Monday, June 06, 2011

Wedgwood Spectrum - moving away from self-contained

Wedgwood elementary Spectrum, a program that always seems to have a waitlist and no trouble forming self-contained classes, has chosen to move away from the self-contained delivery model for Spectrum.

They will be holding a series of public meetings about the change, but there is nothing that anyone could say or do at this meeting that would cause Wedgwood to alter their plans. Go anyway. The fact that your efforts are futile does not excuse you from the obligation to make those efforts.

The school has divided up the community by grade level, holding separate meetings for K/1, 2, 3, and 4/5. Do not allow your community to be divided. Go to all of the meetings.

162 comments:

Chris S. said...

Wedgwood...has chosen. Who is Wedgwood, if not the community? And why do you say it's a done deal? I assume you don't know or you'd say, but this post raises more questions than answers.

Po3 said...

Sounds like they are doing what Lawton is doing. Does not look good for Spectrum.

Po3 said...

Sounds like they are doing what Lawton is doing. Does not look good for Spectrum.

Anonymous said...

I bet they're doing away with it for capacity issue reasons. The usual "logistics trumps academics" crap.

-skeptical-

Steve said...

This wouldn't happen if the Advanced Learning program was stronger and somewhat standardized across the District. If self-contained classes are clearly the "best practice" for meeting the needs of these kids, there should be some support for this at the leadership level. If it's left up to each school and schools are all over the map in terms of implementation, I'm not sure it's a "program" anymore.

Anonymous said...

We had a Wedgewood teacher observing the k/1 in our building last week. She seemed overwhelmed at the prospect of teaching a split class and not at all happy about it.

- North of the ship canal.

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New To SPS said...

I called Robert Vaughan at Advanced Learning this morning, and talked to him a bit about the upcoming changes. He told me that this was a building-driven change, not district-driven, and implied that it was not a done deal. He did mention that the "clustering" approach used at Lawton is the model that Chris Cronas discussed with him, but he did not seem to be in on the details of the plan.

I have no idea if there are any written proposals about these changes (or even what the changes are), or what the motivation for making them is, or the criteria used to determine success, or even if the staff and/or parents want changes. Though we'll find out more tonight, Dr. Vaughan seems to think this is about moving away from self-contained classrooms to Lawton's clustering approach. Given that Wedgwood only has 2 or 2.5 classrooms per grade, I am not sure how this will actually work, other than this will effectively split the Spectrum kids into two mixed classes at each grade level. I have a LOT of questions as to how math and literacy will be handled by the teachers, since it looks like all of the teachers will now have classrooms with kids all over the map, learning-wise.

Being new to the public schools, I also do not have any insight as to how long this change has been in the works, if there were any other public meetings prior to this, or if parents or teachers thought the program at Wedgwood was broken and needed fixing. I can definitively say that I really, really wish I had known about this months ago during the school tours, and before open enrollment.

Hopefully there will be more information at tonight's meeting (6:30 pm). I will be there with an open mind, ready to listen and ask questions. Wow, what an initiation into SPS.

Anonymous said...

I'm also in favor of the new model, I think it has worked well in the lower grades at VR. There are lots of kids with mixed abilities, and kids on the waiting list, or kids who haven't tested.

VR parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I totally agree with Charlie. This meeting schedule is an attempt to divide the community into easy to handle groups rather than a Spectrum group. I plan on attending at least one meeting as an observer.

Unfortunately Anonymous, I have to delete your comment as we don't take anonymous comments. But to answer it, your kids SHOULD know other kids and that they don't mix with other kids is YOUR school's fault, not Spectrum. At Whittier, they halve the kids for music and PE and every kid at grade level knows who every other kid at grade level is. It can be done.

Again, Spectrum should be available for all who qualify AND anyone who wants extra rigor in reading or math should receive it via an ALO.

Anonymous said...

An easy but unpopular answer would be to simply move the Spectrum program to Jane Addams, where there is room. This way Jane Addams would have full Spectrum program with at least two grades per year so there could be social mixing and WW and VR would be able to take the rest of the neighborhood families.

Clearly, both VR and Wedgwood simply do not have room for both the neighborhood families and the spectrum families. In the old plan, the Spectrum families could turn away neighborhood families. One year you had to be within 4 blocks of the school to get into WW!

Now the neighborhood families have priority so the Spectrum program is essentially being dismantled. Call it whatever you want to call it - "clustering approach" but the bottom line is that there is simply not room for both self contained spectrum programs and neighborhood families at both VR and WW. How else are they going to fit in the over 600 students currently assigned at VR and have room to add even more families next year?

And while this may seem to be a spectrum issue, it is really just another feature of there just isn't any room for anyone or anything in the north end so anything "special" needs to be removed.

- just another frustrated northeast parent

Charlie Mas said...

VR parent, I'm glad that you like the "new model".

What, exactly, is the new model?

How is the new model different from an ALO?

What, exactly, is the difference between Spectrum and an ALO?

To what extent do schools and the District need to fulfill their commitments to students and families? Do they have to provide the program that they told people they would provide? Is it okay for them to make the change AFTER Open Enrollment?

Is it appropriate for an interim principal to make structural changes in the school?

Charlie Mas said...

When the District set the attendance areas, they claimed that they reserved space in the schools for special programs (such as Spectrum) and right-sized the area for the remaining space available in the school.

Did they actually do that?

To what extent can the overcrowding at Garfield be explained as the District forgetting to reserve space in the school for APP?

To what extent can the overcrowding at Lafayette be explained as the District forgetting to reserve space in the school for Spectrum?

To what extent can the overcrowding at Wedgwood and View Ridge be explained as the District forgetting to reserve space in the schools for Spectrum?

Kerry said...

Charlie,

I am guessing VR Parent doesn't have any challenging children in his/her kid's class, or he/she is lucky to have small class sizes. One child in my daughter's K class is taking several hours out of the school day with unacceptable behavior. This child has a right to an education, but so do the other 27 kids in the K class.

There's no way for one teacher to handle APP, general ed and special needs students when there are 28+ kids in a class. OK, maybe there's a way, but that would only be handled properly by 1% of our teachers. It definitely gets harder when parents refuse to have a kid tested who is literally ruining every day for the other kids in the class. Yes, I blame the parents not the kid.

Anonymous said...

VR has had mixed groups for years in the lower grades, it even says in their website that the program they have is a "blended Spectrum". With the increase in enrollment and the adoption of EDM it became impossible to teach the two Math levels without a "walking to Math" model, that model has been in place for three years. The preschool program is moving to a different school, to free up some space for the five K classes that VR will need to accommodate attendance area students only. I wouldn't be surprised if VR families found out in Fall that the self-contained classes in the upper grades "disappeared" to address the increase in enrollment. Walk to Math is a good way to challenge students of different Math abilities, but it is definitely NOT Spectrum and NOT a gifted program.
Resigned VR Parent

Anonymous said...

Under Wedgwood's new model the plan is for walk-to-math. So all Spectrum students plus others will be able to do spectrum level math. By 3rd grade they will be working a year ahead in math. The students are to be clustered in classrooms by level so each classroom will have students at only 3 levels. I don't think this is going to work especially in 1st grade. The students will be clustered based on where they are in the spring. So students who start to read over the summer or take a big leap in reading over the summer or during the school year will be placed in the wrong cluster grouping. The only Wedgwood Spectrum classrooms that aren't full is typically first grade. The other grades typically have a waitlist. The only good point in the new plan is for walk-to-math, so even if you don't test well on the CoGAT or MAP in the fall you might get taught at the appropriate level for math.

A parent

New To SPS said...

To clarify - I really don't know which "model" is best for Wedgwood. And I completely agree that there should be easier access to Spectrum programs for any child, with fewer gatekeeping tests and flexible resources available at every school, Spectrum-labeled or not. The idea of moving a Spectrum program to Jane Addams is intriguing, actually. But that is neither here nor there.

I just wanted to know the plans before I jumped through all the testing and Open Enrollment hoops. I intensely dislike last minute surprises like this.

But as I said earlier, I want to make this work, and I really want to know more about the dynamics at Wedgwood. Now that I am a new member to this community, I hope that this will end up working out for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Just shows that the district has chosen to stop advocating for the Spectrum program at all. It's going away and those of us w/ kids in the program unfortunately don't have much, well - any, say. Charlie is right, it's a done deal -Lawton was the first domino, now they'll fall w/o a SPS department to advocate for the value of the program. All other Spectrum programs, reckon you are on notice. The rug is being pulled out from under SPS families so often, SPS should be sitting on a flying carpet.

Several reasons contribute to it I think...
1. Capacity issues described frustrated NE parent. For full or nearly full schools, you can't have neighborhood schools that guarantee acceptance to all kids in area AND a program that also guarantees spots to kids that test into Spectrum. Something's gotta give. It would have been nice if SPS had alerted families in (or who were choosing) Spectrum that the ax was about to fall so we could have made other decisions (APP, private).

2. This is about social issues (behavior balancing, a perception of elitism w. Spectrum programs, labeling, fear of "tracking", closing the achievement gap - whatever) and is most certainly NOT about serving the ACADEMIC needs of advanced learners. But that's OK b/c all SPS cares about is closing the achievement gap anyway, so if advanced learners make no gains - those scores will stay the same or go down and WOW your achievement gap is closing. Not b/c the kids that need the most help are making advances and their scores are going up, but b/c the scores those at the top don't keep going up, or worse come down.

The devil is in the details. Hopefully Wedgewood's split can be accomplished by not dividing the Spectrum designated kids up into all classes - and your ammunition is that there are lots of studies out there that say this isn't good for anyone (advanced learners, at grade level, below grade level - and in fact it's worse for the at and below grade level students) and that it widens the range of differentiation too far (a teacher can differentiate more easily w/ a smaller range of abilities in a class ie by not having the top, middle and bottom all in one class).

Go see Lawton's work on this topic (before the meeting if you can, esp the questions from the 12/15/10 meeting linked near the bottom of that post). That's what the CAS team worked on. The cluster grouping model - while it probably will create a whole new problem and set of labels (who gets designated in what ability group) - at least keeps some critical mass of advanced learners together. And stresses professional development and follow up in differentiation. And Robert Vaughan said it's experimental in that if outcomes (test scores) don't reflect gains for Spectrum students, SPS AL dept will reevaluate. Unfortunately that means yo-yoing for kids and families, but at least it is an out should things prove to be worse. It's not ideal but it's better than the alternative. (BTW, it's only planned to do Walk to Math in order to get the next year's math curriculum at Lawton. No guarantees of a Walk to Reading or any other way that reading curriculum will be delivered a year ahead.)

What gets me is that the SPS Advanced Learning page STILL has this on it. 3) Cluster district-identified students to form self-contained classroom rosters

Sorry it's happening at Wedgewood (and to all the other schools who are surely next on the chopping block.)

~adios Spectrum
ps. (building driven is code for teachers probably wanted it (see social note about behavior balancing above). The fact that SPS Advanced Learning doesn't /won't/ can't stop this is beyond me. It's a DISTRICT program. Not a SCHOOL program.

Anonymous said...

There are families at Wedgwood that support the new model and those against. In general the current 2nd grade Spectrum parents are against the new model. I haven't spoken with enough 1st grade or Kindergarten parents to know how they feel. It doesn't impact current 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

There have always been families against Spectrum at Wedgwood and those for Spectrum.

This new model will hurt overall test scores for the school, because more students who qualify for APP will probably leave. There are usually a number of APP qualified students in the Spectrum classrooms.

A parent

Anonymous said...

An interesting aspect of the new assignment plan is that only very large buildings can have multiple programs. It isn't any more complicated that.

View Ridge can likely have 4 grades per year and large enough to have two programs but not large enough to have two programs and a HUGE geographic area and siblings of spectrum families.

Wedgwood is really only big enough to have 3 grades per year and that makes for a very tight fit. 3 Grades per year is just not large enough to have two programs and social mixing.

The bottom line is that if there was any extra room, then north end APP would be north of the ship canal. I wonder how long it will take before some bright person proposed to move north end spectrum programs somewhere south.

- another frustrated VR parent.

Anonymous said...

Does the Spectrum program at Jane-Addams follow the self-contained model?

wondering

Chris S. said...

I sympathize with New To SPS, and others in the existing program just on the basis of having been bait-and-switched. Like the Floe debacle.

Perhaps there should be a policy that major changes should be announced BEFORE the close of open enrollment. Oh, but that assumes we have some vestige of school choice - an assumption that seems destined NOT to last for long.

Linh-Co said...

The district did away with North Beach Spectrum program last year. There were no survey sent out to parents. We are now an ALO school which means we are nothing. Bob Vaughan was especially not helpful and couldn't tell us anything about ALO except the same mantra about differentiated instruction, blah, blah, blah. Parents were extremely angry at the meeting but were told it was a done deal.
It sounds like this is being pushed by Central Office through the principal and calling it "staff decision".

Anonymous said...

Spectrum at Jane Addams is not self-contained, because there are not enough Spectrum students at any grade level to fill a classroom.

Spectrum at Jane Addams sends Spectrum students to a classroom a grade level up for math and in 8th grade they walk to Nathan Hale for math.

A parent

New To SPS said...

I would very much like to hear from any Lawton parents about their experiences with this "clustering" approach. And sorry to hear about North Beach Spectrum, Linh-Co.

Anonymous said...

sorry if a dupe. didn't see it show up...
Just shows that the district has chosen to stop advocating for the Spectrum program at all. It's going away and those of us w/ kids in the program unfortunately don't have much, well - any, say. Charlie is right, it's a done deal -Lawton was the first domino, now they'll fall w/o a SPS department to advocate for the value of the program. All other Spectrum programs, reckon you are on notice. The rug is being pulled out from under SPS families so often, SPS should be sitting on a flying carpet.

Several reasons contribute to it I think...

1. Capacity issues described frustrated NE parent. For full or nearly full schools, you can't have neighborhood schools that guarantee acceptance to all kids in area AND a program that also guarantees spots to kids that test into Spectrum. Something's gotta give. It would have been nice if SPS had alerted families in (or who were choosing) Spectrum that the ax was about to fall so we could have made other decisions (APP, private).

2. This is about social issues (behavior balancing, a perception of elitism w. Spectrum programs, labeling, fear of "tracking", closing the achievement gap - whatever) and is most certainly NOT about serving the ACADEMIC needs of advanced learners. But that's OK b/c all SPS cares about is closing the achievement gap anyway, so if advanced learners make no gains - those scores will stay the same or go down and WOW your achievement gap is closing. Not b/c the kids that need the most help are making advances and their scores are going up, but b/c the scores those at the top don't keep going up, or worse come down.

The devil is in the details. Hopefully Wedgewood's split can be accomplished by not dividing the Spectrum designated kids up into all classes - and your ammunition is that there are lots of studies out there that say this isn't good for anyone (advanced learners, at grade level, below grade level - and in fact it's worse for the at and below grade level students) and that it widens the range of differentiation too far (a teacher can differentiate more easily w/ a smaller range of abilities in a class ie by not having the top, middle and bottom all in one class).

Go see Lawton's work on this topic (before the meeting if you can, esp the questions from the 12/15/10 meeting linked near the bottom of that post). That's what the CAS team worked on. The cluster grouping model - while it probably will create a whole new problem and set of labels (who gets designated in what ability group) - at least keeps some critical mass of advanced learners together. And stresses professional development and follow up in differentiation. And Robert Vaughan said it's experimental in that if outcomes (test scores) don't reflect gains for Spectrum students, SPS AL dept will reevaluate. Unfortunately that means yo-yoing for kids and families, but at least it is an out should things prove to be worse. It's not ideal but it's better than the alternative. (BTW, it's only planned to do Walk to Math in order to get the next year's math curriculum at Lawton. No guarantees of a Walk to Reading or any other way that reading curriculum will be delivered a year ahead.)

What gets me is that SPS Advanced Learning page STILL has this on it. 3) Cluster district-identified students to form self-contained classroom rosters

Sorry it's happening at Wedgewood (and to all the other schools who are surely next on the chopping block.)

~adios Spectrum

ps. (building driven is code for teachers probably wanted it (see social note about behavior balancing above). The fact that SPS Advanced Learning doesn't /won't/ can't stop this is beyond me. It's a DISTRICT program. Not a SCHOOL program.

Anonymous said...

i'm beginning to think that the district's strategy for closing the achievement gap is to bring high achievers' scores down closer to those that are struggling rather than trying to raise everyone up. sad.

- sps parent looking to app for next year

Anonymous said...

Have any VR parents heard anything from Terri Skjei? I too think we'll find out our Spectrum program has been dismantled, I’m guessing a letter will go out after Labor Day - 'no public meetings required.'

I do not like the Lawton plan – other than including walk-to-math, it segregates the “almost Spectrum” kids even more, where they will never be placed in a classroom with Spectrum kids other than math (in the self-contained model, sometimes they are placed in Spectrum to fill up the class), as well places Spectrum kids as the “teachers helper” with lower achieving kids. http://lawtonelementary.org/2011/03/spectrum-at-lawton-and-spectrum-proposal . I also don’t have a lot of faith in teachers putting these kids into these buckets appropriately, and/or doing much other than keeping them there for the rest of the year.

For the lower grades (at least that I’m more aware of) walk-to-math, VR has 2 classes same grade EDM, 2 classes +1 grade EDM – which would be the Spectrum ID’d (and the APP kids that don’t choose to commute an hour every day) and the higher achieving non-Spectrum. We certainly have the numbers to fill Spectrum classes, if only we had a Spectrum program

Jane Addams geographically is sited much further north than the over crowded NE cluster schools - who would want to bus there for a spectrum seat, when it really isn't a strong program, supported by the district, and/or could be done away with at the principal's whim? (and from what i hear, it is a fabulous neighborhood school - just not a "destination" school when up against guaranteed seats within walking distance that may/may not have a spectrum program next year)

-Diane

Lori said...

Here's a question for Spectrum parents who favor self-contained. Have you found that your kids or other Spectrum kids have social and/or emotional needs that are only met in the self-contained setting? Or is it mostly about the academics?

I've read a lot of books on gifted education in the last 2 years, and we moved a child to APP this year, who is now thriving in every possible way. It's like someone flipped a switch, and our previously shy, anxious child now has friends, fits in, and seems "normal" among her peers for the first time. So I am absolutely a staunch supporter of gifted education that meets the academic, social, and emotional needs of these kids, and I absolutely know that this sometimes requires a self-contained program with constant access to a peer group in which the child can feel normal.

It has long bothered me that Spectrum varies from school to school and that it has wait-lists. But it also bothers me that children who excel in one subject but not another are denied access to appropriate accelerated learning. We need to meet the needs of all kids, whether we label them as something or not.

Of course, it's maddening that WW would change Spectrum after Open Enrollment, and I by no means condone that. But, I do wonder if Spectrum is mainly an academic program or if instead it's meeting other needs, in which case dismantling self-contained Spectrum could be damaging to certain kids.

Honestly, I'd just like the district to figure out how best to provide appropriate education to ALL kids and have it be consistent from school to school. If self-contained Spectrum is the ideal for this population, then it needs to be available to all who qualify, not randomly available in a variety of configurations.

Charlie Mas said...

See. And people are concerned about electing a Board Director who doesn't support advanced learning.

Really? And how much support is the current Board giving to advanced learning in this situation? In the situation at Lawton? In the situation at North Beach? In any situation?

I'm not worried about having a Board member who doesn't support advanced learning because we have NEVER had a Board member who supported advanced learning.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree, Linh-Co. Bob Vaughn is way too quick to say, "no, nothing going here."

"Honestly, I'd just like the district to figure out how best to provide appropriate education to ALL kids and have it be consistent from school to school."

Amen, sister.

And the worst part is that the district has NO idea of what works and doesn't work because the system is a hodge-podge of different programs. Who can say what works best?

Anonymous said...

With the teacher turnover and severe overcrowding at Lowell, it's hard to say what's a better environment for learning. APP isn't necessarily better...

Another parent

Po3 said...

"i'm beginning to think that the district's strategy for closing the achievement gap is to bring high achievers' scores down closer to those that are struggling rather than trying to raise everyone up."

I have thought that for years. I also think that you will see APP looking more like Spectrum in the next couple of years after Spectrum is eliminated.

Anonymous said...

How many schools now have a fully self contained program? Whittier and...?

- curious -

SE Mom said...

In response to Lori's post: My experience has been that meeting emotional as well as academic needs has been important not only for APP kids, but Spectrum also.

Recently, the district has partnered with SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). Website is sengifted.org.

I have been to two SENG presentations this school year and found both to be quite helpful. The first was about emotional intensity in gifted students and the other was about needs of gifted high school students. There are also links to online articles on the SENG website.

Obviously, this does not address the issues at hand with Spectrum, but it is a positive resource to know about.

Anonymous said...

In response to the question about Jane Addams Spectrum - it is an integrated program, like at View Ridge, (and the direction WW is moving).

It is true that our Spectrum numbers aren't enough for self-contained classes at this point. Those numbers are growing each year, but the plan is to stick with the clustered model.

We had a community-wide forum back in March (during open enrollment) that anyone from the school community was invited to attend, as well as prospective families where we discussed the growth of the program and the model. It was a productive, open conversation including the administration, teachers, current parents, and prospective parents. The meeting summary went home in the weekly bulletin, and is posted to our PTSA website.

The community overwhelmingly supported an integrated program - and the general response was very favorable about how the school is challenging advanced learners.

The walk to math options look a little different at each grade depending on numbers, and they even started a Kindergarten walk-to-math group (doing 1st grade math with the K/1 split teacher). As a K-8, 5th graders have the option of walking to 6th grade math, and the school offers algebra (9th grade math). The kids who go across the street to Nathan Hale for math are taking Geometry (10th grade math).

Our APP eligible daughter has been engaged and challenged remarkably by her kindergarten teacher, and has a very strong cohort of advanced learners in her class.

We originally thought that we would prefer a self-contained model, but right now we are thrilled with our experience at Jane Addams and feel like the advanced learning program will continue to grow and strengthen.

-Happy JA Spectrum family

Floor Pie said...

Kerry commented "One child in my daughter's K class is taking several hours out of the school day with unacceptable behavior. This child has a right to an education, but so do the other 27 kids in the K class."

I see your point, but...how is that an argument for self-contained Spectrum classes? Are you assuming that that kids who test into Spectrum and APP don't have these kind of behavior problems? Oh, there's behavior problems, believe me! Not always, of course, but sometimes "highly gifted" comes with a whole host of related social skills issues and behavior issues. Maybe that kid in your daughter's K class is highly gifted himself.

Anonymous said...

Jane Addams' community experience and engagement was one I wish Lawton had. There would have been more buy in if we had been allowed to ask our questions, voiced our concerns, and had the ability to engage vs. separating out in small groups to answer 2 questions we had no info or answers to. To this day, many of us don't know what spurred the change and why it was carried out without discussing or informing the community.

A "blended" spectrum" especially in the lower grades can work well as long as teachers can manage the differentiation. In the upper grades (3-5), you do start to see more kids pulling out among the APP, spectrum, and non-tested, but highly capable kids. For some, a year ahead in math is not enough (especially if you want more depth). Lawton does not do pull out for spectrum reading. For the language arts, it is beneficial to have a large enough group where kids who can read and write several grades ahead do so. It allows more depth and breadth in the learning. Again, success will depend on class size, teacher capability, and the range of abilities in one class.

As in all things SPS, spectrum at Lawton is emphasized as ONLY one year ahead in math and reading. Pacing is enforced. It is a pity in this effort to standardize curriculum, teachers have lost the ability to be flexible and tailor some of the materials to meet kids' learning needs. This is also true for the struggling learners.

Finally, whatever is left of spectrum, IMO, matters little to our administrators. Today, they are busy putting out fires from the MLK sale and figuring out where to cut $ 4 million (besides central admin).

-a rose by any other name....

Jan said...

Dear "a rose by any other name" -- I can't stand the pacing stuff. How can we get rid of this? I totally get that if the 3rd graders in Ms. Lottie's room are on Chapter 12, and those in Mr. Harry's class are slogging through Chapter 7, somebody needs to make sure that both paces are grounded in good pedagogy and sound teaching. But taking away the flexibility to select pace and depth from the professionals who are responsible for teaching, and who know the students, is just so freaking nuts!

When my child was at Wedgwood, the 3rd grade teacher had totally self-paced math. The fourth grade book was broken into X units. Kids knew what work had to be done, and turned in, for each unit. They took the tests when ready. She did the same for the 5th and 6th grade math books. By the end of the year, a couple of the boys were burning through the middle of 6th grade math, happy as pigs in mud. Many kids were more than half way through the 5th grade book. She had time to spend with kids who needed extra help -- and of course made sure that kids at LEAST made it through the fourth grade book. Class math time was spent on bigger group projects (mastering multiplication tables, probability and measuring, etc.)

Kids have "self paced" for reading for years, just by reading faster, and picking out their own books, at their own levels, to read. The rigid idea that every teacher must make every kid look at the same page, in the same book, on the same day, and learn the same "nugget" of information is just insane.

Anonymous said...

The best way that I have seen "walk to _____" done is by the Hamlin Robinson School, a private school that works with dyslexic kids. Virtually all come in "behind" in various subjects. Many are very motivated to cover a lot of ground, once they get a language learning technique that works for them.

When I last observed the school, everyone was analyzed for "level" in a number of classes (not just math; at LEAST math and reading, I am not sure about "content" courses like science and social studies ). But it wasn't done once a year. Periodically, either every X weeks, or maybe on an ad hoc basis, as kids mastered material, kids were reassigned to other groups. They might be high in one subject, and lower in another. No level was considered indicative of intelligence or innate ability -- it is just where you were on that particular day. And if you thought you should be in a higher group, you set your sights on covering enough material to get there.

No stigma.
No tracking.
No rigid loss of opportunity.
Lots of self-empowered kids, all deciding how fast, and how far, to push their own learning.

If Seattle is going to do "walk to," then we should do it right. There should be lots of "flow" between groups, as kids move faster or need more time.

A Contained Spectrum Supporter, trying to make lemonade from lemons

Jan said...

I don't care WHAT promises the District or the Wedgwood principal make about "evaluating this to see if it's working" and changing course if it is not. They will break those promises.

Either the principal will change, and the new principal will disavow any obligation to honor the promise;

Or District personnel will change, and when someone reminds them that a promise was made, they will look nonplussed, and then disinterested, because it wasn't THEIR promise.

Or, the District will say -- gee, the school is too full, we really can't return to the old way.

Or the District/principal will say -- there is too much parent pushback to "re-contain" Spectrum (why non-Spectrum parents get veto power on this eludes me, but I guess it is because the District lacks the spine to support the legitimate, research-supported needs of Spectrum kids against the desires of non-Spectrum parents who feel excluded).

The ONLY way to MAYBE give that commitment teeth would be to define what "success" looks like, and get the Wedgwood principal to commit that if the program is not "successful" this year -- by those benchmarks, the old Spectrum program will be resumed. They will never do this. Too much accountability. Too much work.

North Seattle Parent said...

At least Wedgwood is having meetings about this. At Broadview-Thomson K8 Spectrum moved away from being self-contained last year for 1st and 2nd grade without any notice I was aware of.

In a letter from the principal dated May 23rd that also announced a $35 supply fee & new 9:20 am start time next year (no meetings or notice about either of these things other than this letter), we learned more about the Spectrum program there:

"At Broadview-Thomson we individualize the education of all students using high expectations, a rigorous curriculum, and multiple supports to assist them in reaching their learning potential. With 17 students qualified for Spectrum in 4th and 18 students in the 5th grade, both grades will continue to have self-contained Spectrum classrooms. Students who qualify for the Spectrum Program in grades 1st through 3rd will be grouped together by grade level and placed in a grade level classroom. In the classroom we already provide differentiated instruction for all students in the area of reading through leveled books, guided reading groups, and goal setting student/teacher literacy conferences. In the area of math, students qualified for Spectrum will received instruction and learning activities that work one to two years above grade level. This educational model will provide students a cooperative learning environment that maximizes instructional time and resources."

No mention made of what they're doing for 6-8th Spectrum at Broadview, which to my knowledge has never been self-contained. The Broadview Spectrum classes are also usually not smaller than 28 as they have always have non-identified students there too which works out fine most of the time.

Anonymous said...

I went to tonight's meeting, and will be writing up notes shortly. A few quick teasers:

1. This is a done deal. It will happen next year in 1st grade, and rolled out to 2/3 the following year, then schoolwide in the third year. There was no parent input. The teachers supposedly have been wanting this for years (no confirmation one way or the other). This was decided solely by Chris Cronas during the Open Enrollment period, and finalized shortly after it ended.

2. They are using a "clustering model", rather than a blended model, where each classroom will have 6 "high achievers" (spectrum kids), 8-12 "average" kids, and 6 "below average" kids. This is to avoid the dreaded tracking model. This is NOT moving qualified kids up into a Spectrum class. This is dividing the Spectrum kids evenly among all classrooms.

3. There will be walk to math, and readers and writer's workshop within the broken-up classrooms to address advanced learning for the Spectrum kids. Kids will be able to move within clusters in the classroom, but will not move between classrooms to maintain balancing. No word on how the outliers will be served with this model.

4. No specific word on whether Bob Vaughan has signed off on this, or even seen the plan.

5. Bob Vaughan supposedly gave Chris Cronas a book on the subject, which he is using as a model: "The Cluster Grouping Handbook" by Dina Brulles. No one other than Chris and Bob have read it yet.

6. The non Spectrum parents seem to love this change, and the Spectrum parents did not seem nearly so sold on the idea. Since non Spectrum parents outnumbered Spectrum at the meeting tonight, it was very much a popularity contest.

A lot of change is about to happen at Wedgwood. Be ready.

- WW parent

Anonymous said...

i have decided that I would like my admittedly nonathletic child to join a select soccer team. i think this will help him athletically. i think they should assign equal clusters of high, medium, and low performing athletes to all the teams.
oh wait, i can't do this because one has to try out for the select soccer team.

why is it so easy to see that performance makes a difference in sports, but not in academics?


trouble maker

Anonymous said...

Yikes. After hearing Wedgwood's news, I feel for APP @ Lowell. Almost 700 kids already next year!! I doubt it can handle more if SPS keeps dismantling neighborhood spectrum programs.

-APP parent (formerly spectrum)

Melissa Westbrook said...

WW parent, thanks for the updates but I find this really sad. It's all about test scores and making the classroom better for teachers. This is not for the betterment of all kids.

Lori said...

Thanks, WW parent, for the report. What's the difference between a clustering model and a blended model though?

Anonymous said...

this was brought up in the string earlier but i'm afraid many won't see it - here are many resources from lawton - same book referral, their meeting minutes, etc,

http://lawtonelementary.org/cas-team

soon to be coming to view ridge no doubt as well. hopefully it will at least be phased so grades 3-5 can stay contained while this "experiment" plays out. great if it works, but why do i think this will be even worse than before, and will be announced in august as the new spectrum from all grades at VR??

Diane

Anonymous said...

Trouble maker: thanks for the laugh.

A parent

Anonymous said...

Lori - look into the lawton resources, the letter to parents from the principal and vaghaun, and lawton clustering groups are defined - no doubt what WW and VR will be using as well.

Diane

Anonymous said...

Spectrum as about to be implemented at Lawton isn't a "model", IMHO, rather an "idea" or "notion". No one knows whether it will work. The linchpin is differentiation, something that is rarely practiced and where it is, involves giving a low kid a different worksheet. It's not differentiated instruction and it's not a differentiated curriculum.

True differentiation requires a ton of work and training and if it does occur, it's a rare and special teacher that most kids never come into contact with.

Lawton parent

Anonymous said...

As far as I could tell from tonight's meeting, a blended model keeps the Spectrum kids together, but moves other non-tested kids into the classroom to join them, either for math alone or as a part of the classroom.

The cluster model deliberately divides the Spectrum kids among all the classrooms, so they no longer from one cohort that works as a cohesive group. Their needs are met within the classroom by providing differentiated work based on these "clusters" - high achievers, average, and below average, preferably divided into a bell curve. This is done to eliminate "tracking". No definition of tracking was provided tonight, but apparently it is bad, and to be avoided at all costs.

The kids will "walk to math", and the Spectrum kids will all be in one math class, filled in with other qualified non Spectrum kids. All reading and writing will be done in the clustered classroom, using the reader and writer workshop model. Kids can move between clusters, but not between classrooms during the year.

At least, that was the model presented this evening. Who knows what will really happen next year. Not sure what to make of an entire school being reorganized based on the work of one book. I think I need to get a copy and find out.

-ww parent

Lori said...

Thanks, Diane.

Here is an eerie review from amazon.com about the book that the schools are reading:

"With this one book alone, you could revamp a whole school system, one school at a time. With this concept of cluster grouping, a school district could save all the costs of a self-contained or pull-out gifted program. And if you take this flat out declaration seriously, The Cluster Grouping Handbook will do all the thinking, all the planning, all the charting, and all the predicting you will ever need...to the ultimate meticulous detail. This is not an exaggeration. Every finite element for planning has been accomplished...buy the book! It has wonderful ideas." —Gifted Education Communicator"

Wow, what a prescient review. One school at a time...

Anonymous said...

Diane,
Your point about "almost Spectrum" kids not ever being placed with Spectrum at Lawton is right on. They will, instead, be always placed with the lowest kids, the ones who are way below grade level.

The stated objective of the change was to allow teachers more freedom to consider teacher fit and friendship groups in placing kids. But they re-created that problem with the 2s (almost spectrum) and 5s (well below grade level) at the same time they were fixing the problem for the 1s (Spectrum) by allowing them to be split up. You don't have to read too hard between the lines to see the problem they were really solving was the "we teachers don't like Spectrum" problem.
Lawton parent

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting tonight as well, and went into the meeting upset that this was never discussed with the WW community before now. After learning more about it, and feeling like Mr. Cronas has the best interest of the kids at heart I feel more comfortable, and even like the idea. I do have a child in Spectrum and I have always been uncomfortable with the program. I think it is a dangerous thing to put a label on a child (positive or negative.) My child has done very well, but I think she would do well in any classroom, because she is highly motivated. She has already been in therapy for anxiety and an intense desire to be perfect. We constantly question if she should even be in the program. I truly want what is best for my daughter and I think if she had started her schooling in this new model we would have a happier daughter. I think a lot of parents like the idea of Spectrum more than anything. I know before my child started in it I thought it would mean better teachers, well-behaved children and smaller class sizes. This year has blown all of that right out the window.

WW mother

WW Parent-I'm not sure how you knew that the non-spectrum parents outnumbered spectrum parents?? I know tonight was for the K-1, but I came tonight b/c I couldn't make any of the other nights and I saw quite a few other parents from my daughter's upper grade spectrum class.

Lori said...

Once this cluster group model replaces Spectrum district-wide, the MAP threshold for district's CogAT testing will be raised to 95% or higher for both math and reading in order to identify kids for APP only. There will be no more need to identify Spectrum kids because there will be no more self-contained Spectrum. Children will be grouped into these clusters based on MAP scores and MAP scores alone.

Remember, the $400K budget for the advanced learning office primarily supports the fall testing and identification and appeals process. They administer thousands of tests each fall. If they can cut that number down to a few hundred, they save money.

I just wanted to go on record now because this will happen at some point down the road. Don't be shocked when we find out that you need very high MAP scores now for fall testing.

Anonymous said...

So this theory/model is being rolled out across the District?

The Editorial review from Amazon:

With this one book alone, you could revamp a whole school system, one school at a time. With this concept of cluster grouping, a school district could save all the costs of a self-contained or pull-out gifted program. And if you take this flat out declaration seriously, The Cluster Grouping Handbook will do all the thinking, all the planning, all the charting, and all the predicting you will ever need...to the ultimate meticulous detail. This is not an exaggeration. Every finite element for planning has been accomplished...buy the book! It has wonderful ideas." —Gifted Education Communicator

But wait..there's more! Act now and we'll give you two schools for the price of one!

feeling skeptical

Jessica said...

Melissa - you deleted my comment because you said you don't take anonymous comments - uh, there are many on here so I am not sure what that is about. I was just too lazy to sign in.
My kids actually go to Whittier and I personally don't think 20 minutes a day is enough to get to know other kids. And I also know many kids on the specturm waitlist so what is wrong with trying to include everyone?

Anonymous said...

ww mother, I was mainly disappointed with those who were openly dismissive the concerns raised by some of the more skeptical parents. I know there is tension at the school, but I was saddened that a couple of the parents couldn't simply allow the less enthusiastic parents speak their piece without jumping in and mimicking their comments word for word in the other direction. This is going to be a rough enough transition as it is for some families, without feeling ridiculed for expressing concern about the sudden changes to a long established program.

- ww parent

Anonymous said...

WW parent (and everyone else who is in "Spectrum" now). I suggest you buy the Cluster Grouping Handbook on Amazon. It's about $30 but worth it. There are actually 5 groups and classroom placements are made specifically w/ that in mind. Part of it (including the groupings (p 13) and placements (14) can be found here: http://www.freado.com/read/5148/the-cluster-grouping-handbook-book-with-cd-rom

The cluster grouping model Bob Vaughan is hocking specifically says that above-grade level students (Spectrum) should not be put in class w/ far below grade level students. Nor should they be w/ high achieving but not tested "gifted" (aka Spectrum). There is a whole placement methodology behind it but it does NOT say to divide up the Spectrum/gifted kids in every class. In Winebrenner/Brulles model, students are classified (by staff) into 5 levels (1-Gifted (Spectrum), 2 -High Achieving (but not tested into gifted); 3 - Average; 4- Below Average; 5 -Far Below Average) and they are grouped very specifically. 1's can be grouped w/ 3's and 4's but not w/ 2's or 5's; 2's, 3's, 4's and 5's can all be grouped together. The book explains it all in detail. So for schools where "almost Spectrum" or "untested Spectrum" students had been placed to fill out a spectrum class roster (the way the program was designed btw) now they can't b/c some are 1 and some are 2 and n'er the two shall meet.

If you have 3 classes per grade for ex, and a large spectrum cohort only two of those classrooms can have Spectrum kids b/c of the grouping requirements. It's worth a read or go see the break out on Lawton's CAS page (linked above... look for the approved plan and later minutes). Here is a ppt re: the model too, but the link above has the actual pages/text from the book. www.susanwinebrenner.com/.../ schoolwide_cluster_grouping_model.ppt

Worth noting too that cluster grouping as defined by Brulles and Winebrenner is intended for schools WITHOUT a gifted ed program - where gifted kids are not getting served at all. It's NOT intended to replace a program that in intact and relatively functional (despite it's flaws that arise when there are only 2 classes and/or very large cohorts of Spectrum kids). And those labels folks are concerned about, it's not like they'll magically go away. Labeling is an social issue that adults should be able to properly mitigate and guide kids to more appropriate word choices. Instead, let's toss out a whole system that is serving advanced learners.


If they are going to dismantle traditional, self-contained Spectrum there (like they did at Lawton) and replacing it w/ cluster grouping, I'd at least hold them to doing it properly so as to preserve what's left of serving advanced learners.

Good luck

one more frustrated Lawton parent

Anonymous said...

ww parent-I thought there were some really great questions being asked that I hadn't thought of, and I think the parents responding were trying to ease fears. Change is hard and it was a bit disappointing not to have engagement before a decision was made for sure. Still not sure how you knew there were fewer non-spectrum parents there.

WW mother

Anonymous said...

Jessica, they are not making more room. They are just dividing the Spectrum kids up across the grade level. It would technically allow more kids to get a Spectrum seat. However, it also drastically changes what having that seat means as far as actual instruction. In other words, you may get the label, but not the program.

So, how is this different than ALO? And will this cause an even greater push towards moving kids to APP? This is going to be a real mess, and I truly wish that the Advanced Learning Office had an actual plan.

(btw, you can post Anonymously as long as you sign the bottom of the letter, with any ol' name you want).

- Any 'Ol Name You Want ;-)

Anonymous said...

Asking questions is fine. I am not a fan of easing fears by mimicking someone's comments. That should have happened offline, and I found it offputting in a public meeting.

But be that as it may, the one clear message that I got was that this is a done deal, so we'd better all get used to it. Hopefully Wedgwood's experience will be better than what I am reading tonight from Lawton parents.

-ww parent

Jessica said...

Thanks any ol name you want, I appreciate the tip and explanation ( And sorry Melissa, I guess I could have read the instructions). I don't think there is a perfect solution for any of it and obviously the district does not have the best decision-making abilities. All I know is that a lot of kids qualify for spectrum at Whittier that don't get in and I think we need to find a way to serve them too while ensuring the spectrum kids are socializing with other kids. Raising expectations across the board? switching classes? something needs to change to meet the needs of all students.
Jessica

M.E. said...

Well, you can read what will undoubtedly be SPS' new "cluster grouping" game plan here:
http://www.susanwinebrenner.com/handouts.html
Winebrenner is the author of the book mentioned.

Cluster Grouping sounds like the shiny new pretty thing for someone in admin. Don't worry, the full Winebrenner plan involves lots of assumptions, consultants and meetings. What could go wrong?

Anonymous said...

One more thing. At some point in this process, the AL folks said Spectrum had been purposefully designed by specialists in the field of gifted education and was a well studied, researched based program that was vetted, and approved by the Board. As far as I can tell this movement to cluster grouping method is none of those things in the SPS. Not studied by a local group/committee of gifted ed specialists or by SPS at all, it's not really research based (premises found w/in it are research based but the program as a whole hasn't had data compiled from outcomes) and it certainly hasn't been vetted or approved by the Board.



These are program placement changes, plain and simple. (Spectrum is becoming ALO in these schools) You apply for program placement changes in the fall. There is formal paperwork to fill out (a formal process including engaging all stakeholders), there is a committee who approves program changes. The Superindendent announces program changes in a formal communication to the Board. This change to cluster grouping is being conducted by principals and staff, with the tacit approval of the AL department but it's an end run around the proper process and is one more way SPS, or people w/in it are throwing spaghetti at the fridge to see what will stick. It's like that dog in UP ! who kept running off yelling Squirrel !!!

frustrated lawton parent

Anonymous said...

I think everyone would agree we need to do a better job at accommodating all Spectrum kids, as well as all gifted kids, whether they test into the program or not (and yes, there is WAY too much testing going on, in my opinion).

I am not sure that a wholesale dismantling an existing program, in favor of an untested model from a single book, is the solution though. I don't know why the much simpler model of moving ready kids into a "Spectrum" classroom, regardless of testing labels, wasn't tried first. No one says they can't be moved around year to year, or even, horrors, have more than one classroom per grade.

I think Lori is right - this clustering approach is being used to dismantle the Spectrum program. Either Robert Vaughan supports this dismantling, or he is too weak to stop it. Either way, I think the only option for gifted kids in the future is going to be APP.

- AONYW

M.E. said...

More reading:

Advantages and pitfalls of cluster grouping:
http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt/newsletter/winter97/wintr974.html

Another article by Winebrenner:
Cluster Grouping of Gifted Students:
How to Provide Full-time Services on a Part-time Budget: http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=162
In which she says:
"Keep in mind, however, if your school has enough gifted students for separate sections in which curriculum is accelerated, such sections should be maintained."

This idea has been around for a while. It's unlikely that SPS is implementing the best practices aspects that would ensure success.

Anonymous said...

In this rush to get every kid "proficient" and "at standards" in this world of high stake testing and RTT, we are undermining our high achievers. Instead of engaging,challenging, and promoting their abilities, we provide them a pathway to mediocrity. If we are not careful, we will loose these kids when they disengaged from learning. We are creating a world of high ability underachievers.

For more, read: "Smart and Bored"

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3749023

Will this new cluster grouping provide the learning described in the article above. If you don't see it, then your kid is not getting it. Follow the money and and the district's priorities...you won't see much of anything for advanced learners.

-been there parent

Charlie Mas said...

The District needs to step up and re-classify the programs at Lawton and Wedgwood as ALOs.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how school-initiated variations from district--mandated programs, structures, and materials are verboten . . . except when it co es to gifted education.

--amsiegel

Charlie Mas said...

What if a school claimed to offer Montessori but didn't? What if they just did something that they claimed would have essentially the same outcome as Montessori?

What if a school claimed to offer language immersion but didn't? What if it was, instead, an hour a week of language instruction for students who skipped recess?

What if a school claimed to offer ELL services but didn't?

What if a school claimed to offer support for students with disabilities but didn't?

What would be the District's role to assure honesty? What would be the District's role to assure quality?

Why have the Executive Directors in these regions - Phil Brockman in the Northeast Region and Nancy Coogan in the Central Region - not stepped in and told the principals that they can't do this?

Charlie Mas said...

Write to the Board.

Write to Nancy Coogan about Lawton.

Write to Phil Brockman about Wedgwood.

Tell them that you want honesty.

If the District cannot compel the school to adhere to the Spectrum delivery model, that's fine. But the District has sole control over which schools and programs are called Spectrum and which are not.

Let the schools move away from the Spectrum delivery model, but re-classify the programs as ALOs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The kids wouldn't know they were in Spectrum if the ADULTS didn't do the labeling. Please.

And this idea that Spectrum or APP kids will be "well-behaved?" Look, most of them are more motivated and interested in learning but that doesn't mean they are angels and/or don't have an issue (lots of high achievers are ADD, for example).

Jessica, many of the Anonymous comments get signed at the bottom. I look in both places.

Charlie and I absolutely believe everyone who qualifies for Spectrum should be in Spectrum. It's the district who doesn't believe that.

Bob Vaughn is a bright, sincere person but somewhat weak in his job and not a real advocate for advanced learning (I've known him since the first time he had this job at SPS.)

Charlie's right, why is it okay to change any program without notification? But the Board will rubber-stamp this one as well.

Chris S. said...

Melissa said "WW parent, thanks for the updates but I find this really sad. It's all about test scores and making the classroom better for teachers. This is not for the betterment of all kids."

That was my first thought too. This is an entirely predictable outcome of evaluating teachers on test scores. Look for more, and worse, versions of this trend.

hschinske said...

This idea has been around for a while. It's unlikely that SPS is implementing the best practices aspects that would ensure success.

Ex-bloody-actly. There isn't anything all that wrong with Winebrenner, whose original book on differentiation I've been recommending for years. Her ideas are getting co-opted and changed out of recognition here. It's like what G.K. Chesterton said about the Christian ideal*: "[It] has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

*sub whichever system of morals you like, Christianity not being the point here

Helen Schinske

Looking Beyond the S Word said...

I am a parent of 2 Spectrum kids and one APP kid. I totally support cluster grouping. I totally support self-contained. I don't think there's one "right" way (having seen it both ways up close and personal). I think this is a tempest in a teapot, that some people may be afraid of what they do not know. The greatest link to academic success is whether the parent was involved in the child's school community. So volunteer in class, on field trips, at evening events, or whatever fits with your work schedule. THAT will bump your high achievers ahead, especially if coupled with our approach as parents being that "hey, dear son, it's YOUR job to learn, whether the class is a perfect match for you or not." The biggest downfall I have seen of either cluster or self-contained is too many parents anointing their kids with the label Spectrum and telling them how smart and amazing they are (which of course to kids translates that someone nearby must be a real dummy, thank your lucky stars you are not him). Research shows absolutely definitively that kids perform with greater effort and achieve more true learning when it is their EFFORT that is acknowledged, not how genius they are. Let's stop focusing on the varieties of grouping (waste of time, different schools will do different things successfully) and start getting our eyes on the real ball, which is raising the bar (upping the required/perceived EFFORT) for ALL kids.

Looking beyond the S word

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how it is at other schools, but I know at Whittier there is ALWAYS a waitlist for Spectrum (my kid included, but she is doing really well in general ed., so I'm not too concerned). I did hear (admittedly through the grapevine), that the numbers for First Grade next year are really low for Spectrum (maybe due to the MAP requirement before testing??). I suppose this creates a problem as we have 3 classes per year. I imagine other high achievers will fill the gap in that First Grade class? Not sure.

Whittier Parent.

hschinske said...

Research shows absolutely definitively that kids perform with greater effort and achieve more true learning when it is their EFFORT that is acknowledged, not how genius they are.

There are a lot of pitfalls in that approach when you're working with highly gifted children. Teachers used to try praising "effort" with me all the time. Unfortunately, they had no friggin' clue how much effort I had or had not put into anything, so their praise was completely random as far as I was concerned. I would get praised for "effort" over things I could have done when I was four, and dinged for "not working hard" when I'd been toiling away (and thrown out most of what I'd written out of perfectionism). It was because they didn't know me, and they didn't truly take my work seriously.

Look at WHERE THE KID IS and WHAT THEY NEED TO LEARN NEXT. It's not rocket science. They do it in martial arts classes, music classes, etc., all the time.

The only problem with labels is when you STOP AT THE LABEL and don't do anything else. It's like calling a kid nearsighted and never giving them any actual glasses. Once they have glasses, they can start thinking about what they're actually looking at, rather than what a pain it is not being able to see, and the egotistical focus goes away.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

in my experience, teachers teach to the middle. in self-contained spectrum at least that middle is in the top 10%, so my spectrum child is a little more inclined to receive instruction appropriate to his/her level. i can think of a few teachers at VR that could pull off the grouping well, most others will remain status quo, teaching to the middle, with the upper %s bored and acting out, the lower %s discouraged and acting out. in my experience, teachers at vr can't even explain the drill-down reporting in MAP tests. we give them all this data, and they don't have the time/expertise/training to handle it, considering they have 30 kids in their classrooms of such varying abilities. i think the same would happen with this new grouping over self-contained spectrum in 3-5 grade (and yes, i'm sure VR is going this route too, we just won't be told until August, done deal)

-Diane

Anonymous said...

Looking beyond the S word,

Yes, that is the exact same story I've heard. Parents were told this is why people are against spectrum and APP, why they have declared these programs elitist and why they should be eliminated. At our school, this story (or variations of) was repeated until it was declared a bullying situation. Many parents (including non"advanced learners") were perplexed. People were genuinely concerned and went home to ask their kids what was going on in school. Our kids could not provide explanations. To this day there has been no furthur clarification of these "incidents".

The irony is at our school, the S (and APP) label is an albatross around our kids' necks and was before the spectrum changes. Teachers did not encouraged AL testing. We got our kids tested because in the gen ed class especially for one child, he did not get the challenge he needed despite repeated conferences with the teacher. (Note: it was tough with large class size and many needs competing for attention.)

I agree with you that it is the effort kids make and the support they get at home that will make the most difference in their learning. When I am not working, I spend a considerable amount of time volunteering in classrooms and at home to supplement. In the ES, supplement is possible, but in MS with 6 classes, it is difficult at best.

-Another labeled parent

Anonymous said...

What I have found at VR in first grade is more of the cluster model, I guess. The Spectrum kids are evenly spread among the classrooms. We had hoped to keep our APP child at VR but our child's needs are not being met. For example the teacher isn't even doing end of the year assessments of our child and a couple of others because they already knew the information at the beginning of the year. The teacher doesn't have these kids in a specific guided reading level because she's only been given testing materials up to N. These things are incredibly frustrating and being told your child will manage to entertain themselves is not helpful. This child is going to APP in the fall. We have another child entering K in the fall who is reading. The principal already told me to just consider doing the letter sounds "the kindergarten experience.". What???

--clustering can be frustrating

Anonymous said...

Diane at View Ridge - I'd love to hear your source or any inside information you know. All I've heard is gossip which is driving me mad.

Jenphil

Melissa Westbrook said...

I can only say that I find two things interesting.

One, is the volume of comments that any discussion of advanced learning programs brings.

Two, how many other districts do not seem to have this highly charged feeling about advanced learning. Other districts have stable programs and no one blinks. Heck, they have public boarding schools in some states for gifted children who live in rural areas.

Somehow it hits a nerve here. I know what bothers teachers but I'm not sure I understand parents.

Anonymous said...

I have come to believe that SPS is great if your kid is in the middle. But if s/he's a quick learner and motivated to learn, or a slow learner, they are not going to get their needs met.

Maybe if you get your kid into APP it works, but the idea of a neighborhood school where bright (not genius, just bright) kids' needs get met doesn't seem to be actualized. Spectrum going away just makes it less likely that these kids' needs will be met.

Meanwhile, low kids languish and get passed from year to year, becoming more and more frustrated.

But hey, as long as we are not "tracking" kids, we must be succeeding.

former public school proponent

Dorothy Neville said...

Mel, my take is pretty simple. The first thing a parent wants is that their child's needs are met. Academic and social development needs. So any programs or changes to programs or philosophy or whatever are first looked at from that perspective. The parent asks himself: will this make it more or less likely that my child's needs will be met? Yes -- embrace the change. No -- express concerns.

So what we have, I think, is a litmus test on how well parents perceive the district is doing. The long discussions of highly capable, especially changes to highly capable services, shows to me that many many parents feel that SPS is not meeting their child's needs or is, but only marginally and that is threatened.

Additionally, it shows that parents are skeptical of promises, of the integrity, follow-through and motivations of staff. Because some of the changes could be great, but only if implemented properly.

Charlie Mas said...

The key to student academic growth is the student's motivation.

Lots of students come into the system filled with motivation thanks to the support of their families.

Lots of students come into the system without much motivation at all, again, thanks to the support of their families.

Families with motivated students often find themselves working just to keep the school from de-motivating their child. Take an excited, active learner and put them through the tedium of lessons about what they already know and they will lose all motivation.

Both of my children were in Spectrum and then in APP. My first choice would have been for them to attend their neighborhood school. If they could have been adequately served there, then they would have stayed there. The school candidly told me that they would do their best, but that they were not set up to address my child's needs. That was kind of them.

If your neighborhood school can provide your child with an appropriate academic opportunity, then you don't have much reason to leave it for a program at another school.

If, however, you leave your neighborhood school to enroll your child in a program at another school that is supposed to address your child's academic, social, and emotional needs, and then that school doesn't deliver on the program, but does little more than your neighborhood school would do for your child, then you have been duped.

Lawton and Wedgwood Spectrum programs are not just to serve students who live in the Lawton and Wedgwood attendance areas. They have a responsibility to the students throughout the McClure and Eckstein service areas to provide something that those students could not get from the ALOs at their attendance area schools.

Charlie Mas said...

I cannot say this enough.

It is the District's responsibility to enforce the Spectrum delivery model. Spectrum is the District's brand and the District needs to protect it.

New To SPS said...

I also went to last night's meeting, and I have just ordered "The Cluster Grouping Handbook" that Principal Cronas referred to in his presentation. I am trying to keep an open mind about all this, but I am not sure what to make of it all.

I am still not happy that the program is being changed out so fast, and after open enrollment. We specifically sought out Wedgwood because it had a long and stable history for its Spectrum program (one guy said it had been around at least 33 years!). We like the self-contained model, but are not married to it. However, that does not mean I am all for this bait-and switch approach to changing up advanced learning to this new model. The reports from Lawton are not inspiring.

After spending a lot of time thinking about this, I think part of what bothers me is the schools seem to have the flexibility to make quick changes, but the families do not. We had to start the "AL admission process" last September, and there are hard and early deadlines for everything from testing to appeals to program and school choice, and the gate closes for an entire year once those deadlines have passed. I still don't understand why the schools can change programs in the spring, well after families are able to respond to those changes.

And Melissa, I wonder if this inflexibility for families contributes to the high volume of posts on advanced learning topics. I cannot speak to other public school districts, other than the one I attended many years ago. Back in the day, families, not tests and administrators, chose who signed up for Honors programs, with input from teachers to guide them.

I can say that our private school experience was far more flexible where, ironically, they did employ a model similar to clustering, though less rigid and more fluid than the proposal I saw last night. Private schools are a highly unfair comparison though, because the student base is already a pre-filtered one. The spread of academic achievement was not very wide between groups. And the class size is very small, and the teachers have instructional aides. So definitely apples to oranges there.

As to our personal situation, I still don't know. My plan is to read this book so I can get a grasp on what Principal Cronas is envisioning. Our child's class would not be affected this year, but it will be the year after. However, we specifically wanted some stability, so if this is going to be our future, we will need to know about it now. We may consider trying to get her back into her old private school if there are openings, but I honestly do not know how we can sustain it financially. Or push harder for APP in a year. Sigh. This is all a huge mess for our family.

Jan said...

Dear New to SPS:

This certainly isn't what you signed up for! But you are so articulate, I can't help wishing you would go to the next Board meeting and testify publicly to the points you have made here.

Spectrum is a defined program. It was defined by the District to be self-contained. Where numbers do not support that, it has historically been blended with school-selected high level learners to fill out the class.

Charlie is spot on. The District needs to support the program it created, named, defined, and stated (i.e., promised) would exist in each cluster (whoops, my age is showing -- each middle school attendance area). If they want to try this new model, it should have been piloted as a specific brand of ALO, marketed by the District as a possible option to Spectrum to attract enough families to run a comparison, and then evaluated, with respect to a whole host of things:

1. Effects (social and academic) on Spectrum identified or eligible kids in both programs;
2. Effects on NON Spectrum kids at various achievement levels in both programs;
3. Teacher satisfaction
4. Parent satisfaction (including Spectrum parents, ALO parents, non-Spectrum parents, etc.)
5. Cost to administer (both in terms of money and in terms of time).
6. Effects on school selection.
7. Effects on APP numbers.
8. Effects on new APP qualifications (many kids have qualifying COGAT scores, but not qualifying achievement scores in K/1 -- but after a year or two in a good Spectrum program, tested easily into APP. This strikes me as a good thing, and I would be curious to see if the new "cluster grouping" model serves the accelerated learning of these kids as well as traditional Spectrum.

Does the Board have any clue what is going on with the Spectrum program they created? Does the Board know whether a few, or a lot, of parents want to ditch traditional Spectrum for the new "cluster" model? Does the Board care?

We knew going in that Dr. Enfield does not like, and probably would not support, gifted education. But frankly, neither did MGJ, so I think this degradation of traditional Spectrum in favor of a new model would have happened in any event. But had it been done with integrity, it would have happened at ALO schools, and the two models would have gone head to head as competing alternatives. Instead, Spectrum is being dismantled in an information and community-involvement vacuum.

Anonymous said...

You have to think that if the District dismantles/weakens the Spectrum program, it's going to increase the number of kids who go to APP - which will exacerbate the over-crowding at Lowell.

Anonymous said...

Oops - I forgot to sign my previous post.

You have to think that if the District dismantles/weakens the Spectrum program, it's going to increase the number of kids who go to APP - which will exacerbate the over-crowding at Lowell.

Jane

suep. said...

Melissa Westbrook said...
WW parent, thanks for the updates but I find this really sad. It's all about test scores and making the classroom better for teachers. This is not for the betterment of all kids.


These are my suspicions too. And as Chris S. pointed out, I believe this is in part the result of a current (and discredited) national, political and now local education policy that is obsessed with testing, along with a new SPS teachers' contract that ties teacher evaluations to student test scores.

If a teacher's job is on the line based on student test performance, can you blame teachers for wanting strong students in their classrooms?

What then does this mean for kids who aren't great at tests? The district (and ed reformers) are setting up a scenario where teaching them becomes a professional risk.

It's a terrible situation that leads to all kinds of negative consequences that hurt the kids most of all.

In a classroom with a wide range of abilities, it is hard for even the best teacher to reach every child, and no parent wants to see their child languish in a classroom.

Btw, what does that Amazon book mean about the "costs" of contained programs? How is teaching kids by aptitude any more costly than not?

What about the costs of not teaching kids where they are at -- boredom, disruptive behavior, loss of interest in learning, dropping out of school, unfulfilled potential?

It's a myth that highly capable learners will do just fine in any classroom without appropriate challenges. Their needs need to be met too.

I wish the district did not have such a schizophrenic attitude toward advanced learning. To its credit, it created the programs -- APP, Spectrum -- and yet, seems ambivalent about them and at times hell-bent on undermining them, or doing away with them altogether.

dj said...

Jane, you are assuming a fact that is not in evidence here, which is that the district has any intention of maintaining self-contained APP classes into the future. My guess is that the district will wait until Thurgood Marshall gets into Lowell's position (bursting with neighborhood students) and then dismantle the program entirely.

Charlie Mas said...

The Spectrum community - in fact the entire advanced learning community - needs to take action or the District will roll over you like a tank crushing a doughnut.

There is only one action you can take: boycott standardized tests.

Students in Spectrum programs at Lawton and Wedgwood should opt out of the MAP and the MSP to protest the changes imposed on their program.

Students in other Spectrum programs should opt out of the MAP and the MSP in solidarity with the Lawton and Wedgwood communities.

Students in APP should opt out of the MAP and the MSP in solidarity with Spectrum students.

Students in ALOs should opt out of the MAP and the MSP in solidarity with Spectrum students.

The entire freakin' advanced learning community should prevent their children from participation in the MAP and the MSP until the District fulfills its commitments to students and families.

Is this really all about the test scores? No? Then they won't mind if we take the test scores away.

This is the one and only action that families can take to influence schools and the District. This is their currency, and we control it.

Anonymous said...

To be the devil's advocate to Charlie's suggestion: I'd be careful about getting too militant. We live in Seattle, where people are "nice" (read: passive or passive aggressive) and if you have to live at this school for another 5 years you may not want to be the one who everyone rolls their eyes at.

It'd be different if it would make an ounce of difference, but it won't.

Your energy would be better spent assuming this is happening, and figuring out how to make the best of it for your child, or finding a better school.

Lived through it and got the T-Shirt

Jan said...

dj (and jane): I am not sure they will ever totally disband APP, because while kids who are moderately gifed -- and can/should learn a year or two ahead of the regular curriculum -- can sort of be differentiated/accomodated in an average classroom -- with only moderate boredom, mild disaffection, etc., the kids at the extreme upper end cannot. This group includes kids who taught themselves to read at 2, or 3, or 4, kids who can do (and should be doing) algebra and trig in 3rd grade, etc. Some have their own issues -- whether tied to high intelligence or simply tied to being human like the rest of us -- that make them no easier behaviorally, and maybe harder, than less advanced kids. Some of them do not suffer those they consider to be fools (which may include most of the rest of us, and most teachers) lightly, until taught how deal with high intelligence in an average intelligence world.

I think it is more likely that they will either kick the neighborhood program out of Lowell (big repercussions there!) and reassign all those kids to Madrona, Stevens, etc., which would return Lowell to an APP/SpecEd split (never mind those poor SouthEnd APP schmucks shuffled off to try to co-house at TM). Or, they will split Lowell (again) and send a chunk of kids north -- the problem being, there is no space anywhere north -- to yet a third co-housed location.

Jan said...

Lived Through It: you are correct that it won't make an ounce of difference if just 2 or 3 parents do it. But if 40% of the school refuses to take the fall MAP, or 60% of the school refuses to take the HSPE? Their eye muscles will snap trying to roll them at that many families!

They count on the combination of apathy and isolation (sprinkled with a little "fear" of what they can do to you if you make any trouble) to keep any pushback isolated and desultory. We don't have to be mean and nasty. We can ask nicely for a place at the table, and some attention to the lists of unmet expectations, broken promises, and failed experiments on our children. But we can also say that we will take our test marbles and go home if they won't play fair.

Anonymous said...

Jan,
I agree that if you can get to critical mass, it's worth making a stink. But that is very hard to do in this situation. Spectrum parents are already labeled as "elitist", and at Lawton the Spectrum program was actually, at our public meeting, compared to racism by a person of color. (Not because the program is racisit per se, but like racism because kids are "labelled".)

So parents who oppose the change are loathe to speak up. And maybe 40% of the parents are fine with the change. Someone did a survey of how the Spectrum parents felt the program worked for their kid and she was lambasted at the meeting by people who are very proud of never having tested their kids for Spectrum, which I guess is the morally superior position, for not surveying the entire school. And the principal decided not to survey parents because it would be too frustrating for them not to be listened to.(!)

Tread carefully until you know you have critical mass.

Got the T-Shrit

JvA said...

Melissa--I wonder if part of the reason you get so many comments about AL is because many of your readers took those classes themselves once? All these years later, I remember the torture of boring busywork in first grade. I'd fly through the worksheets so fast that I'd have to sit there in silence and wait and wait and wait. One time I remember being so bored I started making confetti, and boy, did that piss off the teacher. I hated school until they started "tracking" us into four different classes for reading and math, and schoolwork finally seemed relevant. Having been there once, I really feel for the kids who were supposed to be in Spectrum and are now going to be in another SPS cluster-f*** experiment.

Jan said...

Dear "Got:" -- Right you are, spot on. But only so long as we frame this as boycotting for one small program (Spectrum -- or APP) that has always been the object of envy by many who are not in it, or who don't understand it, and is disliked by teachers who wish those kids were back helping them teach in their own classes.

It needs to NOT be pitched to advanced learners. It needs to be pitched to ALL parents. ALL the parents in SE schools who were promised that the NSAP would work for them because the District would first ensure that all schools were "excellent." All the parents who supported the NSAP because they were told there would still be 10% spaces at other schools, plus option schools -- except now many of those schools have NO (or fewer) option spaces, and there is no transportation to get to any option schools -- so it only works for families wealthy enough to have stay at home or part-time working moms who can carpool. All those parents who wish they had any option for language immersion, or montessori classes, but who don't, because they are not options -- they are neighborhood schools. All the Cooper families (whereever they may now be). All the WSHS families who wish the District had fairly divided West Seattle in a way that would support THEIR school.

You are correct that if this is just 20 kids at Lawton sitting out the test -- to the detriment of their teachers and the embarrassment of the principal, they will get eaten alive.

dj said...

Well, and Jan, don't forget all of us who were screwed by the new algorithm, which is set up so that people who have good neighborhood schools can try for seats in desirable option programs, but those of us who have bad neighborhood school assignments cannot, because we cannot afford the risk. If you are a Stevens parent, you can try for TOPS or Beacon Hill. If you are a Hawthorne parent who doesn't want to be there, you can't take the risk of trying to move your kid to a popular option school.

Anonymous said...

JvA: right you are. When we would get each basal reader (and the workbook -- you know, those collections of stories named things like "Here We Go" and "Through the Garden Gate") in elementary school, I would sit down and read the entire reader in a day, and complete the entire workbook the same day -- and then wait for 6 or 8 weeks for the next one to arrive.

Meanwhile, I read the stacks of library books piled beside my desk. This was not a good omen for my study skills when I finally reached honors/tracked classes in junior high and had none (study skills that is).

Once Bored

Jan said...

dj: I totally agree. The lack of support by the District for its gifted kids is dismaying -- but the lack of support by the District for Southeast Seattle? -- at all levels? well, words fail.

New To SPS said...

I mused about this over on the MAP testing boycott thread, but I have a question for anyone who kows abotu Lawton's experiences with clustering: What is the criteria used for determining the cluster your child is assigned to?

From the materials I have read so far, each child is given a number, 1 to 5, based on their capability to learn, and this number is used to put them in a cluster, with multiple clusters per class. But how do these numbers get assigned in the first place? This was not discussed last night.

Maybe someone can ask this at the upcoming Thursday meeting at Wedgwood.

StatisticsOrientedParent said...

Some math to think about:

If 1 out of every 3 classrooms at Wedgwood is populated by students that test in the top 10% of the district, this raises the overall test scores of the school considerably.

If Chris Cronas changes the Spectrum program to be ALO in all but name, many of the Spectrum parents that are from outside of the Wedgwood area will probably enroll their students in their neighborhood school that already has an ALO program. Honestly, why drive your child to the Spectrum school, or have them spend an extra 30 minutes each way on the bus, when they can get the same education at their neighborhood school?

You may also see many parents decide to put their Spectrum kids into private school, if the perception is that Principal Cronas is deliberately gutting the Spectrum program.

The result: Principal Cronas will see the overall test scores at his school drop as a result of his decision. Which will not do wonders for his career path.

Are test scores everything? Of course not. But they certainly seem to matter to schools in the Seattle school district.

- Concerned Spectrum parent who has been doing some math

Jan said...

StatisticsOrientedParent: Hmm. And then, as scores fall, the WW Spectrum program becomes no more attractive than an equally weak ALO program at a neighborhood school, someone downtown will count noses, note that parents no longer seem interested in Spectrum, and propose that it be abolished altogether, in favor of ALOs.

And Dr. Enfield, who has never supported Spectrum, will have won THAT battle. Because no one will be left to remind them of the great, contained Spectrum classes that used to exist to serve that population.

Anonymous said...

I would surmise that about 85 to 90 percent of families with children in Spectrum or APP would prefer self-contained programs.

I would also surmise that greater than 50% of families not having children in Spectrum or APP would be against self-contained programs, with many feeling they are elitist.

Quick question: All things being equal, who should win out?

Why do people with no children or stake in APP or Spectrum have any say in the delivery model whatsoever? (Because their feelings are hurt? Because they think - but have no idea - that such programs are elitist or somehow exclude their children?)

I think every parent should have a say in the program or level that their child is in, period. If your child's needs are met by ALO, Spectrum, APP, and alternative program, a montessori, or just a regular old 3rd grade class with a great teacher, why are you concerned with what is right for somebody else's children? Shouldn't you be primarily concerned about your own?

This labeling of so-called "elites" is ridiculous and unbelievably petty. Some kids hit their stride earlier than others and shouldn't be held back doing work below their abilities. We've tried the cluster model before. Why do you think we moved to self-contained classes?

More and more mindless social engineering that only results in harming innocent kids.

SPS at it's politically correct best! )Just don't talk about math!)

WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

I would surmise that about 85 to 90 percent of families with children in Spectrum or APP would prefer self-contained programs.

I would also surmise that greater than 50% of families not having children in Spectrum or APP would be against self-contained programs, with many feeling they are elitist.

Quick question: All things being equal, who should win out?

Why do people with no children or stake in APP or Spectrum have any say in the delivery model whatsoever? (Because their feelings are hurt? Because they think - but have no idea - that such programs are elitist or somehow exclude their children?)

I think every parent should have a say in the program or level that their child is in, period. If your child's needs are met by ALO, Spectrum, APP, and alternative program, a montessori, or just a regular old 3rd grade class with a great teacher, why are you concerned with what is right for somebody else's children? Shouldn't you be primarily concerned about your own?

This labeling of so-called "elites" is ridiculous and unbelievably petty. Some kids hit their stride earlier than others and shouldn't be held back doing work below their abilities. We've tried the cluster model before. Why do you think we moved to self-contained classes?

More and more mindless social engineering that only results in harming innocent kids.

SPS at it's politically correct best! )Just don't talk about math!)

WSEADAWG

StatisticsOrientedParent said...

Jan: Not saying that moving away from a Spectrum program at Wedgwood is a good idea. Just that if the Spectrum program is gutted to be ALO in all but name, you will see a migration of children and parents back to their neighborhood schools.

And if Spectrum at Wedgwood becomes ALO with a different name, then Spectrum WILL have been abolished.

I've seen first hand what happens when a high-performing kid isn't challenged. The boredom can quickly turn into self-destructive urges. I don't want that for my kids, or anyone else's kids.

If the downgrading of Spectrum to ALO is district wide, then that is what it is. Right now, this seems like it is the decision of Chris Cronas, and it is up to the Spectrum parents to make their opinions heard. Loudly and often, and to whatever level in the Seattle School District the message needs to go to in order to be heard and acknowledged.

Rothrock said...

I have a kid that is thriving in a WW Spectrum classroom. She loves school so much she doesn't want summer to come. I am really concerned about Chris Chronas' recent (and seemingly unilateral) decision to dismantle WW Spectrum and convert it into a cluster-based ALO program. I know my kid, and I know that the cluster model is not going to work as well for her as her current classroom model does. I also don't like how little communication or involvement we've had around this important decision, and how my voiced concerns do not seem to make an impact on this decision. I feel pretty powerless to change the momentum on this one.

This leads me to think about alternatives. My family cannot afford to send our kid to private school, but I want to find an environment for my child that is conducive to learning. I'm curious to find out if any other frustrated parents out there might be interested in exploring alternative solutions for our advanced learners. One possibility could be creating a co-op for motivated learners that leveraged homeschooling resources. Parents of highly motivated/Spectrum/APP kids could pool their funds (or get a grant or some combination of the two) to hire a great teacher, create a challenging curriculum, rent some space somewhere and create a classroom that provided fantastic education at a fraction of a private education price. Parents could take on helping in the classroom, teaching PE, music, art, language, etc. With this new cluster grouping model, we'll need to be super involved anyway to help out the overloaded teachers, so it might be really interesting to use our energy to create something new instead.

Totally open to other alternative ideas too!

Jan said...

StatisticsOrientedParent: I concur with all your points. I had a child in WW Spectrum once. We loved the self contained program there. I hope that the current Spectrum parents are able to get their views heard and considered. If they strongly want their current self contained program, I hope they are able to turn this ship around.

New To SPS said...

Chris Cronas mentioned that moving other non-district identified kids into the Spectrum classrooms was not an option, and impled it was against district policy. Is this true?

Anonymous said...

Rothrock,
Your proposal is exactly how the first alternative school (AS#1) got started 35 years ago. Parents contracted with the district to use part of an under utilized building and hire a teacher to suplement the homeschooling they were already providing for their students. AS#1 (now Pinehurst K-8) is currently WAY under enrolled - maybe the the times are right for a new Seattle Schools revolution.

~Rebel at heart

Anonymous said...

New to SPS.
I don't think it's v. district policy but it's v. cluster grouping. Non Spectrum identified kid are considered high average(group 2) in cluster grouping. They can't go w/ 1's (gifted). (not MY opinion, just what the SCGM says. And most of those high achievers could prob. test into Spectrum if they took the test.)

This handout is helpful too. Gifted student v. Bright Student. It's in Winebrenners book too but I can't find hers on the web. It's the same list.

http://gleigh.tripod.com/brightvG.htm

-cluster skeptic

none1111 said...

New To SPS said: Chris Cronas mentioned that moving other non-district identified kids into the Spectrum classrooms was not an option, and impled it was against district policy. Is this true?

Absolutely untrue! Not only is this allowable in Spectrum classes, it's the norm!

Very rarely do the numbers work out perfectly so that district-identified kids exactly fill out to classroom sizes. If class size is too small, teachers are generally able to pick a handful of other bright and/or motivated kids to bring classroom sizes up to something reasonable. Or, if class size is too large you may get split classes. Which isn't great, but it's still better than mixing Spectrum and general ed across all classes.

Anonymous said...

"This labeling of so-called "elites" is ridiculous and unbelievably petty."

Maybe, but one can understand the irritation of many non-APP/Spectrum parents when they see the District doing back-flips to meet the demands of APP and Spectrum parents, while not even paying lip service to the rest. APP is a guaranteed entitlement program: once your kid tests in, the District is required (so far, at least) to make a place for them. Though Spectrum seats are not guaranteed, the District generally goes through the motions(though it's starting to look grim). No other programs get as much attention, so of course there is eye-rolling when APP and Spectrum parents whine.

- Infrared Spectrum Parent

none1111 said...

Infrared said: ...the District doing back-flips to meet the demands of APP and Spectrum parents, while not even paying lip service to the rest.

You must be living in some alternate reality. Or a different city. Your comment is either grossly naive, flame bait, or both.

The APP parent community struggles valiantly every year to keep their program viable (and we seem to be losing that battle), and Spectrum has had little-to-no support at the district level for years. Much of the recent "growth" in APP has been because of reduced entry standards and the fact that Spectrum support has been virtually non-existant. If Spectrum was supported (let alone backflips!), instead of constantly weakened and ignored, large numbers of borderline APP kids would be well served in their neighborhoods, rather than bussing 1/2 way across town.

As for lip service, it almost always does revolve around "the rest", although when it comes to actually delivering, the district continues to fall short there as well. Look at the lack of summer school, and basically direct interventions across the board. If you're not an "average" kids, you're unlikely to be well-served in Seattle.

Charlie Mas said...

Some families want self-contained.

Some families want blended classes.

We don't have to choose one or the other. It's not an all or nothing world.

The District has blended classrooms in nearly every school. Every middle school service area (except Eckstein) has just one school - just one - that is supposed to offer self-contained classes for academically gifted students. The Eckstein service area, due to demand, has three schools designated as Spectrum.

Families that don't want their children to attend a school with a self-contained deliver model for academically gifted students are free to enroll their children in any of the other elementary schools in their middle school service area. If they object so strongly to having their child in a building with a self-contained program, they have that choice.

mary s said...

This is a hard question. The research I have seen shows that gifted kids do better in self-contained classrooms, but that other kids do better if the gifted kids are grouped with them. Given the requirements of No Child Left Behind (growth of an individual student doesn't matter - we just want to get all students up to a defined standard) there is a lot of pressure on the district to dismantle any program that separates high performing students.

Chris S. said...

Don't! This is divide and conquer! Lauren McGuire said something to me when I asked her about the place of alts in the district, which to paraphrase (pretty badly) was "in a district of this size, we have the economy of scale to be able to offer more flavors than just vanilla." Applies to APP and Spectrum too. Why the district opposes any other flavor is a bit of a mystery to me, although transportation dollar savings and lowering the ceiling seem like sad but likely explanations.

Rothrock - yes! try an existing alternative program (IMHO the pedagogical model is more compatible with effective differentiation) and yes! try to create a alternative program. Our waiting lists clearly show there is a need.

You can contact me by requesting membership at http://groups.google.com/group/seattle-alternative-schools-coalition. Say you're rothrock.

SeattleSped said...

"You must be living in some alternate reality. Or a different city. Your comment is either grossly naive, flame bait, or both."

No, we live in Seattle where the needs of K-2 disabled children are unmet by eliminating effective inclusion programs for non-existent "integrated comprehensive services". We're told take it, or consign your kid to lowest of low expectations in self-contained.

So, yeah, I don't think your child's "special" education should be any more sacrosanct than mine.

Anonymous said...

"So, yeah, I don't think your child's "special" education should be any more sacrosanct than mine."

I would be pissed too if I thought my kid was not getting promised, and much needed services. But isn't this a failing of the District? Why focus your energy on those who have no control over the assignment of resources? ALL our kids need the appropriate level of instruction. Not just gifted. Not just disabled.

Do not let the powers-that-be off the hook so easily, SeattleSped. Do not let them suck you into the divide and conquer strategy to divert your obvious energy and focus on the wrong target. If anything, special needs and gifted kids should combine energy and force the District to live up to promises and deliver services, and stop spending so much time on useless testing and coaches for teachers. If we made cuts in those two areas alone, there would be funding for both groups' needs.

- Together We Stand, Divided We Fall

Anonymous said...

That was a good laugh Infrared, thanks. For real? I agree w/ the alternate reality suggestion.

The deal is... When the families who wanted advanced learning enrolled in their schools, the program was X. When the parents who didn't want their kids in the program, the program was X. Presumably when the teachers got jobs at those schools, the program was X. Everyone knew what it was. Everyone knew what they were getting. Then - without stakeholder engagement whatsoever - it changes to Y. Too bad. It's after open enrollment, after testing deadlines. We're stuck. The fact that individual schools are making changes to (elimination of) a district program is crazy. There's no evidence that WW will deliver cluster grouping the same or different from how Lawton will do it. How can we measure success or failure that way? We can't. It's so haphazard in nature it's frightening. If you want to change it, at least do it openly, with a transparent process, allowing families to comment and w/ enough time for parents to make appropriate choices for their kids. In fact, the way WW has proposed rolling it out could be better b.c families who have been in the program for a few years (say 3rd grade) will be able to finish it out. First graders don't know any programmatic difference so it will be all they know. Will it serve their needs? Probably not but at least it's LESS of a bait and switch.

Concerning the elitist part.. It really bothers me that parents who are advocating for equal opportunities for the academic needs of their advanced learning students are called elitist. You wouldn't call a parent of Special Ed student elitist. Never. Whipping out elitist is a conversation ender. From the NAGC website….
"Gifted students need consistent opportunities to learn at their challenge level—just as all students do. It is inequitable to prevent gifted students from being challenged by trying to apply one level of difficulty for all students in mixed-ability classes. When teachers can provide opportunities for all students, including those who are gifted, to be challenged by rigorous curriculum, there is nothing elitist about the situation."

Here are quotes from SCGM book.
"Gifted students need a faster pace, a smaller amount of practice with grade-level standards, an understanding of their independent work style, a teacher who is comfortable acting as a guide and coach and opportunities to work with partners who are similar in learning ability, style, interests and preferences. They need this not because they are gifted, but because they are not average.

Gifted students are no more special than any others. However grade-level standards describe what typical students should be able to learn at a certain age. When we accept the fact that gifted children are able to learn at levels that exceed their chronological age expectations, we immediately understand why grade-level standards must be adjusted for them. " p3

mary s, the research I've seen actually shows that gifted kids do better in self contained but other kids do NOT do better if gifted kids are grouped w/ them. Winebrenner discusses this a lot too. Gifted kids are kids. They are not good particularly good assisting other students learn (for many reasons) or at being role models.
- cluster skeptic

Anonymous said...

"So, yeah, I don't think your child's "special" education should be any more sacrosanct than mine."

Nor any less either! The district has NEVER done backflips for APP/Spectrum - never. My kids, in APP, have been moved, divided, etc - it is very unfair to imply that APP/Spectrum have received preferential treatment in any way.

- Lowell/Washington/Hamilton/Garfield/Ingraham parent

none1111 said...

So, yeah, I don't think your child's "special" education should be any more sacrosanct than mine.

Apparently you read the first paragraph and stopped reading. Here, let me quote the part you apparently missed.

As for lip service, it almost always does revolve around "the rest", although when it comes to actually delivering, the district continues to fall short there as well. ... If you're not an "average" kids, you're unlikely to be well-served in Seattle.

It's important to know that many of us with advanced learners are very sympathetic to other families with non-typical kids. It's antagonistic comments (and thinking) like yours that make it hard to work together to achieve change.

Lip service is paid all the time to struggling students, special-ed, SE district, FRL, but all too often it stops at lip service. And what little does get implemented seems to be back-assward or damaging in some way or another. But APP and advanced learning in general is lucky to even get (public) lip service. That's the difference.

SeattleSped said...

I should've added "flame away".

Believe it or not, I bust my ass on many fronts, not just SpEd. Interestingly, I see the most immediate resolution in the area of APP/ALO/Spectrum. Whatever. I was one of, as some of these posters lament, the bored ones, pre-Spectrum. Somehow, I survived. Tell that to ELL or poor SpEd families. Does that make them feel better? It's not about hurt, it's about survival.

My advocacy has bridged the divides some would urge me to avoid. Yeah, I know about divides. I observed the budget talks in Olympia, at district level, and at my school where, once cuts to AL were proposed, suddenly letters from Robert Vaughn were sent out to all families. When SpEd budget is cut, *yawn*. Hey, IAs can do it, right?

I guess you had to grow up in the 60's and 70's before this sense of entitlement became ingrained.

Cue, flame. Hey, maybe we could break the 200 mark?

Anonymous said...

(not in response to SPED, post didn't show earlier..trying again?)

That was a good laugh Infrared, thanks. For real? I agree w/ the alternate reality suggestion.

The deal is... When the families who wanted advanced learning enrolled in their schools, the program was X. When the parents who didn't want their kids in the program, the program was X. Presumably when the teachers got jobs at those schools, the program was X. Everyone knew what it was. Everyone knew what they were getting. Then - without stakeholder engagement whatsoever - it changes to Y. Too bad. It's after open enrollment, after testing deadlines. We're stuck. The fact that individual schools are making changes to (elimination of) a district program is crazy. There's no evidence that WW will deliver cluster grouping the same or different from how Lawton will do it. How can we measure success or failure that way? We can't. It's so haphazard in nature it's frightening. If you want to change it, at least do it openly, with a transparent process, allowing families to comment and w/ enough time for parents to make appropriate choices for their kids.

Concerning the elitist part.. It really bothers me that parents who are advocating for equal opportunities for the academic needs of their advanced learning students are called elitist. It doesn't hurt my feelings, it's just a huge double standard. You wouldn't call a parent advocating on behalf of a Special Ed student elitist. Never. Whipping out elitist is a conversation ender. From the NAGC website….

"Gifted students need consistent opportunities to learn at their challenge level—just as all students do. It is inequitable to prevent gifted students from being challenged by trying to apply one level of difficulty for all students in mixed-ability classes. When teachers can provide opportunities for all students, including those who are gifted, to be challenged by rigorous curriculum, there is nothing elitist about the situation."

Here are quotes from SCGM book.

"Gifted students need a faster pace, a smaller amount of practice with grade-level standards, an understanding of their independent work style, a teacher who is comfortable acting as a guide and coach and opportunities to work with partners who are similar in learning ability, style, interests and preferences. They need this not because they are gifted, but because they are not average.

Gifted students are no more special than any others. However grade-level standards describe what typical students should be able to learn at a certain age. When we accept the fact that gifted children are able to learn at levels that exceed their chronological age expectations, we immediately understand why grade-level standards must be adjusted for them. " p3


mary s, the research I've seen actually shows that gifted kids do better in self contained but other kids do NOT do better if gifted kids are grouped w/ them. Winebrenner discusses this too. Gifted kids are kids. They are not good particularly good assisting other students learn (for many reasons) or at being role models.

and none1111 (I think s/he said it) is right... SPS is good for kids in the middle. If you're not in the middle (Advanced Learning and/or SPED) -- not so much.

-cluster skeptic

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what you are advocating for, SeattleSped. Are you saying gifted kids should not have any programs? Or are you saying special ed needs better programs? And how do you draw the conclusion that this is as an either/or situation?

This is not a flame. I am trying to understand your position, and how you think these two specific programs are linked.

- United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Maureen said...

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that part of the conflict between Special Education and Advanced Learning here is that SpEd families are advocating for inclusion but are given self contained classes while AL families are advocating for self contained but are given inclusion.

Vanessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VS said...

Ok, I don't usually comment, but now I'm going to have to. I am a) the parent of a Spectrum eligible child, and b) someone who was similarly labelled as a child and woefully under served in general ed and pull-out programs while my significantly special needs brother received consistent school-based support.

Guess which one of us graduated from high school and which dropped out? This is not a contest. Not providing the right education for high achievers can have real and lasting consequences.

My kid has no reasonable option for AL where we live--the Spectrum option for our service area is an anemic, blended, in-name-only program that doesn't seem like it would be worth uprooting her for. The well-established, self-contained program in the neighboring service area is impossible for us to get in to with the new assignment plan.

Every single child needs and deserves a challenging education that is appropriate to their individual strengths and weaknesses, and a tremendous number of outside the norm kids are getting failed here.

SeattleSped said...

Bingo, Maureen.

Anonymous said...

(posting issues, sorry if a dupe..)

That was a good laugh Infrared, thanks. For real? I agree w/ the alternate reality suggestion.

The deal is... When the families who wanted advanced learning enrolled in their schools, the program was X. When the parents who didn't want their kids in the program, the program was X. Presumably when the teachers got jobs at those schools, the program was X. Everyone knew what it was. Everyone knew what they were getting. Then - without stakeholder engagement whatsoever - it changes to Y. Too bad. It's after open enrollment, after testing deadlines. We're stuck. The fact that individual schools are making changes to (elimination of) a district program is crazy. There's no evidence that WW will deliver cluster grouping the same or different from how Lawton will do it. How can we measure success or failure that way? We can't. It's so haphazard in nature it's frightening. If you want to change it, at least do it openly, with a transparent process, allowing families to comment and w/ enough time for parents to make appropriate choices for their kids.

Concerning the elitist part.. It really bothers me that parents who are advocating for equal opportunities for the academic needs of their advanced learning students are called elitist. You wouldn't call a parent of Special Ed student elitist. Never. Whipping out elitist is a conversation ender. From the NAGC website….

"Gifted students need consistent opportunities to learn at their challenge level—just as all students do. It is inequitable to prevent gifted students from being challenged by trying to apply one level of difficulty for all students in mixed-ability classes. When teachers can provide opportunities for all students, including those who are gifted, to be challenged by rigorous curriculum, there is nothing elitist about the situation."

Here are quotes from SCGM book.

"Gifted students need a faster pace, a smaller amount of practice with grade-level standards, an understanding of their independent work style, a teacher who is comfortable acting as a guide and coach and opportunities to work with partners who are similar in learning ability, style, interests and preferences. They need this not because they are gifted, but because they are not average.

Gifted students are no more special than any others. However grade-level standards describe what typical students should be able to learn at a certain age. When we accept the fact that gifted children are able to learn at levels that exceed their chronological age expectations, we immediately understand why grade-level standards must be adjusted for them. " p3


mary s, the research I've seen actually shows that gifted kids do better in self contained but other kids do NOT do better if gifted kids are grouped w/ them. Winebrenner discusses this too. Gifted kids are kids. They are not good particularly good assisting other students learn (for many reasons) or at being role models.

none111 or whoever said it.. is right. If you're in the middle, SPS can usually do right by you. If you're on either end (AL or SPED), not so much.

-sps skeptic

Jan said...

SeattleSped: I think Maureen's comment is part, but not all, of it. I have had them all: APP, SpEd, Spectrum, regular. My points:

First, no one is being well served -- though because most of the flawed educational services are at least being "pitched at" the middle, those kids maybe suffer the least -- or have the most hope of a reasonable outcome in a world of not great educational service. But for regular kids? Their classes are too large, the budget is too small, they spend too much time in testing that is not for their benefit, but for the purpose of helping the administration rank and rate their teachers, they have too little access to LM, Montessori, good music programs, and good alt ed., standardization is reducing their course opportunities, and the creativity of their teachers. The list goes on.

The difference, as I see it, is that many regular kids aren't so regular either. Some are advanced readers; some are really good in math. Their parents think (rightly or wrongly) that their kids' education would be different/better if they had access either to the kids in AL programs, or to the insruction in those programs. Few, if any, of them, think their kids would do "better" in school if they had more/better access to my special ed kid (or to the academic opportunities /sarcasm) my kid gets in Spedial Ed.

Some parents argue on behalf of all kids. Some (hopefully only a few) parents ONLY advocate for whatever they think is best for their own child, and really don't care about anything else. We just need to figure out how to identify the first group, and stay away from those few in the second.

As the parent of a special ed kid who has gotten A's in AP classes in high school -- there is no win for my kid, if it means the child sitting next to her has to lose for that win to happen. All parents need to advocate for all kids, or they just pit us against each other, throw in a few pieces of tainted meat, and laugh and walk away.

Jan

New To SPS said...

I got the Clustering Grouping Handbook delivered last night, by Susan Winebrenner and Dina Brulles. I read the introduction and first chapter, plus skimmed the rest of it. I definitely need more time to go through it, and follow up on the supporting research, as well as the critical research. However, a few things stood out so far that I though were worth noting before tonight's meeting.

The Cluster Groups
All kids are given a group, labeled from 1 to 5, described as follows: gifted (1), high achieving (2), average (3), below average (4), and far below average (5). These groups are then arranged into one of two class room models (assuming 30 kids) of either: 6 gifted, 12 average, 12 below average (the "gifted-cluster" classroom), OR 6 high-achieving, 12 average, 6 below average, and 6 far-below average (the remaining classrooms). There are a lot of exceptions covered (such as how where ELL students fit), but the single, unwavering rule is that group 1 and group 2 kids should NOT be in the same classroom. There is also an entire chapter (chapter 3) devoted to identifying the gifted kids for the gifted cluster. I need to read more in this, but my quick perusal suggests that it is primarily cognitive testing based, rather than classroom achievement based for the gifted cluster, but the reverse for the remaining clusters. Lots more to read on this specific aspect. I also understand this was a HUGE discussion point for the Lawton committee, when the model was under review. It is very unclear to me where Spectrum kids fit in the grouping, and how flexible the SPS schools can be in identifiying gifted kids who don't have the Spectrum or APP label. One thing is certain to me - the MAP tests are useless in determining groups 1 and 2, but I would not be surprised to see them used anyways.


Who Does This Benefit
The cluster model described the workbook claims to show improvements over classrooms that only have one or gifted kids, and I don't dispute that. Critical mass is important. But Spectrum classrooms already have that critical mass, so at least for those classrooms, the comparisons are apples and oranges. Spreading the Spectrum kids out into all the classrooms (which is what this model will have to do at Wedgwood) is likely to improve the other classes, if the research is correct and the model is delivered properly. Schoolwide, this is a good thing. I haven't seen any work on how it compares to the self-contained model. My gut feeling though, is that the kids are not likely do significantly worse, but they are not necessarily likely to do significantly better, either. Interestingly, the exceptionally gifted kids (APP level) may actually do a little worse under this model, according to the book, which is why they are divided out from the above average group. There is also a lot of commentary in chapter 1 about the benefits to teachers, overall school test scores, and cost reduction. All are good benfits to consider, but they are not necessarily child-specific benefits.

(more posted in part 2)

New To SPS said...

(continued)

Differentiated Instruction
The heart of the model seems to be that this clustering allows teachers to deliver differentiated instruction based on the needs of each cluster, and at the same time also deliver compacted instruction for the gifted and above average groups (1's and 2's), and slower instruction for the below average and very below average groups (4's and 5's). However, I do not know precisely how this dovetails with district-mandated curriculum. Will the teachers have the ability to deviate from district-mandated lesson plans if the cluster needs it, according to this model? There is also a lack of discussion on how this would work with "walk to math", since it rearranges the classrooms clusters into one group. Presumably the 1's and 2's would be in the Spectrum math program, but according to this model, that is verboten. I want to understand this point better.

Teacher Training
The model also assumes that every teacher has been trained in differentiated and compacted curriculum delivery. I fully admit that I have not read this chapter (chapter 7) in depth. And I fully trust that any teacher worth his/her salt can absolutely deliver on this. But the book does say that specific professional development is crucial to the success of the clustering model. I want to hear more about howe the teachers will be supported as this comes up to speed quickly next year. And more reading on my part is needed, so this is mainly presented as a topic that needs more exploring.

Evauating the Program
Lots of information I have not gotten to yet in Chapter 8 on this topic, so I'll defer how the clustering model is evaluated once is has been introduced. One thing that jumped out, though, even in skimming this chapter, is the recommendation and timeline for a planning year. In fact, most of Chapter 2 is devoted to a timeline and details about a year long process of laying the groundwork within a school in year 1, before rolling it out in year 2. I know that Lawton has been doing this over the last year, so it is somewhat surprising that this planning year is NOT part of the rollout for Wedgwood. Maybe the work that Lawton has done will be leveraged at Wedgwood, but this was not specifically mentioned in last Monday's presentation. I plan on asking more about this tonight.

Again, this is just my very preliminary impression from reading the intro and chapter 1 to the workbook in the last 24 hours. I fully expect many, many more details to be fleshed out over the coming weeks, and more discussions within the Wedgwood community. And I very much want to get my hands on the original research behind this model, and hear what the negatives are as well. Hopefully, this will give some of you out there a little information about the workbook that Chri Chronas is using as a guide, until it can make the rounds. And I'll post more about this once I get in a thorough read.

Anonymous said...

So much to think about.

New to SPS-thanks for all your research. I can tell you really care about your child. I was all on board with the new plan, but after thinking about it, I'm not so sure. Mr. Cronas was insistant that WW will still be a Spectrum school, just not self-contained. I think I can live with the new program, but if this is getting us closer to being an ALO school then count me out. I talked at length today with a teacher who will be one of the first grade teachers implementing the new program. I have no doubt she can do a great job of it, but she is a unique teacher for sure.

WW mother

none1111 said...

New to SPS,

Since you have the Cluster Grouping Handbook, can you tell us how the information aligns with the info here?

http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=162

This is an article on the NAGC site, written by Susan Winebrenner (the lead author of "the handbook") and Barbara Devlin. The entire page is worth reading, but here are a few quotes:

"There is an alarming trend in many places to eliminate gifted education programs in the mistaken belief that all students are best served in heterogeneous learning environments. "

and

"When teachers try to meet the diverse learning needs of all students, it becomes extremely difficult to provide adequately for everyone. Often, the highest ability students are expected to "make it on their own."

and

"When gifted students are placed in mixed-ability groups for cooperative learning, they frequently become tutors. Other students in these groups may rely on the gifted to do most of the work and may actually learn less than when the gifted students are not in their groups."

but the best quote is this:

Keep in mind, however, if your school has enough gifted students for separate sections in which curriculum is accelerated, such sections should be maintained.

THE AUTHOR OF THE CLUSTER GROUPING HANDBOOK SEEMS TO BE SAYING THAT CLUSTER-GROUPING IS WHAT YOU DO ONLY IF YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH GIFTED KIDS TO MAKE SELF-CONTAINED CLASSROOMS!

Is it possible that people are misinterpreting the entire intent of the model?

Is anyone still reading this thread? How did the 2nd (Thursday) meeting go?

none1111 said...

WW mother said: Mr. Cronas was insistant that WW will still be a Spectrum school, just not self-contained. I think I can live with the new program, but if this is getting us closer to being an ALO school then count me out.

His proposal is essentially ALO, by the district's own definitions. Read the definitions here:

Advance Learning Programs

ALO:
1) Provide a rigorous curriculum.
2) Accelerate reading and mathematics curriculum utilizing flexible grouping strategies.
3) Provide differentiated instruction within heterogeneous, inclusive classroom settings.
4) Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of advanced learners.

Spectrum:
1) Provide a rigorous curriculum.
2) Provide an accelerated curriculum that focuses on student proficiency in grade level expectations and one grade level beyond or more in reading and mathematics
3) Bring district-identified students together through self-contained or cluster-grouping strategies to form classroom rosters.
4) Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of students who are academically gifted.

Cluster-grouping, from what I'm piecing together on the fly, does NOT mean equally dividing the gifted kids among all the classes. It appears to be a solution that advocates for taking the handful of gifted kids you have and making sure you group them together when you don't have enough gifted kids to form self-contained classes. Here's another quote from the Susan Winebrenner article:

The practice of cluster grouping allows educators to come much closer to providing better educational services for groups of students with similar exceptional learning needs. In non-cluster classrooms, teachers report they are able to pay more attention to the special learning needs of those for whom learning may be more difficult.

Note "much closer". But self-contained is even better, when possible!

none1111 said...

Argh! Melissa, blogger ate another post, could you please undelete it?

Anyone following this thread should back up a couple posts! In the meantime, here's a good article by the author of the Cluster Grouping Handbook that seems to contradict some of Chris's notions of cluster-grouping. My thoughts will hopefully be undeleted soon.

http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=162

New To SPS said...

I need to go to bed, as my brain is fried, but yes, I agree the model being proposed is ALO. Robert Vaughan was at the meeting tonight, and I took notes on what was said, which I'll write up tomorrow. When asked specifically about district policy, he said something along the lines of: it was not a written policy but a tradition to have self-contained classrooms, so schools were able to change this without going through the district.

I agree that the cluster grouping model presented does not match even what is in the workbook, and I spoke briefly to Chris Cronas about this. He seemed open to discussing this point further.
I suggested doing an even, two classroom split of district-identified Spectrum, rather than dividing among three classes. It may solve several problems at once - still retain enough cohesiveness and social support for the Spectrum kids, but allows flexibiliy for movement and opportunities for all students to access advanced materials, regardless of labels. I think most people are chafing the strongest at the idea of spreading the Spectum-identied kids out so thinly that they lose the social support network needed to "geek out" as necessary, for lack of a better, and more technical term.

Again, it is late, I am very tired, and I'll post more on the Q&A session from Thursday. Lots of good questions from the parents.

Dale Hailey said...

Thanks SPS for your suggestion at the meeting on Thursday and here regarding there being options for how the Spectrum class is divided. That is a place where Spectrum parents may be able to have some say.

Some thoughts about the meeting:

I’m glad SPS took notes on Robert Vaughan’s comments. He spoke extensively about the popularity of WW Spectrum and how there is always a wait list for this very popular program. I didn’t understand his point. There will not be a waitlist for the Spectrum program at WW when it is an advanced math program. Singing the popularity of program you advocate dismantling doesn’t make any sense to me.

none1111 asked above whether WW would still be a Spectrum school. Clearly the honest answer is no. It will be a school in which Spectrum identified students are guaranteed advanced math curriculum. Otherwise, their experiences will be like all the other students. The teachers at WW already do extensive differentiated instruction. WW is and will be a great school. But it will not be a Spectrum school. If you love things as they are and have been (I do), then its disheartening.

Many of the comments at the meeting Thursday regarded what metrics would be used to evaluate how the upcoming changes are affecting students. Of course this is a real quagmire. Maybe this is another place where parents could have some say. There was I think no mention of tracking what the new system will do for the Spectrum kids specifically. I’d like those numbers in the future. Even if they tell us almost nothing. And I’d like to know what it would take to motivate a return to the current system.

Chris Cronas is a committed educator and speaks openly and honestly to the parent community. I appreciate that, I look forward to working with him for years to come, and I appreciate that he has a very tough job. On the Spectrum program point, we have different priorities. I know what the plan is. Now I want to know how parents can affect it. Thanks Charlie Mas for pointing out that there are some leverage points: e.g. opting out of MAP and MSP tests. That’s one possibility.

I hope the intense love for WW and for its Spectrum program among the parents can be translated into a strong voice. We obviously won’t undo this decision. Maybe we can affect how it is implemented, since there are a lot of options about how to structure the student groupings. Hopefully we can do that respectfully and firmly. We need a Spectrum advocacy group. Robert Vaughan is not that, so far as I can tell.

none1111 said...

Until my previous comment gets undeleted, here is an important article for those of you who are justifiably unhappy with the (potential) loss of Spectrum at WW.

http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=162

This is an article written by the lead author of the Cluster Grouping Handbook, so it should hold some weight. Here's a very important quote:

Keep in mind, however, if your school has enough gifted students for separate sections in which curriculum is accelerated, such sections should be maintained.

It appears to me, after reading through this article (but not the Handbook itself yet), that they are advocating for cluster grouping as opposed to no grouping at all. As a way to get closer to the optimum arrangement of self-contained gifted. Here's another quote that leads me to believe this:

The practice of cluster grouping allows educators to come much closer to providing better educational services for groups of students with similar exceptional learning needs. In non-cluster classrooms, teachers report they are able to pay more attention to the special learning needs of those for whom learning may be more difficult.

Note: "much closer"

none1111 said...

Someone should read through this this Susan Winebrenner article carefully, suss out the important stuff, and present it to Mr. Cronas and see what his reaction is. It flies in the face of what he's proposing.

If it pulls him back a bit, then we'll know he's really considering the kids' needs. If not, then he's just made up his mind what he wants to do, no matter what.

New To SPS said...

I have the Handbook, and you are correct. All the comparisons are done to classrooms that previously had only 1 or 2 gifted kids.

But I don't think the motivation behind these changes is to implement cluster grouping because it is a superior model to self-contained classrooms. I think it is being used as a solution to other perceived issues. Chris Cronas said as much last night.

Where's the rigor? said...

As we talk more with Chris Cronas, it's becoming clear that this decision is based on his experience working in inner city schools on the East Coast, and a passion to provide equity for all. Equity for all starts with the way this decision is rolled out to parents. The needs and concerns of Spectrum parents are not being considered, which doesn't feel like equity to me.

Cronas' decision to dismantle Spectrum is clearly not guided by metrics or data, as evidenced by the fact that he has not done the work to collect any actual qualitative or quantitative data. He says that he'll make his final decision based on feedback, but he doesn't have a baseline established for measurement. He's basing this decision on his own personal alignment supplemented by ad hoc conversations with people that seek him out. That's not enough justification to destroy a program that is working for many people.

Chris Cronas has a responsibility to all of the families at Wedgwood to establish qualitative and quantitative baseline metrics before the end of the school year. Here's one approach:

1. Collect MAP test scores from all Spectrum and Non-Spectrum students to measure progress at the beginning and end of the school year.

2. Conduct a school wide survey of all families to establish a baseline measurement of sentiment and satisfaction with the Spectrum program this year.

Repeat this same survey at the same time next year, and repeat again the following year. After collecting these metrics and conducting a thoughtful analysis, he will then have enough data to make an objective decision. If there is a drop in test scores and sentiment with the kids currently in Spectrum, then the cluster solution is not meeting their needs.

It is so frustrating to me that Chris Cronas making this decision without conducting any actual analysis. It is not professional and I am concerned about his leadership abilities if he doesn't understand this is part of driving effective change. I'm also concerned that SPS is allowing him to make these changes without measurement. Very concerning on many levels.

none1111 said...

I have the Handbook, and you are correct. All the comparisons are done to classrooms that previously had only 1 or 2 gifted kids.

Bingo! So that point, and some quotes from the NAGC article need to be brought up in public at one of the next meetings. This is clearly a step backward for the kids. For all of them.

I think it is being used as a solution to other perceived issues. Chris Cronas said as much last night.

This is appalling (although not entirely surprising). This point needs to be played up very strongly over the course of the next few days. Bottom line is that kids' needs are being pushed aside for other perceived parental and administrative issues. All the kids needs, since even the kids who are not high achievers benefit from self-contained Spectrum, since it reduces the differentiation load on the teachers. It's easy for teachers to say they want to see the gifted kids spread out, but when it comes down to effective differentiation, it's a HUGE amount of work to do properly, and the wider the range, the more work. Most teachers are well-meaning, but in practice it's nearly impossible to effectively teach to a wide range of abilities and achievement levels. They may try, but almost never succeed on all fronts. This is just common sense, but for those of us who are NOT new-to-sps, we've seen it in practice, and it's sad.

Key points to make at the next meeting:
1) This is a step backward, even according to the authors of The Cluster Grouping Handbook
2) Negatively affecting (all) kids because of perceived adult "issues".
3) If you can get MAP/MSP boycott support in the building, specifically directed at this change, I think it would help. This will take some effort, probably on the phone/email to Spectrum families. You probably won't get as much support from the other families, even though this will be detrimental to them as well.

And I'll copy this quote from the Cluster Grouping Handbook author here again because I think it's key to making sure Chris knows what he's doing flies in the face of best practice.

Keep in mind, however, if your school has enough gifted students for separate sections in which curriculum is accelerated, such sections should be maintained.

Anonymous said...

The simple truth here is that this change is for capacity reasons, not education reasons.

Somebody just doesn't fit. WW is just not large enough for
neighborhood families
spectrum families
split siblings
spectrum siblings

The building can't grown any more than it has - all the portables that can be permitted have already been added!

So the only answer left is ... make it so that Spectrum families do not choose the school.

north seattle mom

New To SPS said...

Had we known this change was in the pipeline, we probably would have chosen our neighborhood school over the Wedgwood Spectrum program. This is not because we dislike the community there - far from it. Everyone I've met so far, including Chris Cronas, has been wonderful and very inclusive and friendly. But many of the neighborhood kids go to our neighborhood school, and the social benefits of that cohesion are greater to us than the mild benefit of this new, untested ALO-style program being offered, which is just a slightly faster-paced math program. We already provide some of that at home with math tutoring.

If I had the choice right now (which we don't of course, because open enrollment is closed), we would seriously consider switching this very minute. So yes, that motivation would work to decrease pressure on Wedgwood, but it would increase pressure on the other schools as well (which can probably handle it better than the smaller Wedgwood). Or just drive more families to private school, or to push even harder for admittance into APP.

What I *still* do not understand is why advanced/compacted instruction is not available at every single school in this district, either through clustering for schools with small numbers of gifted/above average kids able to do the compacted work, or self-contained/blended classrooms for schools where there are enough kids to fill a class, and then some. Why so much gatekeeping and test taking and hoop jumping done at the district level? I just don't get why this is being done at the district, and not building, level, and why it is tied to a stringent, once-a-year cycle, and why so many obviously qualified kids are still being lock out.

I can guess at the answers to this, but it is still the real problem that should be solved here.

Anonymous said...

It is available at most schools. As an ALO model, which very many schools have ! Testing is pretty easy if you're in the SPS. You fill out a form and get your teacher to sign it, the tester calls and lets you know what day they'll be there. Your kid gets tested during the school day. Or so has been our experience. If you're coming from outside the SPS then it may be more complicated. Depending on where you score is whether you're APP, Spectrum or ALO designated. Kids can access ALO programs w/o being tested and via teacher recommendation.

Chris Cronas needs to actually read the SCGM book. A huge point of cluster grouping is to reduce the range of differentiation by putting specific "groups" together. 1,3,4 can be together (so it's the top, average and below average, but not the far below average, b/c that range is to broad.) 2,3,4,5 can be together. 1's and 5's can't b/c that's too far a range for differentiation. So if he's saying he'll put Spectrum kids in all classes (whether equally divided or not) then he's not following the model and it'll be really hard 1. for teachers to reach that range of differentiation, 2. serve the advanced learners at all. FX, If you have 3 classes in 2nd grade and 20 Spectrum kids, two of those classes get 10 Spectrum kidsn each. The third class won't have any b/c you HAVE to keep 1's and 5's in different classes.

Makes a whole new set of problems and doesn't address the social component one bit, which is what this really is about. (and capacity too) It's NOT about serving the needs of advanced learners.

-cluster skeptic

Susan said...

New to SPS,

My curiousity is killing me. Have you called enrollment to see if you can switch to your neighborhood school? If so, and they said no, I'd raise a big fit given the bait and switch. If not, don't assume that you can't use this as a reason to get back into your neighborhood school.

I agree with you, unless you are leaving the neighborhood school for self-contained, I don't see how WW will be any better than your neighborhood school. Even if it's as good or marginally better, that's not worth leaving the 'hood.

Susan

Anonymous said...

Curious that Lawton has spectrum waitlist if they are going to cluster grouping. It seems that by clustering you do away with the self limiting nature of self-contained classroom (i.e. Whittier). Wasn't that one of the positive benefits of this proposed clustering model? Lawton should be able to take more spectrum students which would be a great thing and no need for spectrum waitlist. Or does the district still limiting number of spectrum seats per school?

Does anyone know?

Curious parent

Jan said...

Oh that I could "manufacture" a WW student to be my kid! This gets curiouser and curiouser.

The clustering expert Mr. Cronas is relying on specifically advises maintaining self-contained groups if you have the numbers to support them -- meaning the book and the method argue AGAINST, not FOR, the change.

He admits that he is pushing it to deal with other "perceived issues."

If they are truly going to teach, on a differentiated basis, to all kids in each class, it clearly makes for MORE teacher work (more tiers of performance to teach to), not less -- (unless, in a few cases, they really have no intent of teaching to any more levels; they just hope/assume their Spectrum kids will behave well, test well, and serve as good models for other kids -- and that no one will notice whether their individual progress suffers -- how would we ever know?)

If I were a WW Spectrum parent (in ANY grade), I would request a meeting with Mr. Cronas, and ask him to bring Dr. Enfield and maybe a few board members (DeBell and KSB would be my choices here). I would tell them that this decision has a number of huge issues and needs to be reversed.

First, the entire "clustering" model described in the book sounds highly experimental. To impose this on a program, without any input, buy-in, or notice, is objectionable.

Second, even if this were a great plan, proven nation-wide, its use here is flatly contradicted by the author of the method (who advises keeping self-contained accelerated classes, if a school has enough kids to fill them). In addition, the books suggests a year of "lead-in planning, which clearly has not been done here.

If Mr. Cronas tries to claim the year of pre-work HAS been done, then it means that this entire year, including during school tours and open enrollment, they have known that they were making a radical change to their Spectrum program, one they knew would be controversial (see Lawton), and yet they said nothing, they made no announcement prior to open enrollment, when parents could have used it in determining school choices? -- That would be flat out bad faith, or incompetence. (At this point, you might want to remind them about that "restoring trust and confidence with families thing). Frankly, this would be an "Ingraham-esque" situation, where the District would be claiming it had all this information on a major, major change, and couldn't be bothered to let families know before enrollment.

I would insist that Mr. Cronas disclose what the "other issues" driving this decision are? Are they valid? Is this just his personal whim? Does he have a cranky teacher or two who think the whole thing is elitist and needs to stop (in which case, why did they apply for work at a Spectrum school -- there are plenty of others around).

I would demand that this decision be reversed if the "other reasons" are sufficiently bogus. Otherwise, it should at a minimum be postponed at least a year to permit:

a. The extensive preplanning process described by the book;
b. A carefully vetted process that describes how kids will be selected for each group, and how they get moved if the original selection criteria no longer apply;
c. What kind of data the school currently has that it can use to compare with future data (under the new plan) that shows the effect on achievement in both Spectrum and non-Spectrum kids. It should also evaluate whether the change results in fewer children applying to the WW Spectrum program, and whether the APP eligible kids from the neighborhood go to Lowell in increasing numbers.
d. Development of a joint parent-teacher committee to oversee implementation and evaluation and to determine whether, at some point, the "experiment" should end and the school should revert to the old self-contained model.

New To SPS said...

Susan, we are coming from a private school, so we don't have a previous public school to fall back on. Even if we were able to make a change to our school assignment a) our reference school has a waitlist b) we spent a lot of time already preparing our daughter for the transition to Wedgwood, so setting her up for a third school would be a big, big deal, and c) we still do not know exactly what the WW changes are going to be. Everything is still in a very high state of flux.

Ironically, one of the reasons we enrolled her in private school was because we calculated she only had a poor to fair chance of getting into the neighborhood school in kindergarten, the last year of open choice. A neighbor kid was not able to get in the year before until a 5th K class was opened, something they were not going to do in our K year. Since we are so far away from all the other schools, we figured we essentially had no choice at all. We really do love her current private school, but it is getting more difficult to pay for it. So we have been working and thinking and researching and testing and filling out forms and touring since last September, and thought it was all settled, until a week ago.

As a friend of mine said as we started down this path nine months ago - the only thing certain about SPS is change.

So, I will continue to research this, and work with our new school community, and do the best we can with what we have. As I have said, we have every reason to think Wedgwood is an excellent school, even if this is not what we signed up for, and despite the district's last minute major change-ups.

Anonymous said...

(not sure anyone else is left to read this so i may repost later elsewhere)

i keep seeing mention of "watch those spectrum #s drop when clustering is implemented" or "WW doesn't have room to serve the needs of neighborhood kids plus spectrum kids"

in the NE cluster, don't the majority of neighborhood spectrum (or even app) kids stay with their home school, regardless of programs they qualify for/school offers? i'd like to see a matrix of neighborhood/non vs spectrum/non applicants/wait list. i doubt clustering implementation will cause changes in numbers, the same kids will stay at WW (or VR, if it goes that route) b/c the parents are invested in their neighborhood schools, which just happen to have spectrum, for which their kids just happen to qualify.

if these changes are implemented, i doubt we'll see much change in applicant numbers, neighborhood families will still apply, so their kids will be due whatever programs that designation entails, but it will be no vote of confidence for the actual program.

it's like the teachers that get the kudos for having the class with the highest test scores - no it wasn't your going-though-the-motions teaching, it was the highly motivated kids and their parents that happened to be in your class this year. meanwhile the "teacher that is so great, she can handle these challenging kids" doesn't get the kudos w/out the scores.

- VR parent (one of at least 2 posting under the same name!)

Anonymous said...

On the old seattle school website, they used to have maps of where the students came from. If you looked at the VR and WW maps, you could clearly see that more than 1/3 of the school was from out of the reference area.

While there are plenty of VR area students that are spectrum qualified, two years ago, 1/3 of the school was not from the attendance area.

- ne parent

Anonymous said...

i'm not doubting you personally, but that data doesn't seem right for the lower grades where my kids are. i don't see kids coming from say the bryant or laurelhurst area for just spectrum, unless they were already somewhat equidistant from the schools from the start. this is just anecdotal based on our class list addresses from the past few years. it would be interesting to see the make up of grades 1-3 at this point, i have a feeling it's a huge % neighborhood, including the spectrum kids.

- VR parent (one of at least 2 posting under the same name!)

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt you either and since that type of data is no longer on the website, there is no longer a way to check.

However, it is very reasonable that over the last few years as VR has really become a 4 up AND has filled with neighboring students AND already enrolled students get first shot at the spectrum seats AND there have been fewer new spectrum seats each year, that over time, the spectrum seats are filled by neighborhood students and there is simply no room for anyone else, so over time, there are fewer and fewer anyone elses.

That is something that happens now that schools are over crowded by not historically. Historically, there was a lot more flow in and between schools. VR families would go to Bryant and vice versa. No more.

As a 4 up, VR has a shot at maintaining a self contained spectrum. Lawton and WW are 3 ups and they have been dismantled. I imagine that there just isn't room for self contained Spectrum in 3 up schools any longer.

- ne parent

Anonymous said...

I guess I should also note that VR had been a three up for long time. My kids are older and I remember when there were also small class sizes.

VR should be able to maintain self contained spectrum as a four up. However, that is only possible with the addition of portables (done) and the generic over crowding that is now synonymous with the NE. (done)

ne parent

Anonymous said...

An Enrollment projections post by Charlie links to the SPS report that has the data about which VR parent/s are inquiring (I think).

Is it this? Enrollment Trends for Spectrum

What I find very interesting in this report is that Spectrum consistently is showing upward growth (presumably indicating popularity and program sucess) and yet SPS is permitting alterations to the model that will essentially elimate it. Very frustrating.

~katy