Monday, July 18, 2011

Lowell Updates

The following was information sent by Kay Smith-Blum to Lowell parents.  Please note these are considerations only.  Also she still references an "Advanced Learning" taskforce so I'll have to ask her about that as the consensus here is that it is for APP only.

Staff has considered ALL of the following in recommending the move of majority of the cohort (sans the walk zone Lowell students, who will have the option of going to Lincoln if they provide their own transportation - similar to the way we handle matriculation to Hamilton as a choice without transportation for those students graduating Lowell now):
  • the condition of Lincoln, making it “friendlier” for elementary students
  • transportation for those south of ship canal, routes will cross Ballard bridge and Fremont rather than getting stuck on I5 for QA & Mag students
  • library and other resource beef ups, mitigation funds will be used up to create the necessary materials
  • costs of extra staff, the balance of mitigation funds for the Central Region will be used for this, along with other cuts yet to be determined
  • physical challenge of making the move, teachers will be supported by central staff and I am hopeful a coordinated effort will be executed
  • possibility of 5th graders being able to move into middle school, no capacity exists at either HMS or WMS to allow for this solution
  • creating a 3rd pathway, we are just under the “magic” number for a third viable cohort, so this can be part of a long range task force conversation
  • affects to Thurgood Marshall, first through third grade there is plenty of room at TM, 4th and 5th grade, we are assuming some students will provide their own transportation to Lincoln, and if so, TM should not need an extra teacher – if all 4/5 graders go to TM, we could use the computer lab as an extra classroom for 2011 only
  • affects on leaving Lowell without a structured advanced learning program for ALO matriculation, Dr. Vaughan is vetting the idea of creating a truly central region Spectrum at Lowell. Currently the ONLY Spectrum in the region is Muir, which is too far south to truly serve central region students
  • affects on the interactive programs at Lowell with SpEd students, Mr. King and staff will work to create the same interaction between the general ed students and SpEd students going forward
  • Lowell’s viability as a school population going forward, our projections for Central region show the school’s capacity will be needed, and with attractive programs we are hoping that will mitigate some of the overcrowding at schools in the region as well
  • Other locations besides Lincoln that would have capacity to house the cohort for possibly two years if necessary, all other buildings would not have the capacity if a second year was necessary
  • ALO students being allowed to return to their neighborhood schools if they choose, staff will handle each request separately
Thanks to all of you for your advocacy and your support. I am hopeful some of you will volunteer to serve on the Advanced Learning Task Force to be formed in August. Please contact the APP Steering committee chairs to indicate your willingness to serve.


Comments:
  • possibility of 5th graders being able to move into middle school, no capacity exists at either HMS or WMS to allow for this solution.   I don't get this as those APP 5th graders will have to go somewhere.  Maybe she just meant the remaining-at-Lowell students?
  • Spectrum at Lowell?  Which version of Spectrum?  Next thing you know, dogs and cats will be living together.
  • ALO students going back to neighborhood schools if they choose and Enrollment will hand each separately?  Well, good luck with that.  If it isn't a blanket coverage, then you will end up with a lot of unhappy people.  
I have also been told that Mr. King will be principal at both places (with an assistant principal being the feet on the ground at Lincoln).   Is this what Lowell parents are hearing?  It seems odd to me but the district probably doesn't want the cost of another full principal.  

38 comments:

dj said...

Melissa, I assume someone floated as a possible overcrowding solution moving fifth graders early to middle school, which was rejected for (lack of) capacity reasons. That is my read at least.

So there is a "magic number" for a this school? Would she mind sharing that? Where is it? What is it? How did they reach it? Who calculated it? Curious.

dj said...

For a third school. Sorry, my iDevice is being particularly auto-correcty this AM.

Charlie Mas said...

The "magic number" for a third school would be about 250 (minimum) at each site. This is the critical mass deemed necessary to form a viable learning community. The north-end cohort would have to grow to more than 500 before it can be split into a northeast half and a northwest half.

The part of this that made my blood pressure rise was this:

"Currently the ONLY Spectrum in the region is Muir, which is too far south to truly serve central region students"

The District has, for the past two years, rejected a proposal to move the Washington Service Area elementary Spectrum program to Madrona claiming that Muir was a better location because it was closer to where the students live. It is extremely frustrating to read a contradiction of that earlier claim. Pick a story and stick to it.

Charlie Mas said...

I am happy to see that they are considering the impact on Lowell and Thurgood Marshall. Well, at least they are keeping them on the list.

dj said...

Charlie, where does that number come from? I am not suggesting it sounds unreasonable, but I have not seen it written down anywhere or explained. If there is a document out there that explains what an advanced learning cohort requires in terms of numbers, I'd love to read it.

Anonymous said...

As for the minimum number for a third site, it would be interesting if they could survey the parents of children who qualify for APP in the northend, but whom haven't enrolled their students. My sense is that there are a lot of parents not willing to deal with transportation down to Lowell, but would enroll their student(s) in an APP program closer to home. That may be especially true with some of the spectrum programs changing from self-contained to integrated. I know that I'll be watching closely to see where a program ends up, but there hasn't been any survey done of us non-enrolled but qualified families.
- signed, Just a thought

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just a thought, you are being way too logical (but you are right :)

Anonymous said...

Let's be honest, there is no Central Area Spectrum right now. Muir? Sorry, it's not in the Central Area at all. It's South of Franklin HS in Mt Baker/Rainier Valley.

After languishing at Leschi where the principals hated it, Spectrum waived bye-bye to the Central Area when they moved it to Muir. If it's working at Muir, why not leave it there and start a new Spectrum at Lowell? I think it would draw plenty of families from the actual Central Area and be a great fit for the existing cohort.

Kay gets another vote for intelligence and reasonableness in my mind. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Melissa -

The Lowell PTA created a FAQ:

http://lowelles.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=236159

On it is says this about Mr King:

"Gregory King will oversee both schools as principal. Marella Francois and Rina Geoghagan will provide additional leadership at Lincoln."

Lowell families have not had any additional explanations regarding Marella Francois.

My favorite part of the FAQ is what the APP kids are supposed to call themselves - Lowell APP @ Lincoln. What kind of name is that? It's pretty awful.

A Surprised Lincoln Parent

Anonymous said...

"possibility of 5th graders being able to move into middle school, no capacity exists at either HMS or WMS to allow for this solution. I don't get this as those APP 5th graders will have to go somewhere. Maybe she just meant the remaining-at-Lowell students?"

There was a parent who was trying to get the district to leave APP at Lowell, but move the rising 5th graders into middle school instead of keeping them at Lowell. Aside from all the issues with that idea, removing the 5th graders would not have gotten Lowell's population down enough to solve the overcrowding problem. And, as we all know, Hamilton cannot deal with extra kids. Who knows where the 5th graders will go once they really need to go to middle school?

A Surprised Lincoln Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh, thanks for the clarification on the 5th graders. I thought she meant when they moved on to middle school.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not exactly sure where the 250 number came from, but it has been used in the past. It may be derived from the number required for two classes at each grade. That creates the opportunity for new classmates from years to year and the opportunity to get away from old classmates from year to year.

I know that new students are identified at each grade level each year so the upper grades can have more than two classes even as the lower grades may only have one. The number still applies.

Anonymous said...

It seems odd to me but the district probably doesn't want the cost of another full principal.

...but as another parent mentions, they are paying for an additional administrator - Marella Francois.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in following up on this Advanced Learning taskforce, most especially if it encompasses all of the advanced learning in this district. Who should we contact about this? Kay Smith-Blum?

New to SPS

Anonymous said...

Just a Thought, I completely agree. I'm very curious--but can't seem to track down--even the number and location of the kids who fit into this category (APP-qulified but not enrolled.) Anyone here have it? It seems like a fairly critical piece of information to analyze before the district can really do any effective longterm planning. One needn't look any farther than the incoming APP 6th grade class at HIMS to know there are a significant number of these students. But, yes Melissa, you are correct, actually looking at the data would be way too logical for this district :)
--holding out hope

Mercermom said...

It seems to me that one of the obvious reasons for the recent expansion of APP is that more schools adopted ALO, and more kids are thus able to maintain their APP eligibility by staying at their elementary school and participating in ALO. Many parents think elementary is okay for their APP child, even if they feel compelled to provide supplementary challenge. When the child enters 6th grade and is changing schools anyway, it's a natural time to transition into APP.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"It seems to me that one of the obvious reasons for the recent expansion of APP is that more schools adopted ALO, and more kids are thus able to maintain their APP eligibility by staying at their elementary school and participating in ALO"

Really? More schools have ALOs? I'd like to see the data on that as I think it's pretty stagnant. Where did you see the data that more elementary schools have ALOs?

Mercermom said...

I don't have a list of historical versus current. But even in the Central Cluster, Stevens and Montlake are now identified as schools that supposedly offer ALO, which was not the case a couple of years ago.

trust, yet verify said...

I understand that all elementary schools are supposed to become ALO sites.

According to this source, there are 29 elementary ALO sites so far.

verified said...

In addition to the 29 ALO schools, kids in a spectrum program who are APP eligible maintain eligibility as well.

That's 12 more schools. So How many elementary schools do we have in total? Under 50, right? So kids in 41 of them can maintain their APP eligibility until 6th grade.

by any other name said...

These ALO programs don't have to be any good. All you need is the designation. Sort of like calling 11th grade Language Arts AP LA. Doesn't actually have to be advanced, or college level or whatever, just have to have the name in the course catalog.

-does a rose smell so sweet?

Anonymous said...

Just curious, where did the linked document originate? It already has Lowell APP designated as Lowell@Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

re: the 5th grade bullet point, in the late 80's, APP (then called IPP) 5th graders were at Washington with the rest of middle school IPP, not sure at what point they were routed back to elementary school.

- Diane

none1111 said...

In the district link posted by Trust Yet Verify, above, they need to remove Wedgwood from the list of Spectrum schools. What they are delivering there is no longer Spectrum. I suspect Lawton as well, but I don't know the details.

Also, to go along with what By Any Other Name said, just because a school has an ALO designation, doesn't mean there are actually advanced learning opportunities in the building. If the district can get away with calling differentiated blended classrooms "Spectrum", that bodes very poorly for ALO classrooms.

Jan said...

Charlie said: The District has, for the past two years, rejected a proposal to move the Washington Service Area elementary Spectrum program to Madrona claiming that Muir was a better location because it was closer to where the students live. It is extremely frustrating to read a contradiction of that earlier claim. Pick a story and stick to it.

Charlie -- remember, this is Kay speaking -- not the District. I don't recall that Kay has ever ever voted for central Spectrum to only be available at Muir, or supported the fiction that the central area had accessible Spectrum, when it was only at Muir. Like everyone else, she has been busy running around pouring water on the flames of overcrowding at GHS (and elsewhere), the new need to open schools, Pottergat, the departure of MGJ/Kennedy, the MLK sale fiasco, etc. to have ever raised the issue -- but Kay is no idiot. I think she is just speaking the truth that MGJ wouldn't (and her minions dared not) -- in pointing out what we are knew was true -- that Muir Spectrum was a horrible, policy-defying placement decision. You can't REALLY want her to stick to that dreadful falsehood, can you?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter what actually happens in the classroom. Remember, this is an APP update thread. The only aspect of the ALO or Spectrum designation for elementary schools that is relevant is that almost all elementary schools are now designated as ALOs or spectrum. So as long as an APP eligible student is happy there, they can continue with their elementary school education and then get a guaranteed seat at either Washington or Hamilton. Recall, last year, the 6th grade APP class was 30% of kids who had not been in elementary APP. (172 6th graders vs 120 5th graders the year before). Next year I believe it's even close to 50%. Last year, there was even a 14% increase in the 8th grade cohort (177 8th graders vs 155 7th graders the year before). As far as I can tell, unprecedented.

That was Mercermom's point.

How long before there are so many APP kids that there is really no need to ship them all to Garfield? Certainly two or three high schools could be designated as-extra special super-duper AP-in-more-than-name-only sites for such a large population of APP kids. Maybe even four.

-Where all the kids are above average.

Charlie Mas said...

School District policy requires the superintendent to make an annual report to the Board in which she provides a list of all of the program placement decisions and the rationale for those decisions including a description of how each decision rates on the program placement criteria.

Director Smith-Blum's responsibility in all of this would be to demand that report and to question the rationale of the decisions which are not consistent with the criteria that are supposed to determine program placement decisions.

I recognize that the Board has had a lot on their plate this spring, however there is a set time to consider each item and during that time they should focus on the item before them.

dj said...

Just to be clear, Spectrum didn't move from Leschi to Muir. Muir was redrawn as a central cluster school and had an existing Spectrum program. I don't claim personal familiarity with it, but I know several families who have kids there; they are all from the cluster Muir previously was drawn into, and they are all happy with the Muir spectrum program. I wonder if it would make more sense to just leave a successful program there and have a second site at Lowell or Madrona. Is there an actual rule that there cannot be more than one Spectrum program per cluster?

Anonymous said...

There are several arguments for a single site of APP at each grade level, one of them is consistency. Also, don't underestimate building staffing and leadership.

SSD is making a mistake in "growing" APP. It is a political parlor trick that will leave outlying students in the cold, in an effort to appease the masses.

The growing numbers of eligible, and entering, APP students are part of the SPS plan to provide APP all over the city. News flash is, that will not be the same product as single, or even double site APP.

Now is the time to make noise about this. Move the cut off up to 99% and solve the capacity issue once and for all.

Changing the cutoff from an IQ of 140 to 130 makes five times as many students in the district APP eligible, moves the needle from 180students to 1068 students. The same ratio holds true as you move up and down the scale. Pick the point that fits the space.

not rocket science

Melissa Westbrook said...

DJ, in the old days, it was two Spectrum programs per cluster (at least one but sometimes two).

Charlie Mas said...

As dj wrote, Muir was the designated Spectrum site for the South Cluster. All of the other schools in the South Cluster are now in the Mercer Service Area. Muir, alone, is in the Washington Service Area.

Muir is nowhere near the center of the service area. The Muir attendance area dangles at the south end of the Washington service area like a uvula. It is a poor choice for location of Spectrum program to serve the whole Washington Service Area, but when it was chosen over Madrona (an alternative proposed location), the rationale - incredibly - was that the program should be placed close to where the students live. Yeah. How about that?

Meanwhile, the Mercer Service Area was left without a Spectrum site. The District chose Hawthorne (over Kimball) saying, incredibly again, that the Hawthorne site, despite being less central to the service area, was closer to where the students live.

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

Anonymous (who had great points, but didn't sign his/her comment, which will likely lead to its deletion) said:

I doubt the district wants to mess with admission criteria...

There are several compounding issues:

- Neighborhood schools are overcrowded with no guarantee of a Spectrum spot

- Spectrum is not even Spectrum even more

- There is no easy way for students to "exit" APP if it is not the right fit for them

- There aren't tracked classes in each middle school to allow for true honors level classes

- The District seems so dead set against tracking that APP is becoming the only option for many families

So the students that would be happy in their neighborhood school (with honors or Spectrum) are forced to choose APP and the students for whom APP is the only choice are not being well served. The outliers are becoming outliers in their own program."

[End of Anonymous's post]

These are all really good points. When there was a "workable" Spectrum solution for many, if not all, kids -- APP also worked much better, as it tended to separate the high end gifted kids from the middle/lower end ones (I have had one of each -- and in my case, there were noticable differences in learning styles and educational needs). With the district worker bees busy dismantling self-contained Spectrum (which in my opinion really means, dismantling any effective Spectrum program) as fast as they can, it is obviously having a destabilizing effect on APP numbers. As Anonymous points out, it may also affect the quality of the education for the highest end kids, who become more "isolated" from the median or average range of kids in their classes. Given that that high end is probably the hardest part of the program to serve (and they have the fewest other options), that is not a good thing.\

Any joint effort by APP supporters and Spectrum supporters has always seemed ungainly and not terribly effective. It may be that the time has finally come when the two groups will have to work together to try to save self-contained Spectrum -- which will in turn help to "save" APP.

Jan said...

Charlie said:

School District policy requires the superintendent to make an annual report to the Board in which she provides a list of all of the program placement decisions and the rationale for those decisions including a description of how each decision rates on the program placement criteria. Director Smith-Blum's responsibility in all of this would be to demand that report and to question the rationale of the decisions which are not consistent with the criteria that are supposed to determine program placement decisions. I recognize that the Board has had a lot on their plate this spring, however there is a set time to consider each item and during that time they should focus on the item before them.

Ok, Charlie -- I am intrigued (and agree with your entire post). My understanding is that this report has either never been delivered or has not been delivered for at least the last few years (since before the last round of closures and NSAP, which moved around all kinds of stuff). Is that right? Is there a specific month, time, etc. when it is due, or is it up to the Board to set a time each year?

If Kay thought (and I suspect she does) that the Spectrum placements for Central (at Muir) and South (at Hawthorne) were unjustifiable (if not outright bogus), how does she change that? She can raise it at the meeting, but there isn't eally an action item there, is there? What does any one director (or two, if Betty is up for the fight) do?

Does the Board get to initially approve program placement decisions? If so, is that really their only bite at the apple?

Charlie Mas said...

Jan,

In 2009 and in 2010 the superintendent did make these reports to the Board and the reports were delivered at Board meetings. In one of the years it was folded into the New Student Assignment Plan. This year it was delivered in a Friday update email. I'm not sure that even counts.

The report is due in advance of Open Enrollment since it can influence school choice decisions.

Director Smith-Blum couldn't directly change the Program Placement decision - these decisions are delegated to the superintendent - but she could peform oversight. It would take the form of asking how the program placement decision fulfilled the criteria set in the policy. When the superintendent claimed that Muir was closer to where the students lived than Madrona, as was the claim last year, Director Smith-Blum could have asked to see the data that supported thaat conclusion.

It simply is not credible that the superintendent could have provided data that would support the claim.

At that point, Director Smith-Blum could ask the superintendent to either provide other rationale for the decision or to make another decision.

There is no action item; the report usually comes in the Superintendent's update. If the Board does not raise concerns at that time, they get no other opportunity.

Charlie Mas said...

Needless to say, since the superintendent never made the report at a Board meeting and never offerred any rationale for her decisions - valid or otherwise - the Board never got any oppoortunity to question the decisions at all. The Board was robbed of its opportunity to exercise oversight.

The Program Placement decisions were never reviewed in any of the Board committees.

dj said...

In fairness, Muir is well-located for the students who currently attend Muir. Not so much for the central cluster generally. Maybe that is what they meant (if I am being charitable). I am betting central could fill a second site; I doubt many up here are sending their kids that far south.

I think it is reasonable to speculate about why APP is growing, but there is no substitute for the district, or the AL staff, actually providing data.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this supposed to be a Lowell update, not yet another discussion about Spectrum?

-disappointed with this thread