Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cluster Grouping (Now I Get How This Works)

I'm going to the talk tomorrow night at Hale by Dina Brulles that is being presented by Wedgwood Elementary.  I think it going to be very interesting. 

I've been doing my research in preparation for the talk and found out some information that I think helps me understand the issue.

First, I note that this is what the principal at Wedgwood says about the presentation:

In response to our concerns about the equity involved in testing for advanced learning opportunities and what we have witnessed in the abilities of students enrolled in different programs at Eckstein, we have looked for better ways of meeting the needs of all kids in a heterogeneous setting. 

Huh?  I have no idea what he means by "what we have witnessed in the abilities of students enrolled in different programs at Eckstein" but I'm thinking he means the Spectrum classes look different.  I would think they would be given the level they are supposed to be taught at but maybe that was a surprise to the Wedgwood staff visiting.  

I would love to know how much Wedgwood is paying for her services because she clearly gets paid for her consulting (from looking at her website).   I'm pretty sure the district isn't paying for this but it doesn't hurt to ask.  I'd also like to know how her school district works around her consulting schedule.

My headline here is somewhat incomplete.  I do understand how cluster grouping works but reading her district's website, the picture becomes more clear.

I'm not going to tip my hand here but her district is not all about cluster grouping.  They very clearly have several methods for gifted programming depending on grade level.  They also very clearly have supports and structures in place that our district is nowhere near.  (They also use a pull-out method that the district used years ago in some Spectrum schools and guess what?  It got dumped because no one liked it.)

So whew!  I don't think that means the end of Spectrum as we know it unless our district has a really fabulous plan of overhauling our teaching structure, adding more administrative jobs and, of course, finding the money to do it all. 

So the district can divide Spectrum students up among classrooms but without the kind of system that is in place in Dr. Brulles' district, I don't see how the district can go to cluster grouping to replace the current Spectrum system.   Not if they really want to have a program that serves gifted students. 

43 comments:

dan dempsey said...

we have looked for better ways of meeting the needs of all kids in a heterogeneous setting.

So is only a heterogeneous setting being considered?

NLM said...

what we have witnessed in the abilities of students enrolled in different programs at Eckstein

I think they probably found less difference than they expected to find between gen ed and Spectrum students and, as a result, have difficulty explaining or justifying the program's exclusivity but I want to learn more about this too.

TraceyS said...

Chris Cronas was the assistant principal at Eckstein before he was assigned as interim principal, then principal at Wedgwood. That may help clarify his Eckstein comment.

To answer Dan: his summer presentation only considered a fully heterogeneous setting - all Spectrum kids evenly distributed among all classrooms. This varies significantly from what is outlined in the Brulles/Winebrunner book. It will be interesting to see if this plan has changed.

At the summer presentation, Chris and several teachers spoke quite a bit about the variation in math/literacy levels - that some gen ed kids could do more advanced work in either math or reading, or they were not tested into the program. They also talked about how, especially in the Reader/Writer workshop program, the Spectrum-identified kids were not necessarily as far ahead as they are in math. The presentation did not discuss science or social studies much, or present data on these subjects, other than to say all kids will get the same curriculum on those topics.

The solution offered was focused on rearranging the Spectrum kids to be equitably (read: evenly) distributed in every classroom and eventually in every grade. The plan was to move to Readers/Writer's workshop for all students, and to do walk to math, where district-identified Spectrum kids worked one year ahead. He did not address what would happen if there were too many or too few kids in a walk to math section. As I stated above, all kids would receive the same science and social studies curriculum. He did not discuss the issue of cohesion or critical mass, so it is not clear how or if that will be preserved.

Keep in mind that the post-open-enrollment summer presentation was the first official notice to parents of the change from self-contained classes to this heterogeneous setting. The presentation by Dr. Brulles is the first followup to the summer meetings as well. As far as I know, there has been no other official communication on the changes to Spectrum, and no parent input was solicited prior to making these changes.

Anonymous said...

Did Eckstein move to cluser grouping?
-just curious

mirmac1 said...

I would point out that, what is it, 92nd percentile(?) is not gifted. And I'm sure there are students in GenEd who easily meet that criteria in any given subject. And there are students in SpecEd who meet it too.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting to me is that because one school had issues with how their school ran Spectrum and how their school's Spectrum program changed from which it was pitched 7 years ago,this large change has cascaded down through the disctrict. The issue was never that the self-contained Spectrum model was bad. It was that the families coming in years ago were told that it was an inclusion school that supported special ed kids and all kids to be in a classroom together and that those who needed extra help or advanced help would get it. It was clearly discussed that there were other schools that did have the self-contained model but this was not that of school. Must have been a contentious topic prior to all of this.
-No longer there but still perplexed by it all

Anonymous said...

I can understand why the district wants to get rid of spectrum. It is a pain for teachers and administrators. The district should just come clean and say so and end the confusion. Then work on raising the quality of the Gen Ed program. Ramp it up in terms of quality and rigor and help the kids who are struggling via cluster grouping instead.

-tired of going around in circle

Anonymous said...

funny, creating a heterogeneous setting by adding spec ed students spread among classrooms via ICS happened without budget increases, staffing increases, or training of teachers. Nobody other than parents whose kids were completely ill-served by this program kicked up a fuss about the lack of planning and support. Now suddenly it occurs to others that cluster grouping--including all abilities in a sinlge class--might need planning and support to be a success....

-getaclue

MAPsucks said...

I would go along with cluster grouping, but ONLY if the clusters remain fluid and placement based on classroom observation and tests. SPS uses a notoriously unreliable tool to "cluster" your child. MAP subscores can vary widely over the course of one year. A child can be placed in one cluster in the Fall, only to score into a different cluster in the Winter. Will this child's placement change?

Here is an interesting analysis prepared by my friend JoanNE. It shows that by the 8th grade last year nearly 16% of enrolled students were "gifted" or at least tested so. Man, all this time I've been a frickin' genius without anyone realizing it!

watcher said...

just curious,

Did Eckstein move to cluser grouping?

Interestingly, Eckstein tried to move away from self-contained Spectrum a couple years ago. Guess who was on staff there at the time? Chris Cronas. Guess who stepped in and shut down that change? Susan Enfield.

So while one might say he didn't learn his lesson, it looks like he may get away with it this time. Why is Dr. Enfield not paying attention this time? I have no idea, perhaps it should be escalated by many parents to her attention in case she's just doing too many things now to notice. Along with a reminder that she killed the same kind of change at Eckstein just 2 or 3 years ago.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"funny, creating a heterogeneous setting by adding spec ed students spread among classrooms via ICS happened without budget increases, staffing increases, or training of teachers."

Bullseye! Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

The question is always - how to do it right.

Charlie Mas said...

Seattle Public Schools decisions are driven by politics and personalities, not by policy or procedure. You need to focus on the people.

Susan Enfield is not a friend of advanced learning programs. Don't rely on her for support. Nor will she require the schools to deliver the model they sold at Open Enrollment. She doesn't care that much about honest dealings with the community.

Same for Cathy Thompson - not a friend and doesn't care about honest dealings.

Forget your Board Director, Harium Martin-Morris. He isn't interested in your problems, couldn't do anything about them, and wouldn't do anything about them even if he could.

Your three best chances are:

1) The Executive Director of Schools in the northeast, Phil Brockman. While I can't say that he is a friend to the programs, I honestly believe that he cares about fair dealing with families. He will probably respond well to the idea that people should get the program that they were told they would get.

2) Replace Martin-Morris with Buetow.

3) Pay attention to the long-promised Advanced Learning Task Force or Advisory Committee or Steering Committee or Whatever. I keep hearing noises that, at long last, the District may actually convene this body. They have yet to take the first step and write a charge for the group, but everyone seems to think it's really going to happen some time soon.

anne said...

I agree with some of the issues with why Spectrum, and for that matter APP, doesn't always work.

Having to test into these programs in both reading and math, and having a hard cut-off that excludes kids that are on the edge based on a single test doesn't serve a lot of kids.

My kids was a case in point. He was very strong in math/science, but not as strong in reading. So he tested into Spectrum. In middle school he tested into advanced math (2 years ahead), but because he was in Spectrum, and Spectrum doesn't pull out for Science, he was in Gen Ed. Science and bored to the point where we pulled him out and homeschooled in Science. I talked to the principal, but he was so rigid in the rules that he wouldn't even consider letting my son into APP science even though he had been going to the Robinson Center for the past two summers and successfully taking Physics classes.

I would vote for self-selected honors courses in middle school. Anyone can take an honors class and as long as they get the grade they can continue in that subject in honors the next year. Why wouldn't that work?

In elementary school it's a little more difficult because there are not separate classes, but I would argue that APP is there to support the really needy kids, and the others could be served by differentiation and some pull-out instruction. Why not have teachers in a given grade share students for teaching math or reading? One teacher teaches to the kids that are struggling and the other teachers to the ones that could use more challenge. At any time a kids can be moved back and forth between the classes.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
The statement should just be left standing. Don't add anymore to it and no questions about doing it right. That's accountability and leads to nebulous dark hole and the equivalent of the 9/9/9/, 6/6/6, and 20/20/20 plans.

circling the drain

watcher said...

Not sure if I'll be able to attend the event, but for those who will be attending the Brulles talk, here are a couple questions:

1) What are the least expensive classroom models to deliver a quality education to a wide range of learners. Hint: the answer, according to Dr. Kim Lansdowne (Dine Brulles business partner) is self-contained and cluster grouping. Not equal distribution. Note that she mentioned self-contained, even though it is not their claim to fame.

2) Isn't one of the main goals of cluster grouping to reduce the range of learners in a given classroom? Cronas' "blend 'em all up" model may look "fair" to the teachers, but it literally minimizes the chances of our children getting the best education possible in a given school with a given set of teachers.

3) What are the chances that a model like the one Cronas foisted on this community will work? Hint: again, according to Kim Lansdowne, if you implement something halfway, without training up on the methods and doing it properly, you might as well do nothing at all. This was very close to a direct quote from Kim, so I would ask this and then hone in on what specifically needs to take place in order to not be a failure. My guess is that the clusters must absolutely be defined and distributed as described in the Cluster Grouping Handbook, which is NOT happening.

4) If you have the numbers in a given school to support self-contained gifted classes, isn't this the preferred model? This seemed to be more or less implied in the Handbook, but I didn't find it explicitly stated. I didn't read every last word though, so if someone could point to a specific reference in the Handbook to that effect I think it could be the dominating topic at this event.

5) Optional question for Chris: Are you proud of the fact that you've pushed out several of your highest achievers? Yes, some families (a handful that I know of personally, very likely more) who were previously happy with the education their children were getting at Wedgwood plan to leave for APP. Does Chris feel that this is helpful to the Wedgwood community? Did he consider this when he made the change?

Anonymous said...

miramac1. The NAGC disagrees with you and definitions of gifted from many different sources describe gifted children as w/in the top 10%. That is not a unusual standard What is Gifted?

In other threads, posters have hit the nail on the head: you can't have NSAP guaranteeing seats and ICS guaranteeing inclusion and still guarantee spots for Spectrum students. It doesn't work. Not enough space, something has to give (esp. in schools w/ high number of Spectrum students) Spectrum is the casualty. For schools w/ large Spectrum cohorts, and few classes per grade level (in the case of Lawton fx, having only 2 5th grade classes, but over 20 Spectrum kids in that grade) having to keep the Spectrum group intact makes classroom placement difficult in terms of dividing up the "time intensive students" (and there are those kids in BOTH the Spectrum group and in gen. ed.) and doing right by the Special Ed students. I understand why the staff want to have that flexibility, but I believe it is absolutely at the expense of delivering advanced learning to students who need it.

It does seem like advanced learners will be underserved and I have had staff members say to me 'they'll be OK' (either b/c they are eager learners or supplemented at home or…) But as NACG and Winebrenner/ Brulles say…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.

The devil is in the details. Cluster grouping done properly, per the handbooks guidelines (w/ exacting differentiation, learning plans, project planners, correspondence with parents, learning contracts, extension options, daily logs, and assessment to name a few) could work wonderfully. BUT, there are no resources to roll it out and provide PD and support, some staff may be resistant, and there's no evaluation or enforceability to confirm that these steps are being followed and that criteria being met. So I fear we'll end up just saying we "cluster group" and only do so to the extent you break up the Spectrum cohort, but lacking all the other key elements to making this successful; key elements inherent to what cluster grouping really is. Cluster grouping isn't just dividing up the advanced learners among the different classrooms. It's way more.

Susan Winebrenner's Cluster Grouping Model, powerpoint

-spectrum parent

Anonymous said...

"Highest achievers, most gifted,.." Those terms really disturb me..This whole APP, Spectrum thing seems to elitist to me to even belong in a public school system, even more so in elementary school and self-contained. I'm from Europe, where I think we have really great public shools, and I've never heard of such things.. STOP waisting our public money on this intelectual segregation, put your super smart kid with the rest of our average kids, and I'm sure all the kids will benefit from it..

-BesteducationforALL

dan dempsey said...

"Bullseye! Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!"

Stack 'em Deep

Teach 'em Cheap

emeraldkity said...

I would vote for self-selected honors courses in middle school. Anyone can take an honors class and as long as they get the grade they can continue in that subject in honors the next year. Why wouldn't that work?

At Summit they had LA/SS taught as a block in middle school ( 6th grade was part of elementary) and had honors assignments within the class( well actually outside)

Science was opposite of honors & even though Summit had several strong science teachers at high school level, they used Science kits in middle school- which seemed to be dumbed down.

However, for electives- 7th & 8th grades had access to high school elective courses like Art/Drama/foreign language which worked well for many kids.

In the elementary school many classrooms were looped- more than one grade, which is more challenging to teach, but IMO more relevant than just teaching to the middle.

Re: best education for all- more people may pay attention to your point, if you paid more attention to spelling.

dan dempsey said...

"Seattle Public Schools decisions are driven by politics and personalities, not by policy or procedure." and NOT by the intelligent application of relevant data.

Oh how I long to hear ... "Just the Facts, Just the Facts."

Somewhere other than coming out of Jack Webb's mouth in old Dragnet reruns.

==========================
It is really clear how far off the mark the leadership of this District has wandered. --- Policies & Evidence are rarely used.

Some Policies were changed in the last four years to be less effective.

Anonymous said...

@ EmeraldkKity,
You are right, I should have pay more attention to my spelling..But when English is not your first language, writting it is little bit harder..Mea Culpa!

-BesteducationforALL

dan dempsey said...

The Executive Director of Schools in the northeast, Phil Brockman. While I can't say that he is a friend to the programs, I honestly believe that he cares about fair dealing with families. He will probably respond well to the idea that people should get the program that they were told they would get.

OK, Phil has my vote for next Superintendent.

People should get the program that they were told they would get .... winner ... winner.

SeattleSped said...

"funny, creating a heterogeneous setting by adding spec ed students spread among classrooms via ICS happened without budget increases, staffing increases, or training of teachers."

Bzzzt, wrong. The bungled ICS rollout was subsidized by millions in stimulus dollars and 42 additional aide positions. All gone now. As for nobody complaining but families in ICS? Uh uh. Many SpEd families were upset with the attempted dissolution of best practice inclusion programs and the resulting loss in expertise among educators. And yeah, no training to speak of. ICS was another MGJ edict and Marni Campbell was her faithful steward.

Anonymous said...

Advanced Learning seems rudderless right now. It can't decide what it wants to be.

What I keep asking myself as a parent is: When is the focus of this district going to be meeting the academic needs of students? Period.

As a side note: For those opting for APP at Hamilton middle school, rather than your neighborhood Spectrum, be warned. Overall there are some great teachers at Hamilton, but there are issues with multiple APP classrooms at this time.

-don't have the answers

Anonymous said...

Better APP than neighborhood spectrum on life support. As to your question, ask the teachers and administrators and listen and watch what they do AND don't do.

circling the drain

Maureen said...

MAPSucks, thanks to you and JoanNE for the link to the Advanced Learning Enrollment numbers from April 2011. As you point out, over 15% of SPS 8th graders are enrolled in Advanced Learning. Given that a significant number of eligible students don't enroll (are those numbers available?) and another set are never tested, it seems likely that upwards of 20% of SPS students can call themselves gifted. That has to be a huge problem given that the NSAP requires all of those kids to be guaranteed a seat at their neighborhood school. It must make it really difficult to balance capacity.

dan dempsey said...

STOP waisting our public money on this intelectual segregation, put your super smart kid with the rest of our average kids, and I'm sure all the kids will benefit from it..

Put your super smart kid with the rest of our average kids, and I'm sure all the kids will benefit from it.. {{data please - the facts}}

Can this be effective in classroom situations on a large scale? Is there a demonstration site on a small scale? What can be found in Hattie's Visible Learning that could be applied --- effect sizes?

Depending on your definition of "Your Super Smart Kid".... I never had a 98+ percentile student among my four sons.... but there are very good reasons for some of the extremely strong gifted magnet schools... they do out perform the heterogeneous programs described in accelerating the content learned by highly gifted performers.

20 years ago ... I was involved in the development of an innovative middle school program. This was one of three houses of about 250 students each in a new middle school. We were the only house using the following approach.

Cross-graded 7th and 8th graders, 97 minute periods, alternating day schedule, 62 students per classroom, 2 teachers and one very talented instructional assistant, remedial interventions in the afternoon for struggling students.

Each class began with a full group activity in which every student was involved ... from special ed 7th graders thru 8th grade algebra.

Later there was a split into top half and lower half instruction with a room divider in between. The assistant and one teacher were with the lower half. Subgroups were some times used in both halves.

Regrouping of the halves was done every four weeks based on student performance indicators for the coming month's material.

Our Top Students performed well... like Top students do. For Algebra students ....We covered less Algebra material than other classes in the District but the improvement shown by our algebra students and overall performance was among the best in the district.

Great fun was had by nearly all. Students in every stanine showed percentile improvement on year to year annual tests.

YUP-- I could say that all the kids benefited.

Did the 98+ percentile kid learn as much math as if placed in an accelerated group of like high performers ... NO.

Our program was very successful and had much better results than math programs in the other two houses. The use of traditional practices and methods was not very successful in Teaching math on an alternating day schedule.

Team Dan & Dan left after one year. Despite our success we were not well supported by our principal. Just this fall Komachin middle school switched the schedule and math and science are no longer taught using 97 minute periods on an alternating day schedule. The reason for the change ... to raise test scores ... yet no data was actually applied in the making of this decision. Just like most of what goes on in education decision-making.
=====
Check this out for grades 11 and 12 in North Carolina.

======

It would be wonderful if every child had the educational opportunity to maximize their abilities and talents with the best learning situation possible for them.... Do NOT be looking for that to happen anytime soon... especially in WA state and Seattle.

Reality could be a lot closer to the ideal.

Please no more mission statements.

dan dempsey said...

"When is the focus of this district going to be meeting the academic needs of students? Period.

Likely never ... from the current crew directing the "USS One size fits all".

Just a bit more training on differentiated instruction to meet the needs of groups of students composed of many who have been socially promoted. The district provided few if any effective interventions.

You need to watch the 10-19-11 Board presentation by Mark Teoh.... note the achievement gaps ... especially what is happening to Native American students. Check out the comments by Harium and DeBell.

Note the TFA application claims a careful review of all options to close the achievement gaps took place.

Hard to focus on meeting the academic needs of all students, while lying about what has occurred.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is a 6th grade Spectrum student at Eckstein, previously at Wedgwood. After math testing at the beginning of the year, she was moved into 8th grade math, after her math teacher consulted with me. She is still in 6th grade honors (Spectrum) for language arts and social studies. Other students were also moved up a level in math.

It has worked out very well for her. I was planning on testing her for APP, but this experience changed my mind. As long as Eckstein is challenging her, we prefer to stay in our reference school. I was skeptical about walk-to-math working at Wedgwood, but after our experience at Eckstein I can see how it would work.

Wedgwood & Eckstein Parent

Anonymous said...

What Eckstein found was that many kids in their general ed classes were equally as capable as the spectrum students. Often they were more capable. Several years ago my child had at least 4 APP qualified kids in her general ed block classes. 2 of whom were on the spectrum waitlist & 2 of whom did not ask for spectrum based on experience with older sibs. There were also other kids who were advanced in that class & the teacher complained that the spectrum class he taught couldn't keep up with them.

I think that Ecsktein was caught between populations of families coming from spectrum schools of Wedgwood & View Ridge who took the self-contained model very seriously & populations of families from Bryant & Laurelhurst who were used to integrated classrooms, so didn't care about Spectrum.

I attended a meeting with Chris Cronas & the Eckstein principal where it was discussed. Eckstein had added a full year science in the schedule for all grades but had cut PE to do it. At that time they were being required by the district to put PE back in the schedule. It seemed impossible to do & still have electives.

The principal was newly come from Ballard high school. She said, ‘we don't have self-contained in high school, why do we have it here? It sure makes scheduling so much harder & fewer kids are getting the classes they want’. Several teachers said that they had so many gifted students in their general ed classes that they had to use the same curriculum anyway. A few Bryant Spectrum & APP qualified parents at the meeting spoke up & said they didn't care about self-contained, they never had it in elementary school & wouldn't have it at Roosevelt. No one spoke in favor of self-contained. Eckstein did try to get rid of spectrum in favor of some kind of honors designation in general ed classes, but many spectrum parents were very upset & went to the district for support, which forced Eckstein to continue the spectrum model.

One change that went through at that time was the discontinuation of honors math. Again to make scheduling easier. Kids are moved freely using multiple measures then mixed by age into their correct level of math class. Seems to be working ok. Better than the Eckstein spectrum program at meeting needs of individual kids.

-eckstein parent

Anonymous said...

That's terrific W & E parent! Devil is in the details indeed, so watch for it. The only caveat, it is tougher to move kids around skipping 2 grade levels for math and/or LAs in ES because they don't operate in block periods. Also, you will have honest teachers who will tell you that they cannot offer beyond the 1 year ahead for your child (and to a couple of others) and will recommend APP. We listened and appreciated the honesty. Much will depend on your admin and staff as to how much leeway they will allow in individual schools to meet your kids' needs.

circling

Anonymous said...

I don't thing we should be so obsessed with what percentile we are talking about....say top 2% vs. top 10%. What matters is the distribution. How much ahead are the top segment from grade level.

So if the top 2% are only 6 months ahead of grade level, that's not a very meaningful difference. If the top 10% are three grade levels ahead of the standards, then by god, 10% of the kids do merit the designation of gifted.

I really like the idea of self-selection: if you can and are willing to do the work, join the class. If you can't keep up, you belong in a different class. Kids who test well may not have a drive to learn, where as kids who don't quite test in may thrive in an advanced class.

Finally, until I see better evidence that differentiation actually is practiced and that it works, I will classify it as a fantasy, not a strategy.

SPS mom

SeattleSped said...

I agree that differentiation is still a fantasy, like MTSS (Multi-tiered System of Supports), or RTI Response to Intervention. It takes time, training and resources to do these things - and has not appeared to be much of a priority (unlike certain other "strategies").

dan dempsey said...

Priceless.....

Until I see better evidence that differentiation actually is practiced and that it works, I will classify it as a fantasy, not a strategy.

John Hattie in Visible Learning provides learning effect sizes for most every intervention imaginable .... but has NOTHING for "differentiated instruction" .... it is a Fantasy ....

Unfortunately the SPS makes Differentiation a cornerstone of its approach.

So the achievement gaps remain virtually constant ... and the Big Plan is a Fantasy.

Charlie Mas said...

"put your super smart kid with the rest of our average kids, and I'm sure all the kids will benefit from it..

-BesteducationforALL
"

You can be sure, but you'd be wrong.

All of the research is against you. You would be wrong and it would be children's education that would suffer for it.

Instead of thinking of the best education for all, consider the best education for each.

dan dempsey said...

Question of the year:

When will the SPS focus on providing the best education for each child?

The SPS can not even perform a careful review of all options for closing achievement gaps so do not be expecting the above focus anytime soon.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My understanding is that, in middle school, Spectrum now largely only exists for LA/SS (in schools with block classes) and LA (for those that don't). Math honors is for anyone who tests via a math test. Is that not true?

Also, I do find this issue over self-contained kind of funny because it seems to bother the elementary parents more than the middle/high school parents.

When you get to middle and high school, students start to separate out whether it's via the district's choice or the student's choice.

Most SPS honors classes in high school are open to ANYONE. All AP classes are open to ANYONE. All IB classes (at least at Ingraham) are open to anyone. Those are all self-selected classes but yes, they also self-contained.

Last thing:

"At the middle school level, honors and advanced-level courses in mathematics and language arts are designed to provide a more rigorous curriculum and higher expectations for student performance. Students qualify for placement in an advanced level course by meeting the district requirements for placement in the gifted program or meeting school standards for honors placement."

Now where do you think I found this at? It's not SPS or Bellevue. It's Paradise Valley's gifted website that Dr. Brulle's runs. Looks like they test for middle school honors.

There is and will likely always be some kind of self-contained honors classe, no matter where you go.

NLM said...

I think it's probably less of an issue for middle/high school parents because the kids themselves start to opt-out or self-promote into programs (whether or not they weren't there before) during those years. With elementary kids, it really is up to the parent to seek out appropriate placements and differentiation. The effects of slower or less rich curriculum are also cumulative and elementary school lays the foundation for everything else (from love of learning, study skills and persistence, to content knowledge). I'm not willing to leave my kids' foundation to chance and they're not capable of effective self-advocacy at that age so this is a big, BIG issue for me.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the district limit the number of honors seats and seats in special programs such as IB, biotech, etc.? The questions then is what happens when there are more qualified bodies than available seats? Why not expand the catchment especially if you have kids that can do the work and are motivated?

circling

Melissa Westbrook said...

Circling, the biotech program is another issue as it is only at Ballard.

If there were more kids signed up for honors, I think they would expand those classes. IB is limited but as I understand it, there is currently room at Ingraham (but not at Sealth).

Absolutely - if kids want the rigor, no matter how many of them there are, there should be classes for them.

anonymous said...

"but as I understand it, there is currently room at Ingraham (but not at Sealth). "

Melissa I've corrected you on this before. Ingraham had a waitlist for 9th grade this year. Though there used to be excess space there, there is not any longer. Not sure if it was APP moving in, or the NSAP, or Hamilton feeding in to Ingraham, or IB becoming more popular? But for whatever reason - you can now add Ingraham to the list of crowded North end schools

FWIW

Chris S. said...

"Don't have the answers: is asking a good question:

What I keep asking myself as a parent is: When is the focus of this district going to be meeting the academic needs of students? Period.

It's my impression that, although she hasn't found the right words to say it so nobody takes offense, Kate Martin's vision is wrapped around this issue in a fairly broad way. There are many, many kids whose needs are not getting met, and they are not all special needs (although we are pretty certain kids with special needs are mostly in this category), many of them not necessarily identified nor complaining.

If we could move toward meeting kids where they are, rather than away from it (and toward reducing the bottom line as far as it will go) was we have for the last N years, I would be cheerier.

Jan said...

Chris -- thanks for highlighting Don't have the answers point -- because I think he/she (and you) are spot on. And precision in thinking is important. "meeting the academic needs of students" is NOT the same as making schools "excellent," or making everyone "accontable." The former is just silly -- as one brick or two by four is as excellent as the next, and if not, it is a BEX problem. The latter is an admirable sentiment -- but it is just one small piece that feeds into meeting students' needs. Everytime we hire people whose work does not directly support the mission of meeting kids' academic needs, we fail. Every time we pick a wrong curriculum, or implement a weak one badly, or narrow materials choices so that it is certain (or more likely) that some kids' needs will not be met -- we fail.

When the focus was on schools, we seemed to spend all our time closing them and reassigning kids to one or another. When it was on accountability, we seem to spend all our time on teacher assessment and firing issues, teacher incentives, and TfA.

If we could EVER get to the point where the stated goal was meeting the academic needs of kids -- we could focus on classroom based issues, and not all this other stuff.