First you will hear Shauna Heath speak carefully so that she does not equate Highly Capable Services with APP. At first, I attributed this to Ms Heath's distinctive prose style - obfuscation - and her instinctive reluctance to answer a question. Seen through that lens, her confusing response is only amusing.
However, what if Ms Heath's talk was intentional? What if she was intentionally making a distinction between highly capable services and APP? What if this is the first step to the introduction of another delivery model for Highly Capable Services?
Am I paranoid? Sure, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.
We get three big clues. The first comes when Ms Heath explains that, following conversations among the district staff, they unilaterally decided to change the name of the proposed policy from Highly Capable Program to Highly Capable Services. Whatever the official technical definition of "program" and "service", the public perception is that services are provided to individual students within a general education classroom and programs have groups of students in their own classrooms.
This is completely beside the point, but I find it telling that Ms Heath can unilaterally change the language of the proposed policy all by herself but a Board member would have to put forward an amendment and get a majority vote of the Board for the same change. Who has the power here? Also, when Director Peaslee talks about edits she suggested for the policy, Ms Heath's response was "I did receive your edits and we will take a look at that." again, making it clear that staff, not the Board, is writing policy. Another linguistic quirk of Ms Heath - I've noticed that she really likes using the royal "we".The second clue comes when Director Carr asks Ms Heath if there was an overall plan for Advanced Learning. She didn't hesitate. She said that she would be prepared to bring forward that plan in fourteen days. Really? This District has dithered and dithered about developing a vision for Advanced Learning but now Ms Heath tells us that it is done and she's ready to share it with the Board in two weeks. She even described it as "visual" and "more broad". Ms Heath clearly has something specific in mind.
In answer to questions, Ms Heath says that the Superintendent's Procedures will govern Spectrum and other advanced learning programs and services - despite the fact that the proposed policy only authorizes the superintendent to write procedures for the student identification process. They are clearly staking out their authority to make these decisions without the Board. And they are clearly moving forward with these decisions without any engagement with stakeholders.
The third and clearest clue lies in Ms Heath's careful refusal to equate highly capable services with APP - listen to how she answers the questions that start at 90:42.
Director Peaslee: So then, to go back to your comment that I didn't understand. You said that this addresses what's called for in the WACs - in the laws. So, does that cover all of our Advanced Learning programs, or does it only cover APP, or does it cover APP?
Ms Heath: So, the law covers 2.34% of students as far as a funding source and that was what we referenced in the equitable access framework and that's the same thing we're referencing here.
Director Peaslee: So that's essentially our APP program, right?
Ms Heath: Essentially.
Director Peaslee: So this policy only has to do with APP. Is that correct?
Ms Heath: It has to do with that definition under the federal and state law, yeah. So it's state law in this case, the RCWs and the WACs. Again, the procedures that are built out can address those more specific.
Director Peaslee: Okay, so the equitable access plan will address all of the Advanced Learning opportunities, but not necessarily this policy. Is that - I'm trying to figure out what the relationship between this policy and all of our Advanced Learning programs.For reasons I described earlier, this weird obfuscation would not, by itself, be much of a clue. But when Mr. Tolley steps in and takes over the microphone we hear him make the same distinction. Here is what he said (jump to 92:04 to hear it for yourself):
Mr. Tolley: This is specifically referring to how we provide services to Highly Capable students. Current - our current service delivery model for highly capable students is our accelerated - well, we say APP. But the Accelerated Progress Program itself is not necessarily the only way that we can serve our students. As we discussed during the committee, we want to make sure that we also are training our teachers to provide focused instructional practices that better serve our students in that way. So that's one of the pieces that we added to this policy to emphasize that we need to insure that our teachers are using practices that benefit all of our highly capable students.
So, this policy is specifically referring to the services that are required by law but it doesn't prevent us, of course, from continuing to provide services to other students through our Spectrum and our ALO programs.
Director Peaslee: But this policy does not address those programs. Is that correct?
Mr. Tolley: That's correct.
Director Peaslee: Thank you.
Now go back and listen to the entire exchange with this in mind. Ms Heath answers Director Peaslee's first question by telling the Board that Highly Capable Services are provided through ALOs, AP and IB - which is true. These are services that APP students can and do access. She clearly includes these among Highly Capable Services. Mr. Tolley jumps in to make just two points: 1) APP, which he referred to as our "current" service delivery model, isn't the only way to serve Highly Capable students and 2) We're going to train every teacher to address the needs of Highly Capable students. What does that suggest?
To me, it suggests that the district staff intends to significantly reduce APP and eliminate Spectrum and ALOs. They intend to replace them both with a sort of ALO in every classroom - although it won't be called that anymore - which is accessed as Tier 2 of MTSS. Students working beyond Standards will be served in general education classrooms through differentiated instructional materials and instructional practices - Tier 2 of MTSS. This is the plan for how the District will serve all students. Go back to the video and listen to Ms Heath and Mr. Tolley again with this in mind. Review policy 2200 with this in mind. Review the Equitable Access Framework with this in mind. The District will train our teachers - all of them - on how to address the needs of advanced learners through instructional strategies and some alternative instructional materials, maybe some small group instruction, maybe pull-outs or push-ins. It will be handled as Tier 2 of MTSS for advanced learners. That's the new model.
Don't believe me? Take a look at slide 45 of Equitable Access Framework:
Highly Capable Next Steps
- Evaluate the student identification process
- Evaluate the current service delivery model (current model requires additional funding)
- Revise Board policy
- ALO supported by professional development for differentiated instruction
They are already at the third step - they have revised the Board policy.
And what's the fourth step? ALOs.
Oh, what's that you say? When did they evaluate the student identification process? When did they evaluate the current service delivery model? Don't worry, they did. You just weren't part of it, or informed of it. They can't show it to you because they didn't document it. Sorry.
Upset that the superintendent and Ms Heath didn't discuss it with you? Concerned that they didn't discuss it with the Board? They did. They did it in committee and in the Equitable Access Framework presentation? Don't you remember? Anyway, they don't have to. The superintendent has the authority (under F21.00 and 2200) to close any program he wants. Spectrum is screwing up their enrollment planning. Having all of the kids together gives the families an identity and a voice to agitate for authentic services. It also makes it too easy to demonstrate that the programs aren't working well. By spreading them out across all of the schools and making every student's program essentially an individual program they will completely wipe away the community and the ability of the community to petition collectively for authentic services. After this practice is implemented, they will only have to deal with individual cry-baby parents - who can be easily discredited and dismissed.
Students who reach Tier 3 of MTSS will get diverted into a program like APP to meet their needs, but that will be the access path. That's why the proposed policy specifically authorized the superintendent to write procedures for student identification. The days of self-selection and testing will be over, although diagnostic tests will be part of the MTSS evaluation process, you will have to rely on the teacher to refer the student to the program through the MTSS process. You will have to rely on the principal to oversee the teacher's referrals. Kids who don't demonstrate high ability on MAP tests or MSP will never be identified.
Here's the funny part of all of this. If I could trust the district and the schools to implement this well, I would totally support it. The problem, of course, is that I have absolutely no confidence in either the district's nor the schools' ability to implement this well. And I believe that they will eliminate the current plan and switch to this one before it's ready.