having a meeting tonight at Lowell. Maybe I will go and propose this to them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you for this discussion. I never had a child in APP (but in Spectrum) and didn't realize this issue of getting shut of classes because of lack of prerequisites at GHS was happening for non-APP students. It's wrong.

But I can say that
(1) parents, if you think your kid is bright, even in just one subject, push his/her teacher to track that ability and help that child. Consider testing him/her for Spectrum/APP if only to know for sure.
(2) push hard for an ALO at your school. If a student has consistently had ALO enrichment, it should be counted as rigor in class placement.

Some kids are late bloomers and shouldn't be shut out of classes that would make their academic interest soar. I would have to sit down and think hard about how to make this more fair and equitable but I don't think a decision your parents made when you were 6 should determine what you learn at 16.

CCM said...

I agree with Helen that the majority of APP parents that filled out that survey had never imagined that it would lead to self-contained classes in high school.

That's not what we want, and as a result we most likely will not consider Ingraham for our 7th grader.

Now to hear that Garfield is going the same direction...is upsetting.

The Advanced Learning office is listening to a small, vocal group of parents who for some reason want to continue with this acceleration as a way to "engage" kids.

Acceleration and engagement are not necessarily the same thing - especially when your kid may not love science etc. A non APP kid who loves science will be more engaged in an AP Bio class than the APP kid who does not.

What to do now? There are many APP families that didn't take part in this discussion when it was happening, and now are finding themselves on the train when they didn't ask for the ride.

SE Mom said...

SP,

We strongly considered Sealth and the IB program for our 9th grader this year. If a student has completed Geometry in middle school they can start as freshmen with Chemistry and then progress to Physics and IB Biology I and II. The counselors seemed pretty open about a 9th grader starting with Algebra II and skipping Integrated Science. The only downside would have been being in those classes with sophomores and juniors.

To be honest, we chose private school this year so our student could be in the right level math and science classes with other 9th graders. It's true, if a student is advanced academically but not in APP, the choices are difficult.

Anonymous said...

The Advanced Learning office is listening to a small, vocal group of parents who for some reason want to continue with this acceleration as a way to "engage" kids.

The APP program that we've experienced is based largely on acceleration, whether it's appropriate or not. At times we feel like our kids are getting less because of the acceleration. As middle school classes get pushed down into elementary, they somehow get shortchanged on the basics.

Yet, what are our alternatives?

My kids are actually starting to disengage.

Frustrated parent

Sue said...

I am not sure I am understanding this all correctly -what exactly is being limited for whom?

Having just gone through the college admissions process, I can testify to how much accelerated classes do matter for the application process, as well as the fact that they get you college credits. (That's money people!)

I would hate to have my non-app students denied access to accelerated classes that they can do the work in just because they didn't test into some program when they were 6 or 12. Is this what is being planned? Is it only at Garfield? I think I require some clarity here before I leap to a conclusion.

Also - how come Kay Smith Blum is the one who is sending emails to parents about science alignment and the district is not? I am not in her district, and I would think that the school district could do me the courtesy of letting me know about practices that will affect my kids!
-

A parent said...

I think there needs to be some clarity about the opt-out/test-up option to take Biology as a 9th grader.

KSB's summary made it sound like only Ballard students would have the option for next year, yet others are saying that their school currently allows students to take Biology as 9th graders. Will this change for next year?

When the math was "aligned" it actually reduced choices for APP and other qualified students. Some students were previously allowed to take Algebra I as 6th graders, but students at Hamilton have been told that this is no longer an option.

The District talks about increasing access to AP classes, but then the "alignments" seem to reduce the chances of students taking serious AP classes.

The short of it - choices seem to be getting more and more limited for those that want to go beyond the baseline requirements. APP or not.

Kudos to KSB for keeping her constituents in the loop - and thanks to this blog for keeping the rest of us in the loop.

Teresa said...

Sue: I know my letter is long, and I'm sorry about that, but if you reread I think you'll get answers to your questions. APP freshmen are now entering a year ahead in history (so they join non-APP sophomores), they will soon enter a year ahead in language arts (again, to be with non-APP sophomores), and they will enter TWO years ahead in science. Math is more flexible--even APP kids sometimes aren't as good at math as some non-APP kids--and so testing and teacher recommendations are used for placement, fortunately. But in the core classes of history, science, and LA, kids are simply put on a track based on APP/non-APP status. And this will result in uneven transcripts.

Anonymous said...

Why to put all the hateand blame on APP community? It seems that parents need to demand the SPS district to let all the capable 9th graders (at least the ones that are taking Geometry) to take BIology. This will solve everything. Then, the science sequence will be Biology, Chemistry, Physics and one of them at higher (AP) level. And everybody will be happy. Otherwise, regular (non-APP ) kids should not even dream about going to selective colleges. On its website, Harvard College specifically states that the applicants should have all three science courses plus one in depth.

Anonymous said...

Re Rigor at the middle school level:
The district isn't set up for rigor. They give teachers 3 semester-long curriculums to cram into 2 semesters, the curriculums aren't aligned along any logical path (largely backward), and don't align with math curriculums in terms of skills. To top it off, schools aren't given their own budgets or equipment, but share 'kits' between all schools in the district. Kits are packed up early january and returned late january, leaving teachers stranded without curriculum or equipment for a few weeks toward the end of first semester. Equipment is minimal and often dirty or damaged, and never sent for more than 32 students, leaving teachers without demo equipment and necessitating larger groups.

As for 9th grade: Most districts have made it difficult for students to take anything other than general science as a freshman. The HSPE (WASL) is cited as the driving force for this, since it tests all branches of science (including chemistry and physics that aren't even offered to most 10th graders). The "general" science class is a last-ditch effort to prepare kids for the test, and should cover information that students won't have access to prior to testing if they opt out.

former teacher

disgusted said...

Our middle school has blocked math and science class for 6th grade.

A teacher admitted- teachers with blocked math/ science classes spend more time on math. Why? Math is tested.

The revolving cirriculum is difficult to follow; particularily since the kids don't have official text books.

My child is in 7th grade. Science classes have underwhelmed me.

Anonymous said...

I hope this discussion bothers a lot of people. And we are spending $750,000 for this....a system that is going to deny capable kids opportunities. Wow, how is this exactly going to fulfill SPS mission...

"Enabling all students to achieve to their potential through quality instructional programs and a shared commitment to continuous improvement."

You know sometimes I just want to come home and make sure my kids finish their homework properly and do their chores. That's it! I really don't want to send off another e-mail to my board members, my CAO, and all the other 3 letter titles. I don't want to worry if I need to get my kids re-tested for APP before 7th grade (they are already spectrum qualified), so they can get into advanced courses they need to get into UW, because now it's not enough to get 4.0 GPA, and high SAT scores, but you also need lots of.. as in 6+ AP courses, and solve the Middle East crisis for community service!

So much for learning for the love of it.

A grumpy parent

Anonymous said...

I'm veering off-topic - the comment about blocked math/science is disheartening if it means kids are shortchanged on science.

It's what I call "math creep." The curriculum is so inefficient that is requires twice as long to teach what an average textbook could teach in half the time. So math time creeps into time for social studies, writing, etc.

I assured my child that middle school would be better - classes can't be more than an hour. Math can't creep into other classes...I guess I was wrong.

Another grumpy parent

Dorothy Neville said...

What's to do? Science teachers are not happy, have not been happy, have been trying to spread the word the entire school year. It's not new, it's been in the planning stage all year.

There are a million problems with both the science alignment and the direction of APP and they are colliding in a way that is just about guaranteed to increase hostility between the APP HS kids and the rest who will be shut out of high school rigor and opportunities.

peonypower said...

@SP-
The district has been pushing this new alignment all year. The proposal right now that no freshman other than the select students at Ballard who test out will be able to take biology as freshman. Not at WSHS, not at Center, not at Garfield, and even at Ballard it is unclear exactly who is getting tested -is it only biotech applicants or any incoming freshman?
Wish I could tell you the answer to this but when I got to look at the test not even the science coach could answer that question.

I can say that in the past at Ballard the method used was that any student entering high school at 1 grade level higher in math could opt to take biology. Math level was chosen as the gate keeper because it has been an accurate predictor of student success in biology as freshman. This system has worked well for the biotech academy for many, many years and for non-biotech students for 3 years. As for the argument that students must be taught the physical science standards and it must happen in 9th grade. Bull. The state standards for science are k-12. The physics standards are not beginning physics- go read the ones on radiation and waves and you will see what I mean. I find it very unlikely that any student will have mastered all of the science standards listed by the end of their biology class. That is why they were written through grade 12.

I believe that this alignment is really about the Gates STEM initiative. The classes being promoted are the STEM classes, and the funding for the alignment came from a Gates grant. I hate to believe in triple-tin foil stuff, but given how single focus the alignment is, and how it really is not student centered it seems that the drive is not on making school better but to fulfill some mandate that us peons are not privy to.

Disgusted said...

Another Grumpy Parent,

I too feel disheartened.

With a spiraling cirriculum and no textbook- I'm not adequately able to assess my child's knowledge, help her etc.

In terms of 6th grade blocked classes being more focus on math due to tesing- we knew that would happen.

I might as well add the science kits are a pile of junk. Kits are old, pieces are missing etc.

Very disturbing.

Sue said...

Thank you Theresa - I did re-read your post, and it was helpful, and thoughtful.

The larger question is why oh why does this district insist on decreasing access to rigor? What's wrong with rigor?

Rgh.

Jan said...

All very interesting, and thanks to everyone, especially Teresa, for the thoughtful posts.

Two things strike me:
1. I think that the science HSPE is driving this more than anything else. Put bluntly, it means that the District cares more about how good kids look on the test (which is why it HAS to happen in 9th grade -- not later) than they care whether kids are able to apply to selective colleges. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. And it needs to get fixed, but I suspect that there is sufficient momentum now that it will be hard to shield next year's 9th graders from this deplorable decision-making. BUT -- we can try, I guess.

2. This is also what comes of "silo" decision-making. The science alignment folks are looking at -- well, science and alignment -- and nothing else. So, the college transcript issues, and the degrading effect on the Garfield APP/non-APP issues are not part of the discussion, and have not been considered.

Assuming, for a moment, that the course content in physical science is good stuff -- and kids would all be better human beings, scholars, etc. if they learned this stuff at some point, I think there are only two solutions, and only one that makes real sense.

This stuff (physical science) needs to be taught at the middle school level, and it needs to be taught well, and taken seriously (no blended math-science classes that turn out to be "mostly math", etc.). It needs to be the expectation that a large chunk of 8th grade kids who are aiming for AP science classes (or STEM or biotech stuff that requires that they get physical science out of the way) master it well enough to take, and pass whatever qualifying exam is out there, so they are exempt.

It has been years since one of my kids was in middle school in public school, but what I recall of Washington's science program was weak, weak, weak. And that was at the APP level. It was even worse for the spectrum and general ed kids.

The other alternative, in my opinion, would be to aggressively create "skipping" alternatives (0 or 7th period classes, summer classes like the summer stretch math classes, etc.) that kids can take to "double up" on science while still juggling all of the other stuff that is required for college admissions (foreign language, etc.) AND high school graduation (PE, occ ed, etc.).

Syd said...

Teresa, I don't why you would blame the APP program for the curriculum alignment. You are very negative in meetings and in this blog for APP. Why? APP created the great diversity of classes available in Garfield. It did not have that diversity 25 years ago. The way the program has been run - allowing all kids access to the program has helped grow the opportunity for all students. Your children have benefited from this. My child has benefited from this.

Now the school district wants curriculum alignment and is instituting it in a way that has negative impacts. I think we can all agree on that. Let's try to work to make access better not worse for all students. Let's talk about solutions not blame.

Maureen said...

Syd, Theresa led off with My son’s experience has been enriched by the APP students he has been in classes with, as well as by non-APP students he has been in classes with, and there is a strong sense of 2011 as a class

I'm not clear on why this leads you to say: I don't why you would blame the APP program for the curriculum alignment. You are very negative in meetings and in this blog for APP.

I haven't been in curriculum alignment meetings with "Theresa" so I can't speak to all of this. But it seems to me that she values what the APP kids have brought to Garfield and her son's education.

Maureen said...

So back at 3:14 I said I might go to the APP Advisory Committee meeting and suggest they add a rep for Advanced Learners who were not enrolled in APP.

Well, I did.

I'm not saying they laughed me out of the Lowell Library, but they very politely pointed out that they are the APP ADVISORY COMMITTEE. Not the Advanced Learning Advisory Committee. Ah. Something was said about If you don't come to the dance, you don't get to (dance?). Not sure.

SO. I was also told that they have always advocated for nonAPP kids to enroll in the same classes with their kids.

And on the way out, I was buttonholed by an APP MS dad who practically drooled over my description of the science TOPS kids cover. (I've had several great interactions with this guy about math at various Directors' coffees.)

I can't attest to any other K-8's science curriculum... BUT: TOPS kids cover every element of the 9-12 Washington State Standards in Physical Science and almost all of the 9-12 standards in Life Sciences.

We do it by starting in 5th grade. Every single kid is taught to these standards. NOT JUST THE TOP 2 %.

And, they learn the Greek Alphabet and Latin and Greek roots. (And don't get me started as to how Camp fits into all of this.)

Every one of these kids should get to skip (at least) 9th grade Physical Science if they want to.

Maureen said...

Oh, and Bob Vaughan wasn't there, so I don't have any District Level feedback on this issue. I did walk out with a great impression of Ingraham--they seem to be willing to see students as individual human beings. Though it sounds like SPS is making them get rid of Bio for their Freshmen.
(At least three IHS staff/APP parents? were there.)

not happy said...

Maureen,

I believe the majority of APP parents would not have responded to your request for support in the same manner as the APP AC leadership did last night. Most APP parents that I've talked with support proper placement for kids in HS classes, regardless of which program they were in from 1-8. And underneath the curtness of the response, I believe that the APP AC as a group does as well. It might simply be that the group doesn't feel it's appropriate to officially advocate for special consideration for essentially one particular school, although I'm speculating a bit on that.

I do agree with Syd that Teresa's post, along with the general tone of several posts here on this thread, were quite negative about APP (what's new!), and it's really uncalled for. Like:

The fact that they remain accelerated, independent of new test information, grades, or any other input, should confirm the program’s irrelevance at the high school level ... this APP private fast track is being codified and made more exclusive.

...and opportunities are being taken from non-APP students, rather than increasingly opened to them...

This tracked and segregated community is not the Garfield I thought we were all aiming for.


Everyone, this is NOT about APP, so you might as well give that up. This is about alignment across the district, and many buildings and families are going to suffer as a result. The only difference is that as of now it appears APP kids are going to be able to sidestep the alignment, and unfortunately it comes right as the new APP science path is rolling out. Saying things like "APP is on a private fast track", "more exclusive", etc., are only likely to have a negative effect on those kids, not help others. Accelerated science for APP kids in MS is new, and we should be looking at it as a hopefully positive "pilot" that could open doors for others to follow, not as something to kill out of jealousy. The "If I can't have it, no one can!" attitude is completely unhelpful. It may turn out to be a bad idea (if the kids don't get a solid dose of Bio in 8th grade), in which case it should be scrapped. But it's too new at this point to even speculate.

I think Jan and former teacher have it right, and this is about HSPE testing. The APP/non-APP aggravations at Garfield are just a side effect that I'm sure the district staff hadn't bothered to consider. The rest of Jan's comment is worth reading again as well. The enemy is not APP, it's a poorly thought-out alignment plan.

Anonymous said...

This might be the most ridiculous thread I have ever read. The district is doing something egregious: structuring the curriculum so that non-APP students will have a very hard time getting into elite colleges and have difficulty getting into UW. We should all band together to fight this, not distract ourselves with stale debates about the APP program.

--amsiegel

Lori said...

I agree, amsiegel. The ironic thing is that people complain that APP has strong advocates fighting for their kids' needs, yet at the same time, they create the very need for families to strongly advocate for the program by denigrating it at every opportunity.

On this thread, it was implied that APP parents only care that their kids are taught 2 years ahead of everyone else, and the K-12 program was called "irrevelant." That makes me defensive because what I actually care about is that my APP child is happy, engaged, and making friends, which is happening in APP but did not happen in our neighborhood school. It really shouldn't surprise anyone that when a program is continually attacked from all angles, folks in that program will band together to fight for it.

The thing I truly don't get is the animosity directed at kids who are outliers on the far right of the bell-shaped curve. If a child has significant learning disabilities and can only succeed in school with special accommodations, no one complains. No one says that child's family is being elitist. Yet, put a kid with an IQ above 130 whose social, emotional, and academic needs are best met in a self-contained program (at least in elementary school) and suddenly you are a snob who is jeopardizing the educational opportunities of all the other kids in the district. How does that make sense to anyone? It is illogical to me.

The problem here isn't APP. All kids should be able to access appropriate classes at the high school level and I'm angry that the district appears to be going in the wrong direction here. I just wish folks would leave my child and her program out of it. It's really hard enough as is having a kid who doesn't fit in with other kids her age. Then add to it parents who don't understand your kid either, and it should be easy to see why that further entrenches the destructive us-versus-them mentality that's gone on for years around APP.

Maureen said...

The reason APP is relevant here is that very high level classes will be offered at GHS that the APP students will be able to take and that nonAPP kids will not be able to take.

Since the rigor of the course figures into your GPA and class rank (as well as the perception of colleges--they like it when you take the most challenging courses available), that means that nonAPP kids will necessarily fall in the perception of college admissions officers below APP kids who they may have 'outscored' under the old system.

That is not the APP students fault (and no one is saying it is), but that is why the impact of the four year alignment is different at GHS than at the other HSs. (Actually the same will probably be true at IHS going forward, but at least there the APP kids will be in a more contained program that colleges may be able to separate out.)

Does that make sense?

hschinske said...

Maureen, no one said it was the students' fault, true, but even you implied that it was partly APP parents' fault. If that's not what you meant, you might say so.

And look at what G said: APP does not have a lock on the best curriculum, they just have the political power to have their agenda approved.

I'm sorry, seems to me most APP parents are going to do a giant spit-take at that and say WHAT political power? WHOSE agenda? It is not our agenda that's going through. At any rate that is certainly what I say.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy Neville said...

I am most angry at Vaughan. He is supposed to look out for the needs of ALL the highly capable kids. But he time after time uses his limited time and resources to both "fix" APP and to throw the rest of the students under the bus. He publicly supported the watering down of Social Studies at Roosevelt at the same time he was pushing the APP middle school science changes.

The confluence of the app middle school changes and the district's assbackwards curriculum alignment are simply going to destroy APP.

The best way to ensure a strong APP would have been -- has always been -- to strengthen Spectrum and general ed. If every student were getting his or her educational needs met, then the hostility toward gifted education -- based on accurate or inaccurate understanding -- would go away. Yet everything Vaughan and Stump have done has been opposite of that. That is what will ultimately decide the fate of APP. I think Vaughan himself is most responsible for the decisions that will add to the conflicts that might destroy APP.

As I have said before, making the north end middle school APP more convenient to families, along with the anti-rigor moves in other high schools, would eventually destroy the APP pathway to Garfield due to overcrowding. Now with the science alignment making the anti-rigor even more widespread, with the breaking of the promise to open the accelerated IB program to other highly capable students will only hasten that (unless enough APP kids choose IB voluntarily).

When Vaughan announced the science plans for APP I asked about expanding that to others in the building (pre-split this was) and he seemed taken aback. I doubt he ever thought of this as a pilot to expand to others. That doesn't mean we cannot push for that though. And the way to push for that would be to protest the science alignment, to push instead for ALL middle school students to get stronger science for more HS options.

I have spoken before about making APP more attractive AND making the rest of the district less attractive would damage APP. I predicted that it would lead to issues with Garfield and probably break up HS APP. I was accused of being negative toward APP. Am I?

Look at the data that supports my prediction that middle school APP would grow.

Percent increase from Year N's 5th grade APP to Year N+1 6th grade:

07-08 12%
08-09 35%
09-10 43%

The middle school split sure looks like it influenced more eligible students to come. And relative to the district as a whole, from 09-10 to 10-11 middle school APP increased from 4.48% to 5.05% of the overall district middle school population.

Same thing for changes from grade 7 to grade 8

07-08 1%
08-09 -3%
09-10 14%

Elementary and High school APP have both been growing faster than the district.

Folks here say that APP families support appropriately challenging education for all, but really I haven't seen that in practice, except for Charlie who just about singlehandedly got the ALO concept started (but a fat lot of good that did since the district didn't follow through to ensure ALOs were implemented). But I am not sure I expect to see it. The APP AC doesn't have a lot of clout to affect APP, why would it have more clout affecting the rest of the district? I do think they have been shortsighted in being very vocal about asking other families to support APP while not being more vocal about supporting other families.

hschinske said...

There's a difference between being concerned about one's own kid more than anything (everyone is that) and wanting to do down other people's kids. APP parents have probably sometimes been shortsighted about other groups' needs and more concerned about their own, but I don't think any of us wants to push an agenda that hurts other programs (especially when it's one that doesn't, in my opinion, even help ours -- see broken leg/amputation post, above).

Incidentally, quite a lot of us are general ed parents as well (I have a daughter in the regular program at Garfield), and all of us were general ed parents first.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

The problem here has very little to do with advanced learning. Any sane curriculum would make available to all capable students a diversity of challenging science courses designed both to challenge/engage students and impress college admission offices. Until recently, many of our high schools did so. Now in the the name of standardization they won't.

--amsiegel

Another said...

Dorothy said,The best way to ensure a strong APP would have been -- has always been -- to strengthen Spectrum and general ed. If every student were getting his or her educational needs met, then the hostility toward gifted education -- based on accurate or inaccurate understanding -- would go away.

There are several overlapping problems: a lack of a strong Spectrum/honors pathway, weaknesses in the general curriculum, and continued overcrowding. There seems to be no middle ground for those wanting to go beyond the defined pathway and the District is moving toward creating an even larger divide.

I know of several families that are choosing APP at Hamilton because at Eckstein there is no guarantee of a Spectrum spot, it's overcrowded, and well, Hamilton's new and shiny. At the elementary level, it's a similar story. There's no guarantee of getting a Spectrum spot and ALO is somewhat undefined, so families opt for APP.

Dorothy Neville said...

Helen, I agree and that's why I put "fix" in quotes with respect to Vaughan's work for APP. But of course not every APP parent has the same take on the issues, just as not every general ed parent has the same take on issues. I suspect some APP parents are very happy with the direction of the "fixes" for APP, especially if they have kids who will benefit from those particular changes. Overall, as I have said before, I believe that the direction of APP curriculum changes goes completely against the philosophy of APP that made it a stellar model of gifted ed (once upon a time) and that is to consider the whole child and provide appropriate academic experience while also considering other child development issues. The direction of the changes will benefit kids who are more mature for their age and will distinctly hurt 2E kids.

I have seen on this blog and elsewhere the hostility go both directions, from general ed parents to app program and app parents to other parents. Both directions have been based more on inaccurate than accurate understanding of the issues.

No, APP parents cannot be faulted too much for not supporting the rest of the district, partly because I don't think they understood the issues. Having both an APP student and a gen-ed or Spectrum student might make parents more aware, but until recently those kids could get into Garfield on sibling tie-breaker AND while at Garfield have exactly the same experience as an APP qualified student. Both of those qualifiers have changed.

Didn't Garfield lose AP Euro also? But at the same time APP kids were immunized by getting a crammed down AP history class in middle school. Did APP parents at Garfield fight to keep AP Euro? I really do not know.

They've been following Vaughan's lead on such issues, and he has been part of the disaster.

Bird said...

It does seem likely that HSPE is the motivator for everything dumb about the curriculum alignment, which brings to mind two things.

One, if the district is forcing all ninth graders to take Physical Science because they are worried about them passing the HSPE, then maybe the test to opt out of Physical Science should be a passing grade on HSPE.

I have little kids, I know almost nothing about HSPE. Would it be possible for kids to take it a year early?

Two, if the district wants this stuff that parents and students don't want because they want good HSPE performance, would the right way to combat it be to opt out of the HSPE en masse? Is that even possible? Are there repurcusions in high school for not taking the test?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bird, if you are asking if you can take the HSPE to meet the state high school requirement in 9th grade, the answer is maybe. I hedge because while one of my sons did that in 2007, I have no idea if it is still allowed. The schools liked this because it got some of the kids out of the way and was an early warning for kids who might be in trouble.

You can't opt out in high school because your child won't graduate without it. However, you certainly can opt out of it all the way up to 10th grade. This was brought up at the event on Monday night on testing. I pointed out it is possible to opt out but that:

1. it could jeopardize Advanced Learning chances (or is that now just the MAP results that are needed?)
2. my student is not there to help the school look good on its scores. Sorry. However, since these scores now might be held against teachers in their assessments, it would give me pause because I can see how worrisome it could be for teachers if many kids opted out.

At the end of the day, it is your choice. If you see no benefit from it, opt your child out.

Maureen said...

Hmmm, I wonder if 8th graders could take the Science HSPE? Passing that should be sufficient proof that they can skip 9th grade Physical Science. Though actually they would probably have to take it in 7th grade for the official scores to be available in time to register for 9th grade classes.

I know Ballard is piloting a placement test that Elaine Woo says was not really designed for that purpose and will be expensive to administer and grade. Maybe they should just copy off an old Science HSPE and administer and grade that.

hschinske said...

It's often possible to attend college without technically ever "graduating." (All early entrance students do this, as do students who start college after their junior year of high school, as one of my friends did.) Typically the more selective the college, the less they care about silly hoop-jumping. If you'd been accepted to Caltech and then wrote and said "By the way, technically I'm not going to graduate, because I boycotted the science HSPE," the folks at Caltech would just laugh.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy Neville said...

Careful about HSPE and end of course exams. I am not sure myself what the future holds there. If there is an EOC exam in p-science, that would be the one to take to place out of that class.

As for taking the HSPE or whatever test hoops the state will put one through, isn't that simply to get a diploma? Cannot a student get a fine education, take the same courses as otherwise, and simply not get a diploma? For kids who are going off to college, that might not matter. Could make for a strong college essay even, "Why I will not get a high school diploma."

Mercermom said...

This direction further exascerbates one of the glaring failings in Seattle's approach to advanced learning: you only get it if you can show you are at the requisite levels in both math and reading. While I can appreciate that it's hard to address a student who is advanced in one but not the other at the elementary level where you're in one class all day, I don't see how it's unworkable to provide appropriate acceleration for single-exceptional students at the m.s. and h.s. levels. If you're at the 95% level in reading and 87th in math, why can't you be in an APP LA/SS class and "Spectrum" math class? (And why it's acceptable to limit access to Spectrum I will never understand. If kids have demonstrated aptitude to do work a grade level ahead, how can the District say it will choose by lottery who gets to do it?)

Maureen said...

Re HSPE: I'm just looking for the cheapest hoop for kids to jump through that will let them enroll in the science course that is appropriate for them.

Speaking of hoops: what happens to the APP kids who enroll only for 8th grade (having missed 7th grade Physical Science), I wonder if anyone is checking to make sure they enroll in 9th grade Physical Science at Garfield?

Maureen said...

And since Spectrum kids are working one grade up, do they take Physical Science in 8th grade? If so, what science class are they registering for for 9th grade?

Rose M said...

The current model for advanced learning in SPS does not meet the needs of most advanced learners.

Most advanced learners are not equally gifted in all areas. Our models do not serve those kids. We do not serve the profoundly gifted. We do not serve most twice exceptional kids. A child who is 4 grade levels ahead in math but at grade level in reading, is not gifted in our district. And that child will not be served. A child who is 4 grade levels ahead in math and qualifies for spectrum or APP is not served in our district. If a child in academically advanced 2 or more years but does not score high on IQ testing, that child must be served only in general ed.

Other states have definitions of gifted that include being gifted in one area, being academically advanced and being twice exceptional. They also serve children who are gifted in areas other than reading and math.

The current curriculum alignment makes the situation worse. It use to be that highly gifted math students could do independent study in middle school, but that is no longer possible.

I have spoken to Bob Vaugn several times about this over the years. He does not think the district should serve all gifted kids. He believes that by serving some of the gifted, he can demonstrate our district’s commitment to gifted education and will not have to deal with the rest. He expresses no regret about this position.

Mercermom said...

Spectrum program is only for LA/SS at Washington (and Spectrum kids have the opportunity to participate in accelerated math based on a placement test). There is no advanced science for Spectrum kids. In response to the question about a student joining APP in 8th grade, that's really no different than the situation faced by any kid who joins APP after first grade: that kid presumably would not have done the accelerated curriculum that existing APP kids have done, and just joins where the program is.

Rose M said...

Sorry that I got away from the topic. But my point is that the current movement to curriculum alignment makes it less likely that exceptional children anywhere on the academic spectrum will be served in our programs.

Anonymous said...

Rose M - Thank you for your perspective. It explains so much about what we've experienced in the last few years.

-Not being served

dj said...

I am happy to advocate for ensuring both that kids who are not in APP can access various science offerings district-wide and in particular at Garfield. As it happens I have one APP kid, but three kids who are not in APP but are districts for Garfield, so I have a lot of interest in ensuring access for my own kids specifically, even before we get to the point where we are talking about what is appropriate for all kids in the district (and I agree that offering rigor to kids who want or need it regardless of APP status is important).

It would be great if people would be charitable and assume that most APP parents are at least average levels of sane and reasonable. I have no desire to create some sort of science wild game preserve for my kid once she hits HS.

Anonymous said...

So is this a done deal re: HS curriculum alignment? If so, how can we pursuade the district to undo it and provide equal access to advanced classes and programs for ALL motivated and capable students?

Curious parent

G said...

From the discussapp blog today:

Future Ingraham Parent said...
Students who go to Ingraham will take honors Chemistry in 9th grade, followed by their choice of 1 or 2 years of IB Biology, then options the for IB Chemstry or IB Physics. The IB biology will be a good counterbalance to the current very mediocre 8th grade biology experience.

Our experience has been that biology class taught at middle school is not the equivalent of a high school biology class, even though it is supposed to be. So we are glad our child will get solid biology training at Ingraham that the APP pathway at Garfield will not current provide

Jan said...

Oddly enough, it may be the "non-standard" elements of the District -- Ballard's science program, APP kids, alts, etc. that give us a way through. If I were organizing something, I would see if I could get a group of parents of kids who legitimately should be able to opt out or reschedule the class -- APP kids (at either school), Spectrum kids, kids who have been on ALO tracks (with ALO report cards). Then, I would see if you can possibly do one of two things: (1) get the middle schools to offer an accelerated track, where these kids can take the high school course in 8th grade, or otherwise take enough science to be able to pass the exam when entering 9th grade), or (2) pitch the need for enough time for APP and high level science courses to talk one or more of the high schools into offering another track (like letting kids take it later, or over the summer, or adding an extra class period so kids can double up between biology and physical science in 9th grade.

If Ballard is the "pilot program," we will need to find out next year:
1. How many kids tried to opt out;
2. How many of the ones who tried passed the exam and got the course waived;
3. Of those who did NOT pass, how did they do in 9th grade biology.

I really don't like the whole "waivers are ONLY for 'pilot programs' in one or two selected schools, but I think that is where the District currently is. So unless you have a way of loading the course into a middle school, I predict your best bet is to mine the "pilot program" for data and results, and try to convince the District to build on it (using pilots as tests, and then exporting them if successful is what the district has in mind for waivers) by exporting it to other schools as fast as possible.

If we hurry, maybe only one or two class years will be screwed by bad implementation of science alignment before we can kick enough holes in the wall to let all the kids who want more challenging science escape the "aligned" track.

And, if I were a TOPS parent with a kid going to Garfield, I would scramble NOW to figure out a way to get next year's 8th graders a year of physical science in 8th grade at TOPS, and then storm the castle and demand that they be given the same shot as the APP kids at starting with Biology in 9th grade.

And the same goes for Spectrum kids at WMS.

peonypower said...

The HSPE in science for next year's 10th grade co-hort will be an end of course exam in biology. It will not have any physical science questions. So I don't think it is HSPE driving this alignment. If it was- physical science would get pushed back to 8th grade. I know that the physical science classes at Ballard were started by a master NBCT teacher who saw that students were entering biology as sophmores with weak science skills. The idea was to give students who did not have great middle school science classes a chance to catch up on basic science skills in 9th grade. As time went on it became clear to Ballard staff that middle school science was improving and that many students were ready to take biology as freshman. This discussion began because biotech students took biology as freshman and the WASL as 10th graders and did just fine. So the decision was made to open up biology to any incoming student who had a high math level. Using math is not arbitrary. Several studies show a strong correlation between math level and science success. As as result of this Ballard has been able to offer more upper level science classes such as Astronomy and Marine Science. The new science alignment wrecks this.

Also - I would like to point out that the definition of rigor is "strictness, severity, or harshness, stiff or unbending." The use of the word rigor to describe classes is yet another example of what curriculum alignment police are actually striving for. Education should be challenging, interesting, exciting, thoughtful, alive but please not rigorous.

Maureen said...
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Maureen said...

Jan, Thanks for your post. We're working on it.

If anyone thinks their 8th grader is prepared to skip 9th grade Physical Science (Seattle Girls' School? TOPS? Others?), please email the High School PTSA and Science Director, Elaine Woo (ewoo@seattleschools.org), and let them know right now. You can also email me at maureen at germani dot org so we can coordinate.

TOPS grads cover 100% of the 9-12 Physical Science standards and at least 75% of the 9-12 Life Sciences standards. Their teacher is certified K-12. There has never been a reason (or a way?) to make sure they get HS credit for what they cover but I spoke with Elaine Woo yesterday about the possibility of piloting a HS level Physical Science class at TOPS (not that I have to authority to do anything about it).

It makes more sense to allow those kids to access Marine Bio or Genetics next year than to risk permanently negatively impacting their HS science careers. Kids just like tham have been starting with Bio for years. There can't be a huge number of these kids to deal with and the higher level course is being offered (at GHS) anyway.

It might help if APP students could email the PTSA and Ms. Woo and let them know if they have found nonAPP students who enroll in upper level science classes to be well prepared. If they happen to know what middle schools those kids have attended, that information could be useful. TOPS, in particular, sends about 20 kids to GHS every year and from what I understand they do well in advanced science classes.

anne said...

My son attended WMS as a Spectrum student and tested into Pre-algebra in 6th grade. He was two years ahead in math. He wasn't as strong in reading so he didn't test into APP, but was always near the edge. He also tested well enough on the WASL to allow him to take physics courses at the UW Robinson Center two summers in a row. He was bored to tears with middle school science! Middle school Spectrum does not have science so science kids are in with general ed. I asked if my son could be in APP science since math/science are strongly correlated aptitudes. He said no. I asked Dr. Vaughan(sp?) and he said no. I pulled my son out of science for 9th grade and homeschooled him through www.k12.com where he took Honors Physical Science.

For 9th grade (after K-8 in SPS) I pulled him out and went private.

Maureen said...

anne, that is so frustrating. I can see some rationale as to why APP requires high verbal and math scores 1st-5th: they can't guarantee walk to different subjects at Lowell and TMarshall. But why does that apply in Middle School-let alone High School? Why is this Seattle's model for Advanced Learning? Is that how other school districts do it?

been there said...

In case anyone is wondering, it can be just as frustrating for kids who are actually in APP, but ahead of their peers.

Remember, not only did the middle school split destroy math for the top kids that were working 1 or more years above APP, but the district is flat out refusing to allow APP kids to use the Math Placement Contract for 6th grade, even though there are classes readily available for them in 6th and 7th. Every kid in the city can opt up a grade from their peers except APP students. This is complete nonsense!

On top of that, we're supposed to be getting physical science in 7th and biology in 8th, but the textbooks are so weak that kids are not getting a quality class (and there doesn't seem to be support for going outside the boundaries of the textbook, from what I've seen). Parents are struggling with this, already looking into summer classes to fill in the gaps or planning to repeat in HS. This is NOT because the kids can't handle it, many (if not most) are struggling terribly with boredom, not the material, and would be thrilled to have a more challenging class.

So for TOPS kids and others like them around the city, I feel bad for you, but your situation seems to be par for the course. Kids who are working ahead of district standards are left to fend for themselves and fight for scraps no matter what program you're in.

anne said...

Science is especially problematic in middle school. At WMS 6th and 7th grade were with the same poor teacher and it was horrible. An automatic A for showing up. My son did homework for his other classes in science and little else. A very bad habit that got him in trouble when he got into HS and was expected to pay attention in science class.

Maureen said...

I agree that what SPS did to APP MS math was ridiculous.

Part of the reason I'm pushing back so hard on this HS science alignment is that I think it runs counter to SPS's stated and demonstrated goals and that they will rearrange things to allow 9th graders to skip Physical Science when appropriate in the next year or so.

Elaine Woo is on record as saying they never intended the alignment to limit access to higher level science classes for kids who are prepared. SPS has been killing itself trying to enroll as many students in AP and IB classes as possible. Garfield in particular has worked hard at supporting high achiving minority students in getting into college by making sure they get access to high level classes.

The implementation of this alignment will undermine these goals for this particular class. Next year there will probably be a way for some nonAPP 9th graders to enroll in higher level science classes, but there will be a backlog of 10th graders who will need those classes as well. Meanwhile this one class will not be able to access the highest level classes and will probably have lower college acceptance rates because of that.

It makes much more sense to allow these kids to enroll in the higher level class if they think they can do the work. They can drop down if they can't hack it.