Saturday, April 14, 2012

Meanwhile, Over at the APP Community Blog

In an effort to try to understand the issues around APP elementary placement, I had gone to the Lowell at Lincoln coffee chat last Thursday.  As it turns out, the principal, Rina Geoghagan,  did not want me to stay.  (I did point out that I was on the Advanced Learning committee and this was one way to learn more about their community.  I had no laptop and was not going to blog about it.) Alas, she thought it "inappropriate."

And so I left (as is my good girl manner) but not before I realized that she had called a security person to  - smilingly - watch me leave the building.  (He did not escort me out.  It is unclear if this person actually works at Lincoln or was someone the principal brought from downtown.  Either way, it is the sign of a green principal who seems more worried about herself than her school but that is the Lowell at Lincoln community's problem.)

So I visited the APP Community blog to see what the discussion might be.  I think the back-and-forth there reflects the suspicion, frustration and exhaustion that both Thurgood Marshall, Lowell and Lowell at Lincoln have felt over the last couple of years.

Should APP elementary be in stand-alone buildings?  What if it is working at TM to be co-housed?  Should they change being co-housed if Lowell at Lincoln goes to its own building?

It also reflects, among some of the most involved parents, the schism that is the North-South divide.  There is the belief, probably true, that PTAs to the North are more likely to be able to raise a lot of money.  (But it should not matter in terms of the program because Spectrum is in schools all over the district where PTAs raise varying amounts.  No program can control for that.  Should it?)

Of course, the problem is that TM will likely, as it continues to gain strength, overgrow its building and then who stays and who goes?

Should APP be like Spectrum and not take everyone who tests in?  This is true in many districts, both in-state and in other states, where there is a cut-off for the numbers of students to be served.

Elementary APP has been buffeted around and has leaders at its schools who have official reprimands for their actions at those schools, Spectrum is weakened, the Native American program has poor leadership and World School and Nova have also been buffeted around. 

In the end, it comes down to leadership and what the leaders, elected or otherwise, do and say about any program.   Clearly, these programs are way down on the to-do list.  Now we are in a time where these leaders have to find homes for these programs so that the programs can thrive and not continually wait for the other shoe to drop.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

...and the same tactics as last year continue on... Security was called to Lowell after school during what was supposed to be the second attempt for staff to take the climate survey per union rules last school year. King (who is not even supposed to be in the same room at this time) came into the cafeteria, yelling at the staff who were left trying to complete their surveys. King had downtown security come to Lowell for three of the staff. The security vehicle pulled up a short time later with their light flashing on the roof of the vehicle. What a sight.

Last year's Lowell staff never did get to take a survey that complied with union rules - and even at that, King's rating ended up in the 30ish %tile.

Unless people get together and speak up about all of this, it will continue - as we have seen at both schools this year. Even more tragic is there are downtown administrators who know about all of this and do nothing - and SEA has not stood up for the staff they are supposed to protect. And who loses in the end?... it's always the students.

signed: "losing hope"

Anonymous said...

Melissa:
Thank you very much for trying to support the APP program. I am sorry that Ms G didn't let you attend the Lowell@Lincoln chat last Thursday. Many of us didn't even know what happened until someone brought it up in the middle of the meeting. There was one clear explanation only (!) from one of the parents, who said that many parents wouldn't have been speaking openly if you were there just because they knew that you write a school blog. WTH?
I don't think the whole chat would have been any different with you, because many of us didn't feel like speaking anyway.
I personally missed the clear picture of the future APP program the most. There was no discussion about TM or the APP program as a whole and when Ms G started to talk about the project based learning at Lincoln, I got really confused. Because from her plan it seems that next year there will be contained classrooms and others also where the classes will share teachers. And the decision, which teacher teach who will be decided on a survey that teachers and parents fill out.
Hmmm...
This doesn't sound very promising. With an unexperienced principal (and maybe with a new assistant principal?) and with all the newly hired teachers. With no district written curriculum.
- Really, this is the best option between 2 moves?

Anonymous said...

We decided to remain at our ALO school this year after testing into APP. I am happy with our decision as I find it alarming that there is apparently some ire directed at parents who actually want accountability after the investigation. I can’t fathom that this would be met with skepticism, but there was this on the investigation thread from an anonymous poster:
…the APP community, and I say this as an APP parent, could be forceful in its determination to support King and Geoghagan and not tolerate questioning of their professional integrity. In APP Lowell/L@L I have encountered a community where parents can be so extremely focused on their desire for a successful school, that they become disinclined to tolerate even a mention of potential serious deep-seated problems. Perhaps ultimately this situation will be an opportunity for the APP community to do some soul-searching about what "community" means. It doesn't mean we have the same experiences, and it means serious concerns have to be respected and seriously examined.

-APP in ALO

Anonymous said...

To be fair, this particular gathering was one of several informal coffee chats held for Lowell at Lincoln parents throughout the year to hear updates on the school and ask questions of their principal. Although a majority of time was spent on school updates related to hiring, enrollment, etc., most people came to hear discussion of the report, and Nancy Coogan was present for that reason as well.

Melissa, it seems to me that the topic of the report is actually why you wanted to attend the April coffee chat (as opposed to attending the coffee chat on any other given month).

On the Friday thread on April 6, you responded to a parent who pointed out that only parents were invited to the meeting:

"Melissa Westbrook said...
Jan, well, they may be kicking me out then. It's a public meeting in a public building.
4/6/12 9:49 PM"

So, while I'm sorry to hear of the awkwardness of being asked to leave, you had sent a sort of warning that you intended to show up despite knowing that it was a meeting for parents at the school.

--L@L parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I said I wanted to go to the chat because Nancy Coogan was going to be there and because the location choice for L at L was big at the PTA meeting I attended. I thought this might be another opportunity.

I take my charge on the AL committee seriously.

I wasn't embarrassed at all. I did nothing wrong.

Again, the principal by setting this up during the day, fewer parents could attend. By setting it up during the day, she could control who was in the building.

Again, I think this sounds like a principal more interested in covering herself than helping her school.

NESeattleMom said...

I think the location of the meeting being in the teachers workroom/lunchroom, which was quite confined, also was interesting. This location made it seem more cozy and less public. I think the school district and the principal feel uncomfortable about anyone questioning anything about the incident and the aftermath of the incident that was published in the report about the investigation. The local media when writing about education keeps "dissing" education bloggers. But the world is now a different place and people can get their news from bloggers. The guy next to me at the L@L meeting was typing detailed notes into his phone his notes from the meeting. I have no idea if he was a parent or some other blogger, but there was no ID check to say no admittance unless you were a parent. So if you blended in you wouldn't be recognized. And if you didn't speak. I do think a lot of L @ L parents want to get on with the rest of this year and onto next year, but some of the the rest of us are wanting to be assured that policies are in place for safety as well as policies in place for employees to feel secure in speaking if they see something that is not right.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I have to agree with L@L Parent. It was inappropriate for you to go to the meeting, and it was appropriate for Ms. G. to ask you to leave. When I saw your post today, I had the same thoughts L@L posted in her response. You are not an L@L parent.

Having media present for any discussion would change the conversation. I have to imagine this is much more true with all that is going on at L@L right now and your declared determination to keep it in the public eye.

Cake

Anonymous said...

Gotta love the words...

"appropriate" and inappropriate"

What do they mean exactly, besides being Orwellian doublespeak and an avoidance of having to state a clear opinion?

For Rina Geoghagen, they clearly have very different meanings (CYA) than for Cake, who seems to have in mind the etiquette of how to behave at a tea party.

Folks, we are dealing with lying principals who set up their own employees in order to avoid the consequences of their own admitted incompetence.

There should have been a mob of angry taxpayers at that meeting, demanding that their taxes not fund the salaries of these thugs.

Neither principal has admitted wrongdoing, and both continue to hide behind lawyer-speak in order to continue their pattern of protecting themselves at all costs.

Had this been a tea at an ethical, functioning school, then maybe we could debate the "appropriateness/
inappropriateness" of a taxpaying
visitor attending a public school meeting.

As it stands, anyone sitting back and continuing to turn a blind eye to this outrage (because it didn't directly affect you, and/or it makes your life easier to "move on") will deserve the karma WHEN (not if) another unethical, self-serving thug directs such ugly business directly onto you or your own children.

Too bad the fact this has already happened to others (who were devoted teachers to your children) isn't enough to spark your outrage and sense of ethics. I think that is inappropriate.

-enough already

Anonymous said...

People who are on the advanced leaning task force should absolutely be allowed to attend school coffee chats. They need to know what is going on at schools that have advanced learning programs. Seems ridiculous to me that people are actually saying Melissa shouldn't have been there. What are you trying to hide? Who are you trying to protect? I am not a current parent but my son will be there next year. Had I made that known at the meeting would I have been asked to leave? I would think Rina would want to set up a meeting addressing the investigation. If it was one sided then she needs to explain her side. Why hasn't she? She has to know that there are parents out there not very confident in her ability to lead the school. A meeting where she explains her side and acknowledges any poor decisions that she may have made, explains what she will do differently in the future would make a huge difference in my ability to put this in the past and move forward.
-Hoping Rina will step up

Anonymous said...

-enough already
"There should have been a mob of angry taxpayers at that meeting, demanding that their taxes not fund the salaries of these thugs."
But in fact there were only 4-6 parents speak up on the meeting about the different points raised by the investigation.
- Conclusion

Charlie Mas said...

Melissa wrote: "Of course, the problem is that TM will likely, as it continues to gain strength, overgrow its building and then who stays and who goes?"

It probably won't be growth in the APP population at Thurgood Marshall that causes the crisis but the growth in the general education program there. Right now there are only 49 students from the attendance area enrolled in the school. If the families in the attendance area decide that they don't need to run away from the school, or if they decide that it is a good school, that program will explode. There are only seven homerooms for the general education program right now and the school is full. They are bringing in portables for next year. If the general education program just grows to a normal size it cannot hope to fit.

dw said...

There are several issues getting tangled here.

First, I wholeheartedly would have supported Melissa's attendance at this event (although Melissa, I really can't believe you'd be able to contain your interest to the ALTF/L@L relocation issue, nor would I want you to, the other issues affect more than just APP and are getting swept under the carpet).

I also agree that the nature and tone of the conversation might have been different if Melissa had been in attendance. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

The problem is, while parents are the most vested in their building and childrens' educational experiences, they and their kids are also the ones who can be hurt if they piss off the wrong people. This varies not only with personality, but kids' age. A 5th grade parent who is ready to move on is quite different from a 2nd grade parent with a preschooler, who might have several years remaining under the current leadership. Your principal will ultimately control your child's placement in classrooms among many other things in your building. Few parents are willing to stand up and make a scene with that kind of potential collateral damage to their kids. I don't think people would call me shy, but I am very mindful of this.

Most parents at L@L don't even know the details of the investigation, nor the dreadful situation in many classrooms at the school last year, and many parents are non-confrontational in nature (beyond the worries above). Ultimately, we need watchdogs like Melissa who are well-educated about district matters, but don't have any kids in the buildings where problems are occurring.

The issue of retaliating against an employee who was doing her job by reporting inappropriate behavior is unacceptable. If you think this has not already put kids around this city at higher risk, you need to get out and talk with teachers and support staff more. Staff is supposed to report any behavior that might be inappropriate, but now if it's not egregious and obvious, good luck. Better have witnesses as well, so you're not accused of being racist or biased against another employee. Even though there were (mild) reprimands, there has been little done to prevent this from happening again. The principals both clearly lied in a series of CYA behavior, and have both been unapologetic (unacceptable!), and central office is giving their best shot at ignoring the whole thing and hoping it goes away.

What about taking some strong steps to ensure this doesn't happen again?! Our administration never seems to want to learn from the past.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how some seem to sideline what appears to be a "minority concern" for the greater good of the community and to "move on". How you deal with concerns of "the vocal few" especially over a serious matter is very telling of what and who you consider your "community" to be. Is this to be a community of " the my way or the highway"? OR one who can deal with the flaws of its leaders, find some healthy reconciliation of truths or one who prefers to sweep it all away as it never happened.

Why? Because it's embarassing, it's a distraction, or better to do whatever it takes to make sure your kids get the best? My eldest (big ears and reads too much) is watching this with interest and we have had some insightful discussion about adult's behaviors. It's tough at times to watch kids learn about the reality of do what we say, NOT what we do. The kids do ask awkward questions, but I'm glad they are asking.

moving on, baggage in tow

Anonymous said...

@"find some healthy reconciliation of truths"

When South Africa had its Truth and Reconciliation Committee, it was clear that admitting the truth
(not the truths) on the part of the wrongdoer is the premise for reconciliation.

Which leads me to the syntax of this part of your questions:

There was an independent investigator who established the truth upon which the district based its consequences.

Are you saying that there are other truths here? Is this a way of condoning the fact that these two principals continue to lie by stating that they did nothing wrong?

Again, look at the South African model. For those of you who want to "move on," how can you? The principals of your children are continuing to live a lie, and are surrounding the entire Lowell community in their lie. It is now your lie, too.

If King and Geoghagen are to achieve any reconciliation (which I believe should occur after they're fired), it will only occur their own admission of the truth (singlular tense).

--enough already

Anonymous said...

"it will only occur after their own admission of the truth (singlular tense)"

-correction

--enough already

Anonymous said...

sorry about the George W. Bush version of singular (singlular)

--enough already

mirmac1 said...

Does RG know that nothing within OUR buildings walls is secret or by invite only?! Yet another ding against her "management ability and knowledge".

Charlie Mas said...

Could the people who think that the meeting at Lincoln should have been for Lowell at Lincoln families only - because no one else is involved - please duke it out with the people at Thurgood Marshall who think that the SNAPP placement decision will impact them?

And if there is anyone in both camps, could that person please reconcile the positions for us?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not to argue the point into the ground but:

"Ihave to imagine this is much more true with all that is going on at L@L right now and your declared determination to keep it in the public eye."

Can you show me where I have "declared determination" to keep the investigation in the public eye? Because I know I have said that I believe that both principals made serious mistakes, didn't seem to get that and yes, I believe we will hear about them again. That's me believing they will err again, not me saying I'm will keep this issue in the public eye.

Anonymous said...

For clarity, truths refer to one for Principal G. and one for Principal K. since their actions are separate though relating to the same situation. If it makes it easier for you, you can combine them as one.

However, if you want to get at the philosophical "truth" debate: is there one truth vs. many truths, relative vs. absolute, subjective vs. objective? I don't have an easy answer, only headaches. In real life, I am trying to settle a family estate matter and it's amazing how many versions of the truth I am hearing. Did I say headache? I should add heartache too.

moving on

mirmac1 said...

I feel your pain, moving on. Seriously. Estate matters are when some of the most painful truths come out.

Anonymous said...

"truths refer to one for Principal G. and one for Principal K. since their actions are separate though relating to the same situation"

As for the definition of the truth of this situation, I believe the teachers and SLP.

They have been consistent in their accounts in the midst of going through hell. There's nothing philosophical about what they've said or done. It's called honesty and paying the consequences (in health and profession) for working in an unethical system.

As for King and Geoghagen having different versions of the "truth"--well, that's what happens when you lie.

By the way, the next time the district is caught in a scandal or the school board and/or superintendent lies, remember this situation at Lowell. SPS is a hotbed of situational ethics based on convenience of the moment. It will not change as long as people continue to look the other way when it makes their own lives easier.

This a a cultural problem in SPS. A new superintendent cannot give you a morality transplant.

“A nation,” he heard himself say, “consists of its laws. A nation does not consist of its situation at a given time. If an individual’s morals are situational, that individual is without morals. If a nation’s laws are situational, that nation has no laws, and soon isn’t a nation.”
― William Gibson, Spook Country

--enough already

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

Anonymous wrote (and will be deleted for lack of reading the instructions and use of a moniker): Re whether APP should have limited seats: I have never understood how this is a defensible policy for a public school to have for the Spectrum program, and I certainly wouldn't want it for APP. How can we say that two kids are capable of working a year (or two years) ahead, and then say that opportunity for an appropriate curriculum is only available to one?

It's "defensible" because it's simply impossible to fit the number of kids the district is qualifying into APP these days into a single building, and the program is suffering in multiple ways at the hands of this "growth" (dilution). Even two buildings seems to be up for debate at this point.

Also, you're stretching the truth about how it could be implemented; it certainly wouldn't be fair to have a lottery-based system that could give equally-qualified kids different outcomes, but if more kids qualify via the method-du-jour, then just stack rank the kids and draw a line at the safe capacity for the building. Many other cities do this, it's just a matter of expectations. Does that suck for the kids who just miss the cutoff? Sure, but that's no different from today, where there are kids who just miss another (lower) cutoff and are denied entry into the program. There's always a line. How people don't understand this is beyond me.

I've actually done a full 180 on the idea myself over the past few years. I used to think it was a given that the best process is to guarantee seats to all qualified kids. That was before I watched the district diddle with the entry criteria year after year after year, granting more and more kids entry each year while the program suffered. Yes, suffered.

Compared with just a few years ago the program suffers from curricular dilution (sadly, there are more kids struggling to keep up now), lack of administrative support (too many buildings, not enough supporters), lack of qualified/experienced teachers (again, too many classrooms, split among buildings) and lack of overall stability.

Of course a change like this could only be made if the next tier of academic challenge for the students is well-supported, i.e. Spectrum. That's not happening right now, in fact the opposite is happening.

So although limiting APP to a fixed number of seats could be a perfectly reasonable tack, right now would probably be a dangerous time to attempt it. If the district made some kind of public proclamation of support for Spectrum and proved it for at least a year, then I think more families might see the benefits of this type of system.

Melissa Westbrook said...

DW, thank you for some sound thinking and possible avenues for discussion.

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

I think any public school meeting should be open to the PUBLIC, as long as attendees sign in properly and don't disrupt the proceedings. I am appalled that anyone would think it acceptable to misuse Security personnel for the purpose of keeping out someone the principal doesn't like!

Signed,
Seattle owns these schools!

Anonymous said...

I want to echo "Seattle owns these schools":

The public should be welcome at public meetings. Period.

That Melissa was denied access is unacceptable.

--WTH

Anonymous said...

I keep reading insinuations or frank declarations that kids qualifying into APP aren't up to the "old" standards. I have read people blame MAP, the 95% threshold for achievement, private appeals, etc. Are parents in APP really sizing up kids and whether they "should have been let in"? DW alludes to "dilution". To me, it seems like splits, curricular decisions, lack of gifted-ed teachers, and more families choosing Lowell because of failed Spectrum/ALO or simply prestige--all of these may account for more of the change than an influx of under-brilliant kids. More people test these days, more kids get in. Don't be so quick to say they aren't just as bright.
Bar-weary

Anonymous said...

Also, stack rank the kids? Did you know on a 6 yr old's cognitive test their score can go from 95 to 99.8% depending on whether they are tested one day before or one day after their birthday? People are remarkably smug about the weeding out they do based on a single percentage.
--north

CT said...

Rina is simply doing what she does best - CYA (or in this case, covering hers). She can never admit she is wrong, and will dig herself deeper and deeper trying to cover for the untruth. Clearly she is afraid of you, Melissa, and was probably worried you'd ask the hard questions or catch her in an untruth.
As a teacher, she tried to bully other teachers. She seemed to thrive on creating issues among colleagues. I can't even imagine having to work under her "leadership".

Anonymous said...

Bar-weary,

No, I don't believe the vast majority of parents are sizing up the kids and wondering "if they should have been let in." This is a ridiculous notion, and I've never seen anything remotely like this during our two years in the program. APP is a school, and even with the eligibility criteria, there's a wide range of kids just as there are at any school.

I have to say, there is also a wide range of parents. Some are calm and supportive, want what's best for their kid (and all kids), volunteer some, contribute some, and generally want the school to be successful for everyone. And then there are the other parents, who seem to be able to spend so much time considering these other things.

- Tired

Anonymous said...

(I also posted this on today's Lowell article)

I was at the meeting at Lowell and asked RG about what she had done to assure staff that they would be treated fairly and with integrity by her - after she's been reprimanded for her dealings with staff members. I think she gave a reasonably good response.

Included in her response was the fact that she has recently dealt with a teacher that had to be removed from their classroom and she worked hard to do it right. Several parents from that classroom spoke up to say that she did an excellent job of going by-the-book, treating the teacher and others with integrity and dignity, even in a very difficult situation. For the record, a number of different sources all said that they agreed that this teacher needed to go.

Hopefully this shows that she is developing as a leader and putting past mistakes behind her. BTW, I think many principals shy away from difficult tasks like this, leaving kids to suffer in dysfunctional classrooms for years.

mom of 2

Anonymous said...

I had to smile at the comment above -- regarding those who want to keep the "investigation issue" alive -- because, unlike Melissa, I am one of them. I have come to believe that in power structures, nothing changes if nothing changes. Here, one SLP was driven to resign, another has suffered serious health consequences, many teachers have left the APP program (not all of whom could possibly have been "sub standard" -- and yet the only "consequence" for King and Geoghagan is a letter of reprimand. They don't even have to accept the findings or agree to do better (which they didn't --- as they say the findings are all lies and mischaracterizations).

I would like to believe mom of 2. I hope she is right in suggesting that, despite her denial of the investigation results and her bizarre, heavy-handed treatment of Melissa, despite her lack of any single thing that even hints of remorse, or contrition, or of a renewed commitment to "do better next time" -- she actually HAS had these conversations with her teddy bear at night, and is a changed person. If that happens, this will all end "mostly" well, though a public accounting/apology will still be needed, until it is made.

My worry is that she will "behave" for a little while -- because she knows people will be watching her, and wondering -- but that as soon as another few years have rolled by and "most" of the parents are new (and many of those remaining are deniers who want to bury the whole thing) -- she will feel free to return to her bad management habits. In the absence of any accountability on her part for the past, there simply is no reasonable basis on which to conclude that the future will be different -- there is only "blind hope." (Though a steady consistent practice of doing better will begin to constitute evidence). In the meantime, it gets worse -- the fact that she lacks the courage and character to face this now is a "bad sign" with respect to whether she has actually changed or used her reflection upon her actions last year to become a better leader/person. And worse still -- the fact that she actually called security on Melissa is not the kind of thing that one would expect from a confident person, comfortable in a leadership position. It is the sort of bullshit response you get from petty bullies who assume that they have to (and are entitled to) use force or coercion to get their way, and are determined to use their position to maintain their power over a situtation and stick it to whomever they perceive to be either a threat -- or in a weaker position, and thus capable of being dominated.

Integrity and dignity in a difficult situation? Melissa sure didn't get any of that -- and she didn't even present a "difficult situation." I think Ms. Geoghagan just saw Melissa as someone not backed by a huge power structure, someone whom she could -- and therefore did -- push around at will. Not. Very. Promising.

May mom of 2 be right.
May I be wrong.

Jan

dw said...

north said: Did you know on a 6 yr old's cognitive test their score can go from 95 to 99.8% depending on whether they are tested one day before or one day after their birthday? People are remarkably smug about the weeding out they do based on a single percentage.

There are a lot of problems with cognitive tests beyond the lack of granularity of their age at the time they take it, but what is it you're really saying? Should all kids who might possibly test at the 98th percentile if all upward error bias was considered? That would almost certainly pull more than 10% of the entire population into a program like APP, which makes no sense at all.

That would be just as bad as eliminating all kids who might have luckily scored higher than their true measure? (this is far less likely to occur, by the way).

It's all about comparing false-positives (rare) with false-negatives (more common) and weighing all the factors, including what alternatives are available for a student who is just above or just below a cut score. If we had a robust Spectrum program, with gifted-ed teachers and strong administrative support in several schools around the city, the alternative for a kid who just missed a cut score would be acceptable in most cases. As things stand now, that's often not the case. And it's getting worse.

Bottom line is that you're going to have some kind of cut score, and there are going to be unhappy kids (parents) no matter where you put that line. You might as well put it where it makes sense looking at the entire educational picture. That includes the desired level of academics in such a program, the level of individual student needs, available facilities, administrative support (or lack thereof), geographical distribution of students with needs, budget, transportation issues, and more.

I think everyone would agree that cognitive tests aren't perfect (no tests are), but your comment has snide undertones without really saying anything meaningful or practical.

dw said...

Jan, +1 to your entire post.

I have hope, but only because without hope we are miserable. But I am not optimistic, for the reasons you bring up.

My crystal ball is hazy, but I think Greg will leave soon. If not this coming year, then the next. But I think Rina plans to stick around and wants very much to sweep this under the carpet. As time passes and the parent body changes at her school that will become more likely, simply because there will be no memory of what happened. There is already a severe lack of understanding among the current parents about the loss of so many teachers last year.

Anonymous said...

- Jan and dw
I agree with your posts, and I felt the "memory loss" on this last Lowell @ Lincoln chat already also.
When a parent spoke up about one thing that RG did good this past year I don't really understood it, how can it be compared to all those things she did last year? I mean just the number of the people who were involved is not comparable. And of course the nature of her behavior either. But I felt for a minute maybe there is hope in her. Even without her statement what exactly did she do wrong last year. Maybe she will do much better this year and the next because now she knows what she needs to do and she is the LEADER.
- Hope

Anonymous said...

No no, not suggesting anything about pulling in 10% to APP or having a problem with a cut score; just the idea of "stack ranking" kids within the small range of eligible cognitive test scores implies a confidence in the difference between 98% and 99% that I just don't see is born out by the power of the test.
--north

dw said...

I guess my response is simply, so what?

If you think there's a better process, I'd love to hear about it, but one needs to work with the available tools and do the best job possible given those constraints. There are much better tests than the CogAT, but not at the price SPS would need to process thousands of applicants. The most fair process is to stack rank and provide services based on those results. It's not perfect by any means, but anything else would be even less fair.

The only real questions are:
- How do you choose to coalesce the data in a stack-rankable way, and
- Where do you draw the line?
Both of these are somewhat arbitrary. There are some theoretical guidelines, but there's all kinds of slop when you get into the details. But in all cases, someone will just miss the mark and be unhappy.

Historically, when APP was in a single elementary and middle school building, about 75% of qualified students in the north end chose to enroll in APP. If, solely as a result of a north end building being available due the split, every last one of those students chose to enroll in APP that would only have been a 33% increase, but we've seen a LOT more than that in recent years. So it's clear that there are other factors at play:
1) increases in overall district enrollment
2) increases in AL applications (in part due to the above), and
3) huge increases in the percentage of applications that were granted enrollment into APP.

#1 is almost completely out of the control of SPS. In general, more kids in public schools is probably a good thing.
#2 is somewhat within the control of the district. Splitting the program affects transportation and family logistics. Piss poor support for Spectrum is driving more families to apply for APP, so SPS can take the credit/blame for much of this.
#3 is completely within the control of the district, and this is where they've been playing around behind the scenes for years and years. Some of it is a result of trying to find more under-represented minorities, which is great in theory, but it hasn't been successful. The only real change has been an overall increase in enrollment. It can't keep increasing forever, the line can be reset any time the district chooses to do so.

Anonymous said...

dw, you wrote:

"#3 is completely within the control of the district, and this is where they've been playing around behind the scenes for years and years. Some of it is a result of trying to find more under-represented minorities, which is great in theory, but it hasn't been successful. The only real change has been an overall increase in enrollment."

I don't get why you attribute the increase is due to an attempt to find more under-represented minorities. Do you see MORE under-represented minorities in APP? If you don't see it, maybe it isn't REALLY to find more under-represented minorities. But it makes for a good answer and target to get all upset over.

-don't worry, we won't show up WB

Anonymous said...

And don't assume when you see an "under-represented minority" in such a program, it is because s/he got in there because of special dispensation or affirmative action plan.

learning WB

Anonymous said...

Melissa certainly should have been welcomed to attend the "Tea with the Principal" meeting at Lowell @Lincoln.

Margaret

Anonymous said...

learning WB-that's exactly what was assumed by some parents and their children (who I have assume heard it from the parents) in our time in APP-that our child was some sort of "token" or was there due to the lowering of the bar. As adults, we parents could take it but little kids shouldn't have to hear that they are bringing the program down by being there.

We're glad we moved to a district where you can self-select honors classes and no one cares what color you are to be there.

--Been there done that

JP said...

Melissa: Had you been allowed into the meeting I believe you would agree with me that the most distressing words uttered were those by Nancy Coogan, who said that Gregory and Rina have the District's full support. If that's the case, I guess this is what's necessary to earn positive marks from your boss:
create an environment of fear and intimidation (in an elementary school of all places!) that results in:
a mass departure of 8 teachers -- some the longest serving and most beloved in the program -- as well as several other staff in the course of just one year;
earning embarrassingly low ratings by staff on every question in the building climate survey;
routine use of District security to intimidate staff and parents; removing a sitting BLT before the end of its term to replace it with a group of the principal's choosing, non-compliant with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the school's own BLT by-laws; developing the school's budget unilaterally, again non-compliant with the Collective Bargaining Agreement that dictates involvement by the BLT.

Oh, and then there's the matter of not investigating a report of possible inappropriate behavior by a staff person, retaliating against the person who brought the concern to him, and lying about the matter to the District's investigator.

If all of this earns the commendation of the District, what does one have to do to be sanctioned? No matter where my children were enrolled, I would be very concerned that this is what District supervisors are embracing as an exemplary record.

Anonymous said...

To Mom of 2

I do not know about the situation concerning a teacher who needed to be removed from their classroom. Rina indicated that she tried to go through this process correctly, and you, as parents, felt that she had been respectful in this process. In part, I can believe that Rina tried to handle a removal of a teacher in a "political" manner that would be successful.

What I know of her, I do not believe that she would have been completely truthful to accomplish this task. The teacher would likely have been advised not to talk to peers or Lowell parents, thus isolating them as they went through this process. Parent complaints usually would have been made privately without the teacher knowing the content and people involved. Rina would have interviewed students from the classroom, giving leading comments that undermined the lesson. Parents would not have been privy to what went on, in the probably daily meetings, where "shortcomings" were deliniated. No one would know if lessons or points were misconstrued, as there is no way that a teacher's version is given credibility.

I personally experienced Rina to be a person, who I believe,was manipulative enough to misrepresent teachers. Even in a case where someone needed to go, I would not believe that she was actually honorable in her write-ups about that teacher. There is no way that parents would ever know how she treated that teacher, even through on the outside, all looked professional. I give her leadership a vote of "no confidence."

I also give her a "no confidence" on her leadership as to understanding what makes for a "gifted curriculum."

Former Lowell teacher

dw said...

WB said: I don't get why you attribute the increase is due to an attempt to find more under-represented minorities. Do you see MORE under-represented minorities in APP? If you don't see it, maybe it isn't REALLY to find more under-represented minorities. But it makes for a good answer and target to get all upset over. -don't worry, we won't show up

And don't assume when you see an "under-represented minority" in such a program, it is because s/he got in there because of special dispensation or affirmative action plan.


It's really depressing when people twist your words to mean something ugly. Your words are your own interpretation of what I wrote, nothing more.

What you should understand is that for (at least) the past decade the topic of greatest interest and most discussion around APP, year after year, has been trying to figure out how to increase the enrollment of black and hispanic students without resorting to what you're talking about. We could talk for a month about all the reasons the program isn't as diverse as it should be, but don't you think it's worthwhile to explore various options that might possibly help?

The truth is simply that with the current qualification methods (and several previous cycles) these students aren't qualifying in at the same proportions as white and asian students. Of those that do qualify, some leave for private schools and others decide against APP for various reasons, one being "it's too white", which only perpetuates the situation! It's frustrating, but it's today's reality and nothing that's been tried over many years has helped significantly. In fact some of what I was talking about above has actually resulted in not just an increase in overall enrollment in APP, but a reduction in percentages of under-represented students, which is totally counter to the goal.

Because I don't want to push my own personal educational values onto other families, if you don't "show up" (even for reasons that I can't relate to) I'm probably not going to try to convince you that you're absolutely making a mistake. It's not an idyllic program for everyone for many different reasons, and some kids may very well be uncomfortable in an environment where there aren't many kids that look like them. But rest assured that bright children of all backgrounds and ethnicities are very welcome in the program, and there are some very positive aspects to consider. Your comment implies that you have an APP-qualified child, and if so, I hope you continue to keep tabs on the program and consider its merits each year at enrollment time.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you must be a pretty threatening person to have security called to be sure that you left the building. That was quite a welcome for someone whose entire heart is in making Seattle Schools work for all. Mrs. Rina G. had to act fast, and she made the call that she did. She must not consider you to be a friend to Lowell @ Lincoln school. Rina is not stepping up to owning her shortcomings, and she continues to hide from being asked about her past track record. She's quite a politician.

Long time observer

Anonymous said...

I am not choosing to misinterpret your words. I've re-read what you wrote. You link district's change to APP entrance as an effort to recruit under-enrolled minorities. Did the district really state that? To blame the recruitment of under-enrolled minorities as being the reason for the increase applications makes no sense when the increase continues to be in well represented groups.

The lowered bar allowed more to qualify. I certainly didn't aske for it. It's pretty simple that people want to take advantage of the relaxed bar. But I am not going to send my kids to a school that people may assume my kids are the ones that caused the lowering of the bar or there because they were less than qualified. My kids and others qualified under the old requirement.

Perhaps, you don't mean the words as such, but unfortunately, I've also heard words in the same veins spoken by adults who probably meant well, but have no idea how insulting that is to my kids. They aren't there to add diversity. They are there because they qualify. They have earned it through hard work, late nights, and yeah, a bit of brainpower. They are smart kids and are too polite to correct such an assumption. As I type this, I think of my friend's child, the Franklin graduate who won a $20,000 academic college scholarship this year. It is one of many this student earned through self-driven grit to find a way to get into a university. They didn't have to lower the bar for her to get in either.

learning wb

Anonymous said...

I taught in APP for many years, and had ethnically minority students at the top tenth of the class. No one was thinking that the bar was lowered for them.

Any child who is at the very bottom of the class has their eligibility looked at. At that point, a parent and student would need to consider whether the APP program was the best placement for them. In the past, this has not been shown to have anything to do with race. Often students who are twice exceptional have difficulty with all the paperwork involved.

This is a great program for students, and I would choose to send your child. We have a history of viewing the children that come to us with honor and love.

Sincerely,
Former APP teacher

Anonymous said...

I taught in APP for many years, and had ethnically minority students at the top tenth of the class. No one was thinking that the bar was lowered for them.

Any child who is at the very bottom of the class has their eligibility looked at. At that point, a parent and student would need to consider whether the APP program was the best placement for them. In the past, this has not been shown to have anything to do with race. Often students who are twice exceptional have difficulty with all the paperwork involved.

This is a great program for students, and I would choose to send your child. We have a history of viewing the children that come to us with honor and love.

Sincerely,
Former APP teacher

Anonymous said...

DW, you say that if every last one of APP-eligible students chose to enroll in APP, "that would only have been a 33% increase, but we've seen a LOT more than that in recent years."

Do you have the actual percent growth at a given grade level--say 2nd? Or even better, the numbers that show that there has been a "huge increase in the percentage of applications that were granted enrollment into APP"? i.e., numbers that show that this increase is truly over and above the sum of growth caused by 1. greater numbers that choose APP (your 33% above), 2. greater numbers that choose to test/apply to AL, 3. greater enrollment in SPS as a whole.

No need to respond with anecdotal evidence or comparisons of total APP enrollment this year vs 5 years ago, etc. I'm looking for numbers to support the specific claims above.

TC

Anonymous said...

Like TC, I'm interested in seeing the hard numbers.

But I'd also like to add that I believe many more people chose to request testing once the district began sending out letters to all families whose kids met a certain threshold on MAP tests. I personally know many families who hadn't considered having their kids tested before, but who took the letter as a special invitation.

I believe the point of sending the letters was to reach more families whose children may benefit from advanced learning programs, but who may not be aware of the options -- including under-represented minorities.

I'm not sure whether that goal was met, but with more kids testing, more will qualify, even with the same bar. Not a bad thing...just one more factor in the increase in APP.

-Factoring in invitations to test

dw said...

You link district's change to APP entrance as an effort to recruit under-enrolled minorities. Did the district really state that?

First, I said some of their changes are related to this, and yes, for some of these changes the district was quite clear about the goals. I'm really surprised you would think I'm suggesting something new or unusual.

Consider a few years ago the experiment with "universal testing". The goal was very clearly to find cognitively advanced kids in under-represented groups whose parents or teachers would not have been likely to nominate them for testing. The problem is that it backfired. More kids were indeed identified, but in even less diverse proportions. The district has also played with other aspects of AL qualifications, such as non-verbal testing, with no better results in diversity, but a growing overall population in APP. Don't even get me started on use of MAP results.

To blame the recruitment of under-enrolled minorities as being the reason for the increase applications makes no sense when the increase continues to be in well represented groups.

Again, the district's intent and result are certainly not in synch. I'm not at all saying that finding and recruiting more minorities into APP is equivalent to reaching lower into the pool, although you seem to have misinterpreted what I wrote to mean that. What I am saying is that some of the methods the district has used have unintentionally resulted in increasing the size of the program without achieving the goal of increased diversity. Looking at other details, such as the percentages of applicants that qualify and the percentages of qualified kids that choose to attend, especially across different parts of the city, show that the bar has been lowered. There are a lot of moving pieces and relationships in this puzzle.

But I am not going to send my kids to a school that people may assume my kids are the ones that caused the lowering of the bar or there because they were less than qualified. My kids and others qualified under the old requirement.

Things brings up an interesting question. Would you be more inclined to send your kids to APP if the bar was raised? Would that reduce the potential for prejudice that you've seen or heard about? I'd like to think it might, but I'm not so sure, because I think people just tend to have their own biases, based on their own life experience. As an example, your misinterpretation of my earlier comments is likely based on what you've seen or heard personally or from others. It happens to everyone, it's the recognition of the process that opens people's minds.

Anonymous said...

Sure, I have biases. I think you do too. Things that I say will have a certain meaning for me, but how others take it may not be what I intend because it gets filter by the receiver's personal biases. I totally get that.

Perhaps, to you a comment about the rise in APP applications is due partly to an attempt to increase under-represented minorities seems like a logical, neutral observation to you. For those under-represented minorities, it becomes more than just a passing observation because it gives a special characterization about them based on their status be it: SES, ethnicity, race or religion. It takes away the individual quality that is the thing that was to suppose qualify a person for the program in the first place. And unfortunately people do use this as a reason to take away the real accomplishment a kid makes. (besides what about all those well represented groups who are the ones actually benefiting from this. Is there a negative take away associated with this or is it all ok because it was one of those unintended consequences?)

This isn't about raising or lowering a bar. For me it's similar when people say it's great to have a black president. Yes it's great, but hopefully you voted for him not because he's black, but because he's a competent, able leader whose policies you agree with. The same holds true in reverse. Hopefully you didn't vote for the president because he's black, but because you disagree with his policies, leadership, or judgement.

So I counter the statement you made because people do form opinions from reading this blog. Personally, I don't buy the minorities recruitment explanation because I think using MAP to bring in more APP applications has more to do with justifying and keeping MAP usage and yes, a larger AL qualified pool means more need for an AL dept.

I have mixed feeling about this district's AL program because it creates division and uneveness in the delivery of the general academics for all kids regardless of abilities. If this district was better managed and had stronger academics focus in all schools to begin with, perhaps we could have save the specialized programs later in HS where kids can pursue more advanced coursework, general ed, or vocational/ technical training? If we had better funding and management, perhaps we can better meet the needs of our special ed and the "G & T" kids in the younger grades. But that's another story.

learning wb

Anonymous said...

Need to revise the last bit to read:

If we had better funding and management, perhaps we can better meet the needs of our special ed and the "G & T" kids while mainstreaming them in the lower grades. But that's another story.

learning wb

Charlie Mas said...

The effort to attract more students from under-represented groups into advanced learning programs has been an effort to search wider, not lower.

It's a shame, but there are a lot of families, particularly in under-represented communities, who don't know about the advanced learning programs or who find the application process a challenge.

It's a greater shame, but there are some school staff who don't recognize giftedness when it is presented, particularly when it is presented by students who come from under-represented groups.

The efforts to find, identify, and enroll these students into the programs is an effort to search more widely, not to search lower. To lower cultural barriers, not to lower the bar.

Anonymous said...

Fine, then use a PD day to include info about AL program and how to work with and ID such kids. Then you are covering all schools and all kids, which I think would be beneficial for current spectrum and ALO programs, not just APP.

Frankly if as you state, that the problem is:
"there are some school staff who don't recognize giftedness when it is presented, particularly when it is presented by students who come from under-represented groups." If attitudes like that prevail in our schools, the problem is MORE than just not recognizing giftedness. To counter by developing a program that is supposed to put that right (did AL dig deep to find out why first?), but doesn't work and not understanding why some in the under-represented community may not appreciate the focus in such a way just compound the misunderstanding.

On this blog there has been much discussion about APP and testings now and in the past, the different criteria used then and now.

Which is why I responded to dw's comments:

He was talking about testing and drawing the line. He was talking about "huge increases in the percentage of applications that were granted enrollment into APP." and

how this " is completely within the control of the district, and this is where they've been playing around behind the scenes for years and years. Some of it is a result of trying to find more under-represented minorities, which is great in theory, but it hasn't been successful. The only real change has been an overall increase in enrollment. It can't keep increasing forever, the line can be reset any time the district chooses to do so."

learning wb

Charlie Mas said...

@learning wb

I can make conjecture about the reasons that higher percentages of test takers are being found eligible for the program, but none of them have to do with the District's effort to increase participation by Latino and Black students.

They are more about people already knowing the student's score on the academic achievement test, currently the MAP, and about people's loss of confidence in Spectrum and ALOs to meet the needs of students who are known to be APP-eligible.

The tested group is still a self-selected group. A higher percentage of them being found eligible is an indicator that they are doing a better job of self-selecting. Nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think spectrum and ALO programs are just as important in AL programs as APP? I can't accept that the fight is on for APP, but not for spectrum and ALO programs because of loss of confidence. Here is one reason why. In schools where you have active and involved parents who are keen on AL programs, loosing a robust spectrum or ALO can cause (self selected) parents to look at APP as the next provider. So I can see the gain there.

If you have a school with many other issues and parents who may not be aware of AL opportunity, then it is here where you can make an inroad by providing ALO or spectrum to MAP/teacher identified/ CogAT qualified) kids. (While doing so, why not beef up the overall academics of the entire school while at it?) You will bring the idea and actual AL much more closer to home and the community you are targeting. All kids can benefit whether they are in AL or not by having such a program if it's well integrated as part of school culture. It's not the quick fix, but a gradual inroad, but with I think, far more lasting impact. Or you can get a letter from AL office among the many other letters the district and school send out, but still leave it up to the individual parent to digest and find out its meaning. And for those kids who don't make the APP cut off, a viable ALO and spectrum option in neighborhood schools will catch far wider number of kids, who later may very well join their APP peer in HS.

I also think about kids who are ELL, but may miss the catch because of language barrier(I know CogAT is supposed to catch this, but there is a distinct disadvantage if you are an ELL kid). For these kids to miss out because of their poor verbal test scores, yet qualify in quantitative score, that's a loss.

learning wb

Anonymous said...

To Charlie and dw, I'm off on my night shift stretch so will not be able to respond. Thx for the discussion.

learning wb

dw said...

WB, the conversation is good if we can all learn from each other. I think we probably agree on more aspects than we disagree, but online conversations are not nearly as fluid as real life conversations, so it takes time.

Charlie's 2:51 post encapsulates much of what I was trying to say, more concisely. The main thing I would add is that the district has not accomplished their goal. In the meantime, various district decisions have caused APP to grow to an unmanageable size, literally threatening its long-term viability.

TC,
Around the time of the split, lots of data was made available. One of the tidbits was that among students eligible for APP, 75% of those north of the ship canal (and QA) chose to actually enroll in APP while IIRC 86% of those south of the ship canal/QA chose to enroll in APP. Those were the numbers for that particular year, and I believe this document was available to the public as part of the many reports related to closures and APP split. Maybe you can still find it deep in the bowels of SPS web site, but good luck. It was pointed out at the time that those numbers had been relatively stable at the time, without a lot of fluctuation.

If every last one of those kids in the north end decided the following year to enroll in APP (not a chance) it could only be a maximum 33% increase due to more families deciding to opt-in. And whatever portion of that 33% ultimately decides to opt in, it's a one time event (or rather, it's not up to 33% each year, but up to 33% total over the subsequent years after the move). Overall district growth is a factor, but we're talking about very small percentage numbers compared with other factors. Two other things come into play: the overall number of applicants and the acceptance rate.

The number of applicants IS growing, and that's due to a combination of the north end moving north and lack of support for Spectrum programs/students. Presumably these are both one-time events. How much have the applications grown? I don't know about the last couple years, but someone on ALTF should either have that data already or be asking the Advanced Learning office for it. The acceptance rate grew a lot in the 200x years, not sure about the last couple. There are four pieces of data that group should have available to them for recent years:

1) The overall number of students in SPS
2) The overall number of Advanced Learning applications
3) The number of students that qualified (particularly for APP)
4) The number of students that accepted enrollment in APP

This data should be readily available, and it will tell a story. Melissa or Charlie, as part of ALTF you should be able to get this data from the Advanced Learning office. Aim for at least the past 4-5 years. I've seen data from prior to that, I'll see if I can get it as well.

dw said...

WB, the conversation is good if we can all learn from each other. I think we probably agree on more aspects than we disagree, but online conversations are not nearly as fluid as real life conversations, so it takes time.

Charlie's 2:51 post encapsulates much of what I was trying to say, more concisely. The main thing I would add is that the district has not accomplished their goal. In the meantime, various district decisions have caused APP to grow to an unmanageable size, literally threatening its long-term viability.

TC,
Around the time of the split, lots of data was made available. One of the tidbits was that among students eligible for APP, 75% of those north of the ship canal (and QA) chose to actually enroll in APP while IIRC 86% of those south of the ship canal/QA chose to enroll in APP. Those were the numbers for that particular year, and I believe this document was available to the public as part of the many reports related to closures and APP split. Maybe you can still find it deep in the bowels of SPS web site, but good luck. It was pointed out at the time that those numbers had been relatively stable at the time, without a lot of fluctuation.

If every last one of those kids in the north end decided the following year to enroll in APP (not a chance) it could only be a maximum 33% increase due to more families deciding to opt-in. And whatever portion of that 33% ultimately decides to opt in, it's a one time event (or rather, it's not up to 33% each year, but up to 33% total over the subsequent years after the move). Overall district growth is a factor, but we're talking about very small percentage numbers compared with other factors. Two other things come into play: the overall number of applicants and the acceptance rate.

The number of applicants IS growing, and that's due to a combination of the north end moving north and lack of support for Spectrum programs/students. Presumably these are more or less one-time events. How much have the applications grown? I don't know about the last couple years, but someone on ALTF should either have that data already or be asking the Advanced Learning office for it. The acceptance rate grew a lot in the 200x years, not sure about the last couple. There are four pieces of data that group should have available to them for recent years:

1) The overall number of students in SPS
2) The overall number of Advanced Learning applications
3) The number of students that qualified (particularly for APP)
4) The number of students that accepted enrollment in APP

This data should be readily available, and it will tell a story. Melissa or Charlie, as part of ALTF you should be able to get this data from the Advanced Learning office. Aim for at least the past 4-5 years. I've seen data from prior to that, I'll see if I can get it as well.

dw said...

Stupid Blogger. Sorry about the double post.

Dorothy Neville said...

I've shared this spreadsheet in the past. It doesn't have all the information one might want about APP and enrollment, but it does have a lot. I used a spreadsheet provided by the APP task force, my copies of the Lowell Directory from the years my son was there and various bits of enrollment data I could get from the district website.
APPenrollment

Anonymous said...

Agree 100% with Charlie's post at 4:17.
--NE APP parent

Anonymous said...

I hope there is a new principal at Lowell at Lincoln next year. Fear, intimidation, exclusion, suppression of dissent, Have no place in our school. Its a take over, elimination of dissidents and purge of those who are not on the principals side.