Thursday, December 01, 2011

Needed Elementary APP Space


Issue #3: The urgent need for elementary APP space in the north-end.


Possible solution A: Split the 450-student north-end APP cohort in two and place half at Broadview-Thomson and half at Jane Addams. There is no space for a 450-student cohort and these two schools, one in the east and one in the west, have available capacity.

Possible solution B: Split the 450-student north-end APP cohort in two and place half at Lowell and half at Jane Addams (or Broadview-Thomson). There is no space for a 450-student cohort and these two schools, one in the north and one in the south, have available capacity.

Possible solution C: Keep the 450-student north-end APP cohort intact and place it at the John Marshall site (the building needs significant renovation). This is only space for a 450-student cohort. There is even room there for an additional general student cohort there as well to help meet the need for additional elementary capacity in the northeast (see issue #4). The program would continue to meet at Lincoln until the building was ready.

Possible solution D: Keep the 450-student north-end APP cohort intact and place it at a new building with a capacity for 600 elementary students on the Wilson-Pacific property - a building there in addition to the new middle school to be constructed there. The new building would have room there for an additional general student cohort to help meet the need for additional elementary capacity in the northeast (see issue #4). The program would continue to meet at Lincoln until the new building was ready.

Possible Solution E: What suggestion do you have?

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

SPS's history on John Marshall says it is built for 900 students. Is this the current capacity?

Steve said...

In the recent meeting minutes for the APP Advisory Committee, Bob Vaughn said that 5,600 kids tested for Advanced Learning this year, up from 5,100 last year. Not all these kids will qualify for APP, but we should expect this program to continue growing if the eligibility remains the same (and, I would argue, if Spectrum ceases to be a valid option to keep people in their neighborhood schools).

So, I think co-housing APP with other programs may not be a long-term solution. Either APP will push capacity, or the general education program will. When capacity is reached at a school with both these programs, APP will always get the boot (you can't boot the neighborhood kids). I think one cohort in one location, not co-housed with another program is the way to go if stability is the goal.

Eric B said...

I'm with Steve on this. I think a student population of around 250 is probably the bare minimum for a robust program (5 grades X 2 classrooms/grade X 25 students/classroom). Splitting in two should only happen if we reach twice that threshold. As Steve noted, co-housing causes lots of trouble. For stability, APP needs to have their own space that they can't be booted out of easily to suit other needs. A moat may be needed (I kid!).

Whatever happens, there should be some flexibility to move from one school to the other. Parents who live in Queen Anne but work downtown are going to have a lot easier time getting kids to school if they could choose Thurgood Marshall instead of schlepping to Jane Addams or Broadview Thomson.

WV: impoplop. There's just so many directions to take this one.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I toured John Marshall and never got that 900 capacity number (as I just don't see where they would all go). It's kind of an odd old building.

Well, I do have one idea but I will get totally shot down but I'll put it forth in the interest of putting everything out on the table.

Caveats - understand that I believe option schools can be moved. They are programs. I know others don't share that view but I can only say that we need to figure out how to solve these capacity problems, not protect turf. Again, I know others will not again.

Also, the district has a very bad habit of not intervening when schools are on a downward trajectory. My suggestion involves one such school.

Also, we can keep splitting APP up and moving them around as needed. How does that help? We have repeatedly tried putting them with a general ed population and it has worked (either from tensions or capacity issues). Will the district PROMISE that if they split Lowell APP, they will leave APP alone for several years?

My idea:

Move TOPS to Madrona K-8 and Madrona K-8 becomes a K-5 at TT Minor. The space is there for all these things to happen.

I know TOPS folks. You love your building and it has art features that were built for your program. Other buildings don't have such features and other buildings get features taken away for other purposes.

(The main issue here is Eastlake neighborhood but I think that could be solved other ways.)

Madrona is not that far from TOPS' currrent location. It is a newish building in a diverse neighborhood.

Madrona K-8 is severely underenrolled. Their scores are not good and have not been good. They have rebuffed efforts from some neighborhood parents who wanted to join their community and were ignored or pushed out. This is not a school that is working and to have any newish building this underenrolled is wrong.

TT Minor, clearly, would need to be fixed up but it would be a neighborhood school for that area.

Fire away.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa that option schools are programs, not buildings, and that they can be moved. But, I think that's true for APP as well.

I also think that given the benefits to the number counters on testing (i.e. that programs cohoused in buildings can count for their building), that there are very strong incentives to keeping APP cohoused with general ed programs.

So, I would be thinking along the lines of co-housing, and potentially splitting the program (which I think will have a 250 cohort when split).

zb

Anonymous said...

What about the under-enrolled program at Pinehurst K-8? This program is struggling and is long overdue to be ended. That building could be used for either the APP or an additional NE area elementary. I think it's curious that this site goes totally unmentioned in the discussion of NE & APP overcrowding. Anyone know why that is? I heard they had 10 kids in their kindergarten this year. Why is one program allowed to be left so under capacity while other area schools are overflowing??

NE parent

Anonymous said...

Link to John Marshall history:

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/history%20book/marshall,john.pdf?sessionid=a9f5ee8f81a018b9f89f9e85f598c386

It was built to hold 900 students...Enrollment peaked around 1,450 from 1955 to 1957.

TechyMom said...

Add an 1-8 APP at Jane Adams, as an option program, Similar to how Ingraham is an option to Garfield for APP high school students.

Anonymous said...

APP needs to be in a building by itself if it is to truly meet the needs of highly advanced learners. I would really hate to see the APP program take a step back to having to share space. Why not give the advanced kids a real program?

NE parent

Charlie Mas said...

Here's another idea:

What if APP is completely re-thought into a different kind of program?

Right now it is for students with cognitive ability more than 1.5 standard deviations above the mean and academic achievement in the top 5% nationally.

What if it were changed to a program for students with cognitive ability more than 2.0 standard deviations above the mean without regard for their current academic achievement?

That would be a very different - and a significantly smaller - program. That would pretty much take it back to its roots as IPP. Students would arrive with a broad variety of preparation. They would need much more differentiated instruction designed around their cognitive ability instead of their skill level. This would remove the ceiling from APP, but it would remove the floor as well. These kids would be expected to each advance at their own pace.

For this change to work, Spectrum would have to change as well. Spectrum would have to become a self-contained program for high achieving students - without regard to their cognitive ability. That would make Spectrum a much bigger program if the current eligibility was left in place - especially when a lot of current APP students are moved into it. The eligibility to Spectrum might have to be tightened up a bit, to maybe the 93rd percentile. Spectrum would have a stronger floor but the ceiling would be opened up. This kids would be expected to race ahead.

ALOs could then be allowed to serve highly motivated students without regard to their cognitive ability or their current academic achievement. That would really re-focus the ALO effort as well. It would be all about challenge and rigor without necessarily being about one grade level ahead.

It's a thought. Right now APP is seen as the real thing. Spectrum is seen as APP-lite, and ALOs are seen as fake. Rather than have them as gradients of a single model, they should each develop their own purpose. I think that a lot of families would rather have their child in Spectrum - with its strong performance focus - than this sort of APP.

Thoughts?

David said...

Charlie, seems like an interesting idea in theory, but I'd worry that having APP entry based only on cognitive ability would significantly increase the burden on teachers. Teachers already have to deal with varying levels of academic achievement in APP, but you're talking about widening that considerably, to the point that teachers wouldn't be able to offer a set curriculum. Unless you're going to drop class size way down, that sounds like a serious burden on teachers and one that probably would result in both the overperforming and struggling students not being served well.

Add to it that APP parents wouldn't trust the district to implement this as anything other than the destruction of APP, I think it's a non-starter. If we were starting over from scratch, maybe, but not a good idea from where we are now.

David said...

One idea not mentioned yet is to leave the APP kids at Lincoln and move over the 6-8 APP kids from Hamilton to Lincoln. That frees up middle school space in the north and gives a home for the expanding north-end APP.

Not ideal since Lincoln isn't great for elementary kids (but the APP elementary kids are already there) and it does prevent Lincoln from being used in future years as a temporary location for schools, but it helps with two problems (middle school capacity in the north and APP capacity) very quickly and at low cost.

Anonymous said...

Is there space at Madrona to reunite Lowell and Thurgood into an all-city APP program? I remember that APP used to be at Madrona, but that situation didn't work out because of the co-housing. APP has grown and may fill the building. That can take pressure off Washington if APP is K-8 at Madrona.

-just wondering

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea of having 1-8 in it's own bldg. I would think Madrona would be ideal for the South and then JM (or another?) for the north. Just solves so many problems...

anonymous said...

NE parent, AS1 has been threatened with closure 3 different times in the last 6 years. Maybe the district is just giving them a respite? Plus, the Pinehurst building is so small that it's probably not so useful. There are 143 kids assigned to the school and the building holds 282, so that leaves about 142 open seats. Not much for the district to work with. But yes, you are right - in an area that is so overcrowded with portable cities being built on school playgrounds it is unacceptable to have a school at 50% capacity. The district does need to address this once and for all. And yes, before anyone explains it to me, I know it's not entirely AS1's fault that they are under enrolled - the district threatened closure several times and people are scared to send their kids there now, but still, how long do you let a building go half full when it's next door to schools bursting at the seems, with multiple portables, and no music room.

dreamer

TraceyS said...

Charlie, another flaw with your idea (sorry about the pile on) is that the district no longer has the will to support self contained Spectrum programs. The current fashion is to move Spectrum kids into a fully integrated classroom, have them walk to math for advanced work, and let the teachers deal with any other differentiation issues. This is definitely going to change enrollment patterns, especially in elementary APP, but the question is by how much.

We are not going to get a satisfactory solution to APP overcrowding issues until we get a better handle on how and what the Spectrum programs look like from school to school, and introduce some stability (I know, I know, I hear everyone laughing all across the city at the thought of stability in an AL program).

I know this has been pointed out by many people multiple times, including you, but the Spectrum situation has been getting worse. There is so much uncertainty now, especially at Wedgwood and Lawton, and I anticipate much movement from these schools to APP, to private, back to reference schools, or even out of district. I do not envy the AL Capacity Task Force in trying to get a handle on this movement.

hschinske said...

Charlie wrote: What if it were changed to a program for students with cognitive ability more than 2.0 standard deviations above the mean without regard for their current academic achievement?

The limitations of the current testing instruments mean that many highly gifted kids would get missed, and those who did get picked would be picked essentially at random. If grade-level CogAT testing continued to be used, near-perfect raw scores would be necessary to qualify, leaving absolutely no room for careless errors at all.

I don't see a whole lot of problem with the academic achievement side (especially as typical "ability" tests are really just broad-based achievement tests that try not to rely too heavily on specific bits of book-learning). The biggest gaps in academic achievement in APP are typically *upward* (the kids who are many years beyond average for their age). Remediating a highly intelligent kid who's "only" at grade level or "only" a year above shouldn't be that big a deal in most cases.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Sorry reposting as I forgot to sign:

I really like the idea of having 1-8 in it's own bldg. I would think Madrona would be ideal for the South and then JM (or another?) for the north. Just solves so many problems...

- Oops L@L dad

Jan said...

I would vote for holding the APP kids at Lincoln until they can build a new school at Wilson Pacific. My preference would be to make the Wilson-Pacific big enough to hold a K-8 APP (which relieves the pressure on Hamilton). This gives the APP elementary kids a true playground (I don't think the Marshall "walk to Greenlake" scenario works well for little kids). It also fills up the building without trying to co-house APP with an attendance area school (which will crowd it out -- see Lowell -- where APP lost its home after only one year!! in favor of a brand new attendance area program -- I still find it astonishing!).

I would site a new north end middle school at Marshall. Whether it is an attendance area school or an option (like a middle school Spectrum/STEM program, with an automatic feeder to Cleveland), I don't know.

Here are my thoughts on the other solutions:
1. I think eternally splitting APP will weaken it. Its parent groups will grow smaller and less influential at each school. And the kids who are at the extreme upper end will increasingly lose their peers (the "other" kids doing Alg. II and trig in 4th grade, etc.) It is also easier for teachers to differentiate to reach the extreme upper end if the group of kids there are at one location (see the Hamilton math problems for examples of vanishing curriculum as cohorts get smaller). I really liked having one central program -- but that came with some significant transportation tradeoffs. Now that we have north and south (which was what people had wanted), I would not like to see further splitting unless and until someone can clearly show how the integritry of the educational and social aspects of the program will be maintained or enhanced.

The thing I least like about K-8 APP in a separate building is that I thought it served the Washington APP kids well to start to mix themselves in with Spectrum/regular ed kids at WMS (in language, music, pe, etc.) classes -- before they all got to Garfield. A K-8 APP cohort loses that. One thought might be to offer a "split" program at middle school -- with an APP/Spectrum program at Hamilton, and also an APP/Spectrum program for the 6-8 cohort at Wilson-Pacific. That way, families who wanted stuff specifically at one school (like music) could choose it. Wilson Pacific could come up with other offerings (like maybe a science/math emphasis, or one involving Latin and Classical literature) that -- together with the "different" middle school environment that K-8s offer, would be a draw.

Jan said...

I agree with Helen on changing the testing requirements for APP. I think it works really well as it is. The stuff that doesn't work well now is Spectrum (because the District won't support it as defined, leading to extreme parental frustration and general degrading of the offering) and ALO (which as Charlie notes is seen as a total fake). The proposed fixes to those (make Spectrum totally achievement based -- and ALOs totally by choice) seem to be good places to start -- except that ALO will still be a total fake, and Spectrum will still not work unless schools will support its integrity.

Jan said...

Melissa -- in your post, you move TOPS to Madrona, and downsize Madrona to K-5 and move it to TT Minor. What then becomes of TOPS? Is that where APP goes? It works for me (central Seattle), but doesn't it reignite the northend transportation problems that have bedevilled parents for years? For those problems, wouldn't Wilson Pacific work better?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Now that we have north and south (which was what people had wanted), I would not like to see further splitting unless and until someone can clearly show how the integritry of the educational and social aspects of the program will be maintained or enhanced."

Yes.

Yes, APP would move to TOPS. I think it's a pretty central, off-the-freeway place but yes, Wilson-Pacific could work as well.

juicygoofy said...

Charlie wrote "What if APP is completely re-thought into a different kind of program?"

I like Charlie's ideas. Testing obstacles can be overcome. Varying levels of achievement happen anyway. Grandfathering criteria would help the transition. All of our current advanced learning problems probably stem with the fact our testing criteria and advanced program definitions don't align. Tweek the testing levels. Offer a truly ENRICHED program for gifted children. Base Spectrum on MAP scores (or teacher recommendation) and simply work ahead (which is all it is now anyway.) Offer ALOs at every school (including those with Spectrum) and follow-up closely.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,
I'm not sure I understand what the goal would be of eliminating the academic achievement for APP? Do you think a lot of gifted kids aren't being served because the academic requirements are too high? Or do you think APP should be more inclusive of twice gifted kids who may be more challenged to meet the academic requirements?
- kitty

Charlie Mas said...

@kitty,

It's a combination of things. Primarily, it's a change of focus.

Right now APP is for highly talented and high achieving students. The program, as a result, is really focused on their achievement, not their talent. If we bumped the talent requirement up a bit and removed the achievement requirement then, I think, the focus of the program would have to change from achievement to talent. It would be a more individualized program. Just as David wrote, I'm "talking about widening that considerably, to the point that teachers wouldn't be able to offer a set curriculum."

It's likely that a lot of families would not actually want that for their very bright child - a program that had a focus on personal development, but no specific achievement targets.

This is a very different way of thinking about education. It's more like an IEP than a curriculum.

It would be better, however, for twice-gifted kids and for kids who have the native talent - the cognitive ability - but haven't had the exposure or opportunity that middle class and affluent children typically get. A properly designed and implemented program would also be better for those kids who really are at the extreme end of the spectrum.

We have all gone too far with the short-cut, bumper-sticker descriptions of Spectrum as one year ahead and APP as two years ahead. I'm not looking for just acceleration. That reduces Spectrum and APP to just grade-skipping.

I'm looking for something that expands in other directions. I'm looking for an education that is less focused on that achievement in one dimension. I want more focus on depth of understanding and more focus on breadth of context. I want the kids to have more time to consider the implications of their lessons before they are swept forward to the next one. More than that, I want a program that values that thought and consideration more than it values moving on to the next chapter.

Josh Hayes said...

I hear you, dreamer, and back when Summit was closed I argued for closing my kids' school rather than Summit, so I'm not implacably opposed to closing Pinehurst.

That said, however, it's been pointed out that it's a tiny little dump of a building, and the district has also placed a couple of (desperately needed) developmental preschools in the building, so the overall enrollment there is higher than you think, if you count the preschool facilities. Boot them out and they have to go somewhere (just as the 160 or so mostly-north-end kids currently at Pinehurst would have to be relocated in the already overcrowded north end: you're not talking about alleviating any north end crowding by allocating Pinehurst to APP).

I also find it interesting that the demographics of Pinehurst seem upside-down, year after year: very few kids in K-2, but more kids in 3-5, and then a honkin' big burst in 6-8. People seem to come there after a few years elsewhere.

And FYI, the district has promised (however useful that is!) to leave Pinehurst alone for three years while working actively to improve recruitment to the program. I think they'd be loathe to go back on that in the short term, but if it continues to suffer from (IMO, inexplicable) low enrollment in the K-2 ages, I would expect action in a couple of years.

hschinske said...

If we bumped the talent requirement up a bit and removed the achievement requirement then, I think, the focus of the program would have to change from achievement to talent.

That sounds to me just way too loosey-goosey and unenforceable (and again, I don't think we have any good way of ranking levels of talent at the high end of the percentile range, so you'd probably end up with a nearly random subset of the kind of kids you already have). I would sooner see the focus be on achievement, but *developmentally appropriate* and *varied* ways of showing that achievement.

Moreover, it sounds logical that very bright students with less exposure to formal academics would have higher "ability" than "achievement" scores, but in real life it's just as likely to be the other way around.

Helen Schinske

kellie said...

I can second Josh here on this. The Pinehurst building is NOT under utilized at the moment.

The transparency of special education is a big issue for capacity calculations and community confidence. For most buildings, the capacity calculations either do not account for special education accurately or do not make it transparent when it is adjusted.

One of the reasons for the "moving capacity numbers" had been that the district subtracted both the supply and the demand for special education. So when a special education program is placed in a building those students and that capacity just "disappear."

This is wrong for so many reasons having to do with education. As far as capacity is concerned, this is a problem for transparency of building utilization.

Several teachings stations at the Pinehurst building have been assigned to Special Education. Since that space is now "invisible," the downtown folks think the building is being used well. However, the community things there is lots of unused space, because you can't see how full the "invisible" space is.

This problem also shows up at Jane Addams. Jane Addams is much more full that folks think because so many teaching stations are used for special education.

Likewise at Thornton Creek. TC was reported in multiple places as having extra space. However, all that extra space was being used by special education and there was no "extra" space.

kellie said...

When looking at historical enrollment numbers for a building like John Marshall, you need to take two things into account.

1) the super high enrollment numbers were achieved by a split schedule. There was a 6 am to noon schedule and a noon to 6 pm schedule. There were that many kids!!

2) The low number of 900 would be a very high number for today's utilization. The 900 number was optimized for generic general education and did not include all the specialized set aside space that is now considered reasonable and appropriate for PCP and special education.

In other words, that 900 number was calculated to show ZERO room for Art, Music, PT, OT, special ed pull out, etc. If you reduce the low number of 900 by 25% you likely have a solid ballpark number.

Lori said...

One set of data that I would like to have if I were on the Advanced Learning Committee and trying to solve APP capacity problems is an in-depth, data-driven analysis of why families do and do not choose APP.

I would look at "capture rates" overall and by school for at least the last few years (maybe a decade) to see what percent of kids who qualify for APP end up transferring and whether these rates are changing in any sort of school-specific patterns. If we saw schools that kept an unusually large percentage of qualified kids, then we assess what they are doing well and whether it's a model for other schools. Similarly, if a school's rate is going up, why? What's changed at that school? We all have a lot of theories about why enrollment is growing (more testing; simply more students in the district; overcrowding; inadequate Spectrum/ALO options, etc), but I'd want a systematic analysis to confirm or rule out some of these assumptions.

Simultaneously, I would want to survey all families with a currently APP-qualified child to find out why those who are in APP made their choice and why those who aren't did not enroll. And I would ask those with a qualified child who have not (yet) chosen APP whether they plan or hope to move to APP in the future.

I don't think of APP as purely an academic program nor a talent-development program. I think of it as a whole-child program; for us, the potential for social and emotional growth was just as important as, if not more important than, the potential for greater academic challenge. But that's not the case for every family. As such, what, if anything, could be done to provide the academic challenge locally for families who would in fact have preferred to stay closer to home?

I think many in the district accept (are resigned to?) continued APP growth without trying to understand what's driving it. I'd like to take a step back and ask whether growth is even appropriate. I am *not* saying that some kids are in APP now who don't *deserve* to be there; I'm simply wondering what percent of families would prefer to stay local if their needs could be meet closer to home. If it's a sizable percentage, then what does the district need to do to improve AL at local schools and in turn reduce the size of the APP cohort, which just might reduce numbers in future years and allow the district to offer one, large elementary northend APP program rather than splitting yet again.

Anonymous said...

This article provides a good argument for both ability and achievement testing:

http://www.prufrock.com/client/client_pages/JEG4/An_Aptitude_Perspective_on_Talent_Implications_for_Identification_of_Academically_Gifted_Minority_Students.cfm

The article is related to identifying gifted minority students, but the information is applicable to gifted identification in general.

...Therefore, if the goal is to identify those students who are most likely to show high levels of future achievement, both current achievement and domain-specific reasoning abilities need to be considered.

...Contrary to popular myth, complex skills and deep conceptual knowledge do not suddenly emerge when the conditions that prevent or limit their growth are removed (cf. Humphreys, 1973). The attainment of academic excellence comes only after much practice and training. It requires the same level of commitment on the part of students, their families, and their schools as does the development of high levels of competence in athletics, music, or in other domains of nontrivial complexity.

FYI

TraceyS said...

What Lori said.

I would also add that the cart is being put before the horse here. There does not seem to be a strong and coherent district vision for Advanced Learning at this time. We all have our particular take on what it should do, but I do not have the sense that any of this aligns with what the *district* sees as its goals.

There are several ways to approach AL delivery, and we are surrounded by districts that have implemented various programs. Most of our neighboring districts have a clear mission for their program, relatively stable building placements, and a set of well-documented entrance requirements and expected curriculum delivery goals. That is not to say that they are the same program (they are not), or that they are problem-free, rigorous, or equitable, or that we should do exactly what they do. But I am saying that for better or worse, most of our neighbors have a clearly defined vision for their program, and the implementation flows from that vision.

The number one thing that has struck me in the last few years as we try to find a good placement for our children is that the target goals are always moving. Until there is a district-level desire to define its goals for AL, both at the highly advanced APP level to the neighborhood school based Spectrum/ALO delivery, I do not see how any semblance of stability can be achieved.

Charlie's musings about redesigning the AL program are a necessary component, but are not sufficient to get us towards the goal of a coherent, transparent, stable, equitable, and rigorous advanced learning program.

I think this is what the secret hope is that many of us have for the AL Task Force - that they can influence and guide district decisions towards a more stable, more coherent AL mission for SPS. Wishful thinking, I know. And it looks like the committee may have been given a much narrower job of recommending program placement without the corresponding examination of what the programs are supposed to be doing, especially at the neighborhood level. But I contend that without a strong program mission, we are dooming ourselves to endless churn.

dw said...

Charlie, I'm going to have to jump on board with the others. This notion has been discussed in the past, and while it sounds like an interesting experiment to find potential achievers, it's unlikely to play out that way in real life.

FYI quoted: ...Contrary to popular myth, complex skills and deep conceptual knowledge do not suddenly emerge when the conditions that prevent or limit their growth are removed (cf. Humphreys, 1973)

I've also read elsewhere that the best indicator for how a student will ultimately perform in advanced learning programs is their achievement levels, not their IQ. Which makes sense, if you think about it. I'm all for continuing to use both, but kids who are achieving at very high levels are either very talented with support, or very bright with support. Or both. It's a rare situation where a kid is able to achieve highly without support at home. This is why, no matter how hard the district tries to reach into the disadvantaged communities to find APP-caliber kids, it's just not happening. It's certainly not for lack of trying, year after year.

If we want to make a difference, we need to work to engage families and communities, and we need to get supports in place for kids even before kindergarten.

Charlie Mas said...

I really like what TraceyS wrote:

"the secret hope is that many of us have for the AL Task Force - that they can influence and guide district decisions towards a more stable, more coherent AL mission for SPS."

I would love to be part of a determined group within the AL Task Force hold out for discussions and decisions about Vision first, before anything else. And then we would insist that all decisions about eligibility, structure, location, and curriculum flow from and align with that Vision.

TraceyS said...

Charlie, this is where I think the board could make a strong impact. If board members leaned heavily on C&I, and indirectly on AL, to develop a clear, long term, written plan based on a well-articulated vision for AL, preferably based on research and best practices, and then we'd be worlds ahead of where we are now.

dw said...

Jan has some great thoughts in her 5:21pm post above. I'll tag on some of my own thoughts, and a proposal.

First, elementary APP needs to stay put until things are totally sorted out. Even if it means a third year. They're going to be moving soon anyway, let's keep it at 2 moves, not 3.

Unless boundaries are redrawn (not happening) or programs are moved, Hamilton is going to burst next year. It's clear that the other middle school advanced learning options in the north end are not cutting it for families, hence a large influx in 6th grade to APP at HIMS. This is the problem that has to be solved, and speaks to the "vision" issue.

Proposal:
Wilson Pacific has been mentioned a lot more recently, which tells me that it's probably on the table for an APP-north solution. It also seems from many discussions that it's likely to be a teardown with a new building. So let's just build it a bit larger than a typical K-8 and house both the APP K-8 (which seems to be gaining a lot of traction) along with another middle school option program, making it a "mushroom model" school. The MS option could be Spectrum, language specialty (maybe something like a MS immersion?), STEM (real stem, not what Cleveland is doing), or something else entirely. But Spectrum would be a strong pick that would likely draw kids from other buildings, especially Eckstein.

Benefits:

* This configuration, if done properly, would allow the district to use the "carrot approach" (like APP/IB at Ingraham) to draw students from various middle schools in the north end without having to redraw any boundaries!! This feature alone makes me think that the district/board would consider this model, if presented well. AL Task Force, are you up to the challenge?

* It would add new students to the mix in middle school, which many APP families appreciate. And it would do it in a way where all the students in the building are there by choice.

* It would give APP north a permanent home, one that's relatively central to the north end.

* Mushrooming at MS would allow academic, music and sports options that aren't always available in a typical smaller K-8.

* Because middle school would be an option program, there wouldn't be the same pressures of two programs in the same building with guaranteed seats.

* If the MS option program was Spectrum, that would provide more chances to place students in the most appropriate math classes, either above or below the standard level for their program.

I'm not sure I see any disadvantages compares with other potential solutions (assuming that something needs to happen at Wilson Pacific soon, in any reasonable scenario).

Let's talk about this!

Dorothy Neville said...

I understand all the arguments against Charlie's idea about ability vs achievement. I can also understand where Charlie got the idea. Some of the arguments against are more practical nature, not intrinsic to the idea. What if we did start fresh? What if we did have a good measure of ability without achievement? Could we be able to have a new program like the old IPP that was truly for outliers? (although I think there was high achievement needed?) Could we serve more kids better, especially 2E kids? The issue of accurately assessing and developing talent/achievement in children from less privileged backgrounds points to needing some fresh thinking as well.

I know, it is kind of fantastical, to think along these lines, but why not think outside the box? It just doesn't make sense to have three or more elementary school stand alone APP programs. And Spectrum programs cohoused with guaranteed assignment area students is showing problems. But a much smaller program for outliers and a robust stand-alone regional Gifted program called neither APP nor Spectrum.... would that be a good thing?

I think what would be fascinating if we could find out more is the history of the creation of IPP. That was in the 1970s? By the late Hal Robinson? Anyone know more?

dj said...

Dw, the disadvantage for me is that I would not, if I were given the option, want to send my elementary student to a mushroom-model K-8. Would I prefer that to not having my child served by APP? Yes. But would I prefer that my elementary student be in an elementary school, or if, in a K-8, in a K-8 that has a relatively small number of middle-school students? Yes.

TraceyS said...

Dorothy, I wonder if what trips everyone up in setting up an AL program for true outliers is the testing issue. You can identify many but not all with existing testing tools, and I think perhaps there is the expectation that if you find just the right cutoff, or just the right test, you can correctly identify all the kids. I think that is unrealistic. So perhaps, in addition to testing criteria, there could also be a carefully designed appeals process that looks at additional criteria as well. My gut feeling is that true outliers are relatively easy to spot by a human being, even if a computer-scored standardized test misses them.

Steve said...

I agree with dw about keeping the APP program at Lowell @ Lincoln for at least another year beyond the 2 years the District has promised. I doubt this will happen while Lincoln is considered a temporary home for other schools during remodeling, but moving every year or two isn't conducive to stability.

This morning at Lincoln, I poked around a bit, and even on the 3rd floor where the APP program is, there appears to be a lot of available classrooms. Perhaps the idea of moving at least the 6th grade APP program from Hamilton to Lincoln would work to alleviate HMIS over-crowding in the short-term while the District gets its act together on AL. Easy transition for most of the incoming 6th graders since many of them will have been at Lincoln for at least a year. And I don't think this takes space away from any of the other programs/schools who might be housed at Lincoln since I doubt they'd place them on the same floor as the APP program.

The unused Lincoln classrooms on the 3rd floor will probably need renovation, but this seems a lot cheaper than the other "build" options being discussed. Still a band-aid, but...

Dorothy Neville said...

Tracey, I think you are correct in that there is no magic test. (which reminds me that there is no magic test to show which teachers are effective, no matter what Susan told the LWV.)

I hesitate to say that humans can spot outliers easily. There is always bias and other factors, especially when the child is from a different cultural background than the person making the decision. That's why I am curious about the origins of IPP. But I suspect that that didn't do a great job with minorities and 2E kids either.

TraceyS said...

Sorry, didn't mean to imply it was easy. Just easier when compared to relying solely on a magic test. This is yet another area that it would be great to see what researchers and other districts do to increase the "capture rate". That is, once this district defines what group it is trying to capture and serve.

Anonymous said...

Right now, middle school math and music are ability based. Spectrum students can opt up to APP level math and 6th graders can take music with 7th graders. They have a choice of languages and electives. This would be lost if 6th graders rolled up at Lincoln instead of moving to Hamilton. I'm guessing no language would be offered as the district requirement is only two years in MS.

Is this any different than asking the 4th and 5th graders to just split off on their own to relieve the overcrowding at Lowell?

Many of this year's 5th graders have gone through the split and the move to Lincoln. Is this idea of putting 6th grade APP at Lincoln supported by current 5th grade parents? With the problems in 6th grade APP at Hamilton, maybe, but there are many families choosing APP for middle school that aren't currently at Lincoln.

Gut reaction: bad idea.

Anonymous said...

We bailed out of SPS because of the churn and the hoops we jumped through for AL testing. At our child's public school, testing for AL was not encouraged for our kid (and probably others). MAP did give us the confirmation and persuaded some teachers that WE needed to do more for our child. APP is great, but the district's eye and priority is not on advanced learning. Frankly, we are not even sure it's even about learning at all- take a look at SPS' incoherent C & I. We think Tracey S. is on mark with her posting @ 11:02. Just look at what the district is doing for AL. It is about capacity and placement (and how program can be used advantageously to solve other problems... test scores, draw to underutilized schools.)

We found it far easier to apply to private schools, take their tests, and did the interviews (some of them have decent financial aid and scholarships). The added bonus, funny enough, in private school, there was no "token" minoritiy issue. Despite our fears, we found tremendous diversity, more so than our child's public school. We didn't have to persuade the teachers to challenge our kid. A tremendous relief.

Moving on

Anonymous said...

I like having separate elementary and middle schools for APP rather than a K-8 program. My child is in 6th grade at Hamilton APP. She is really enjoying getting to meet a wider variety of students plus playing sports and band. I worry that a K-8 school wouldn't have the same athletic and music opportunities as a middle school. And because Hamilton is drawing from the whole north end (for APP) and has a good mix of Lowell and non-Lowell kids, it seems to be less cliquish than the middle schools that only draw from 3 or 4 elementary schools. Jane

Jan said...

Jane -- I think you are correct that a K-8 would not have the same sports/music abilities as a middle school. Generally, there just aren't enough kids to fuel those programs at the same levels. That (along with the ability to "mix" with other non APP kids) was why I thought they should provide two middle school APP options -- one at the K-8 (along with another option middle school program) and one at HIMS that is more traditional. I have no clue whether enough families would choose the Wilson Pacific middle school option (either as APP families or as option families for whatever other middle school was there) to make this fly. I know that SOME families actively seek options OTHER than the big middle school models (don't want/need the high level music and/or athletics -- and do want smaller cohorts, more personalized attention, etc.). But I have no idea how the numbers would break out.

dw said...

dj said: Dw, the disadvantage for me is that I would not, if I were given the option, want to send my elementary student to a mushroom-model K-8. Would I prefer that to not having my child served by APP? Yes. But would I prefer that my elementary student be in an elementary school, or if, in a K-8, in a K-8 that has a relatively small number of middle-school students? Yes.

All things equal, I agree that separate elementary and middle are ideal, I just don't see any real possibility that APP will get our own elementary AND keep north end middle school together, which is going to require some kind of change in the next 1-2 years. Of course it's possible, but it would require opening a new building for elementary (no one is going to kick out an existing elementary program from their building), AND either opening a new middle school for APP or shrinking the HIMS boundaries. Tough to see all that happening in this climate, which I think is why K-8 has been discussed so much more this time around.

On the second part, smaller K-8 vs. mushroom, do you have middle schoolers? The points Jane makes are important, and for most (although certainly not all) families, become more important as the kids get older. I probably would have agreed you a few years ago, but having the ability to offer a full range of bands, orchestras, sports, languages, etc., swamps the benefits of having a smaller, more intimate school. At least for most of the families I've talked with over the years. Parents of young elementary kids being different, mostly because they just haven't reached a stage where these choices (or lack thereof) are in their faces yet.

You might personally still opt for a smaller middle school program, but I think the vast majority of families would choose a model that gives the kids more choices and in many ways better preparation for high school. And again, we need to look at realistic options, and push hard to keep our program from being split again, which would essentially kill it.

Maureen said...

What about an option International Baccalaureate Middle School at Wilson Pacific co-housed with MS APP and or language immersion? The right Geographic Zone could draw kids from Eckstein and the APP/Immersion focus could draw kids from HIMS. The kids could feed into Ingraham and help strengthen the program there.

dw said...

Jane said: My child is in 6th grade at Hamilton APP. She is really enjoying getting to meet a wider variety of students plus playing sports and band. I worry that a K-8 school wouldn't have the same athletic and music opportunities as a middle school.

Just to follow up, I agree, and that's why I made the suggestion of a mushroom model K-8. In theory, that should alleviate many, if not most of the middle school concerns.

Granted, it's not necessarily the ideal environment for the youngest elem kids, but if the building is well managed, young kids in a different wing or floor, etc., I think you could see this working.

I'd much rather see a reversion to standalone APP elementary (or mixed with a SpEd program like it was at Lowell) along with a strongly supported MS APP blended with an option program (NOT attendance area students), but this would require way more support for advanced learning from administration than I see now.

No matter what configuration they come up with, there needs to be district support for real Spectrum, because without that all of Advanced Learning in Seattle is slowly but surely being destroyed.

dw said...

Maureen, intriguing ideas. Personally, I think the APP/IB combo would be more compelling than the APP/Immersion combo, although there's a very vocal immersion crowd that might question that.

Some offhand pluses:

- An APP/IB middle school program might actually fit into the district's current mindset.

- Would be an option program that could draw away from other north end middle schools without redrawing boundaries.

- Seems like a good fit with APP and brings in new faces to that program.

- Would likely attract enough students to drive programs, music, sports, languages. Perhaps even math for the very advanced kids (wishful thinking on that, I know).

- A carrot, rather than a stick, which looks like it's working well at Ingraham.

Possible minuses:

- Spinning up a program like that will take district dollars (although I do think it would be worthwhile!).

- Doesn't address elementary APP (the WP facility is almost certainly in the discussions for them).

Perhaps if this configuration played out, then the John Marshall building could become the APP elementary home. It's a bit small for an APP K-8 anyway, it's very close to I-5, meaning easy transportation for most people (too close for some, considering exhaust fumes), would need some modifications to suit an elementary program, but no worse than Lincoln.

Good stuff to consider. This is why it's great to have this public forum to bounce ideas around!

Jan said...

dw -- one problem with Marshall for elementary is -- no playground. I know other schools in the area (like Billings) with similar problems use greenlake -- but they are middle schoolers - i.e., no recess, easier (and safer) and faster to get them there and back -- fewer issues with someone wandering away (or being taken away) from a public playground. I think you can use Marshall for a middle school -- but it is a worse choice for an elementary. That was the (only) reason I had the APP elemenrary at Wilson-Pacific. Is there another empty elementary in the north end that APP could use?

As far as middle school choices go -- I understand the arguments for the "big middle school" model. And yet -- TOPS seems to do fine as a K8, as does Catherine Blaine. I would be really curious to know more about attrition rates (to the big middles) from the K8s, whether there are waiting lists for the k8 middles like TOPS, and how big a "mushroom model" might need to be to start to have some of the advantages (in music, etc.) of the big middles.

Finally, if ever there was an elementary that I would co-house with a middle school -- it would be APP, many of whose kids should actually be working MORE than 2 years ahead of grade standards. This would give the school access to upper curriculum resources and possibilities (in science, math, etc.) that current APP elementaries probably don't have.

dw said...

Jan, I'd always figured there was plenty space in the back to create a smallish, but reasonable elementary playground area, just from knowing what the space looks like. But I went ahead and dug into property maps and now I'm not so sure. Just looking at the property boundaries along with the current usage tells me that something interesting is going on.

Marshall's east property line appears to be roughly N/S, following where Oswego Place NE would be if it continued straight north from 65th up to 68th or 69th. The parking lots used by the school/renters and the parking lots under I-5 don't seem to follow the property lines.

The tennis courts look like they're on JM property, but I'd guess almost 1/2 the basketball court (parking now?) is not. So how much of this parking is required? Hmm.

Continuing to study as I type, it didn't look like a lot, but I count about 43 parking spots on the north and south sides of the building, not including any of the court space out back. I might change my mind back again!

How much physical space is reasonable for a playground? And how many parking spaces are reasonable for an elementary? I don't know that any are actually required, as Hamilton has essentially zero dedicated parking, staff uses on-street parking.

I'm not sure what to think at this point, but it looks like an elementary would be feasible. The problem is the lack of alternatives. Sure, a stand-alone APP middle school would fit in Marshall, with a smallish option program, as long the district doesn't keep forcing APP to grow. But it would be quite small for a middle school, and I'm not sure the district has the stomach for that kind of AL support.

SPS really needs more than one new building in the north end.