Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Parallel Discussion: HC Task Force #1, Student Identification

The current advanced learning task force has been charged with reviewing the systems and processes for qualifying students for Highly Capable services and Advanced Learning programs in Seattle Public Schools. The committee is supposed to work toward a shared approach for determining which students qualify for Highly Capable services and Advanced Learning programs that best benefits students. Although it is not stated anywhere in the charge to the task force, the members have been told that their goal is to increase representation in advanced learning programs by under-represented groups. It's unclear why this goal is not overtly stated in the charge document.

We should discuss it as well.

The task force was initially given a question to answer. From the minutes of the first meeting:
"The Initial Board Directed Question: 
How do we guarantee that the population of the Advanced Learning Programs (all tested into APP, Spectrum, ALO) reflects the diverse demographics of the Seattle School District?
I wonder why this is characterized as a "Board Directed" question. When did the Board give any such direction? Who on the Board asked that question?  What is meant by the word "guarantee" in this context? Sounds like they are looking for a quota system. From the minutes, it appears that the task force rejected the question and wished to substitute a "better" one. I don't blame them. It's a dreadful question.

Our discussion will start with a more open-ended question:
"How could the process used to identify students for eligibility to our advanced learning programs be improved?"

The members of the task force have been specifically directed that they are not to consider the service delivery model and/or systems and processes related to the delivery model. That's a bad idea since the identification of students and the nature of the program are linked. Right away the task force included the notion of making the program more appealing to under-served communities.

Our discussion will not be limited in this way. If some discussion of the delivery model is necessary to the improvement of the identification process, then go ahead and mention it.

Our discussion will, however, have some ground rules:
  1. This is not a discussion about whether we should or should not have advanced learning programs at all. That topic is not open to discussion within the context of this thread.
  2. The goal is to make progress towards improvement. Please do not make comments that do not advance the discussion. Let's be constructive.
  3. Criticism about ideas and suggestions are certainly welcome. Insults, name-calling, and ad hominem attacks are not.
I don't make it a practice to edit comments for content, but I will do so on this thread.

Come on. There are a lot of folks who complain about the demographics of our advanced learning programs. Tell us how the student identification should be done.


Charlie Mas said...

I'll start.

I think that we need three types of advanced learning programs in Seattle Public Schools.

1. We need a program to address the special academic needs of children with high cognitive ability.

2. We need a program to address the academic needs of high performing students.

3. We need a program that allows every student the opportunity to work beyond the Standards.

I'll make separate comments to describe each of the three programs.

Charlie Mas said...

We need the first program because it has been demonstrated in the research that people with cognitive ability more than about 1.75 standard deviations above the mean not only think faster than other folks but actually think differently. The research has shown that children in this range need a different style of education. Therefore I propose that we provide a program specifically for these students.

The eligibility criteria would be cognitive ability as assessed by the CoGAT, which is designed as a measure of cognitive ability. The CoGAT is widely used for exactly this purpose. There are three CoGAT assessments: verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal. Any student who shows cognitive ability more than 1.75 standard deviations above the mean in any of these domains would be eligible for the program.

No other qualification would be necessary. Specifically, academic achievement should not be a determinant. This program is for students of high cognitive ability regardless of their preparation, support, or motivation.

The size of the program would be determined by the number of participating students. The nature of the program would have to be designed around the needs of the students.

Since state law prohibits schools from administering any intelligence test or assessment of cognitive ability without the permission of the student's parent or guardian, some sort of permission slip would be required. To make access to the program equitable, the District should consider the universal application of the assessment as they did with 1st graders district-wide a few years ago and as they are doing this year among second-graders in Southeast Seattle.

The CoGAT has been closely reviewed for cultural bias. We should accept the results of those reviews.

State law requires an appeal process, so the District should consider individual test results and, for equity's sake, perhaps should provide those individual tests themselves.

Since students of all achievement levels will be in this program, and because different students will qualify in different domains, the program needs to be flexible in its approach. It cannot be "two grade levels ahead".

Charlie Mas said...

The second program is for high performing students because our standards-based learning system inadequately serves students working beyond standards. As a result of the focus on "getting all students to standard", the standards, intended in theory as a floor, operate in practice as a ceiling. The focus on bringing every student to the standard leaves no resources for supporting students working beyond standards. Any student who demonstrates that they are working beyond the grade level expectations would be eligible for this program.

The eligibility criteria for this program would be demonstrated work beyond grade level as shown on state assessments. Any student who gets a level 4 score on a state assessment would be eligible for this program. State tests are administered in reading, writing, math, and science. Students would participate in the program on a domain specific basis so that a student might be in the program for reading but not math or vice versa.

Students who fail to achieve a level 4 score on the state test will be dropped from the program. Schools that lose a disproportionate number of students from the program will be closely reviewed by the District.

No other qualification would be necessary. Specifically cognitive ability would not be a determinant. This program is for high performing students regardless of the reason that they are working beyond grade level. It could be cognitive ability, or preparation, or diligence. It doesn't matter.

The size of the program would be determined by the number of participating students. Every school has high performing students, so every school would have to offer this program. In some schools there will be a large number of students in the program. The focus of the program would be to support students working beyond grade level without a ceiling.

Eligibility for the program would not have a cost since the students are taking the tests anyway. Participation would be voluntary. There is no requirement for an appeal process and none would be offered.

It is possible that a number of families with children who qualify for this program as well as the program for children with high cognitive ability will choose this program since they may prefer the focus on achievement.

Charlie Mas said...

We need a third program available to every student on a self-selected basis that will allow students to challenge themselves to work beyond standards.

As stated earlier, an unfortunate result of our focus on "getting all students to standard", the standards, intended in theory as a floor, operate in practice as a ceiling. The focus on bringing every student to the standard leaves no resources for supporting students working beyond standards. Any student who wishes to explore work beyond the grade level expectations would be eligible for this program.

There is no eligibility criteria for this program. It would be open to all students. Every student has strengths or interests that extend beyond the grade level material at one time or another and that work should be supported.

The size of the program would be every student in the district. The nature of the program would be a structured support for work beyond standards for any learning objective on an ad hoc basis.

David said...

I was about to write a comment here, but Charlie said everything I was going to say, and much better and in more detail. I think Charlie nailed it.

Anonymous said...

The great news here is that Banda and (apparently others) realize that there has been a significant and highly unjust problem with identification and representation in APP and Spectrum.

The days of segregation in these programs are fortunately numbered.

I am going to let the committee do its work. Why should you now debate how to change what you have so vigorously defended? Why not have a discussion on why the selection criterion should stay the same, as you have been advocating for years (with a few token inclusive comments attached)?
That would be the intellectually honest thing to do right now.

--enough already

Lynn said...


former dragon said...

Yes to everything Charlie said.

Anonymous said...

I recently read a dissertation related to gifted identification in TX. They put exit criteria in place that required students to maintain 80% or above in order to remain in the program. Students were exited from the program and the dissertation asked whether the identification method predicted success in the program. The better predictor of success (and these were middle school students, I believe) was performance on the ITBS (an achievement test), not the CogAT (an ability test). So the better predictor of achievement was past achievement. This gets to the question of whether program entry criteria should be based on only an ability test, as Charlie suggests. I would suggest no, because it's also about being able to perform in that class.

The question then is how do you serve students that meet ability testing cutoffs, but not achievement testing cutoffs, or vice versa? That's where you have to have discussions about levels of services. But how do you have discussions about identification without discussing levels of services? They are so intertwined.

The task force question is very telling.

Even without testing, the general education program needs to be ramped up a notch. Capable students are being held back by poor reading, writing, science, and math curriculum. If academics were improved for all students, this discussion would be very different. Will the head of Teaching and Learning acknowledge that the problem is about more than identification?


Anonymous said...

I love what you propose here Charlie! This would serve all kids.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Hope Gen Ed Mom's critics take note that she is just as willing to talk solutions and accept them as she is to raise problems!

I agree with 2cents on all counts. I think, though many will disagree, that achievement scores should not be playing second fiddle to the Cogat, especially at the very early grades. That is why it is such a bad practice to be using MAP scores. I wish they would eliminate the practice of cherry-picking MAP scores right now, for this testing cycle.

And YES, rigor needs to increase in GenEd. Badly.
NE parent

Lynn said...


Charlie's first program is not focused on achievement though. The goal is not to create a program that is two years advanced - and then find children who fit the program. The state is directing districts to first identify our most highly capable children and then design a program that meets their needs.

You're describing something like program two - something like honors classes in middle and high school now.

Anonymous said...

2 cents, did that study adjust for income disparity and cultural factors? I think like Lynn says, if we want to serve all kids, we need to identify those that truly have exceptional ability not just exceptional preparation and support systems. And if we add achievement opportunities to the Gen Ed program for those kids who are well prepared, have the support, and want to challenge themselves, staying in the regular program, which SHOULD serve most kids won't seem like such a bad deal to families with high achieving kids who don't test in on ability.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

"There are three CoGAT assessments: verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal. Any student who shows cognitive ability more than 1.75 standard deviations above the mean in any of these domains would be eligible for the program."

This criterion, assuming normal distributions for each of the 3 assessments would yield at least 4.8% of the population (or about 1/21 children) as being identified in each category.

The three categories are not statistically independent, but to the extent they are not 100% correlated, the "or" criterion will result in that 1/21 number being a lower bound. More than 1/21 kids may be identified (even without correcting for the lake wobegon effect -- which I will use to refer to the possibility that Seattle's norms are higher than the populations, a value we should be able to measure). In Seattle's population of about 50K kids, that's approximately 2400 children. If equally distributed through the 1-12, 200/grade, or 1000 in elementary, 600 in MS, and 800 in HS.

I do not know what it means to say that "The research has shown that children in this range need a different style of education.", and am willing to read any cites folks have to offer. I do not believe that this fairly large population of kids (which I believe to be even larger among the educated, higher SES population in Seattle) requires a separate environment in order to meet their educational needs.

I do believe that children who are more extreme, and maybe that's something on the order of 1% of kids, or 500 kids might need separation to serve them. So, I would set the Level 1 program at the 1% level, with appropriate accommodations for "opportunity to learn."

More on "opportunity to learn" as a criterion separately.


SPS parent said...

The district does have budgetary constraints. From what I've heard, the ability testing tool being used in the SE is costly. It may not be possible to fund it district wide. When looking at identification criteria, districts also have to think about getting the most bang for their buck. It's one of the reasons MAP testing is used for entry criteria. It may not be the best tool (it certainly doesn't seem best in the early grades) yet it's what's available to AL because all students are MAP tested.

I would like to see program services broken down by grade band - how will they serve K-5, 6-8, 9-12?

Anonymous said...

Charlie, How about kids need to test in on all 3 or at least 2. You are right, ZB, it's going to be hard to accommodate all the kids who can test in on just one of these. And the program is going to be hard to run because it won't be able to move fast enough in all subjects when you have some kids who are ahead only in one area. I mean, it's possible this would be good for my kids if I wanted to try to test them in on the verbal only, but I wouldn't want that. I want the "exceptionally gifted" program for the kids who really need it and a great Gen Ed program for most of the other kids, mine included. And I want the Gen Ed program to be attractive to those who push their kids to achieve. That's key.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

"The CoGAT has been closely reviewed for cultural bias. We should accept the results of those reviews."

I'm not sure what "accepting the results of those reviews" mean we should do about use of the test -- feel free to clarify Charlie, so that I don't have to guess.

The CogAT has been carefully reviewed for biased questions. However, that does not mean that the CogAT is not biased in its accuracy in predicting the academic *ability* of children based on their past experience "opportunity to learn" and culture.

The developer of the CogAT, David Lohman, has written extensively on the topic. To quote,

"Common norms and standards are appropriate for inferences about academic competence. However, inferences about aptitude require comparisons toothers who have had similar opportunities to acquire the abilities measured by a test." (From Lohman, 2006, Identifying academically gifted children in a linguistically and culturally diverse society.).

The level 1 program described is one that would be for students who "learn differently", i.e. a grouping based not on achievement or accomplishment, but on aptitude. The CogAT (and, probably, many other tests) are only accurate in predicting aptitude when children have similar opportunities to learn (which is not the case for minority, ELL, and socioeconomically disadvantaged -- relatively -- children).

There is extensive research on how to use the CogAT to identify a cross section of the local population, for aptitude. It would be a great starting point for any committee trying to identify talent in the SPS population.

Lohman, D. F. (2006). Identifying academically talented minority students. Draft of a monograph prepared for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

Lohman, D. F. (2006). Identifying academically gifted children in a linguistically and culturally diverse society. Invited presentation at the Eight Biennial Henry B. & Jocelyn Wallace National Research Symposium on Talent Development, University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Lohman, D. F. (2006). Practical advice on using the Cognitive Abilities test as part of a talent identification system.


Anonymous said...

I am frustrated there appear to be no Spectrum representatives on the task force. We need a range of programs, and the current make up appears to be weighted so that we will just end up with different app qualification tests, and nothing more.

I think it would be great to have three programs like this, and I would love something more for my one gen ed kid who is showing some aptitude in math, but is not a good fit for a specific advanced learning program. But I don't have a lot of faith that the district actually wants to spend any actual time or money on something so politically unpopular as advanced learning, so I think we will probably end up with different app tests and a better math curriculum after all this. I would like to see the achievement component disregarded or normed to school for title 1 schools, with teacher recommendation subbed in. I don't think achievement in the lower grades is 100% about preparedness like some posters here (in my own house, with the same level of preparedness, my kids have gotten very different achievement scores), but I do think it's too much of a barrier in some places. And I think that is a relatively easy cut off to make.

I would also not mind something like Minneapolis uses- depending on your scores, you get a number ranking(which I don't believe you are privy to), and then you get into the program on the basis of that number ranking. So the most gifted kids are always there, and then other kids as space is available. This only works with a robust set of advanced learning programs, because obviously there is significant error, and if the program is small probably we need something for the kids just on the other side of the cut off.

I think our lack of other programs is really what has made app so big. I wish I thought Charlie's programs could happen, because I dislike how all or nothing it is here, much more than other cities, which generally have several well supported options for different ranges. When I look at qualifications in other cities for their self contained programs, they are actually lower. portland's access just requires 1 99, nothing else(compared to ours which requires two 98s, and I'm not sure how possible it is to get two 98s and no 99s.), and the various Minineapolis programs have lower cut offs, and even if they took all their wait list would still be smaller proportionally.


Anonymous said...

"When I look at qualifications in other cities for their self contained programs, they are actually lower. portland's access just requires 1 99,"

yes, but I think it also must require an application process that eliminates other children (or a lottery), since it's enrollment is only about 300 kids (much smaller than ours). And though I do believe the children of Seattle are smarter than the national average and among my relatives who love the Sounders, might be comfortable saying that the children of Seattle are smarter than the children of Portland, I don't really believe the second.


Kindermom said...

If anyone is as slow today as I am, the "comparisons toothers" in the Lohman quote by zb is "comparisons to others". I can't believe it took me so long to figure that out. Maybe I need that second cup of coffee...

Anonymous said...

I don't believe they are either, ZB! I think fewer people are so unhappy with their other offerings there that they'll bus a kid across town. They have a pretty enormous magnet system which people like, really not sure that is better, but it is one explanation. I actually know several parents with kids in the program quite well, and the cap is not that big of a deal, apparently, and most kids who apply get in (isn't an application process usually a barrier for lower income families?). It is apparently impossible to get in at the older grades.


Anonymous said...

Yes, here's a correction :-). The cut and paste had paragraph problems and crunched those words together and I didn't notice until after posting.


The developer of the CogAT, David Lohman, has written extensively on the topic. To quote,

"Common norms and standards are appropriate for inferences about academic competence. However, inferences about aptitude require comparisons to others who have had similar opportunities to acquire the abilities measured by a test." (From Lohman, 2006, Identifying academically gifted children in a linguistically and culturally diverse society.).


Anonymous said...

To be clearer- I am saying demand is lower, not "supply" of qualified kids. I think many more qualified kids just do not go. If they had our rate of participation their programs would be more enormous than ours, I am saying.


Charlie Mas said...

I think we need to begin with the question:
What students are not well-served in the general education classroom.

I identified three types:

Students with high cognitive ability, regardless of their achievement level or preparation. They need something different because they learn differently. If the CoGAT is not the right assessment for that, as has been suggested here, then some other assessment. I suggested a cutoff of 1.75 standard deviations above the mean, but some have suggested that we need to restrict access to the program (why, exactly?) and therefore the cutoff should be moved. I don't have a target size for the program; I have a target population. Nor do I have a delivery method or program model for them; those are not the question for today.

High performing students regardless of their cognitive ability. They need something different because our general education classrooms do not reliably serve students working beyond standards. Again, I have no delivery method or model for these students. I believe that this would mesh well with Tier II of MTSS and should be available in every school. Every School.

All students. Even students who do not routinely work beyond standards can and do occasionally work beyond standards. They, too, should have a structured opportunity to be supported when they achieve beyond grade level. Again, I have no model or method in mind. That's not today's problem. Neither do I have a target size for this effort, only a target population.

I'm curious how those who have a sense of how big each of these programs should be came to that sense. Who is to say that 2% or 4.8% or 23% is too big or too small or just right? Why would we even have such a target? What purpose does it serve?

Anonymous said...

PS: For a K mom, perhaps "toothers" might have actually made sense for a little while. I can imagine having spent some time thinking about whether children with early teeth development, or who like to chew on things are a relevant comparison group for some aptitude or another.



Anonymous said...

If all the kids on Seattle are really smarter than the kids in most cities, the schools in Seattle should reflect that. I don't know if this is true, but it's been cited here a number of times by folks. If this is so, rather than having a huge APP program and a Spectrum program that depends on luck of the draw (in my opinion), and a weak ALO program, we just need a much, much better Gen Ed program and extra support for those who lag behind. I not questioning the need for APP AT ALL, just saying it need not be huge. If all the kids are exceptional make the regular program exceptional. Save the self contained for those who are unusually exceptional.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Charlie, it's hard on the kids left behind when these kind of programs get too big. It just is. Then you are left either trying to get a kid into a program that isn't really meant for her, or accepting that she is left without peers. A school that is 30 Self Contained Spectrum with no girls in 4th grade Gen Ed, for instance.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Agh the typos. Sorry. 30 percent.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

"I'm curious how those who have a sense of how big each of these programs should be came to that sense. Who is to say that 2% or 4.8% or 23% is too big or too small or just right?"

For me, the answer is that my target selection criterion is, by design, hoping to identify an outlier population. Outliers are, by definition, identified by their rarity.

Now, you could give me a thought experiment -- say 25% of SPS students learn "differently", say at 3X the speed of other students. It's a thought experiment, because it would require them to be aliens of some sort, maybe Vulcans, since human populations don't work that way.

In that thought experiment, I guess I'd expect that if 25% of the students really learned at 3X the speed, there should be ways to accommodate those students in a classroom, where they would have a sufficient cohort who learned similarly to them. You might be able to convince me that they need something different from that, but it would take a lot of evidence which would be difficult to generate even in a thought experiment.

I am working from the premise that publicly sanctioned segregation is a bad thing, for any population, minorities, special education, economic status, . . . . and that separate is inherently unequal is the bottom line. Given that premise, I am going to have to see not just a little bit of evidence, but a preponderance of strong evidence that separation is necessary before I'm going to accept state-sanctioned separation as the solution. True outlier status is one of those exceptions, potentially.


Anonymous said...

And if you take everybody out because everybody is smarter than average the norm becomes an outlier in her classroom and you replicate the experience for her that you were supposed to have created these programs to avoid for outliers. So, yes, self contained for true outliers not 20 or 30 or 50 percent of the kids.

Gen Ed Mom

Lynn said...


I hope that improvements in access and services provided by Spectrum come out of this process. I think they are focusing on identification of highly capable students now because they are required to have a plan to identify and provide services to those children.

Lynn said...

Gen Ed Mom,

I think Charlie has suggested that program 2 (for high achieving students) would be available in every school and access would be guaranteed. So a student with high reading scores would receive appropriate (accelerated or enriched) instruction in that subject. If they are right at grade level in math, that's what they would get.

I know we are talking about identification today - but programs two and three are just replacements for Spectrum and ALOs - with guaranteed access.

These second and third level programs sound like what you'd expect a good school to do automatically - don't they?

Melissa Westbrook said...

To the point of having all programs "exceptional", there was an experiment at Maple Elementary several years back where they taught all the students at the Spectrum level. They mostly did much better. It was lauded and applauded but cost more and promptly went away.

How to solve that issue is the problem.

Anonymous said...

if you want to see a coherent and comprehensive highly capable program, look at the Tumwater district program. The director of that program is on the OSPI Advisory Committee. It covers many things discussed here including tests, appeals, achievement vs. ability,
I'm wondering if you have already perused their site Charlie.


Anonymous said...

Yes, but those programs and guaranteed access to them would really have to be promised for me to go along with the notion that "no self contained program is too big". I just want my kid to have peers in her program, that's all.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Uh huh , so you see Melissa, it is a program of resources. How the resources are distributed is where the rubber meets the road in supporting all of our kids.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I meant PROBLEM! The problem is resources and who has access to them and who does not.

Gen Ed Mom

SPS parent said...

From Tumwater highly capable program website:

1) They use results of district assessments and MSP scores (grades 4-7) for achievement. Scores must be in the top 5%. I'm assuming that's based on statewide results for MSP, which may be a more representative norm group than MAP. I'd be interested in seeing the correlation between MAP and MSP scores. Using an achievement test that is tied to what the students are supposed to be taught (MSP) makes more sense than using MAP, plus it's free, but MAP supposedly has the advantage of above grade level questions.

2) One CogAT score 97% or above, or both 90% or above.

3) They have an exit process that is clearly stated on their website.

Tumwater's enrollment is around 6300. They have two high schools and two middle schools. They don't appear to have a formal program before 4th grade.

Anonymous said...

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think one of the tricky things in this scenario concerns the overlap between the three types of students Charlie mentioned. Groups 1 and 2 (high cognitive ability, regardless of achievement; and high achievement, regardless of cognitive ability) are not mutually exclusive. So where do those high-achieving, high cognitive ability kids best fit? Do they, unlike the others, get a choice? Or if the argument is that the high cognitive ability kids learn differently, shouldn't they be in group 1 rather than group 2?

I think perhaps I'm fearing that the first program--for those with high cognitive ability, regardless of achievement--could get a negative public image. We've all seen reference to the "odd" or "quirky" or "unique" kids in APP now, and by pulling out those high performers who have more typical & socially accepted learning styles (often referred to as those who don't "need" APP), such perceptions are likely to be strengthened. On top of that, the kids who remain would not necessarily be high achievers, so they may be seen as not only strange but also underperforming. Elementary kids who need this sort of program might not care so much about (or be aware of) its image, but come middle school it could be an issue for some. Then again, if the program were really able to meet the academic of these needs there would also be a lot of kids working many more years beyond grade level than in the other programs, so my initial fear may be unwarranted.

This line of thinking did bring up some other questions for me though. Does anyone have a sense as to what portion of kids who might qualify for this sort of high cognitive ability program might not be also be considered high-achieving? And I'm assuming the thinking is that their lack of past achievement is due to factors such as demographics, home environment, boredom, etc., and that those factors will be mitigated via a program that really addresses their learning style and abilities, such that they can become high achievers. Or is that not a goal? Would there be achievement requirements to remain in such a program beyond a certain point, or would continued appropriateness--and effectiveness of services--be assessed some other way? Or once qualified, would you be in for the long haul?


Lynn said...


I think that the high-cognitive ability high achievers would have a choice between the programs. Isn't that what so many people have called for? A stronger Spectrum program, with guaranteed access, so that more APP students would choose to stay closer to home?

The beauty of dropping the achievement requirement for entrance to the first program is that we can pull in those students who are under-prepared when they start school. It would guarantee appropriate instruction for 2e kids too. If you're super smart and dyslexic for example, you would still qualify for the first program.

In every case, where a kid has the ability and is given appropriate instruction, they will learn. They may not get perfect grades - but their test scores will show that they're making appropriate progress. The program would not be a reward to be earned, it would be a place where services are provided to highly capable children. Teachers, parents and students would work together to assess the problem if test scores are unexpectedly low.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to walk a mile here people, I really am. But sheesh. First we've got a proposal for the biggest Advanced Learning program of all time because every kid in Seattle is above average. I don't buy that, but OK, if it were to come with opportunity for my kids, and this is the important part to me, ALL kids in the city to benefit because it was pretty much guaranteed entry, you have no argument from me (unfortunately as Melissa points out that will be expensive). Next we have to have unlimited seats for self contained classrooms of "outliers" because, why? I thought I understood that some kids really NEED APP because they are too out of synch with most kids their age and need a peer group. But does this argument hold up if there are an unlimited number of so called outliers? Now, there is concern that if you make the program too big and inclusive and also kids have choices then some kids will be stigmatized as "quirky" for "needing" the program when others just "want" it. So now are we trying to keep out the kids who just want it so the ones who need it will, will, what? Be not considered quirky? Really really trying to walk a mile but just not getting it. P.S. I have been called quirky. There are worse things.

Gen Ed Mom

Lynn said...


I didn't address the quirky/misfit issue. We wouldn't pull out the high achievers - and I think plenty of them would be happiest in the first program. I think families would choose the program that is right for them and things would balance out.

hschinske said...

I have no idea why anyone thinks the cognitive and achievement tests are either so different from one another, or so reliable, that there should be DIFFERENT programs based on which one the student does well on. That's never made any sense to me. To my mind, extremely high results on any test mean that a kid should be looked at as potentially having high ability. Moderately high results, such as a large percentage of kids might hit from time to time, should not disqualify a kid, but shouldn't qualify them either.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Tumwater also has a committee that reviews all applicants and makes the final decision.
It also has a creativity requirement.
Appeals must be approved by the committee as well.
Can't seem to find a number for kids in the program.
they also take into account language abilities and sped
It doesn't sound at all like our system of test and you're in
they cluster in grades 1 and 2
self contained classrooms for grades 3-6
blocks for LA and Social Studies in MS
Students showing inadequate progress are exited

I like that model because in grades 3-6 kids arent so distracted by hormones and can be focused on learning
then at MS they are just blocked for two classes and get mixed back in with their peers
sounds much better than self-contained MS. Three years of self-contained should be enough to get kids aware of their potential and on the right track, so to speak
the committee approach for entry and appeals is also appealing
that would allow exceptional children in exceptional circumstances an opportunity to get in and monitoring appeals would keep everybody above board.
they even have a provision that the appeals committee must have a staffer who was not involved in the original decision denying entrance.
they have covered all bases it seems.


Anonymous said...

I have a high cognitive/low achievement (very dyslexic) elementary kid - which we only discovered through expensive private testing, as she wasn't "failing enough" to qualify for school testing resources. she was not allowed to even test for adv learning because she did not meet the MAP bar. she doesn't qualify for Spectrum, but her cognitive scores are APP range.

I'm sure there are many more like her who are overlooked/undeserved, but from experience with sibs and talking to other parents the adv learning program is not for this kid. testing currently does map to program expectations. spectrum kids must preform exactly 1 grade higher in math AND reading, APP 2 (but what if i am stronger at math, but not reading?) If the kids can't fit into those exact boxes with requisite MAP/MSP/report card metrics, they likely will be deemed under-performing, and counseled out by the teacher (at least the ones i've encountered at our self-contained spectrum school). it's setting a kid up for failure and frustration to place them into a program when they can't meet those current achievement standards.

in a way, i think our experience is similar to what an ESL or under-privileged kid (without the academic foundation) would experience. those kids might score high cognitively, but the curriculum and teaching approach would have to be (and should be) completely dismantled to really serve those kids via adv learning programs to meet their full potential.


Anonymous said...

We came from a school system (Fairfax County, Virginia) that administers the Cogat to all 2nd graders, and uses the results from that as one factor in determining who is eligible for AAP (their version of APP).

They recently had to switch from the Cogat to the "FAT"- or Fairfax Abilities Test- because so many parents were prepping their kids for the Cogat via sample tests, prep kits that could be bought online and test prep academies. As you would expect, higher SES kids had access to more resources, and therefore were over-represented in the AAP program.

You can also argue that higher SES kids also had more opportunities to be exposed to museums, music, books, words, science and other experiences that help develop cognitive skills- but either way the result is AAP classes where minorities and lower SES families are under-represented when compared to the overall population.

It's at the point where almost 20% of the student population is eligible for self contained AAP services. At some AAP center schools, there are 4 self contained classes per grade and 2 gen ed classes per grade. You can imagine the turmoil...

So while the Cogat sounds like a good way to identify high-ability learners, in practice, it can be gamed like everything else and may not change the current outcomes much.


Anonymous said...

that's a nice thing about a creativity requirement like at Tumwater. Kids have to demonstrate some special,i.e.

Exceptional Creativity - Evidence that the student demonstrates behavioral characteristics for exceptional creativity. Parent and teacher forms are screened for examples of exceptional creativity, including exemplary creative products, unusual problem solving ability, or other learning characteristics that indicate high intellectual potential. Evaluation criteria may include fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration of thought.


Lynn said...


That sound like something that can't be objectively assessed. What are you suggesting?

Anonymous said...

MAP is laughable for qualifying AL placement and COGAT has significant problems too. MAP as ONE identifier, maybe. Not for qualification period. But COGAT needs to go too. It is test-preppable and lagging behind current research, so why reinforce a bad qualifier? Read below the latest research as outlined in scientific journal Neuron late last year.

And agree demonstration of creativity/different thinking needs to be part of a very select AL grade school placement.

In short, well-prepped and heavily (life) advantaged young students are not who should be filling the SPS AL program. Nor should early readers be equated with high cognitive ability. The AL program should be reserved for true outliers and the students in the program should be far more representative of the diversity of this district.

Does IQ Test Really Measure Intelligence?

By Denise Mann
WebMD Health News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
intelligence quotient illustration
Dec. 20, 2012 -- Single tests that measure intelligence quotient, or IQ, may become a thing of the past.

A new study of more than 100,000 participants suggests that there may be at least three distinct components of intelligence. So you could not give a single, unified score for all of them.

Researchers' understanding of the complexities of the human brain has evolved, and so too has the notion of IQ, what it really means, and how it is most accurately captured.

“There are multiple types of intelligence,” says researcher Adam Hampshire, PhD. He is a psychologist at the Brain and Mind Institute Natural Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, Canada. “It is time to move on to using a more comprehensive set of tests that can measure separate scores for each type of intelligence.”

Using Many IQ Tests

In the study, all participants were invited to take a series of 12 online tests that measure memory, reasoning, attention, and planning as well as information on the test takers' background and lifestyle. The entire test takes about 30 minutes to complete.

According to the findings, there are at least three components that affect overall performance on tests. These include short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal recall.

Lifestyle factors count, too. For example, gamers -- or people who play a lot of computer games -- score higher on tests of reasoning and short-term memory. Smokers do poorly on tests assessing short-term memory and vocabulary, while test takers who have anxiety don't do as well on short-term memory tests, the study shows.

What’s more, the study suggests that each type of intelligence may have its basis in a different set of brain areas. Researchers used sophisticated brain scans called functional MRIs to map out these areas. “Potentially, we can measure a more comprehensive set of intelligences," each of which reflects the capacity of a different part of the brain, Hampshire says.

Signed, Testing Skeptic

Lynn said...

Did you see Charlie's comment at 10:18? I think we're trying to identify the students whose needs are not being (and most likely can not be) met in the regular classroom. Do these multiple intelligences help us with that? Would a child who is a really exceptionally good planner need highly capable services? If not, why test for them?

Individual IQ tests do measure all of those things. Do you think we should be administering them?

You seem to be in the group that would like to see APP eligibility requirements increased. What would you suggest we use?

Charlie Mas said...

zb wrote: "I am working from the premise that publicly sanctioned segregation is a bad thing, for any population, minorities, special education, economic status, . . . . and that separate is inherently unequal is the bottom line."

And I would agree, if we were talking about politics. But we aren't. We're talking about education.

Tell me, zb, since you are opposed to segregation, how do you feel about segregating students by age? Is it right for all of the six-year-olds to be in one class and all of the seven-year-olds in another? Isn't that segregation?

Or is wrong to be sexist and racist but okay to be agist?

Charlie Mas said...

Gen Ed Mom wrote: "And if you take everybody out because everybody is smarter than average"

Only one program is for students who are "smarter", and that's the one for those who are more than 1.75 standard deviations above the mean, which are the outliers.

Students don't have to be "smart" to access either of the other two programs. Hard work would get them into either even without any special talent.

Charlie Mas said...

Oh! And I didn't even suggest that they had to be self-contained programs.

In fact, I didn't suggest that any of these had to be self-contained.

Could we set aside the discussion of delivery models for the time being?

SPS parent said...

Puyallup highly capable (info taken from website):

For the elementary program, students are ranked and placed on a space available basis according to those deemed most likely to benefit from the program. Others are put on a wait list. They also have clearly defined performance/exit criteria, with a performance improvement opportunity.

Identification is based on top 5% on achievement tests and top 10% on cognitive ability tests.

Anonymous said...

one of the data requests from the task force, according to the minutes, is:

Maps of current student population who tested in; who applied; who appealed?

How will they use such data? Is it retained by the AL office?


Anonymous said...

OK, here's my short (and casual) answer for how I would try to identify for the Level 1 program, which is in my case is a program for people who learn differently and who can't be served in the neighborhood classroom. If I were actually on the task force, I'd be doing further research.

1) Aim for a program that includes approximately 1.5% or 750 students across all grade levels (potentially across 1-8, with the possibility that choice in offerings during high school should be able to meet the needs of the population, especially in conjunction with programs like Running Start). Why? Because I think a program that is addressing the needs of outliers needs to pick outliers, leaving the Gen Ed program to educate those who are not outliers, including high achievers who do not need a specialized learning environment.

2) Identify with the CogAT, norming for the local population as well using group norms for disadvantaged backgrounds. I would start by using FRL eligibility and ELL status, not race, using a standard of 2+ STD or something like that from mean for the appropriate norming population. These group norms could be established through a few years of testing, rather than used on a yearly basis.

3) Include some form of assessment/application review -- I'm imagining something that might look like an IEP review -- for students who don't meet the testing criterion, but whose teachers believe they would benefit from the testing program and those who meet the testing criterion, but whose teachers don't think they'd benefit from the program. This is the most complicated criterion and I don't know how it would work. I'd look to the Portland Access academy to see how they review their applications, but other public schools with some form of application process (Illinois Science academy? Aviation high school, Hunter College, maybe Tumwater?) might also offer some useful background.

This Level 1 program would be a limited program for those who really need it.

This is basically what Lohman suggests, though he offers technical information on how to do it with the CogAT, using the score reports you get from Riverside Publishing.


Anonymous said...

I am quite all right with a self contained delivery model for true outliers. And OK, I won't discuss delivery models any more.

Gen Ed Mom

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

"Is it right for all of the six-year-olds to be in one class and all of the seven-year-olds in another? Isn't that segregation?"

I'm actually a supporter of grade level acceleration and think that if a 6 yo can function at a 7yo level (and has had the time to learn the material).

So, not really a supporter of age level segregation. I think he school district should explore how they can use acceleration as an aspect of their delivery model. Now, I'm not particularly sympathetic to 6yo who can read like 11 yo being in a 11 yo class. They have to be able to function at the same level in the relevant ways for the classroom.


Anonymous said...

Lynn, that's the whole idea. subjectivity would weed out kids who dont need it or could handle it.There's an effective appeal process as I noted.


Charlie Mas said...

zb wrote: "high achievers who do not need a specialized learning environment"

Again, we're not talking delivery method right now, so zb might not have been talking about a self-contained class when writing "specialized learning environment".

I just want to be clear that all students working beyond grade level need a systematic response from the District because students working beyond the standards are not being reliably supported right now and there is no reason to believe that they will without such a response.

Charlie Mas said...

Again, shouldn't the criteria for eligibility be driven by the students' needs, and not by the district's operational ease? What is magic about 1.5%? Why draw the line there? Just because that number of students just sorta seems right? Because it's a point in the curve that is pleasing?

Shouldn't the cut off be driven by the students and not the curve or the size of a classroom?

Anonymous said...

"zb, would you allow something like an individual IQ test for students who really bomb the group Cogat, . . . .

An appeals process is required, and yes, the group test has its flaws, so there has to be an appeals process.

I'm not finding it now, but Lohman has a powerpoint presentation somewhere on his site where he lays out the plan.

Lohman does profit from the CogAT test, and doesn't like the nonverbal tests or the use of the nonverbal part of the CogAT as a method of correcting for verbal proficiency and ELL (and he tries to explain why).


Lynn said...


If we're going to use a local norm, it should be school by school. There are about 60 APP-enrolled students per middle school grade living in the Eckstein attendance area. Using your criteria, most of them would not qualify for program one. Are these then children whose needs can and will be met in Eckstein general education classrooms?

The research I've read says that parents are more accurate at determining if their child is gifted than teachers are. (This was in young children preschool maybe?)

Charlie Mas said...

One more really, really important point:

The students who test 1.75 standard deviations above the mean on the CoGAT are predominantly those who come to school prepared, supported, and motivated. It is very likely that this criteria for the first program will result in a demographic similar to the one for APP.

The students who earn a level 4 score on the MSP are predominantly those who come to school prepared, supported, and motivated. It is very likely that this criteria for the second program will result in a demographic similar to the one for Spectrum.

The students who will choose to challenge themselves with work beyond standards may also reflect a disproportionate demographic compared to the district as a whole.

This change in identification and these changes in the program purposes (what is the purpose of APP and Spectrum?) are not likely to change the set of students served by advanced learning programs.

In the whole district the number of third grade African American students who earned a level 4 score on the reading MSP was 121 (18.4% of them). A slightly higher percentage of Hispanic students (29.9%) 153 of them did the same. There were 296 Asian third graders (47.4%) and 1,282 White third graders (66.0%) who got a level 4 score on the same test. Together they would make a cohort of 1,852 students, of whom, 69% would be White and only 7% would be Black.

If under-representation is the problem, then this does nothing to fix it.

Charlie Mas said...

If we take a slice from each school, then families will only have to send their children to low-performing schools, where the bar is lower, to gain entry. Then, if the program is self-contained at a central site, the student will get a ticket out of that low-performing school.

These kinds of things can - and will - be gamed.

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

If under-representation is the problem, the solution will be found in high quality preschool programs - not in changes to highly capable program qualifications.

Charlie Mas said...

Honestly, I think that families will choose wisely if they have a choice between the first program - for students with high cognitive ability regardless of achievement - and the second program - for students with high achievement regardless of cognitive ability. I think that most of them will choose the second program.

There is no reason to believe that the focus of the first program will be the pursuit of accelerated achievement. Is that what those children need? I don't think so. Accelerated achievement will, however, be the focus of the second program.

Also the first program could have a lot of low performing peers - either due to disability, apathy, or lack of exposure. The ones focused on rising up up the ziggurat lickety-split will be in the second program, not the first.

Think of this way: which program is more popular with APP families: Garfield or The NOVA Project?

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you, Lynn.

The Advanced Learning programs are not the place to correct all of society's ills.

The programs exist serve the students who need them, not to create students who need them. We can't find them if they aren't out there.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, so do you see this as an "either-" of system. I'm trying to understand where in this scheme a kid who is both high achieving AND high cognitive ability would best fit. For example, say you have a kid who feels that while APP is a better fit socially, the curriculum is not rigorous enough. Would this type of kid continue to be an outlier? It's hard to see where they would fit without discussing potential delivery models for each group, so I'm curious in your thoughts.


seattle citizen said...

So...if preparation to pass entrance criteria depends on enrichment between birth and, age five and many kids aren't getting that enrichment, what should we as citizens do to more equitably provide that enrichment, or, barring that, mitigate the lack of it by providing early supports to students who show potential?
Seems to me that if we humans don't wrap ourselves around the poorest and/or least prepared of 0-5yr olds, disproprtionality in higher level opportunities will merely continue.
Enrichment matters: Those children who spend their early years in rich environments will out-score those who don't. No system will be equitable until all children are either provided a wide array of enrichment before CoGat, MSP, or MAP day, or, barring that, supplied with the means upon entry to school to remediate the effects of lack of enrichment.
Otherwise, inequity continues.
'm certainly not accusing parent/guardians who have provided enrichment enough to benefit their children; they are moving their students forward, as they will and should. Rather, this is a systemic problem we must all wrestle with, unless we merely resign ourselves to the inequity and accept it.

Charlie Mas said...

HIMSMom, regardless of delivery model, one program is designed to support highly capable students without regard to their achievement and the other is designed to support high performing students without regard to their cognitive ability.

There are, of course, a lot of students who would qualify for both programs. I think most families would choose the second program. I base that guess on the current attitudes regarding APP and Spectrum.

These programs, as originally described to me, were supposed to explore concepts in greater depth, provide broader context, and, yes, leap forward to material that typically isn't covered until later school years. But all of that depth and breadth stuff got pushed aside as the focus fell exclusively on the acceleration. Even the District has forgotten it and now describes the programs as "one year ahead" and "two years ahead".

The people who are really interested in acceleration - and that appears to be most of them - will choose the second program.

Charlie Mas said...

Supporters of self-contained Spectrum have been saying, since the start, that there needs to be some sort of district-level structure to support students working beyond standards because it does not reliably happen in general education classrooms. It doesn't necessarily have to be called Spectrum or use the self-contained delivery model. It just has to be real and it has to be effective. People have insisted on the self-contained classroom because everything else the District has offered has been either not real or not effective.

That may soon change. MTSS Tier II may prove to be real and effective without the Spectrum label or the self-contained classroom. If it is - and that's a big question - then families should be willing to let go of the self-contained delivery model and the Spectrum label.

So if anyone were to assume a delivery model for a program designed to serve high performing students it would make more sense to assume a Tier II MTSS model than self-contained Spectrum. That's where the District has signaled they are headed.

Anonymous said...

"Rather, this is a systemic problem we must all wrestle with, unless we merely resign ourselves to the inequity and accept it."

And, we do worse than acceptance if at the level in which we are required to educate children (1st grade, I guess, in WA), we use testing that we know depends on opportunity to learn to segregate them for further opportunities to learn. We exacerbate, support, and enhance the inequity that already exists.

The point of my CogAT references is precisely that children with different opportunities to learn with different scores on the standardized test may actually have the *SAME APTITUDE* to learn. We are not talking about underpreparation (as we are when we talk about achievement). The test's validity in predicting aptitude depends on the background of the child.


Anonymous said...

In other words, we are not "trying to correct all societies ills"; when looking at appropriate group norms based on opportunity to learn we are merely using the test correctly to identify high aptitude children.

The correct norming for aptitude would be on opportunity to learn, not by school (maybe FRL & ELL eligibility, as a practical matter).


Anonymous said...

The state has numbers on district highly capable, by category (2010-2011 and before):

HCP student enrollment by categorical


SPS parent said...

Could the district define highly capable as the top 2.3% of SPS students (as ranked by a matrix of standardized scores) as opposed to all students that score in the top 2.3% on standardized tests?

The WAC language talks about the "most highly capable," not just highly capable.

WAC 392-170-075

Selection of most highly capable

Each school district's board of directors shall adopt policies and procedures for the selection of the most highly capable students by the multidisciplinary selection committee. Such policies and selection procedures:

(1) Shall not violate federal and state civil rights laws including, without limitation, chapters 28A.640 and 28A.642 RCW;

(2) Shall be based on professional judgment as to which students will benefit the most from inclusion in the district's program; and

(3) Shall be based on a selection system that determines which students are the most highly capable as defined under WAC 392-170-055, and other data collected in the assessment process.

Doesn't that leave open the possibility of limiting enrollment?

Anonymous said...

Just running the numbers: if there are 50,000 students, with an average of 3850 per grade, then around 90 students per grade would potentially be identified as "most highly capable."

Is it possible the district would go this route? Other districts do, but it runs counter to the way SPS has historically placed students.

Lynn said...

It absolutely does. The district could identify 1% or 2.3% or 98% of it's students as the most highly capable. Why would you want to do that though? Why not instead identify those children with special academic needs and find a way to meet them?

Lynn said...

As I see it, there are three potential groups who would like to reduce access to APP:

Group A - Has a child enrolled in APP, does not find it challenging and believes some enrolled students do not belong.

Group B - Has a child enrolled in APP, would prefer to attend their neighborhood school, and wants to take the peer group back with them.

Group C - Does not have a child enrolled in APP and wants those APP students back in the neighborhood school for their volunteer energy and willingness to subsidize PTA projects or because they believe that acceleration opportunities will come with those students.

Anonymous said...

Thank you ZB. And thank you Charlie, especially your posts @ 4:11 and 6:33.

I have thought for sometime now that Seattle's APP has drifted from its original intention. I'm putting aside the "how best to ID" aspect, though that's a big part of why it has gone down the path to where it is today. What Seattle is doing reflects what many gifted programs look like in other districts be it Fairfax county or Bellevue's ( it had an eval done recently, quite an interesting read). I think in part this is why NGAC is undergoing some re-examination and talking about a paradigm shift.

I am optimistic at another stab at AL. I present 3 cases in point to illustrate.
* the first is quite similar to Diane's post about her dyslexic child. It is a problem difficult to fix in part because this district does a poor job with dyslexic students, ID ing them and providing best practices to help such students. What I've seen is quite depressing. Parents are often left on their own, often paying out of pocket for tutoring. For those who can't, there's the resource room and SPES staff, but unfortunately without the expertise to help such children. I've volunteered 3 years in such a room. Diane is right though APP as a program would not helped with dyslexia, but could meet the student's need for the sciences and math.

*the unidentified child. When I think of this, I think of one remarkable child I encountered as a parent volunteer in 2nd grade. This child according to other parents was "homeless" and came and went to school by way of taxi (that was the proof). I don't know if that was true or not and didn't ask. What I saw in the classroom was far more intriguing. I volunteered twice a week in math and science. This very active, unable to sit in his seat child was the one who has the hand up first with questions or answers, usually both, and looked as if ready to burst. In one science unit, the measurement unit with weights and fulcrum, he was the first to figure out by moving the fulcrum, you can adjust balance of weights. He had no understanding of the full explanation at that point, but while other children were playing with types of things to weigh, he played around with the whole structure, contrary to what the teacher wanted to do at the time ( a negative mark for not following instruction). The next year, he was no longer at our school.

The second case is ongoing and quite frustrating. It's a situation of a student who is stuck. The parents are just realizing this as they watched their child who in 5th grade was reading Chaucer at home and has been working backward in time and presently reading works by Ancient Greek philosophers and mathematicians in MS (because this child wants to know the hows and whys men govern). The child has spectrum designation, but also has major executive function issues so MS has been challenging, not because the work is difficult, but because it comes with a schedul/grade and the work is far too easy and uninteresting. The will to engage in school is rapidly disappearing. There are no peers (friends, yes)in the classroom for this student. The teachers are loaded with 150+students and a "C" student with aptitude is triaged behind ones who have greater needs. However, this "average" student is on a slide not just academically, but a growing sense of personal failure.

What happens here I think happens everywhere. It is these children who affect me most. I don't know how much a change in AL can help as some of the problems are systemic. But I think many children like this need a NOVA like place from elementary school on up. High School is far too, too late.

-a parent

SPS parent said...

It's interesting that the post was read as a desire to limit APP enrollment, rather than the fear of such a possibility. Neither position was explicitly stated. Limiting enrollment in such a way leads to all kinds of downsides - can you imagine the competition and stress on a student and the number of students that would go unserved?

It was not written in support of such a system, but with the rumblings about growing enrollment in APP, I have to wonder what means will be taken to limit future enrollment:
1) raise the cut-off?
2) rank and waitlist students?
3) increase AL opportunities in neighborhood schools?

Any and all could be done. Of course choice 3 seems like a good place to start. There are outliers in APP and how to serve those students should be part of the discussion, as they are the reason APP came about in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, I don't know that your "Group A" necessarily wants to reduce access to APP; I think such folks just want the program to adequately serve kids like theirs. If the program model and delivery method allowed for greater flexibility in serving kids who want greater rigor and faster acceleration, that would do the trick. It may be wishful thinking, but I'm hoping the new legislation will result in a little more flexibility and accommodation. "Each student identified as a highly capable student shall be provided educational opportunities which take into account such student's unique needs and capabilities."


Anonymous said...

Rlated to the Group A as defined by Lynn: this sentiment has been expressed by APP teachers, not just parents. There is a desire by some teachers to re-evaluate students that they perceive as not belonging. There probably does need to be a more clearly defined exit plan to support those that are struggling for some reason. Without going into that debate, I have to wonder how @parent's "a student who is stuck" would appear to teachers. If the class work holds little interest or challenge, and their work degrades, would they look like a student that "doesn't belong?" The lack of challenge is a real issue for some students. They are stuck as the program does have a ceiling and has become a 2 year ahead, no more and sometimes less, kind if program. Most private schools are no better equipped to serve such outliers.

another parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

A Parent, beautiful stories and great examples. I suggest sending your comment to the AL interim director, the Superintendent and the Board so they know what is getting missed somehow (and shouldn't).

I also worked with some homeless students last year and had an extremely bright and talented student who I feel is so full of promise. I know the student is in SPS now and at a good school (and has a mentor) so I have great hope for that student's future.

Lynn said...

SPS parent,
Thanks for your patience. I reacted too quickly.

I think increasing AL opportunities in neighborhood schools would reduce enrollment in APP without putting artificial limits on the program.

a parent,

I really appreciate your point of view. Those kids who are outliers (because they need much more than a couple years of acceleration in one or more subjects or their intellectual and social development are wildly asynchronous or they are 2e) are the ones for whom APP is absolutely necessary. I've heard Julie B. say that at TM they do work on social skills, and that some of the kids are such outliers that her goal is just to ensure that the school system does not damage them. I want every APP principal and teacher to understand that.

I think we wouldn't have to have these discussions if NCLB hadn't forced schools to focus only on ensuring every student makes certain minimal test scores. Can Shauna Heath and Michael Tolley be convinced that it is necessary to provide academic challenges to every student?

The discussion I assume is coming on delivery methods will be interesting. The solutions can't depend on smaller class sizes and must avoid making scheduling impossible for teachers and principals.

Anonymous said...


I was thinking about you the other day. My kids are 2e - but I get the impression yours is more highly gifted than the average APP student.

You probably know about all of these already - but just in case:

1) The Davidson Institute for Talent Development serves as a resource for families with very highly gifted students.

2) The Davidson Academy of Nevada is a high school for students of any age who are ready to work at the high school level. I know there is at least one student from Seattle enrolled there.

3) Finally, I've spent quite a bit of time on the website of Bard College at Simon's Rock - an early college.

Lynn said...

That way me - Lynn

Lynn said...


Anonymous said...

Lynn, thanks for the resources. The Davidson Academy sounds perfect--aside from the moving to Nevada thing, that is. :)

I guess it's slowly dawning on me that we have a pretty unique situation, and any changes to SPS' AL programs are not likely to address our needs any better. I get it, and that makes sense given the resource issues. I'm still going to push, however, for the district to at least provide some minimal accommodations, such as allowing on-campus independent study if the school/district can't provide an appropriate course. I know there are other kids who could benefit from that, too. Eager for that delivery methods task force to get going!


Lynn said...

I do think if we fix the neighborhood schools, APP could serve a smaller number of students in a more individualized way - maybe using NOVA as an example.

You should definitely check out the Davidson's THINK summer camp.

Anonymous said...

MATH COUNTS weighing in to the poster a few above who was doing % of 50,000 students.

Wrong starting point. You need all the school age kids in Seattle, NOT just those in SPS.

I posted once that 30% of Seattle kids attend private school and was corrected by someone else to 28%. That 50,000 kids is only 72% of Seattle's kids - but 100% of them are allowed to test and, if qualified, join APP

People routinely come from private schools, esp. small montessori, into APP.

Also many of the kids in APP might go to private school if they couldn't be served by APP - which makes their parents less invested in public education.

It's starting with an artificially small pool of students if you DON'T look at ALL resident students, regardless of where they attend. 2% of over 65,000 is much larger than 2% of 50,000.

SIGNEd - Math Counts

Anonymous said...

Math Counts makes a great point about taking into account all of the children of Seattle, AS LONG AS then we can deduct the enrollment of "gifted" private schools such as Seattle Country Day, Gates's Evergreen, etc. So, from the 1300 seats that would be calculated at a 2% rate of 65,000, we would probably be back at requiring about 500 K-12 seats in Seattle Public Schools. We can handle that.

Great discussion here -- there seems to be wide agreement that we need to be putting the bulk of our resources into pumping up a rigorous general education program with lots of opportunities for all kids to grow beyond the basic skills mentality of NCLB.


Lynn said...


Let's make more rigorous and accelerated instruction available in the general education program without setting a limit on APP seats. After that, we can see how many students need something different.

I don't know that anyone has discussed resource allocation here. Surely you are aware that the bulk of our resources are already allocated to the general education program?

Charlie Mas said...

I find it ironic that an effort that began with a desire to find and serve all of the students who would benefit from AL services somehow lead to a discussion of how to limit access to AL services.

Again, I do not understand the impulse to set the capacity of the program first and then choose the students. We don't do that with Special Education. We don't do that with ELL.

Advanced learning services are not a prize. They are not a special bonus awarded to a few students. They are the appropriate academic opportunity that those students need just like Special Education, ELL, and general education services are the appropriate academic opportunity for the students in those programs.

Set the criteria to identify students for services then serve the students who need them - however many they are. There is no reason to target any specific number of students. There is no benefit in targeting a specific number of students.

If there is a concern about removing too many students from the classroom that's another issue entirely and one that can be addressed through a discussion of the delivery model.

I don't want to get on to that question right now, but I don't think that will be too great a problem. I think that many fewer families will choose the first program I described because it puts no focus on acceleration, only on accommodating unique learning styles. I think that most will choose the second program, which is focused on acceleration. There is an excellent chance that the delivery method for the second program will be the Tier II solution for MTSS. That will be provided in the neighborhood school - possibly even in the general education classroom.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I think that to some extent your three groups of kids and the program focus you noted for each also limit access to AL services, as there's no natural fit for those who are both high cognitive and high acceleration. You say that such a kid would probably choose the second (acceleration) program, but then they lose the cohort they need (and are likely to have a ceiling on their acceleration anyway under the TBD program delivery model). And haven't you said all along it's the cohort? The current version of APP provides both cohort and acceleration. By separating those out into separate programs, the resulting programs become inadequate for some kids. It may be a small number, but it does limit access. If we had been presented these options a few years ago, we probably would have had to look outside the district instead of choosing APP.


Anonymous said...

There is a limit as to what the district can provide and the qualifier is "within budgetary constraints." They don't have unlimited funds for identification nor do they have unlimited funds for program implementation.

As was suggested before, increase the expectations in the general education program - improve the math, science, etc., and maybe more students could be served without special programming. It's not about limiting access to programs, but about strengthening the general education program so special services are needed for fewer students. Decrease demand by improving the general education program.

I think the number of students choosing AL programs is in part a reflection of the weaknesses in the general education program.

Furthermore, the task force seems focused on one component of identification, which again, may be addressed by increasing the challenge in the general education program.

broken drum

Lynn said...

broken drum,

I think everyone here is saying we need to improve the general education program and that we expect that will decrease demand for other programs. There is disagreement over whether we need to limit the supply of seats in other programs.

The program implementation costs exactly what the general education program costs per student. No one is getting anything extra. More time is spent thinking about the program by the people who post on this board than by staff at district headquarters.

If your issue is with testing costs - the state grant funds pay for it. We make private school and home-schooled students pay $90 for testing.

Charlie Mas said...

broken drum, as Lynn noted, there is no cost associated with providing advanced learning services. Certainly not on a per student basis.

HIMSMom, given that the third group I identify is "all students" I don't think that you can say that the capacity there is limited.

If a number of students with high cognitive ability are in the program for high performing students then they will find their cohort there. I have only stressed the need for the cohort if the district, the school, and the teacher fail to provide the needed support. First, the cohort will be there, and, second, the idea is to institute protocols so the service delivery is more reliable.