Friday, September 06, 2013

Friday Open Thread

What a week but school started on-time.

I forgot to say Happy Birthday to Jane Addams.  Yesterday would have been her 150th birthday. She was quite a lady and a good person to name a school after.

What's on your mind?

102 comments:

QAE Parent said...

Our first day packet did not include any info about AL testing. Also, I was surprised it didn't include a home language survey.

Melissa Westbrook said...

QAE, well, that is disappointing news about AL. I had asked the Board to do the right thing and ask the Superintendent to do this (since they left it off the calendar).

Anonymous said...

As mentioned in a previous thread, King5 Investigators did a report on John Marshall and air quality.

Exhaust, diesel fumes foul schools

SPS is doing repairs to the building to house students for next school year, but according to the report, have no plans to upgrade the HVAC system to provide extra air filtration. The boiler is 70+ years old. Also, according to the report, SPS has not sampled the air quality at the site (which is literally a stone's throw from I-5).

concerned parent

Anonymous said...

If I were to try to create a matrix that--broadly--shows what kids cover in each grade within SPS, broken out by GenEd, Spectrum, and APP, would that even be possible? The whole "Spectrum is 1 year ahead, APP is 2 years ahead" comment by Ms. Heath got me wondering: (a) ahead of what?, and (b) is that really accurate?

For example, I could go to the science kits page and see what units are supposed to be covered in each grade. Do Spectrum and APP just do the units 1-2 grades ahead? If so, does that "reset" occur in grade 1, with the first year or two of units skipped, or are they incorporated some other way? My sense is that not all GenEd schools even follow these grade levels, so I doubt this sort of matrix would be accurate for elementary level science.

At the older grades, what is the expected sequence and timing? For example, is Biology typically a 10th grade topic? In APP, I know this is covered in 8th grade, so would Spectrum kids take it in 9th? But I've also heard that kids may have to re-take Biology in 10th grade anyway (in all schools? only for IB program? only for AP credit?), so I'm not sure how taking it in 8th grade represents 2 years ahead. I'm sure there are many other examples of this sort of thing, although I'm not sure where to find all the information...

What about for language arts? Is there someplace that lays out what is covered each grade? Or what about social studies topics? I know there are certain things that are legislated to happen in certain years (e.g., Washington state history), but I don't know how that's handled in the various programs/services.

Can anyone point me to the various documents that might make creation of this sort of matrix possible, or it is--by virtue of SPS lack of consistency--not possible in the first place? Or perhaps something of this nature has already been created?

I believe that something laying out these basic subjects would be valuable to parents of kids in all programs, as it would help you know when to supplement with what. For parents contemplating a switch to an AL program, it would also help provide a sense as to what would be skipped, dependent on the grade level of the change.

HIMSmom

New Math? said...

In my child's first week packet from Jane Addams, there is a note that says the school is using Envision Math this year. It doesn't mention if it's all grades or just a few, but this is still news to me.

Anyone know anything about this?

Melissa Westbrook said...

HIMS, I don't know of any documents that might help you. I think each AL teacher decides how that movement forward goes.

I think one reason why you would not find such documents is that the district has never wanted to clearly and fully define the program.

I think when the new AL director is hired those are very good questions/requests to make.

TechyMom said...

Several schools have switched to Envision Math. Thurgood Marshal has been using it for 2 (or 3?) years. McGilvra switched after winter break last year. So far, it's less confusing than EDM and has more practice. It still relies a lot on word problems, which can be an issue for any kid who is better at math than at reading English. It also doesn't have consumables, which seems like it must be a lot cheaper. The do classwork in a notebook and homework on dittos (a term which probably reveals my age). My kid likes it better. I haven't seen whether it impacted school-wide scores yet.

Anonymous said...

Teaching and Learning?? Hello? What is going on in that department? I would like to know how Ms. Heath would respond to HIMSmom's inquiries. And how many more schools will leave EDM/CMP math behind before the District adopts new texts for all schools?

The questions about the AL programs should to be clarified now, before schools are split and reformed. If you can't clearly define the program/service, how are new teachers and schools to implement it, beyond a "1 yr ahead" and "2 yr ahead" description. It is supposed to be more than acceleration. The district paid for an outside review of the APP program (over 5 years ago!) and failed to follow through on the recommendations, one of which was to develop a written curriculum.

-little hope

Maureen said...

HIMSmom, Re what should be covered at each grade level in each subject: There used to be EALRS (I forget what that stands for!) but they seem to be calling them something different now and are moving towards the Common Core.

Anonymous said...

HIMS mom... does this help
http://www.k12.wa.us/resources/YourChildsProgress.aspx

also the "one year ahead" in Spectrum is only in LA (in elem = Reading) and Math. That's what it is now at any rate. Used to be a different approach, but now it's boiled down to a year ahead in just those two subjects.

-spectrum mom

Anonymous said...

What's happening to the students of Pinehurst k8? WHere will they go next year? What will the District do, for the kids, for the teachers?
-go Pinehurst!

Anonymous said...

There is curricula. People might not like it, but everybody gets the same curricula. Right! It's the Ahead Progress Program. As in, 2 years Ahead. As a 51 yo, I'm really more like a 53 yo, intellectually. That's why it's so important, and that's why every thread has to be devoted to it!

Reader

mirmac1 said...

"I think one reason why you would not find such documents is that the district has never wanted to clearly and fully define the program.

This is precisely where special education parents are. We are expected to believe "every school offers everything!" Three weeks ago the Superintendent told his staff to provide accurate descriptions of each program and their location. Have we heard anything? Of course not.

QAE Parent said...

One other thought on AL: I just checked my kid's MAP scores from last year, which, frankly, were all over the place through the year (58%ile here, 94%ile there, 64%ile the third time...huh?). But his math score in spring was 92%ile. I thought all kids above 85%ile on spring MAP were supposed to get a letter inviting them to test for AL. We didn't get a letter. Did you have to score above 85%ile on both reading and math, or is one enough to get an invite letter? Since I'm savvy, I know he can test without an invite letter, but I'm just wondering if the letters didn't go out yet or if he didn't qualify for a letter.

Anonymous said...

Bad News to end the First Week

Stacey McGrath-Smith has resigned her position and accepted one in the Lake Washington School District. Her last day will be mid September.

Personally, I am very sorry to see such a bright, energetic, and innovative person go.

Sped Staffer

Anonymous said...

I am not sad to see her go. But perhaps you never had occasion to be misled or just plain ignored by her.

sped parent

Anonymous said...

SMG gone? OMG. This is a step way way way backward and perhaps the first blatant misstep by Banda. SMG has done special education heavy lifting with no resources for a couple years now. She made some great hires for the department too. She has fallen on her sword in the press. The new special education director, brought in from Calif. has had a less than spectacular start. Special Education funding is down, too.

I suggest SPS special education students do the same as SMG - flee to a better district.

Been There

Anonymous said...

The great irony is that many in SPS hope you take my advice to flee. Less Special Education troubles to deal with. It's enough to leave a student enrolled in SPS out of spite, working to force the district give your child her-his due. But at the end of the day there is no sense leaving your vulnerable student in a district that is apparently never going to get it right. Lake Washington is one choice for your student and apparently SPS administrators too. There are also other choices in nearby districts. As my family has learned, moving can be a blessing.

Been There

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to see that tomorrow's board retreat is being held at the Beacon Hill branch library - and that it looks like the board created their own (very sensible) agenda.

Agenda


Lynn

Anonymous said...

You only get a letter for APP-qualifying MAP scores from the spring test.
Officer

Anonymous said...

My child's school is piloting "My Math" by McGraw Hill this year (in K-2). Is there a list somewhere of all the math curriculum the district is piloting?
Curious

Anonymous said...

QAE Parent,

I believe you have to have 85th percentile scores in both math and reading to test. The information packet for fall testing says:

Spring 2013 MAP data will be reviewed for all applicants in grades 1-8. Cognitive testing is administered if MAP scores are at the 85th percentile or higher.

The district is administering the CogAT to all second graders in the South East region this year regardless of MAP scores.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

I recently found this blog and have been reading all of the very interesting discussion. Our family is new to Seattle Public Schools. My own experience last year was very mixed and I feel like one of the primary negative factors was being at a school where Spectrum is done the "right" way according to Melissa. In our family's experience that leads to inequity. My bright, curious, happy, well behaved daughter who wants to learn, used to consider herself one of the smart kids, and is a teacher's dream was absolutely crushed by her year there. She was thrown into a classroom of kids who were not her peers, most of them were 4th grade boys and she was a third grader. Since it was a split class I thought, well maybe she will get an academic push from being with older kids. She would qualify for Spectrum in reading so she should have been able to work up in that area. Instead, the teacher, who had no business being on a classroom at all, decided the first week that she wasn't very bright (because she was overwhelmed by the lack of classroom management and didn't open her mouth much). Everyone at that school seems to know which kids are wait listed for Spectrum ( and there were 11 in the third grade) and which aren't. I listened to parents discuss individual kids and they seemed to practically know all their MAP scores. I found it very off putting. My child learned nothing last year and I remain appalled at the placement they offered her. Spectrum may be working there but last year Gen Ed didn't. I got her into a school that does not offer Spectrum and I hope she will learn something this year. She now thinks she hates school, which is sad because she used to love it. As far as I'm concerned, a school
That fails to teach my easygoing well behaved daughter who wants to learn is a failing school. It serves only the parents who were able to get their kids in a special program. I heard it was a good school, it was walking distance from my house, I enrolled her. I had no idea the whole school was set up for the Spectrum kids. The school's solution was that I should pull her out and home school her or that she should be able to leave the classroom for mental health breaks. I do think the principal is going to try to make things better for the Gen Ed kids. I can certainly see why some administrators don't like this program. My daughter is cute, blonde and quiet. A kid with some extra spunk (I have one of those too) who didn't look like the other kids would have been eaten alive at that school. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

And I agree with you Melissa that your child shouldn't have a job, but then neither should mine. It shouldn't be her job to balance gender in a classroom. That would be her job again this year had I kept her at Whittier. It also shouldn't be her job to constantly be paired with the kids who can't focus so that they will be separated from their friends who can't focus. I've been fighting that last battle since she was in preschool. Gen Ed Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...


I've never heard of an entire school being "set-up" for Spectrum. Ever. That's not good at all but not what I have seen. You're saying this was Whittier? We went to Whittier and did not have this experience so something has changed.

Funny you should mention gender balance. One son's Spectrum class had 2/3 girls and 1/3 boys from 1-3 and by 4th it was 3/4 girls and 1/4 boys. It was not good and yet, no one would do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Well, when your kid is thrown into a classroom with kids who are not her peers because they need her to balance out the gender in the non spectrum classroom, it does feel like the entire school is contorting itself into a pretzel to accommodate this special program. So think about it from the Gen Ed perspective, your son was in a class with only 1/4 boys and so the other 3/4 boys ended up with a few third grade girls, like my daughter. How is that fair to her? How can she made friends when she is not even in a classroom with her peers? It was just awful for her. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I asked the question "How did my daughter get assigned to this class with so few third grade girls? Why a split? What is the benefit for these kids?" The answer was these kids were left over and they needed to balance gender. (And it was really really unbalanced). I just felt no one cared about educating my daughter and no one put any effort into thinking about what was best for the Gen Ed kids. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Losing Stacey Smith will be an impact. There's so few people working there now, how does it help to lose people? Especially those who have been around the block a time or two. Moving to another district just isn't a credible alternative, and those districts also have problems. The jury's still out on the new executive director - who got quite the promotion coming to Seattle.

another sped parent

Anonymous said...

Gen ed mom, I feel for you. My bright but not-Spectrum daughter was used as ballast in a 1st grade. There was room in the Spectrum room for more kids, but no one wants to "track" kids, so they distributed kids that were very bright but not tested into Spectrum into the other classes, for balance. My kid who could already read was subjected to work that was easier than K. She reacted much the way your daughter did, bored, learned to hate school. She spent a week learning each letter of the alphabet. They did let her walk to math, which was a godsend.

When she started having stomach aches, etc, I started homeschooling the first 1.5 hours of the day, the worst part for her (learning a letter a week!). She'd get to school in time for recess, then walk to math with a teacher she loved and learned a ton from, then lunch. After lunch PE or Library or music, then just a quick 1.5. hours in the dreaded homeroom.

I don't know the answer. My other daughter was in Spectrum, and even in that class some kids were the "low" kids, relative to the others. One bright kid was having a hard time catching on in math and told me he was "dumb", and he meant it. So kids always compare themselves to each other.

We moved to a gen ed school and there my older daughter was bored stiff in math, because they wouldn't let her walk to math because it's not fair. So she was to completely re-do her 4th grade math, which wasn't even hard the first time around. So I home schooled math, which ended up being fun and good for us.Her teachers were cool and let her do my work during math class. And there were other great things about that school.

I have come to believe that SPS is something you have to navigate given your kids' particular needs, and you need to give them at home what they don't get at school. This makes the dreaded achievement gap bigger, b/c not every parent has the experience or time to see what is going on and to adjust.

navigating

Anonymous said...

Right! Most schools with "spectrum" do bend over backwards for it. And these are the minimally gifted students. 1 year ahead in 1 area. Big deal! The district and schools shouldn't contort itself to please these parents. Some middle schools (McClure for example) is so heavily skewed to "spectrum" that general ed is really special ed, and a new way to create a restrictive environment. Putting everyone in Algebra in 8th grade will put the kibosh on that one. High time too.

-parent

Josh Hayes said...

go Pinehurst! writes:

What's happening to the students of Pinehurst k8? Where will they go next year? What will the District do, for the kids, for the teachers?

The district is having some meetings about this in upcoming weeks, and say that they will propose some sort of resolution to the board in a couple of months. Given the space crunch in the north end, I think (though I have no evidence for this, just a dozen years of experience with the AS1 vs. district battles) the district will simply end the school and hope that nobody notices. Sure, dumping 150 MORE kids into the already-crowded north end can't help, but AS1 has always been a thorn in the district's side, and their patient death-of-a-thousand-cuts approach has finally whittled enrollment down so that they can, coupled with the burgeoning MS north end populations, have an excuse to shut it down.

In short: say goodbye to alternative education in Seattle. There will be no room for it. And really, what we all want is to make things easier and more uniform for our administrators, right? Why should the widgets expect a voice in how the factory is run?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, is there any precedent for your action in ending the comment thread originally titled "There Will Be Blood On Your Hands," now titled something like "Mann Taskforce members express unhappiness"? Why did you do it?

South end mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Southend Mom,

Yes to the first question.

I answered that question in the Update at the beginning of the piece.

Anonymous said...

Putting everyone in 8th grade algebra won't put a kibosh on it at all. It's another quick fix. It's fine to have all 8th graders take algebra provided the primary and secondary schools are working toward this goal TOGETHER so students are prepared for it. You have students right now taking algebra who are still struggling with fractions and other basic pre-algebra concepts. They should have mastered these concepts coming up through the grades, but for whatever reasons, these students are passed onto the next grade falling futher behind. Put in system to fix that first, then place all 8th graders in algebra.

Tortoise

Melissa Westbrook said...

My thought is that this push to have all 8th graders take Algebra is tied to Common Core.

Anonymous said...

My child's school is piloting "My Math" by McGraw Hill this year (in K-2). Is there a list somewhere of all the math curriculum the district is piloting?

I don't think the district is formally piloting any math curriculum. I think the district is approving waivers for many schools, schools that have given up waiting for the district to adopt new materials district wide.

@navigating - Unfortunately I can sympathize with you. Our child was placed in what we were told was a split class that ended up being a handful of kids that just needed to be moved in order to balance class numbers. After being the youngest in the split class, with only 3 grade level peers, and being taught in part be a student intern (the most learning that happened all year), our child had to repeat the same material when put in a grade with peers the following year. The teacher suggested helping others since the material was already familiar. How I wish I had considered homeschooling. It astounded me that essentially repeating a grade was accepted practice.

A walk to math and reading setup would have been so much better. I wish the district would embrace a more flexible system for serving the academic needs of students.

-no answers

mirmac1 said...

South end Mom,

I agree with closing that thread, and taking the weighted words out of the title. Reaction to that post and comments, what was said, what others said it really meant...well, it was not headed in the direction our kids need or should expect from us.

Anonymous said...

No Answers,
I have a letter here from the principal stating that McGraw Hill's My Math is competing for next year's math adoption, thus the materials and teacher training is being provided for free. Publishers usually provide that service when a district is piloting and competing with many programs. It seems unlikely they would do that unless the district led them to believe they had a real chance. It makes me think there are probably many programs being piloted right now and I would like to know which ones they are.
Curious

Anonymous said...

GenEd Mom, I am so sorry to hear about your negative experience. We have had mixed experiences with Spectrum from year to year, depending on the teacher and the principal. Though we have had good experiences in the past, right now we are in a pretty dark time with it, and just hanging on until we can escape for a less chaotic, and more consistent environment.

The biggest issues around all the advanced learning programs is the complete lack of vision from high level staff (up to and including the superintendents); the free rein given to principals to do whatever they want, up to and including enrolling kids in Spectrum/ALO programs then doing absolutely nothing for them; and the utter opaqueness for parents and the public as to process, procedures, plans, or anything regarding the programs at all.

The problem lies heavily with the staff at the district level absolutely refusing to define the program and enforce guidelines. So it becomes a Wild West in each and every school, and in each and every classroom, and in each and every year. We are leaving not because we don't like the specific program, but because we cannot determine what the program actually is. Kids need consistency, parents need reliable information about the program they enroll their children, and principals/staff need to be on board with delivering the stated program. This district has blatantly refused to provide even one of these things.

My child is growing up, and we can't wait any longer for these so-called adults to get their act together and be upfront and honest about what they are doing with our kids. I don't care about academic or personal philosophies about advanced learners, I just want the adults in the room to stop the dishonest hedging, and start stating what they WILL do and then deliver on that in a consistent manner.

Spectrum Parent

Anonymous said...

My ubderstanding is Common core does not have 8th grader take algebra. One of the reasons why California dropped algebra from the 8th grade standard. But according to Common Core folks, there is room for compaction and acceleration, but the goal is to prepare students with more depth rather than breadth, so the math is going to be more rigorous. The ideas are great, but boy with all the Pearsons folks, Murdoch, and Duncan hovering, you get a bad feeling.

tortoise

Anonymous said...

Curious, you may find this link interesting regarding My Math:

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/curricular-resources/2012-2013-lde-textbook-review.pdf

A State of Louisiana review committee voted 0-12 against My Math, 11-1 for enVision Math (Pearson Scott Foresman), and were equally split 6-6 on Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions.

Keep in mind what they consider negative, others may consider positive. For example, "skills taught exceed grade level," was considered a criticism for one set of materials, as was "not enough writing." For My Math, a reviewer said, "students are not given enough time to explore and discover."

In Greenwich, Connecticut, My Math and enVision Math were considered, but they chose "Math in Focus: Singapore Math."

http://www.greenwichschools.org/uploaded/district/Board_of_Education/meeting_materials/2012-13_meetings/4-4-13_meeting/040413_FINAL_Math_Textbook_Adoption.pdf

I, too, am curious what texts are being considered for SPS.

-curiouser

Anonymous said...

Yes, well the problem you describe fits the Gen Ed experience at Whittier quite well. Other Gen Ed parents I talked to described how frustrating it was to see the Spectrum classes know every year which teachers they would get (and everybody agreed they were all good teachers) while the non Spectrum kids never knew if they would be in a split or not, whether they would have kids their own age in their classroom or not, who their teacher would be and whether or not they would be doing grade appropriate level work, repeating work they did the previous year or doing something completely out of sequence. This shuffling the kids endured year after year was all about how Spectrum affected the numbers. And by the way, it's impossible to get into Spectrum at Whittier right now if you don't test in in Kindergarten, and so you have to know about the program and plan to get your kid tested on the first round. I am curious how Melissa thinks things have changed since she was there. Did you have any kids is the Gen Ed program at Whittier Melissa? If you have already gone on your break, I guess I will repost this question on an open thread when you come back. Does anyone really think girls are just naturally smarter than boys and that's why the program is so girl heavy (leaving Gen Ed with virtually no girls)? This is a question people should be asking along with why there are so few minorities in the program. I think it's absolutely a restrictive program, especially because all those who qualify can't even get in. Why are they not trying to educate ALL the kids and challenge ALL of them, not just the super special ones whose parents got them in at the right time because they had the resources to do so? Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Gen Ed Mom, the Spectrum parents at our school ask the exact same questions, and see the exact same problems as you do, for all the kids at the school. No one likes the inconsistency or the inflexibility that is inherent in this byzantine system, and everyone but the District officials are being forced to deal with the fallout from it.

The problem lies at the District level, and how they manage this program, not with the parents trying to figure out the rules.

And please do not refer to these kids as the "super special ones", because they are generally not, just kids who need/want a different level of depth in academics. In fact, in other parts of town the program is so under-subscribed that Spectrum qualified kids are not offered the program at all, so again, more losses and frustration all around.

This unequal access, plus the crazy identification/gatekeeping process that starts one year in advance, plus the refusal to define the program, lies solely on the District's plate. The kids and families are scrambling to figure out and follow the rules, and everyone is getting screwed around by the lack of a plan on the District's part.

Spectrum Parent

Anonymous said...

There are so many kids in Spectrum at Whittier and so many others who qualify who can't get in. I simply don't think so many kids need special educational opportunities. And rumor is some squeaky wheels have managed to get kids who weren't quite qualified in as well. My daughter definetely needed and wanted a different level and depth in academics then she got last year in the Gen Ed program at Whittier! Doesn't she deserve to be challenged just as much as your child does? Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

So then on the surface you have to admire a school like Bryant, which knowing that probably 75% of its kids could qualify for Spectrum at one time or another, decided against Spectrum.

--TC

Anonymous said...

Yes, she does, which is my point, Gen Ed Mom. Everyone sees it, not just those who can't get in, and many people have been trying for years to fix it. The system is wildly inflexible at many, many points.

Again - the blame for this lies at the District level. THEY are the ones setting these entry rules and poorly managed programs. Kids who want or need a different level and depth of academics should get it, end of story. The District has been screwing this up for years, for a lot of kids.

Spectrum Parent

Anonymous said...

I only sort of admire Bryant, TC. They do step up the academics somewhat, but only because they have a narrower range of students than most. And they do not reliably or consistently offer any sort of plan or program for those who want to move ahead even a little bit. It is, again, all teacher and principal driven. Bring in a new principal, and whatever they have going there can change in a blink of an eye.

Having said that, they do deliver for their 75%, and have found a small safe harbor to work in while the rest of the District is in a hurricane of chaos. But they have advantages that other schools do not, which allows them to carve out this zone for some of their kids.

Spectrum Mom

Erik said...

So, how would you work it Spectrum Parent, so that your child who needs a "different level of education" gets that and is not assigned the "job" of being the smartest kid in the class, while making sure that my child who is ahead in some areas and at grade level in others is also challenged and does not get assigned the "job" of being a quiet girl to balance out a classroom of rowdy boys who couldn't sit still long enough to do well on a test in Kindergarten and who are a full year or two older than her? I hear everyone blaming the district. When the parents you know discuss these issues, does the possible solution ever consider that perhaps your child does not need to be segregated with other similar kids leaving a mess of kids to be taught together who have nothing in common other than they didn't get into the program that your child is in? I think Bryant has the right idea, and that would work better at Whittier than what they have now. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I would start by looking at what other districts do to handle different learning rates and needs. This is not a new problem, and parents should not be inventing solutions. That is what we pay District officials to do -- to put together a transparent program that meets the needs of most, if not all, of the students in their District.

I can talk in depth about what some of the surrounding districts do, as well as what showcase districts across the country do, because I spent a lot of time on this. But I am not a decision maker here, the District is.

I keep coming back to them because they are the only ones who can remove the chaos and uncertainty from this current hodgepodge of duct-taped solutions and evershifting program mess that we have now. I am not advocating for a particular strategy. In fact, if SPS ever buckles down and implements a truly transparent and stable program for advanced learners, it is just as likely to NOT meet our individual needs as it is likely to meet them. But at least we would KNOW what to expect, and be able to make an informed decision.

In the interim, Bryant works a little better than most because they are *stable*, not because they have a magic solution. I know for a fact that some children's needs are not met there, but they do meet enough needs for enough families in a stable enough community that they can claim success. I would not expect their model to extend to all schools, because not all schools have those same factors for success.

Good lord -- this is supposed to be what District officials get paid the big bucks to do. They are supposed to develop a program, advertise it, implement it, set guidelines and manage it, and change it with some level of planning and foresight. Parents should not be scrambling to game the system to the depth and level that we see right now, on both sides of this program.

Spectrum Parent

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. I would love to know what does work. I just know that Whittier has been pointed out on this forum as a school that "does Spectrum right" and if that's right, I want my kids in a school that's doing it wrong or not doing it at all! (And now they are, so we shall see). It does seem like you need to game the system. I believe that the shortcomings of the school were admitted clearly to me ONLY because my daughter is so well behaved and she is culturally very similar to the majority of the kids at Whittier. She is clearly well cared for and easy to relate to. I can imagine if she had a different personality or was culturally different or of a different color the fact that she didn't learn at all may have been blamed on her or our family. So I can really feel for the African American parents who complain about unfair segregation through programs like Spectrum. We have a good school right near our house, but we were unable to access good or even good enough education there! That's frustrating when you know other people have access. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I've been in this system long enough to know that anyone who has access this year may lose it the next one. And there is a lot of blame and finger pointing and excuse making to go around. I do not, for one moment, fault any parent for learning to game the system so they can do what's best for their individual child. Nor do I lack empathy for any parent who rails about being locked out from a deserved program, or for that matter, who just looks wistfully at the lawn next door and imagines it is greener. We ALL deserve so much better.

Th sad fact is that there is a lot less sturm und drang in districts with well publicized and implemented programs for the full range of their students. I *personally* feel the best ones have accommodations for advanced learners as well as other groups, but not all do, and I could even live with that (though I think that there would be even greater flight out of SPS if they chose to do nothing in this arena).

I *think*, but I do not know, that the upcoming Equitable Access Framework is intended to address this. This rollout is behind schedule, not at all transparent, and has very little public press around it. But hope springs eternal with the new superintendent.

However, my kids are rapidly aging out of the system, and we've gotten them through the worst parts with a lot of tutoring and enrichment and gritting of teeth and a ton of outside time and love and patience. They are very, very blessed to have two parents with time and energy and enough money (not a lot, but enough) to make things happen for them. Not every kid does, and that is the true tragedy when the District drops the ball, like they have for over a decade now.

We will likely be moving our kids out of SPS within two years, because we've given up on waiting for stability, and they are getting older and running out of time. Plus we are really, really tired. But I hope you and others keep up the fight, and keep the focus on the decision makers and planners who are failing to do their job, and not on the fellow parents who are struggling just as much as you are. Do not let them distract from their failings, but hold them accountable for doing their job. Every child in Seattle deserves stability.

Spectrum Parent

seattle citizen said...

HIMSmom,
Some of what you are looking for regarding what is taught at various levels (and even how sometimes) is available here:

SPS Curriculum Alignment

Anonymous said...

I think Whittier could be good enough for everyone. And I don't expect perfection, just good enough. What I saw last year really wasn't a "grass is greener on the other side" situation. Saying that minimizes the fact that my daughter learned nothing except to hate school. For a whole year. Not even close to good enough. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Bryant had a pretty big exodus of pretty average Bryant kids leave for APP this year. I'm sure APP isn't thanking them. They have everything they need to raise the bar for all their kids and they really don't do anything.

Oppo parent

Anonymous said...

To clarify, Gen Ed Mom, I think you are railing about being locked out, not grass is greener. I really think parents and kids have no voice at all in this District, no matter where they are. That was all I was trying to convey, albeit poorly. Hope that clarifies.

Spectrum Parent

Anonymous said...

Am I wrong to want everyone to be in and no one to be "locked out"? Isn't that what public education is supposed to be about? Resources are not limitless. A school that is using most of its resources keeping a program that is popular with parents running because it segregates "special" kids (ie kids who test well in Kindergarten and kids of the squeakiest wheels) is doing public education wrong as far as I am concerned. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

The Whittier conversation is definitely interesting to our family, as we have a kid who qualified for Spectrum last year (3rd Grade), but no room at the inn. I'm still extremely happy with the school though,and feel like my kid is most definitely challenged. I'm sorry your daughter had a bad year, maybe it's more at the teacher level? I feel like my kid is still being challenged, and I honestly don't know if there's a lot going on in the Spectrum classes that isn't going on elsewhere, maybe it's more perception? Thankfully there are no more split classes at the school this year, so that is definitely a relief.
North End Parent.

Anonymous said...

Oh, there most certainly was a teacher problem. The teacher was hired the day before school started. How does that happen? They had advance warning that they would need to make a hire but the principal had "too many other fires to put out" i.e. the leftovers were left out of the planning process for the school year until the day before school started and got stuck with someone who could not teach at all. The principal did her best once she became aware of the problem (and it's appalling to me that it took until January, again, "too many other fires to put out" before she could even begin to think about the leftovers) I was informed that there were "HIGH ACHIEVERS" in the class and to think about how hard it must be for THEM. Well that made me angry. I didn't need to know the educational level of every child in the class, my regular achiever is a fantastic kid and she is very advanced in some areas. She is no less special than any of the Spectrum qualified kids in the class and I got tired of her being compared to them in every conversation. The way people talk about this program at Whittier like it is the Holy Grail, end all be all of life, really grated on me. To the principal's credit she is trying to do right by the kids who had a bad year by having no split classes this year. It's about time somebody thought of that! It wasn't perception. My daughter cried every day and refused to go to school. I sat in on the class and could see why. No teaching, no learning. Hours of free reading and writing. Kids under their desks, rolling around on the floor. And then some people blamed the kids. Hello! Kids need to be engaged. They can't teach themselves. I am glad your son had a good year and I hope your good experience continues. My daughter absolutely refused to go back there. It was too little too late for her. I expect our new school for regular achievers to be good enough for her and I might have to supplement in some areas. There is just no way it could be as bad as last year. What I really hope is that people at her new school will see her as a PERSON and not a "non-High Achiever". Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

"our new school for regular achievers to be good enough for her"

Ah, Gen Ed Mom, you see that in this district and among many commenters on this blog "good enough" won't do for their kid. I guess that kind of entitlement is okay because it not "black and white" it's just, well, entitled.

The dregs

Anonymous said...

Right on Gen Ed Mom. The problem isn't some mystery at "the District level.". The problem is the Spectrum parents who wish to exclude, and segregate other people's kids. Segregation has always benefited some at the expense of most. 1year ahead just isn't enough to warrant the grief.

Another Parent

Anonymous said...

The Dregs, that is kind of the feeling I'm getting. It's ok for other people's kids to get not even close to good enough but certain entitled kids need to get a perfectly tailored education. The solution has to start with US. I challenge everyone to think about what we parents can do to fix this system and not shrug our shoulders and say "I fixed it for my kid, I'm good. Too bad for those other people who don't know how to game the system." By moving to a school that is good enough and working to make it better for every kid, I hope I am teaching my kids am important life lesson. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Dumb question, but why not flip this whole setup? Move the curriculum a year ahead or even a half year ahead for everybody. Shift the gen ed baseline forward. Maybe that's where many of these kids should be anyway. You know up the rigor and raise the bar for all. Just don't tell anybody. Wonder what it would take for staff and principal to go for this? Justify it with MTSS + common core.

curious

Anonymous said...

Curious, I think they could absolutely do that at some of the schools where the PTA has a lot of money if everyone was on board. One fabulous thing about Whittier is that the PTA pays for extra in class help for kids who need it. They could pull out small groups who need extra time on certain things and most kids could probably keep up just fine. But that doesn't fix the problem in the schools where the PTA does not have the $ to fund extra help. Gen Ed Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Curious, that was tried at Maple several years back. Guess what? Most of the kids did very well. This was in the Seattle Times - you could probably read about it there.

So why didn't it continue? Apparently it cost more to get everyone up-to-speed and some curriculum updates.

Many have advocated for it but somehow it doesn't happen.

I am on my way out so I can't address the Whittier issue but as it always does, we'll come back to the subject of AL.

Anonymous said...

Gen Ed mom et al: My fourth grade daughter has been in general education classes at Whittier since kindergarten, and she loves it. We have been very happy with the teachers she has had. Have there ever been less-than-stellar teachers at Whittier? Sure. do you think Whittier wanted to hire a teacher the day before school started? Probably not.

There are many spectrum-qualified students in the gen Ed classes who are not fleeing or in distress. I am really sorry your daughter had a bad experience, and I hope her new school is an excellent fit.
- Happy Mom

Anonymous said...

"The problem is the Spectrum parents who wish to exclude, and segregate other people's kids."

This is absolutely untrue. Almost no ALO, Spectrum, or APP parent wishes to keep anyone out. Quite the contrary - almost all want to make the program more flexible so any kid who wants more challenging work can easily get it.

Parents do not determine access, the office of advanced learning does. Take up your beef with them. See if they listen to you.

And BTW - those words are extremely inflammatory, in addition to being an outright lie.

Peace Out

Lisa said...

So, Gen Ed Mom, first I'd like to say that we had the same experience with McClure Middle School. After a wasted year, took that kid out for a few years in private school (an inexpensive parochial school that had all the kids working 1 year ahead of SPS gen ed curriculum and took all comers, including many from within the parish who were low income, special ed, etc.). With the second kid I was the squeaky wheel, and it worked. Got my child into Spectrum for middle school despite not quite making the mark on tests. Despite excellent academic performance, I do not think this child is "highly capable" as SPS defines, just a smart, hardworking young person who is getting needed challenge and interesting work. And WHY can't all the kids have this? I guarantee you every Spectrum parent feels this way even as they breathe a sigh of relief that their kid made it in.

For what it's worth, both kids attended SPS elementary where there was no Spectrum program and everything was groovy -- most kids seemed to have their academic needs met and it was a happy learning environment. Hope it works out that way for you next year.

Anonymous said...

Happy Mom, I have no idea why Whittier waited until the day before school started to hire a teacher for a class that was going to be very challenging to teach. I do know they had plenty of lead time. They had 3rd and 4th graders in there each to be doing grade level work, a handful of Spectrum qualified kids (and it was pointed out to me by teachers and parents which ones those were - ick) kids with IEPs (also a couple pointed out by the teacher- ick) and it was very boy heavy with a lot of very spirited personalities. If you are going to put together a class like that, you'd better darn well make it your first priority to find a teacher who can handle it! I simply can't imagine why it wasn't except that maybe those were the kids of the nonsqueaky wheels. I maintain that it was an absolutely inappropriate placement for my daughter, and for the other kids in there as well, and that was a direct result of the self contained Spectrum program at Whittier. I am glad you are happy at Whittier but its a fact that there is only one girl in the Gen Ed 5th grade this year. One. Something is wrong there. I too hope our new school is a good fit for my daughter, but here's the thing, she isn't a hard "fit". She is a pretty average kid with a great attitude. Any decent school should be able to teach her! Her confidence and outlook on life took a huge hit at Whittier. I just hope we can help her get it back. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

re: McClure supposed segregation: I'm not seeing it. My spectrum kid's classes are a thorough mix of spectrum and gen ed kids. The spectrum kids are sprinkled around, at least in 6th. This holds for all of her classes, LA, SS and Math included. And the same teachers teach everyone.

Just Sayin'

Anonymous said...

We push for "just right" books for kids, because we know that if the books are too hard, the kids get frustrated and don't learn, and if the books are too easy, they get frustrated and don't learn.

I'm not a teacher but it seems to me it's pretty easy to differentiate in a same-age classroom for language arts. You direct kids to the right level books, you correct their writing and make demands according to their ability, always asking them to stretch a bit. A focus area for one kid might be getting capitalization and punctuation correct while with another kid you might be pushing for deeper interpretation of a text.

Same thing for social studies.

But for math, getting to "just right" seems to require teaching and work at the kid's level, which is not dictated by age. So putting all kids in the same math class is going to bore and frustrate more than half the kids. That's a big FAIL. Spectrum sort of addresses this, in that maybe instead of 4 or 5 grade levels in the same room, you've got 2 or 3. But still not optimal. Someone needs to completely re-think math education so that kids who have a real knack for it don't lose their love of it, and kids who would otherwise hate it because it is challenging are brought along at the "just right" speed and have a chance of really loving it someday.

End the Spectrum/Gen ed food fight and try to figure that one out.

asdf

Anonymous said...

I am with you asdf. We figure we will probably have to do private math tutoring with our kids. As far as I can see the 2 issues that should be top priority are how to fix the Math mess and how to get rid of really bad teachers. You don't need to evaluate with hundreds of tests. Some teachers are really bad and with enough documentation it should be the same to fire them as it is to fire anyone else who is really bad at their job. I would like to see the district pick this fight with the teacher's union rather than fighting about testing and evaluation. My issue is not with Advanced Learning. It's what the self contained classroom model for Spectrum did to my kid last year. Melissa has stated that Whittier is doing it right and schools like North Beach where the kids walk to reading or Math are doing it wrong. Parochial schools manage to do differentiated learning with large classes. Parents are very involved there, but then again they are at Whittier too. I don't understand why in her book it's ok for my daughter to be in a class with kids who are not her peers and have nothing in common with her so that other kids can be separated out and placed in a special environment. I will continue to speak out about what this model did to my daughter last year because it just wasn't ok. And I do hope when she comes back she will address my questions. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Spectrum is a tricky thing. If 5% of the students at a school need accelerated instruction - they need something different. If 70% of the students in the school would qualify for Spectrum, the instruction in every classroom should be adjusted to meet their needs.

I wonder if we could solve two problems at once. At schools where those Spectrum students are rare, if we reduced class sizes for students who are not meeting grade-level standards, the advanced students would naturally be concentrated in the remaining average-size classroom. They could then be taught at the appropriate pace for them.

This would require decent math and science curricula and access to good enrichment materials for language arts and social studies.

Teachers would have to be allowed to teach to the needs of the particular children in their class - and willing to do that. There should be acknowledgement by the teachers, principals and district administration that this is the goal for every school.

Every elementary school would have to use a walk-to-math system.

Every middle school would have to offer self-selected honors classes. If 90% of the students choose those - they should be guaranteed a seat in an honors class.

If we made those changes, I don't think we would need Spectrum. APP enrollment might drop too if neighborhood schools were meeting the needs of their students in this way.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Gen Ed Mom,

In my family's experience, and from what I hear from friends at other parochial schools, they do not differentiate instruction. They teach to the level of the majority of the students in a class.

Our local public school has four spelling groups, reading groups and math groups in early elementary classes. The parochial school has only walk-to-math and it begins in fifth grade. Algebra is the highest math class offered to eighth grade students.

Principals at parochial schools routinely direct families whose children need extra support or acceleration to the public school system. Which is fine - they don't have the funds to provide special education services, or the enrollment numbers required to group gifted kids.

I don't think there is a school that can teach more than two grade levels in a single classroom without having really tiny classes.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

On another topic, is Rainier Beach offering IB classes this year?

The first thing you see on Rainier Beach's website is PRESTIGIOUS INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE PROGRAM @ RBHS NEXT FALL.

I looked at the course catalog to see if that could answer my question. Maybe there are IB classes listed? Nope - the catalog available is from the 2010-2011 school year.

Who is responsible for maintaining school websites?

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Do Spectrum kids do better in a cohort?
It seems that for many kids a cohort allows them the freedom to "geek up". In other words, to show off their intellectual abilities without stigma.
That is a good thing and shouldn't be confused with elitism, which is the downside of cohorting.
That is why I advocate walk-tos.
Getting regulars and the low ability kids to get excited and competitive is more problematic because the range of ability increases and frankly, bringing kids up to an arbitrary standard is not the same as helping kids explore beyond the standard.
Face it, teachers and principals fall into the same labeling traps we all do. That's why principals and staff can be so strongly against Spectrum and APP. They find abstinence to be the best cure for prejudice.
We have to give all kids that wonderful feeling of stretching their intellectual wings, of pushing themselves and being part of a group that pushes each other. It's an amazing thing to see.

Steve

Anonymous said...

One thing I've learned is be careful of mere perusal of course catalog. You start looking at students' work side by side and you realize there's algebra lite and algebra that makes your brain cells cry uncle. There's also depth vs. breadth. One class maybe reading a dense Jared Diamond book in 8th grade and another class, excerpts from that book. At first blush, it may seems one class is more challenging, but is it? Does a 13/14 year old really have sufficient background of geography, demography, sociology, world history, economics, evolution and environmental biology to really understand the book's thesis. More importantly, to distill it enough to be critical of the ideas presented. Context counts. You can read a book cover to cover, but if much of the content is missed because students aren't ready or prepared for it, then perhaps it's better to introduce some ideas in small measure, but dig deeper to build a strong foundation.

Parochial schools are not a monolithic group. Quality varies depending on teaching staff, size, student and parental make-up just like public schools. However, because it's a choice system and not free (even with full scholarship, there are obligations), the self selection cull for those willing and able. AL benefits by this self selection too.

tortoise

Anonymous said...

As long as your self selection leaves a viable cohort of kids who can be taught together and can also be challenged, I have no problem with advanced learning. There is no doubt though that a program which relies on parental self selection is inequitable and worsens the achievement gap. In our experience self selection left my child behind with the "left overs". Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Gen Ed Mom, I worry about your use of "leftovers". How defeated you seem. That is so dispiriting, at the beginning of the school year. I am sorry the public system seems to be failing your family. But the term leftovers doesn't have to equate to failure. In some ways all of public school is leftovers as those who want and can spend the money on private school do so.

And yet, that doesn't mean public school cannot be fabulous. It can be. Same with general ed. It can be fabulous. I believe in public education.

Nor do the "leftovers" enrolled in public school mean that private school is "better". Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

What is incontrovertible is that private schools do not have to take all students. You would be surprised at the willingness of parents to pay through the teeth to avoid a classroom with kids from poverty or with disabilities. Does this result in the private school students doing better academically? Again it is a mixed bag. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Depends on the school and the teacher, same as in public school.

What does this have to do with Spectrum and ALO? Just this: For all the sturm und drang around the topic, the end result has been and I'll bet my hat always will be "mixed" on whether systemically it catapults kids to their own personal academic success. (I am not including APP in this comment, as that is an additional topic.) General education does not have to equate to "leftover".

My kids' school has consciously decided not to pursue the ALO/Spectrum classification, in part because many of the standards already exist as a baseline in the classrooms, and because as a community we want all children to get the level of learning they need within their larger peer group. Do we do pullouts for academic remediation and "walk to" classes for acceleration? Yes, but only within a grade level and only for some subjects.

This is not perfect, and we have work to do on bringing some children up to grade standard in some areas, notably children of poverty and their early reading skills. We also need to do better with our special education population, and are consciously working on that. But the majority of the system works and we do not have kids (actually, let's be frank...it's generally the parents...) up in arms around who is qualified or unqualified for accelerated learning. We are a better academic community because of it.

You know what? When my school's kids hit high school they do just fine. Better than fine. Even without Spectrum, the "accelerated" learners are over-prepared for math, language and science.

Although I want district administrators to roll out a comprehensive accelerated learning program, I am much more interested in having concerned parents, like those on this thread, work hand in hand with their own school's professionals to provide means for each student to have academic growth, at each individual level in each subject area, each year. That's a lot of work, and no need to wait for an ALO/Spectrum rollout, which won't be a panacea anyhow.


Just a few thoughts on a sunny afternoon.

Hopeful + Involved

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, all of the "leftovers" in Whittier gen ed classes and their parents are not pressing their noses up to the windows of Spectrum classes, trying to see what "they" get that "we" don't.

Happy mom (at least before her child was called a leftover)

Anonymous said...

Hopeful + Involved, others
Our school is Bryant and it is a great school but we need walk to math and our requests have fallen on deaf ears. I have kids in mid- and late-elementary now and though we now have a new principal I assume he is loathe to make changes having just arrived in August. What can I do? I know there are other parents who feel this way but to organize risks being branded as obnoxious by the Bryant community. -My kids need math

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

What really makes me sad is that this is my neighborhood school and my child fits in with the VERY NON DIVERSE crowd at Whittier. And we have the wherewithal and resources to fight for something better for her. And we did get her out of there (she actually refused to go back and so we were talking about private school for her this year if we couldn't get her in to another public school). What about the people who don't have these advantages? What about kids who look different or come from a different culture? What happens to them when they show up at this school that is supposed to be so good? What if their moms can't keep calling the principal and emailing her and stand outside her office until she meets with them? What if they can't afford to take their kid out and can't get into another public school? My daughter is understandably wary to try the new public school but her sister has been very happy there! We don't think it's perfect but we think it can be good enough and maybe even great for our kids. And we are involved in the school. What I like about this school is it IS actually a little more diverse than Whittier, and you just get the feeling that the staff cares about all the kids, even the ones whose parents can't be there bugging people every day. Maybe even MORE about those kids. No one has told me anyone's MAP scores or gossiped about who has an IEP. I think it sounds like your school has the right idea about public school as well. Everyone should be challenged. And when you segregate a large population out for special treatment (I can't imagine the Spectrum parents would have had a teacher hire for their classes be left until the day before school started) you end up leaving people behind in groupings that don't make any sense. A handful of third grade girls mixed in with a bunch of 4th grade boys does not a split class make. It just makes the leftover class. Give those kids a bad teacher and tell their parents they are dumb, and well, you're setting them up for failure. (The teacher told me the first week of school that my child "takes a little longer to do everything" and was "a very young third grader". Neither of these things was true, but she sure figured out that teacher had put her in the "dumb" group on day one. The teacher's impressions of my kid had everything to do with inappropriate classroom management and nothing to do with my daughter who has always been loved by teachers.) What I have learned from this experience is that when parents fight only for their own kid things get out of whack. I do hope her year will be a good one this year. I hope her teacher and the kids around her will see her potential and care about her for the beautiful little person she is. Every kids deserves that! I do have hope.
Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I also have a child in gen ed at Whittier, and have experienced none of what Gen Ed Mom has. It has been a fantastic education all around, and I have never longed for the Spectrum teachers (the opposite, in fact, I thought we had the better a couple times.). If anything having a narrower range of kids allowed the teacher to focus on what the kids in my child's class needed. I hope anyone reading this blog and thinking about sending their kids to Whittier will come check us out. We are a great group of parents and teachers just trying our best.

I am sorry your daughter had a bad experience, Gen Ed Mom, and i hope the new school is a good fit, Sometimes there are misses even in a great school.

Whittier parent

Anonymous said...

I had a very open mind about Whittier and I didn't even think about the Spectrum program going in. The teacher was terrible but the placement was also really really bad. I don't think it's fair to put a few third graders in a fourth grade class to balance the gender. That would have been dissapointing enough ( and there were about 6 girls total in the class!) but then on top of that to have a teacher who couldn't or wouldn't teach .. . Just because of the makeup of this class it should have been top of the list to get a good teacher, and yet it wasn't. I keep coming back to the fact that I have an average kid with a good attitude and involved parents. A school that can't teach her is failing in my book. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

May I ask why one of my comments was deleted by the blog administrator? Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Happy Mom, I don't know if you saw my comment that was deleted. I don't remember exactly what it said now and I am not sure why it was deleted. But a school administrator was the one who used the phrase "left over" with me when I asked about my child's placement. I did not come up with this phrasing on my own. The rest of the comment had a lot to do with how my child felt left over there and how I felt that's how she was viewed. She did not feel like she was a part of a community. The two biggest factors in this, in my opinion, were the teacher and the placement with kids who were not her peers. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I wasn't going to engage, but there are just a few too many misrepresentations in Gen Ed Mom's diatribe. I'm pretty familiar with what happened with this particular class last year and unfortunately, it ended up being a bit of a perfect storm for her child, but it was not caused by Whittier being a Spectrum school.

The Perfect Storm
1. This was a mixed class of 22 third/fourth graders: 7 girls and 15 boys. This particular grade level is an outlier in terms of demographics with only two girls in general ed. This is not representative of demographics for the rest of the school.
2. The teacher was a long-term sub while the regular teacher took an extended maternity leave. She was hired late after the sub that was lined up left just as school was starting. She was a poor teacher and the principal took steps to remove her from the classroom. In fact, she was supposed to sub for another teacher going on maternity leave (after the first one came back) and that was not allowed to happen.
3. This was the principals' first year. She inherited the previous principal's strategy for dealing with this large group of boys. For third grade, these boys were in an all-boy class. Many of their parents were not happy with that particular set-up. I'm guessing the term "leftover" was used to describe kids who were not placed in a class in the previous spring (as most kids are).
4. Gen Eds' child was in a new school - not easy in third grade. I don't know the child, but that could be anxiety producing and hard for anyone at any age.

I'm hard pressed to see how Gen Ed Mom's perception of Spectrum caused all of this. I don't know Gen Ed, but I do know who she is, and I can't say that I ever saw her volunteer at an event, volunteer in the lunchroom, come to a PTA meeting, or support the school. I don't say that to be mean, but I would be interested to know what she did on behalf of all the children at Whittier that she claims to fight for.

I'm sorry it was a terrible year. I hope you find what you are looking for in a school. Whittier is not perfect, but many people have found an educational home there (gen ed and Spectrum). Your child may have not learned what you wanted her to learn, but perhaps she learned something about resilience, patience, and that things don't always go the way you wish.

Anonymous said...

Comment above signed another Whittier Parent

Anonymous said...

And Hopeful + Involved, part of my deleted comment was also directed to you. I am not trying to get my kids into Spectrum or ALO. In fact, they are also now at a school which has neither. I would not say the system is failing us, but Whittier certainly did! Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I spent the entire year last year trying to get things straightened out for my daughter. If you did not see me there standing outside the principal's office, sitting in the classroom taking notes, or picking my child up so that I could take her home to have her homeschooled for part of the day I'm sorry. Combined with the fact that I was working two part time jobs and I had another child at another school (where I was on 2 committees) that was all the time I had to give to Whittier. As far as I know, I was the first one to figure out that no teaching was happening in my daughter's class. I don't believe I claimed to be active at Whittier. But I did notice that my daughter wasn't learning anything before the principal did. It took until January for anything to happen for that class. When I went to her in December she didn't seem to know there was a problem and really, nothing ever got fixed for the class. By the time the real teacher came back it was too late. There were more than 2 girls in Gen Ed in the class last year. If there are only 2 this year, then someone other than us dropped out (unless you are counting the Spectrum Qualified kids as not in Gen Ed.) But that does not really make the class an outlier as far as I can see. How many girls are in Gen Ed in 5th grade? How many in 4th grade? If anyone had told me my child would be going into a class with only 2 other girls in the entire grade I would have said it wouldn't be a good school for her. How could it be? Melissa made the point that her kids needed to be in a class with kids who are a grade level ahead because they "should not have a job". I maintain that a school where my daughter's job is to balance gender in an unbalanced class is not a good place for her. And it was a terrible terrible place for her. You don't have to believe me, but she's an easy, delightful kid, and if you ask anyone you know at Whittier who knew her I am sure they will agree with me (although she was often very quiet there, but she's really not shy, she's just not the sort of girl who is going to do well surrounded by a pack of boys who are a year older than her.). I continue to maintain that the placement was very unfair to her and it was all about balancing out the Spectrum numbers. I am not fighting for anyone at Whittier but I feel bad for anyone who walks in there like we did. What I did say is my kids are now at another school where there is no Spectrum and I plan to work to make it better for all kids not just my own. My daughter learned to think she was stupid last year. And that is heartbreaking to see as a parent. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

And another parent, your comment kind of makes my point. I do have to work (I used to stay home and be at school all the time; I no longer have that luxury), and two schools was just a little too much for me last year, but my child was easy and well behaved. No one should experience what she did, not the kids who look different, not the kids who have a different color or culture, and not the kids whose parents don't volunteer with the PTA. Why would the fact that you didn't see me volunteer at school have anything to do with how my daughter was treated? At a good school all the kids should be educated. Are you saying there is no problem with gender imbalance at Whittier? Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Whittier Unofficial Gender Stats for 2012-13
(compiled from my directory)

1st grade
Gen
23 Girls
21 Boys
Spectrum
17 Girls
11 Boys

2nd Grade
Gen
30 Girls
27 Boys
Spectrum
7 Girls
18 Boys

3rd Grade
Gen
23 Girls
32 Boys
Spectrum
14 Girls
13 Boys

4th Grade
Gen
2 Girls
20 Boys
Spectrum
20 Girls
10 Boys

Another Whittier Parent

Rufus X said...

Ged Ed Mom - You have posted 23 times in this thread. You have asserted, outright and veiled, that Spectrum is one of the root causes of your daughter's poor experience at Whittier. You referred to Spectrum and its participants at Whittier as "special" 7 times (special program x2, super special ones, "special" kids, special environment, special treatment), including this:

" I simply don't think so many kids need special educational opportunities. And rumor is some squeaky wheels have managed to get kids who weren't quite qualified in as well.

You've referred to Spectrum parents as system-gamers twice.

My questions for you are these: Do you think Spectrum should be a self-contained program at Whittier? Why or why not?

Full disclosure - I have no connection to Whittier and my students are not Spectrum-identified, but two are enrolled in APP.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I am honestly shocked that there were so many Gen Ed girls in last year's 3rd grade. I had no idea. And now I see why the other split class had a much better experience. It must have been mostly 3rd grade girls and it would have been a MUCH better place for my daughter. She was, as another person said about her kid "used as ballast". I can assure you that whatever assumptions you have made about her anxiety (she is not anxious) or our family (were are very involved with our kids) were not the reason she had a bad year. Her placement was unacceptable, there should have been a much more thoughtful way to do the class assignments. Taking all of the kids into account. I don't know who assigned only 6 girls to one class, but that is a big reason we left the school. I felt she needed peers in her class and she should have had more of them in her class last year! And big problem gender wise in the incoming 3rd and 5th grades! Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

My daughter learned to think she was stupid last year.

How would the smart kids know that they were smart if we didn't provide them a Spectrum and show them the stupid kids?

Reader

Anonymous said...

Gen Ed Mom,

Why are you assuming that kids who look different or are from a different culture are unable to advocate for their children, and need you to speak for them? My child "looks different", and Whittier staff and families have been great. Yes, Whittier is not that diverse, but it is a neighborhood school in a neighborhood that is predominantly white. Using the lack of diversity to further your anti-spectrum agenda is not appropriate. It insinuates that the school is hostile to people who are from minority races or cultures, which has nothing to do with your experience. You said your child looks like everyone else at Whittier. You don't get to play the race card on behalf of people of color, or imply that not getting into spectrum is akin to their struggles.

And I work, have kids in two different schools, and advocate for my kids, too.

Mama Bear

Anonymous said...

@Gen Ed Mom and others:

The experience of Gen Ed mom and child is one reason so many teachers and administrators do not support self-contained Spectrum. (Again, I am leaving APP out of this discussion.) Want to know why Advanced Learning is a mess in Seattle? Again, it is because in their hearts the bulk of SPS educators do not support this model. So the program continues to not be a priority. It won't change anytime soon, despite more than a decade of not prioritizing it.

I am not saying self-contained Spectrum can't be successful. I am saying that for many educators, a different model of accelerated learning is preferable, because of practicalities (divvying students into discrete classrooms in a small-ish school), no knowledge of or commitment to the pedagogy of self-contained "spectrum-level" classrooms, a worry that self-contained programs track general ed students into underachievement, and finally , and sadly perhaps MOSTLY, because it can cause a helluva political mess, fueled by teachers and parents and students all, within a building.

Again, there are successful ways to offer accelerated learning without the self-contained Spectrum hype or pitfalls. Every child deserves the chance to learn at her/his pace. I am glad Gen Ed mom found such a place.

I hope those happy with self-contained Spectrum (and it is perfectly fine to be excited if it is working for your student)understand that the program is both a gift and a burden within a school's walls, and work to assure all children within those walls feel safe, welcome and excited at the opportunity to learn.

Hopeful + Involved

Anonymous said...

Oh Boy,

Here is what I think. Every kid should be able to walk into his or her neighborhood school and obtain a good enough education. Not perfect, good enough. That did not happen for my daughter last year. Why? Two reasons. 1. Entirely inappropriate placement. Not with her peers and with kids a year older. 2. Terrible teacher

Let's take out number 2 out of the equation for a minute. Why was my daughter assigned such a wildly inappropriate placement? If anyone with inside information (since you know who I am) wants to fill me in on this go ahead. I assumed it was because of gender imbalance in the 3rd and 4th grade last year in the Gen Ed program (because of Spectrum) And I am at least partly right about that. There is a huge gender imbalance in the incoming 5th grade, last year's 4th grade. There isn't in the 3rd grade (although I didn't know that because WHY would they do that to my daughter when they didn't have to).

I am OK with a self contained Spectrum program at any school AS LONG AS the General Education kids can also get appropriate placement in classes where they can learn. Is it fair for 6 third grade girls to be in a class with a large group of 4th grade boys? Melissa said many times in this blog that her son does not need to do a job. Well neither does my daughter. She is not there to balance out gender and that shouldn't be her role. She is there to learn, just like your kid. If my daughter had gone into a class that had a few more third grade girls it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to think about Spectrum. As it was, I was under the impression that there were just a handful of Gen Ed girls in her grade. I still don't understand why they did not distribute the girls more evenly. I wish someone would have explained that to me or could explain it to me now. Next, I stressed my daughter's similarity, her easy going nature and the fact that she is culturally similar to those at Whittier because I KNOW people turn those things around on those who are different. Another Whittier Parent has diagnosed my child with anxiety and decided I don't volunteer at school enough and that must have been the root of her problem. Sorry it was not. The teacher, the principal, everyone said she was well behaved and wanted to learn. People at school mentioned "the boys" in the class in a way that made me think I was supposed to blame them for the problem. Sorry. No, I didn't blame any of them. They deserved better too, they weren't being taught and they were bored. Some of them reportedly enjoyed the no rules atmosphere but it wasn't a learning environment for anyone. The problem was 100% the school. 100%. And I can see where these types of problems can be blamed on the kids (she could have anxiety) the parents (I never saw her at any PTA meetings) The teacher was terrible. The teacher who came back from maternity leave was, well I don't want to say too much about her but she was upset and angry and emotional and she didn't help at all. It did not inspire confidence. As for gaming the system I didn't bring that up. A so called Spectrum parent said "I don't blame anyone for gaming the system". So, have whatever program you want to have for your kid, but my kid should be able to get a good enough education. Period. Does that answer the question? I have no experience and no opinion on APP> Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I did not diagnose your child with anxiety. I don't know your child and am not qualified to make that diagnoses. I do not think you are an uninvolved parent. On the contrary, you seem very involved and seem like a fine advocate for your child. You were beginning to paint yourself as someone who advocates for educational justice on behalf of all children and I wondered what you had to back that up. As we all know, this blog not withstanding, actions speak louder than words.

You seem quite intent on finding someone or thing to blame for your child's bad year. Is it Spectrum? The Principal? The crappy teacher? The cohort with too few girls? The rowdy boys (whose parents probably think they're pretty great)? Bad timing on changing schools? The squeaky wheel parents? Hard to say. Or could it just be bad juju? A certain set of circumstances came together and your daughter had a crummy year. Could it be as simple as that? Nothing systemic, nothing nefarious? Human beings made some decisions that were maybe not ideal, your child came in at a less than perfect time, and the result sucked for your kid.

Had your child stayed at Whittier, she may have had a fantastic year this year - no way to know. I'm sure if she has a great year this year it will because of the wonderful school she's in. If it is a terrible year, it will be residual from Whittier. Think what you want - but again, no way to know. Maybe it is just best to say, "Wow, that was a totally screwed up year for us. Glad it's over" and then think about moving on. That's my unsolicited advice and now I will be taking my own advice and move on.

Another Whittier Parent

Anonymous said...

Another Whittier Parent, you are obviously a leader at Whittier. I wish you cared more and your attiude wasn't "it sucked to be your child last year". There was no reason for her to be treated so terribly, yes, I'm angry on her behalf. Whittier lost a great kid. Your loss. I hope her new school will value her more. And I hope the school won't let this happen to anyone else. Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Gen ed mom, maybe you should check out APP. You'll find sympathy among some APP parents regarding self contained spectrum. Whittier is one of the few last holdouts and after this thread, perhaps not much longer. Pretty soon AL will just be APP.

By the way ability grouping is tracking and while effective and practical, not always fair or produce best results for kids who are struggling or stuck with that classification. You can't get rid of labels easily (evidenced by this thread). Parents will talk about other kids and not always with accuracy. By then the damage is done.

Or check out alt school. I think more school variety such as Salmon Bay, immersion, and STEM schools helps by offering good educational choices and reduces the parental drive for AL programs.

pro choice

Jet City mom said...



How would the smart kids know that they were smart if we didn't provide them a Spectrum and show them the stupid kids?

Reader


Something I really appreciated about Garfield was that unlike most other area public schools, they allowed my daughter to take both remedial & AP courses at the same time, where appropriate instead of requiring her to be above grade level in every subject.

I also am very grateful for the opportunity for her to have spent her middle school years at Summit, where the subject determined the level. Middle school students took elective courses alongside high schoolers, which wouldn't be appropriate for all students, but for her it worked well.

Its tragic, to no longer have Summit as a resource and its compounded by the way the district fails to support alternative education.