Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Board Meeting Update

Hey Charlie!  They actually added a "Program Placement Annual Report" to the Superintendent's Comments for tonight's Board meeting.  Of course, the link isn't live yet so I have no idea what it says.  Should be exciting, no?

There are only five speakers for the public testimony section so if you have something burning to say, there are plenty of open spots.

49 comments:

A-mom said...

Wear red and speak for the students forced to MAP test under threat of disciplinary action!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was very surprised to hear that students were told there would be disciplinary action if they didn't take the test. (But I further understood they were able to call their folks and ask for an e-mail to be sent with 5 minutes to the school.)

Of course, nothing motivates a teen like being forced to do something. Any kid forced to take that test, well, good luck with the outcomes from that test.

Po3 said...

My read is that very few students took the test and many who did take it they forced the results to be invalid.

It's a shame that Banda missed an opportunity to establish himself as a thoughtful, leader willing to compromise.

Instead we got threats and a task force, same old same old.

I am disappointed.

Charlie Mas said...

I have read the report. It has some serious problems and I may testify about it.

Where in this report is there any expression of concern about equity or equitable access? I can't find it.

How can the superintendent say that "information about program locations for 2013-14 that could impact family choices is being made available to families prior to the Open Enrollment period. (February 25 – March 8, 2013)" and also say "It must be noted that continued discussions and decisions in regard to International Schools, K-5 STEM, Jane Addams Middle School, Advanced Learning, Skills Center, for example, will take place when the Program Placement Framework is approved in April." These statements appear contradictory. The information cannot be available to families in February and March if the discussions and decisions cannot be made before the Program Placement Framework is complete in April. Can the superintendent reconcile the timeline?

There is nothing in the report that "provides detail about all the decisions that were made in the prior year and how those decisions relate to the eight decision making criteria outlined" in policy 2200. For example, there is a long list of program placement decisions on page 16 but no effort to provide any rationale for these decisions, and certainly nothing aligned with the eight criteria, and definitely nothing that would qualify as a "detail". Instead, there is just a generic statement that a team of managers met and made the decisions with the criteria in mind. Do you think that meets the requirement of the policy? Does it meet the requirements of the procedure? Where did the required detail appear?

How can we contemplate initiating an ALO at Kimball (page 22) when "an Advanced Learning Task Force has been convened and no changes to advanced learning program or locations are recommended at this time"? While it is true that the Advance Learning Task Force is not, in fact convened, how can we acknowledge that truth for Kimball while we deny it for all of the other decisions that were deferred based on that rationale? If the Advanced Learning Task Force is not convened, doesn't that negate the rationale for deferring a number of the "past" decisions and should they not be decided now?

While we're on the topic of the ALO at Kimball, the policy, 2200, clearly limits itself to programs and services "to the extent that those programs or services have an impact on budgets, hiring or placement of staff, or on space within a building." The creation of an ALO at Kimball does not impact budgets, hiring, placement of staff, or the use of space in the building. It is not governed by policy 2200. Why is it included in this report?

If the ALO at Kimball is, in fact, a program, then the school community lacks the authority to create it. The superintendent alone has that authority. The report, however, makes it appear that the decision rests with Kimball. Who has the authority to create, relocate, or close the ALO at Kimball? Can schools choose, on their own, to either open or close an ALO? Haven't a number of schools taken that authority - the District claims an ALO at the school where none actually exists.

Why aren't the announced re-locations of the World School and The NOVA Project included in this report? Is it because they are schools and not programs and therefore their moves are not governed by this policy? If the anticipated relocation of The World School to TT Minor is excluded from this report because The World School is a school and not a program, then why is the roll-up of the World School to the 11th grade included in this report? Is the World School (the program) a program within the World School (the school)? If that's the case, then isn't The World School (the program) also moving to TT Minor?

Anonymous said...

What about speaking of (in) equity?


Reader

Anonymous said...

That was what about sped.

Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

What Advanced LEarning Taskforce? I can't get a reply from ANYONE about it and I'm supposed to be on it.

Yes Charlie, I believe the final decision on an ALO rests with the building. Strange.

parent said...

Good job Cecelia, for advocating for Special ed programs.

Anonymous said...

But where are the sped programs? Specifically, where will the new inclusion programs be?

another reader

parent said...

Good question! Where WILL the programs be???

mirmac1 said...

You are welcome, parent.

another reader, obviously that is not important. What IS important is lining up those who had little to nothing to do with the "Linked Schools" plan and congratulate them...

I would like to NOW acknowledge the SEA members and parents who have labored on the "ICS" Task Force to try and put some semblance of "best practice" onto a absolutely screwed up system...

Anonymous said...

mirmac, what ware you referring to? what best practices are being implemented? some of the linked schools are very screwed up for sped.the district would have to do a lot to fix them and make sure that IDEA is more than a piece of paper.

reader

mirmac1 said...

reader,

I said "semblance" - that's something in between best practice and stone age.

dw said...

Is anyone else here concerned that the "equitable access" catch phrase could be used to essentially kill APP by cutting it up into small pieces and sprinkling around the city?

Every time I read about this with regards to new Program Placement policy, I get the heebie jeebies. Splitting 4-5 ways would be equivalent to killing the program.

Anonymous said...

... and that sounds like a great idea! Hope that's how it goes. When the rest of this bring it up to Vaughan, he shakes his head yes, like he does to everyone else.

APP everywhere for everyone.

Anonymous said...

APP is for everyone, everyone who is at the extreme tail of cognitive/achievement abilities distribution. You know this, right? And because of the nature of the service, it can't be 'everywhere' because it deals with providing service to outliers, and for all of the educational, social and emotional needs, these extreme outliers need a cohort, otherwise they are utterly isolated. Either you appreciate this because you've read the best practises research and know how States like Colorado have dealt with gifted education, or, you simply don't care because it's not about actual education or the needs of a particular child, it's just about your needs for the way things look.

Every single child deserves an education. Every single one. Regardless of their abilities, high or low. Kids should get to go to a building and be engaged, every single day. And then they should get to go home that day knowing a little bit more than when they left for school that morning from their home. Every single day. Every single child. That is the premise of education.

It doesn't matter the age, color, sexual orientation (think high school), physical or cognitive disability, socio-economic status, or cognitive ability. Every single student should get to go school and expect to learn something, to be taught something and get an appropriate stretch every single day.

That's what I think. That's the point of school. Does our school system do this, everyday, for every child, right now? Yes, no, and sometimes. But still, it is what should happen.

APP is an excellent vehicle to provide education. And the name, accelerated, is such a misnomer, because 'accelerating' 2 years ahead is *not* accelerating at all for these kids. They already are two years ahead, so this is just meeting them where they already are.

My kid spontaneously read her first word when she just turned three. She was reading chapter books before kindergarten. She scored a grade 3 math RIT for her first kindergarten MAP score. You just don't know how awful school can be when your so atypical, and your child is ignored because "they don't need anything". It sucks the soul out of a child. It is incredibly isolating. In APP, they are no longer 'atypical', they are just kids. And they get to go to school and learn something. And they are neither ignored or lauded, they are simply taught at their level, at their pace. That is all. Think of your child having to sit in a classroom being taught material 2 years behind his/her ability. Would that be a happy place for your kid? How would you feel as the parent of that child, watching your child learn to hate school as a boring and patronizing place?

Special ed inclusion is an approach to benefit a child, because when the child is appropriately mainstreamed with the right supports, that child experiences a richer, more stimulating environment to support his/her individual learning. However, take a child whose IQ puts them at about 1 in 1,200, and 'mainstream' them (ie, kill APP), and, they go into an environment that is not more enriching, not more stimulating. Instead, it is an isolating experience, where loneliness and boredom engulf them.

I know this post will get attacked and vilified. I recall some snide remark once that said, oh gee, you're so special and unique, like Prince William, and we are all supposed to feel sorry for you". You are all free to pile it on and attack, but it won't be productive. We can just agree to disagree. I believe every child who goes to school deserves an education.

-too tired to proof read and sorry if a reading yet definetly non-pushed 3 year-old frightens you

Jan said...

Bravo, too tired! Everything you have said is spot on! If you speak as persuasively as you write, I hope you get your 15 minutes in front of the program placement decisionmakers (Banda, Vaughn, whomever).

APP is "equity" for gifted kids. It is not "extra," it is not "frosting," it is not a "gift" or "coddling" that makes them, or results from their being, "entitled." I have had an APP kid. I have had a SPED kid. Both of them need(ed) the chance to learn at their (very different) own paces.

I don't know whether the "right" number of "cohorts" is 1, or 2 or 3. But I DO know that it is nowhere close to "APP in every school" -- and I suspect that within APP itself the answer differs -- the APP kids nearer to the "Spectrum" end of the curve can probably better thrive in a Spectrum/IB/AP environment than those fewer who are further out on the curve.

Anonymous said...

Too Tired,

No attack. I just want to add several points:

1)Learning is not limited in a school building; a good part of one's learning happens outside of a school building.
2)Learning (eg. good or bad lessons/information) occurs whether there is a good or bad teacher, good or bad curriculum, or whether a student is engaged. But I think your point refers to good learning and a lot of good learning.
3)There is an underlying philosophical difference that exists when resources are limited. It is important to discuss this and though we may not be comfortable about the disagreement, it may be helpful to learn to accept this disagreement. In a utopia world of unlimited resources, I agree that every child needs to be educated; meet them where they are. 2 years advance; where they are - it's semantics. However, in the real world where resources are limited, tough decisions have to be made. A good part of the world is trying to solve the problem of how “Every single student should get to go school and expect to learn something, to be taught something and get an appropriate stretch every single day.” Unfortunately, no one has figured it out or at least changing fast enough in the right direction and in a mass scale that may be replicated in another society or system. Hard and painful decisions have to be made on how to spread the limited resources to benefit the most. Yes, the reality is, we must decide between communities, between schools, between programs, and though no one wants to admit it, between one child over another. This is the same issue every parent is faced each day as they juggle their time, energy and resources. It is the unspoken “other duties as assigned” that every teacher, school staff, administrator, and elected officials must contend with.

Though this, I believe, is our reality, I am hopeful that the churn whether organized or not and our diversity, will lead us to that magical place where we can meet every child at where they are to engage them, educate them with the resources (time, energy and money) we have and then still be able to do all the other things that are important to us outside of educating our kids.

A friend

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Hard and painful decisions have to be made on how to spread the limited resources to benefit the most."

Friend, is APP costing the district more? What do you perceive is costing more? If you added up all the Title One dollars, grants, etc. for struggling students, it's a lot. It's not like they are being neglected for APP students.

I actually would be good with just APP and ALOs IF ALOs were in every school, robust and available to every child. They aren't.

It sounds a lot like "good enough" talk. Every effort should be made to support every child's academic improvement.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Hence the philosophical difference. Yes, it does cost. Space? Time? Resource? It doesn't come free.

A for "good enough talk". I respectfully disagree. Each day I toil for kids, and must make REAL decisions which most of the time involve choosing one over the other. Perhaps I am not as smart or as skilled as others when it comes to prioritizing. However, the mere fact that the word prioritize exists would remind me of the reality that I live in.

"Good enough talk"? Really? Is that what all your researching, writing, interacting with a broad based community has come down to?

Remaining optimistic and productive,

A Friend

A friend

Anonymous said...

Dear "a friend" -
The only costs that I think are additional to run an APP program is transportation. The students need space, teachers, supplies, etc., whether or not they are in an APP building or in their neighborhood assigned schools. Those kids don't disappear if you take away the program (well, some may go to private schools and shoreline school district, but those kids still exist.) So, really, the only cost is getting the kids to the program that I can think of - and now that there are programs both in the north and south, that doesn't seem unreasonable....
Am I missing something?

~Mom

Anonymous said...

Mom,

Haven't we been discussing capacity for the last several years? Does that come free? What about time? If we were to create a curriculum for APP, doesn't that take time from someone? What about text books? Does it cost more having 2 textbooks versus 1?

Am I the one missing something or perhaps I don't understand how our educational system works, which I readily admit am no expert?

A friend

Anonymous said...

There is another thread about "No perfect test". I will submit that the "every child" is overused in the same way. That is our aspiration, our hope, our desire. However, at the end of the day, we must choose. Those who say that they don't have to choose or don't want to choose misses an opportunity to actually help as many kids as they can.

I myself like the messaging of "every child" but balanced with a reality and acceptance that battle worn adults share among themselves silently.

Ok, getting choked up because, like I said, a hard and painful choices.

That is all I have to say about this.

A friend

Anonymous said...

A friend -
Capacity is a wash - the students need to be somewhere - whether in an APP program building or in their neighborhood school. If you were to disband APP right now, the students would go back to their neighborhood schools and you'd have to immediately turn the building into a neighborhood school to manage capacity. So, no, capacity issues wouldn't be less if you disbanded APP.
APP doesn't have a different curriculum or books - they just teach it 2 years ahead for students. I guess that they could apply to use a different math curriculum, for instance, but that option is available to all schools. The APP program doesn't get two sets of books, the students just use the books at 2 grade levels higher than than age-peers.
The APP program really doesn't cost any more - they have the same number of administrators in each school and get the same funding, based upon number of students, that all schools get.
So, no, there really aren't additional costs that I know of except transportation.

~ A mom (whose child is not enrolled in APP)

Anonymous said...

Capacity doesn't come free, but APP kids are bodies to serve whether they are in APP or not. Shut down Lincoln APP and where do you think those both end kids will go? Back to their overcrowded neighborhood schools? Heck, as crappy a job as SPS does with capacity mgmnt, one could argue APP actually helps with that by giving the district a convenient target.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

Federal Way has an APP cluster of kids in every elementary school, that are placed in one multi-grade 3-5th classroom, that mirrors the ethnic make-up of the actual school. Before that, there is a lot of walk to math and reading going on. Kids are placed in the classroom in a thoughtful manner, not based solely on test scores. This strategy prevents siblings from being separated, avoids excessive transportation costs and meets the needs of all learners in their neighborhood school. And can I just add, there is a huge difference between a gifted child, and an early achiever. Seattle's APP identification system is favored toward identifying early achievers, and many of those kids eventually level out with the general population. Just because a child walked at 8 months vs. 16 months doesn't mean the early walker will always be a more proficient walker. I loathe the current system in place as is doesn't address the underachieving gifted students who are the ones who most need atypical instruction- their teachers know who they are.
Stunned Again

mirmac1 said...

Stunned Again,

I've heard good things about Federal Way. I have also heard they, essentially, place every student in AP courses, then the student and family can opt-out. That's high expectations. That sounds more equitable to me.

mirmac1 said...

I don't know where I've been, but am I the only one who didn't know about this? District Data Profile Starting at Pg 49, it shows that, whatever the district is doing to attract more minority students to advanced placement, it is NOT working.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Mirmac1, those graphs are troubling. We sure are boosting the number of white students served by APP though. I also found the following paragraph disturbing.

"The addition of 1,324 students in Advanced Placement programs between 2007-2008 and 2012-2013 represents a
45.7% gain in the number of students who are enrolled in Advanced Placement programs in the
District during the six year time period shown. The percentage of students enrolled in Advanced
Placement programs is particularly strong at the middle school level, with 18.6% of the students in
these programs during the 2012-2013 school year."

Nearly 20% of our middle schoolers are outliers? And most of them are white? Hmmmmmmm......something is terribly wrong.
Stunned Again

Anonymous said...

Disgusted that every blog post ends in a debate of APP.

D

Lori said...

Stunned, APP is not the same thing as Advanced Placement. The report mirmac linked to is talking about SPS students in all advanced learning options together: APP, Spectrum, and ALO.

So, no, no one is saying, not even this report, that 18% of middle schoolers are outliers. They are just saying that 18% of middle schoolers are enrolled in some sort of advanced learning offering, including Spectrum and ALO, the latter of which students can opt into based on teacher recommendation (ie, no specific testing required).

mirmac1 said...

Thanks for clarifying Lori. But can we agree that the district has NOT been successful in identifying and enrolling more minority students in Advanced Placement, MAP or no MAP?

dw said...

I don't know why I thought I could ask a specific question without it turning into another ignorant anti-APP rant. Friend, please listen up.

As others have mentioned, APP is not expensive, in fact when it was housed in single buildings at Lowell/Washington/Garfield it was one of, if not the, cheapest set of kids to educate in the city. Transportation subsidies meant the district actually made money hauling those kids on the buses. The transportation issue is more complex now, but any talk about extra costs related to APP are complete BS. The kids, by their very nature are cheap to educate compared to average.

Yes, there are issues of identification. Big ones. Early achievers vs. truly gifted is just one aspect. While I'd like to lay that blame square on the shoulders of Dr. Vaughan (and may still do so), I know there are erratic pressures from the rest of SPS leadership and even from the Board directors. None of this has anything to do with the merit of the program and its goals. Please separate those thoughts.

The APP program has been diluted over the past few years to a point where it would be hardly recognizable to someone from 10+ years ago. The MAP is only one piece of the equation. People look at APP these days and think "Hey I know those kids, they're not THAT special", and that wears on the program's reputation as well. It also serves as an undercurrent to encourage even more parents to push for their kids to get into the program, and as long as we have poor identification mechanisms, more of them will. Combined with splitting the program and placing half in the north end, we've created a monster.

The solution is easy: shore up Spectrum, creating strong, supported, encouraged programs in at least one school in each part of the city, and tighten the APP requirements back up. APP was never supposed to serve thousands of kids, it was designed as a self-contained program because it served true outliers, of which there are very few. Also, consider adjusting entry criteria based upon overall cog and achievement numbers in different regions, because frankly, being a 98th percentile kid at your school is more relevant than whether or not you're an outlier with respect to a national norm. If a particular school's population is comprised of 10% highly gifted and the average of all kids is 75th percentile nationally normed, that is a completely different situation than a school where one kid is at 96th percentile and the average of all students is 30th percentile. The 96th percentile kid needs a special program just as much if not more than the 98ers at the high performing school. There are a lot of complexities most people don't think about, but the program is literally a life-saver for a bunch of these kids, and it's disappearing before our very eyes.

--------------------------

Back to the original question: is "equitable access" going to divvy up this program and push it even further down the wrong path?

dw said...

I see there have been a few more comments between the time I started writing the last post and now.

mirmac said: Thanks for clarifying Lori. But can we agree that the district has NOT been successful in identifying and enrolling more minority students in Advanced Placement, MAP or no MAP?

This is true. The thing everyone should know is that no one in APP has been ignoring this fact. It's been a HUGE issue that tended to dominate many (perhaps most) APP strategy conversations for many years, at the APP-AC and the APP task force prior to that. At times to the detriment of all the other important planning issues.

The year (or 2?) of "universal testing" a few years ago was put in place to help find more minority and FRL kids, but it had the opposite effect as well. It found more kids, but even more of them were white/asian. So this isn't the first time.

Here's the problem: the kids we'd like to find just aren't there. That's straight from Dr. Vaughan's mouth (although I don't know if he'd ever come out and say it on a public stage), and he's been doing this longer than any of us, and has deep insights. He's worked his butt off over the years trying to identify and recruit more under-represented kids, but at the end of the day, they don't exist in the same percentages as white/asian kids -- at least not in ways that we can measure.

The problem is that even if a kid is born with potential, there are advantages to parents having either resources or dedication to education, and both of those help kids from a very young age cultivate their talents and abilities. We all know this to be true, and yet we ignore it when we say "why aren't more under-represented kids in APP?!"

So given that life isn't fair, and our society isn't perfectly balanced in every way, what can we do about it?

The biggest hurdle to overcome is that all parents need to understand how important education is for their kids, and they need to insist that their kids think about a wide variety of topics/problems, and that they work hard in school. But that's a tough sell when the parents themselves aren't educated and don't necessarily care. Culture is culture, and mistrust and apathy run very deep in some circles. Everyone knows that in some circles it's very UNcool to be smart and/or a good student. That's the ugly hurdle that few people want to talk about, and it's the biggest.

But we can at least do one thing as a district, and as a city. We can encourage those brave kids and families who come from FRL and under-represented backgrounds and who DO want to fight the tide, to enroll in programs that work for them. More attention has to be paid to supporting quality Spectrum and ALO in the south end, for example. If we can get more of these kids into a program where they're surrounded by other kids with similar backgrounds who also want to work to achieve their potential, then we have a chance to start turning this tanker around. Those programs can also act as a sort of "farm team" to help lift kids who might have APP potential into that program. Without that stepping stone, it's far more likely that their potential will never even be known.

mirmac1 said...

For those of you wondering where the programs are...

Program Placement Report

SpEd families are still waiting for descriptions of just what an SM4 program looks like. I think it is top secret information.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Spectrum and APP problem is one of resource allocation. As others have said, these kids are no more expensive to educate properly than to educate as seat warmers.

I think it's a problem of hurt feelings. And rather than manage the problem or expectations or reframe things or somehow solve it, we take the Spectrum program apart because we'd rather have 3 classes where 1/3 of the kids are bored than one classroom where they are challenged and learning how to learn and work hard. Because a vocal minority of parents of students in the at-grade-level class will feel bad.

Sorry kid, you pick up concepts really fast. Sucks to be you. We can't have anyone thinking they are special, can we?

Or as the Whittier principal reportedly said during a tour just today, explaining why classes are blended: There are no Spectrum lines at the grocery store.

Which I interpret to be: Your kid isn't special. They don't get special treatment.

A side note, what the hell is special anyway? Getting taught things you learned two years ago apparently is not special, being taught new things apparently is.

So in order to not have kids feel special, we don't meet their needs. We'll beat them down to grade level, one boring year at a time.

And parents of kids who would benefit from Spectrum start to look at APP. b/c their kid would do better there than bored stiff in their neighborhood school.

I have a kid at grade level and I have no problem with that, b/c she's learning. And another one who's bored and frustrated needlessly.

Anyone who can afford to go private, will, in this environment. Which is a bad sign for public schools.

Differentiation is a myth

Anonymous said...

Lori,
From the same part I quoted earlier: "Data for students in ALO programs and schools were not available for longitudinal analysis and are not included in this section of the Profile" I read that as the 18% middle school figure does not include ALO students. No ?

As for Bob Vaughn's reported statement, "Those kids aren't there." Well, of course they aren't going to be there if we use achievement scores (from tests which are bias toward English only affluent children) to identify them. There are very bright kids in our most disadvantaged schools who will never make the cut, but are more than a couple of years ahead of their peers (not necessarily their grade level). The brightest in every school deserves atypical instruction. I'm not saying get rid of APP- I'm saying options should be at every school, like in Federal Way.
Stunned Again

Jamie said...

Whoa, Spectrum classes are blended at Whittier now? When did that start happening? I guess it's been 5 years since my kid was there, but i don't recall them being mentioned in blending discussions here when folks were talking about Lawton and Wedgewood.

Anonymous said...

Stunned Again-

You say: "I'm saying options should be at every school, like in Federal Way."

This is EXACTLY what ALO is supposed to be. Instead of being something meaningful, the district calls ALO "Advanced Learning" without any enforcement that the schools actually do anything different for the kids and yet they still get to keep the designation and talk about it to the prospective parents.

This all comes down to a school district that talks big about AL opportunities (we have ALO, Spectrum, APP!!!!!), but then allows schools to dismantle them at will. So many ALO and Spectrum families are frustrated because their kids are given a designation (ALO or Spectrum qualified), but there might not be any program for them or any room in the program (Spectrum).

You also talk about the top 20% being considered "outliers." Spectrum is not considered a program for "outliers."

NSea parent

Anonymous said...

My kids go to Whittier and the spectrum program is still self-contained.

NW family

Lori said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Stunned. I read page 49 too quickly earlier. But I could tell from the numbers on page 52 that they weren't talking about only APP because they have the current K-5 enrollment as over 1,800 kids, and that is way too high to be elementary APP alone.

I appreciate the correction! So it's APP and Spectrum numbers combined in those tables.

And of course, mirmac, I agree that the district's efforts to increase minority enrollment have not been successful. I didn't state it outright earlier because for once, I was trying to be brief! But, yeah, it's pretty clear.

Last year, I posted a link on the APP blog about the idea of using local norms for identification, which sounds like something Stunned was hinting at. This is from a paper I'd come across on the Prufrock Press:

Advantages of local norms. The primary limitation of national norms is they do not take into account local variations in ability or achievement. However, the need for special programming at the local level depends on the discrepancy between students’ current levels of cognitive or academic development and that of their classmates – not all other students in the nation. In some schools, the average student scores at the 20th national percentile (NPR). In such a school, a student who scores at the 70th NPR is probably significantly mismatched with her peers. Conversely, in some very high-achieving schools, a child who scores at the 95th NPR may not be seriously mismatched with the instructional challenges in the classroom. Because schools vary widely in the average ability and achievement of their students, policies that require all students in the district or state to attain the same level of excellence on a nationally normed test result in schools in which no child is served by the program and other schools in which a substantial fraction of the children are labeled “gifted.” Local norms eliminate both of these problems.

Just some food for thought.

mirmac1 said...

That sounds more equitable to me.

Anonymous said...

Yes Lori, that is what I was trying to say, thanks for the great elaboration. And I agree Mirmac, it sounds more effective and equitable.
Stunned Again

Anonymous said...

Got an email from our QAE principal saying the board voted last night to move our Creative Approach application forward. Would love to see a thread on how that process is going.

Incoming Parent

dw said...

Lori, Stunned may have hinted at it, but that was exactly what I spelled out above (though using my own terminology): Also, consider adjusting entry criteria based upon overall cog and achievement numbers in different regions, because frankly, being a 98th percentile kid at your school is more relevant than whether or not you're an outlier with respect to a national norm. (etc.)

None of this takes anything away from the necessity for an APP program, but these other differentiated programs are a vital part of a comprehensive advanced learning ecosystem. Without them two things happen:

1) Lots of kids fall through the cracks and get nothing. If there's nothing meaningful between the standard classes at your local, low-performing school and APP with entry criteria just out of reach (and halfway across town, to boot), well, you're screwed.

2) Kids who would be well-served (perhaps best-served) in regional or neighborhood programs push to get into APP. This bleeds out the kids who are high achievers but not necessarily super outliers, and also hurts APP because there's a big difference between high achievers and highly gifted kids in the ways they learn, not just the level they're functioning at.

An intermediate advanced learning program may ultimately fulfill the needs of a kid, or it may act a stepping stone to help an APP level kid who hasn't had any infrastructure in place to unlock their potential. Either way we have a winning situation. The reason I've been advocating for using local norms (I've got the proper terminology now, thanks!) is because I just flat out don't think there's any other way help all the different types of advanced learners.

The problem is, the Advanced Learning department (and SPS in general) wants neat, packaged solutions that are "equitable" (read: equal), so they can claim everything is "fair". In the process, all manner of kids are hurt, and APP is under constant attack from people who are well-meaning in their own way, but don't understand the entire system.

I do think it's nice that we've sort of converged in our thinking here in this thread. At least it appears that way.

One last comment, with regard to As for Bob Vaughn's reported statement, "Those kids aren't there." Well, of course they aren't going to be there if we use achievement scores (from tests which are bias toward English only affluent children) to identify them.

It's not really that the tests are so biased like they used to be; they may not be perfect, but much of the old bias we grew up with has been removed from these tests over the years. It's more that the kids simply are not functioning at the highest achievement levels. They may have strong cognitive skills, but you cannot just take a kid with potential and throw him/her into a classroom full of highly gifted and already high achieving kids. That's a formula for failure. That's the problem with limiting the use of achievement levels and concentrating on cognitive/potential abilities.

I'm not saying get rid of APP- I'm saying options should be at every school, like in Federal Way.

If by options, you mean a range of options, then I totally agree. But APP, by its very nature cannot exist in every school, or even half the schools. If you have an elementary school with 400 kids, and try to design a program to serve 8 kids across all 6 grades you have nothing. APP only works because it brings enough bodies together in one location to make a program viable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with this idea completely, and would even wish that starting with the appeal process going on THIS MONTH, AL would use home school information to guide entrance to APP: for example, have a higher bar than 95 for achievement test scores for kids coming out of high-performing schools; trust me, there are masses of kids with those scores at these schools. AL can have discretion built into the process even as it's written now. It is frustrating to see exactly what DW describes happening grade after grade in our school. We can't strenghten ALOs until it changes.
APP in ALO

Anonymous said...

Dear dw, stunned and others advoacating for tigher entrance requirements for APP--

Has anyone looked at how APP's attendence has grown over time reletive to overall SPS enrollment?

Is there really a problem with the APP population getting too big because too many of the "wrong" kids are getting in, dilluting the learning environment for the truly gifted?

Or, are there more kids because there are more kids?

Put another way, HAS the rate of growth for the APP program grown faster than SPS's total popluation growth? OR, as I'm thinking may be more likely, HAS APP's population grown at the same pace as the rest of our SPS population?

Fact: 2007 (children entering 1st grade this year) was highest birth rate on record yet. ALL of the schools will be seeing a spike in enrollment. With an increase in overall population, there would be an expected increase in the APP population.

Further, SEATTLE has an incredibly well educated population per capita (one of the highest in the world) and from that one would expect that we may also have more of those "gifted" outliers.

More over, the question of if APP is meant to serve the "gifted" kid who "learns differently" VS the "high achieving" kid is inherently problematic.

How, exactly, is it possible to distinguish these kids? Are you really advocating that a few percentile points will do the trick?

The current testing tool, the group administered COGAT, does NOT do a good job already, and tightening up the percentaile threshold or using a "local norm" isn't going to make it do it's job better. All that is going to do is be sure to do any even worse job of identifying those kids that need APP.

Gifted doesn't neccessarily mean testing well on a standardized, group administered multiple choice test. In fact, MANY gifted kids have to appeal using IQ testing, which is a slightly more reliable measure of "giftedness"

And, we could argue and discuss the valitidy of the tools used, and what the exact right percentile ranking should be, to identify APP kids until the end of time.

BUT, isn't the real problem that our school system isn't adequately serving our kids needs? We have buildings that are falling down around our kids ears, APP elementary temporarily living in a jurnior high school, and the Spetrum program being slowly dismantled.

Why don't we focus attention on strengthening and EXPANDING our accelerated programs' SUCCESS (as well as ALL other programs)instead of spending time trying to find ways to keep kids out of the programs we KNOW do a great job of educating our kids?

--let's talk about how to serve APP kids, instead of finding new ways to restrict access

dw said...

let's talk said: Has anyone looked at how APP's attendence has grown over time reletive to overall SPS enrollment?

Yes. The percentage of applicants for advanced learning that were accepted into APP grew hugely over the course of a few years. I haven't seen the data for the past couple years, perhaps someone should request that data, i.e. # of students in SPS, # of applicants for AL, and # of students accepted into each of the programs. With the overall district growing at the rate it is now, even if growth is limited to that of the district at large, the numbers are leveraged because of the more lenient acceptance rates.

Is there really a problem with the APP population getting too big because too many of the "wrong" kids are getting in, dilluting the learning environment for the truly gifted?

Of course if you phrase it like that it sounds terrible. Frankly, if you're thinking about it like that then I don't think you're seeing the big picture. It's not letting in "wrong" kids into APP, it's making poor decisions about the best environment for as many kids as possible.

It's about destroying options (Spectrum/ALO) for bright and/or diligent kids for which APP is not the ideal solution. So often these kids (er, parents) end up pushing to get into APP anyway, when a strongly supported local Spectrum or ALO program would be a better fit, educationally, socially and logistically. I'm not assuming this, many parents readily acknowledge it.

The other thing that happens is that if a talented or motivated kid is in a low-performing school, doesn't have super active parents, and there isn't any decent Spectrum/ALO program in their area, what are they going to do? Probably nothing. Even if they qualify for APP, are they going to go halfway across town to make it happen? Many don't. Without some kind of easy entry point into a local advanced learning program, many just stay in their neighborhood schools and their talents go untapped. At least in school. Local norms are definitely something that should be explored.

Why don't we focus attention on strengthening and EXPANDING our accelerated programs' SUCCESS (as well as ALL other programs)instead of spending time trying to find ways to keep kids out of the programs we KNOW do a great job of educating our kids?

You're kind of right about strengthening programs, but I hope it's clear from above, that it's not about "keeping kids out", it's about keeping/creating strong options that suit all kids. That's very different from expanding APP (which doesn't make sense). I'm not sure which program you're talking about that "we KNOW does a great job of educating our kids". If you think that's APP, I'd guess you haven't been around very long. For many kids, it's the best option that still exists, which is why it's grown so much. But that's a far cry from being great, all it could be, or even all it used to be.

Maureen said...

Re the Whittier principal's quote: There are no Spectrum lines at the grocery store.

I've seen this a couple of times on this blog now and can't let it go.

Actually there are Spectrum and APP lines at the grocery store. That's what the Express and self checkout lines are. They are for people who can get through the system more quickly and/or do better with a different system of checking out.

I think the principal needs to find a different metaphor!