Monday, May 12, 2014

Lost Decade

Here's something that happens when you move: you handle all of your stuff and you have to ask yourself if you should keep it, sell it, gift it, or toss it. You handle ALL of your stuff. For me, that meant a lot of handouts that I have received from Seattle Public Schools at meetings over the past fourteen years.

Among these documents were a number of supposedly important decisions the District had made about Advanced Learning. They included a copy of the bound report "Review of Highly Capable Programs 2000-2001" which was the genesis of my activism. Three different versions of the report from the Second Highly Capable Review delivered the following year complete with recommendations. A March 24, 2003 letter from Dr. June Rimmer to all fifth grade families clarifying that only programs with self-contained classes are Spectrum and those without self-contained classrooms will be designated as A.L.O.s. A description of the accreditation process that all advanced learning programs were supposed to complete dated August 21, 2003. Slide handout from a March 15, 2004 presentation on Advanced Learning from Dr. Stump and Michelle Corker-Curry to the Student Learning Committee (now the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee) in which they cover a number of issues.

Here's what a review of these old, old documents tell us: the District has never taken a single step to fix any of the known problems in Advanced Learrning for 14 years. The District has never implemented any of the recommendations from any of the committees they appointed to make recommendations.

The inaction on Advanced Learning is institutional.


Headmeetwall said...

Agree, but the question is what to do about it?

What makes a difference? Task forces don't matter. Writing the Advanced Learning office doesn't matter. Writing the superintendent doesn't matter. Attending board meetings doesn't matter. Electing school board members doesn't matter. Writing the mayor or city council members doesn't matter.

It isn't like what needs to be done is complicated. The board needs to write and enforce a policy on advanced learning. The superintendent needs to make it clear to staff and principals that it isn't enough to just teach some minimum to students, but that all students need to have challenging work, including students working well above grade level.

But even that doesn't get done. We continue to have a board that has no policy toward advanced learning, not to mention enforcing a policy, and a superintendent who at best seems indifferent and at worst hostile toward advanced learning. The only thing that seems to matter is work in each school and each classroom, and even that is a constant struggle against harmful actions coming from district administration.

So, the question is, what can we do about it? What positive and meaningful actions can parents do that might actually make a difference?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the point of this post that there isn't anything that can be done? He's tried for 10+ years and it's still the same. So depressing.

I know it's simplistic, but I honestly think SPS is too big and it's time to split the district. And please don't call me elitist or racist or whatever I think it's too big for everyone and everyone would be served better by a smaller more manageable number. Also, I know other urban areas have bigger districts, but I think SPS has proven they just can't do it.

Mag mom

p.s. I'm fine with any type of split. Just smaller. Please.

Anonymous said...

I think we need a culture shift in the way the organization is run from the top. I don't know how that would work in the context of SPS, and if it could be done, but we basically need a benevolent dictator to come in and reprogram the whole place. Kick anyone out who can't handle the new normal. I think this is what Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee were trying to do in DC, and it kind of backfired on them because (in my opinion) the culture of the public school system in DC mirrored the culture of the majority population in DC- and also they weren't good at messaging, so they had to leave before they could have an impact. I know you don't love Michelle Rhee here, say what you will about her policies & objectives, but she knew how to get change done. She just didn't know how to make people happy about it.

Here in Seattle, it seems to me that the majority of people are NOT aligned with the culture at SPS. If someone could come in and pull it apart at the seams, make it run better, cut out the chaff, we would mostly be happy. There would be some pains involved, a lot of uncertainty and fear, but if the right person with the right staff and an understanding of what really needs to be done came in I think it could happen.

Who is this person? I have no idea. I guess we'd need a confluence of factors: Mayor, school board, superintendent, chancellor. I have seen great leaders shift the culture of an organization. I've seen it happen in the public sector. I have not really seen it in a school district, but I do believe it is possible.

-Former DC resident & Child of NYC Public School educators

Anonymous said...

For starters, you need a Teaching and Learning department that recognizes the need to improve the curriculum for all learners, and believes that appropriately challenging all learners is not some elitist idea.

Looking at the academics link on the SPS website is depressing. There's little substance to it. You can't find a description of what students are actually supposed to learn each year. It is so full of fluff and stuff.

MGJ came in an tried to institute a great deal of change, but much of it was destructive. The head of T&L is a hire of MGJ, which gives me little hope for the near future. Is the district even capable of attracting the type of people that would bring about more positive change?

negative nellie

Eric B said...

It's very straightforward to make a change. The Board has to make a stand on it. Until an enforced Advanced Learning policy (and a SpEd policy, and a ____ policy) is part of the Superintendent's job performance evaluation, it will not happen. Until department heads are regularly challenged at Board meetings about where the policy is and how they are enforcing it, it will not happen. The Board is the nominal ultimate authority in the District, and unless they take that authority, things will not change.

Unfortunately, you'll need between two and five Board Directors interested in enforcing policy to make it happen. One will be dismissed as a voice in the wilderness, and even an outright majority may not make it happen.

I think Michelle Rhee (and to some extent MGJ) had two problems. First of all, many of the changes seemed like change for the sake of change. That's pointless. To get support, you have to make change that fixes the problems that people perceive in the district. Second, she was rude. Some people need to be fired, but you don't get points from anyone by firing people (no matter how deserving) on camera in your office. and bragging about how many people you fired.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on all counts. I think the question is what to do. I hear Melissa's frustration that parents need to do more, but I don't think it is that simple. The problem is more than systemic. As Charlie points out, more than a decade of advocacy did nothing. And there is no consensus or clear thing to advocate for, IMHO. What goes on that sign we make for the meeting? I want "Better AL". What I think that is differs from my AL neighbor. Is it self-contained? Well, for my kid yes. But I'm only an expert on my kid. My neighbor disagrees. We need a top-down revamping, and that needs leadership which we don't have. WIthout it, I think we are spinning wheels. I talked to the AL directors at 2 neighboring districts. They have smarter people than I working on these issues. PhDs and attendance at AL conferences, and being up to date on best educational practices and studies things like that. It's their job, and they implement changes and administer a program. I don't think parents can do that. And we can try to demand it, but the district's capacity challenges are trumping AL. I can go advocate for WP, even though it will be too late for my kids, who will have aged out, but parents in force still can't make these changes. And that is just one symptom of a bigger problem. Parents rallied when there was a clear issue - like "no split for Lowell". It's tougher when there are a million (or zero) ideas of how to change it. I think we should scrap it and start again, and copy a successful district, but again, the capacity problems get in the way. Also, don't be so critical of parents - many of us work full time, and we are more than ready to show up to some meetings but the reality is this hasn't been historically effective for systemic changes (unlike smaller decisions). It's unrealistic to expect a huge number of parents to devote fulltime work to this cause, though many would if there were a CLEAR answer. I, like Charlie, have come to the conclusion the district is just too broken to fix right now...and thus it will be too late for my kids. I think it's leadership that will turn the ship in the future. It's not Banda. It's not the current board. Until that hope arrives, we are sadly out. Starting next year, after 9 years in SPS advanced learning, I will have one kid in private, and one at a neighboring district. This was the right choice for my family, though I hope for better from SPS for all our friends and neighbors. I am deeply saddened to leave.
-Rare Commenter

Patrick said...

I don't think it is straightforward at all to make a change. The board or the superintendent can't just say "do this" and make it stick if it's a drastic change that principals and middle management oppose. They won't say "no", of course, they'll study it to death and keep putting off for all sorts of reasons. And some of the reasons are plausible and hard to argue against.

That's why a board and superintendent have to persuade, not just order. They can fire people, but they can't fire everybody; at least some people have to believe in what they're doing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think many of you make valid points.

".. think we need a culture shift in the way the organization is run from the top"

This IS precisely what the Moss-Adams report got at. But you then need a Board who recognizes it and instead of the Board being told what to do (by outside forces), the Board tells the Superintendent the direction they want to see and sets benchmarks. Certainly, this happens in a fashion but you need a tough Board.

I think Rare (who should comment more often) had cogent things to say:

"We need a top-down revamping, and that needs leadership which we don't have. WIthout it, I think we are spinning wheels."

And so we continued to spin the wheels. Somethings HAVE changed but not enough and certainly I would give much credit to schools rather than the district.

"And we can try to demand it, but the district's capacity challenges are trumping AL."

This is Charlie's on-going concern = that the facilities department has and is the tail that wags the dog in this district. I don't believe ANY other district in this state spends as much time worrying about facilities (and we still have the specter of some charter attempting to take a building).

Rare, sorry you are leaving but I truly understand. At the end of the day, you must do what is best for your child.

Patrick, to make "change" as in actually enacting something IS hard. But it the culture of the bureaucracy is what the issue is here and that takes a real leader. I'm not sure that I would have loved everything that John Stanford would have done but he had that charisma and power in spades.

So what to do? Well, first of all, we are nearly at the end of the school year. It's a very hard time to get anyone to pay attention.

I offer this (for AL):

- get a pledge going. Something like "I pledge to opt my child out of any standardized testing unless a Board policy is enacted that is clear and understandable and will serve all advanced learners." Either do it in a public way (via a petition) or create a form e-mail and get parents to send it to the Board.

- Urge Director Peters, the obvious choice, to sit down with parents and ask her how you can help her with this challenge. What does SHE think the barriers are and what does she think parents should be doing? Then you have something to go on.

- Write to the newest AL taskforce and register your disappointment that they were not tasked to review the entire program.

I have a feeling - from the push to end Spectrum at some schools as well as the movement of Spectrum teachers out of Spectrum - that, by fall, it will be mostly dismantled.

Eric B said...

OK, I was being a little facetious about it being straightforward. It would take concerted effort over some time. However, I think that directors would get staff's attention if they decline to vote on a measure because the policy requirements have not been met, whether that's community engagement, conformity to AL or SpEd policy, or whatever. The Board president is probably in the best position to make that happen, since they set the agenda for Board meetings. Putting those items in the Superintendent's performance review will also get attention, as will questions from the Board at meetings.

Fundamentally, if the Board wants something, they'll probably get it, since most staff don't have a good reason to oppose Board mandates other than it being hard to change. The problem is that to outside observers, the Board has had little interest in ensuring that policy is followed. If the boss doesn't care, then I'm not going to make hard changes. If the boss does care, I will.

I'm not saying that the Board needs to be confrontational about this, just firm. They don't need to embarrass anyone. Except in very unusual circumstances, this could be handled in committee meetings and discussions largely out of the public eye.

Anonymous said...

Here's how our family made its displeasure known: We yanked our student from one part of the day in favor of homeschooling. Kid is happy and learning. School administration and teachers hate it. We got tired of begging for challenge. We've let many parents in our community know what we've done and why. We have gotten nothing but positive comments. Now other parents are going to the administration and letting them know they considering the same thing, which looks bad for the school and causes paperwork and scheduling headaches. What a surprise , there is now a move to have staff review accelerated learning opportunities at school. Change Begins at Home.

"Pushed Back"

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rare Commenter, for adding your thoughts. And thank you, Charlie - for all of your advocacy over the years, the challenges you've waged and disappointments endured, all with concern for children in the middle of it all.

After over a year of battling to get our >98% child INTO AL (!), we're transferring out of our private school with hopes of finding a better-fit tribe for more challenging growth. Now, I read that 2 battle-weary Chiefs and a warrior are leaving (with some sadness for me, understanding certainly, and down-right actively suppressing alarm.) Before you go, could you please make explicit that which seems to be at the root of all these posts (eg needs a policy to write/enforce, new board, active parents, manageable size, capacity al.) But, WHAT is the problem with AL? What are all these "solutions" trying to address? Is the APP curriculum not challenging enough? Are the classes too big? I read the posts, but still feel like I'm missing the original memo - WHAT explicitly is the problem? Is this Rare Commenter's "What is on the sign?" query?

Anonymous said...

I met with the Hamilton principal recently, and came away as disheartened as ever. While I understand HIMS is in a tough spot--they were given an APP program with no real curriculum or resources several years ago--it doesn't appear there's much that parents can do, at the school level, to help make APP stronger. Can APP parents join together to raise funds for curricular materials? Not equitable. How about if parents help survey APP families re: how well APP is working, whether students are appropriately challenged, etc.? No, not fair to ask teachers to be accountable for something that hasn't ever been made clear to them. Basically, at the school level, it sounds like all a family can do is sit back and cross their fingers, and advocate on a child by child, teacher by teacher basis.

While I agree with Patrick that top down directives don't always work--principals seem to do what they want, since policies that do exist are rarely enforced--the absence of district leadership on AL is clearly at the root of the problem. The lack of horizontal and vertical alignment in APP is a district-level problem. The absence of a defined, scaleable, core APP curriculum means not only is there incredible variation in content and rigor, but it also means there are few curricular resources available--such as current textbooks or materials. Teachers are left to cobble things together on their own, with no rhyme or reason as to how any particular class fits into a larger whole.

I'm inclined to like Melissa's suggestion of a test boycott, but with perhaps a stronger message than just looking for a policy. In the absence of an actual curriculum, I'm not sure how much good a policy will do. Yes, it could help with access and identification and perhaps delivery model issues, but until there's some key work done on WHAT is actually being delivered, it's hard to feel too supportive.

The Martin-Morris/DeBell amendment directed the Supt to provide proper instructional materials and curricula for LA and SS classes for all middle schools serving APP. Yes, there's a cost involved in adopting a curriculum. But then again, what's the cost of NOT having a curriculum? Is it really ok for the district and staff to sit back and say "sorry, we don't have money for a curriculum or learning materials"?

So I'd propose a pledge that expands on Melissa's suggestion, more along the lines of "I pledge to opt my child out of any standardized testing until a Board policy is enacted that is clear and understandable and will serve all advanced learners, and until proper instructional materials and curricula are available for use in AL programs." After all, in the absence of a solid curriculum many people end up supplementing, so standardized testing isn't providing a valid measure of learning within SPS.

Surely schools don't want to lose a lot of test scores of AL kids, right? Then again, could the district use that as a way to make it look like we've reduced disparities in outcomes, if the AL kids all opt out?


Anonymous said...

Need a name (moniker) next time:
"Thank you, Rare Commenter, for adding your thoughts. And thank you, Charlie - for all of your advocacy over the years, the challenges you've waged and disappointments endured, all with concern for children in the middle of it all.

After over a year of battling to get our >98% child INTO AL (!), we're transferring out of our private school with hopes of finding a better-fit tribe for more challenging growth. Now, I read that 2 battle-weary Chiefs and a warrior are leaving (with some sadness for me, understanding certainly, and down-right actively suppressing alarm.) Before you go, could you please make explicit that which seems to be at the root of all these posts (eg needs a policy to write/enforce, new board, active parents, manageable size, capacity al.) But, WHAT is the problem with AL? What are all these "solutions" trying to address? Is the APP curriculum not challenging enough? Are the classes too big? I read the posts, but still feel like I'm missing the original memo - WHAT explicitly is the problem? Is this Rare Commenter's "What is on the sign?" query?"
- Just repeating

Anonymous said...

Our family also cried "uncle" and pulled our kid from the district. We are a northend family with a kid who started at Lowell, and we went through all the elementary and middle school messes that have been happening over the last few years. I see the program crumbling, and I did not want my kid to go through more distruption because the adults don't know what they are doing. We did one unpleasant year at HIMS and bailed when it was clear yet another unplanned split was coming.

I think I am even more pessimistic about the future of the program than others who have posted. Until there is someone high up in the district who will defend advanced learning, nothing will change. Principals go around saying they "don't believe" in AL and are even put in charge of schools with AL!!! What kind of thinking is that? There needs to be a concerted effort within the district to educate their own employees on the needs/ benefits of AL. The voices that claim AL is "unfair" or "elitist" are the ones being listened to now. Until that culture changes, AL will continue to be dismantled because that side is winning.


Anonymous said...

Rare and Pickle - to what districts are you moving/have you moved? Curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I'm not saying that the Board needs to be confrontational about this, just firm. They don't need to embarrass anyone."


No, the district does NOT want to lose a mass of scores especially those which bring up the entire school/district. That's why it would REALLY count.

What is "explicitly" the problem? One, culture of bureaucracy that mires this district in place.

Two, no public champion, now or ever, hired or elected, for this program. There are a handful of us that have advocated for years (indeed Charlie and I both got active because of it) but we have gotten no traction.

Without the institutional build-in and the academic belief in AL, it's just a program twisting in the wind (and I think some people really like it that way).

Ragweed said...

I think advocates for advanced learning also need to work on being clear about their message. They need to be for a solution that meets all students needs, not just a few, and not just an elite group.

- Advanced learning needs to be fixed for all advanced learners, including ALO and Spectrum, not just APP. Never advocate for APP alone, always for a comprehensive solution for all advanced learners.

- More effort needs to be made to identify all potential advanced learners and insure that barriers based on race and economic status are removed. Increasing diversity, especially economic diversity, of APP is a must. Advanced learning must not serve to increase the achievement gap. (This is critical - it needs to be up front in every bit of advocacy for advanced learning)

- Advanced learning advocates should try to highlight personal success and failure stories from kids who needed advanced learning. Focus on kids whose needs were not met and how they were potentially set up for failure by the lack of successful AL programs(and without stressing elite kids stories - ie. not just upper-middle class families that could run to private schools. I think many of our success stories at Pinehurst are actually AL kids from poor and minority backgrounds where their boredom was labelled as a behavior problem in mainstream classrooms, wheras our differentiation kept them interested and challenged.)

- Advanced learning needs to consider the needs not only of those currently within the programs, but also those who are eligible but not in the program. Eg. when considering a move or split of APP, the issue is not just how it will effect those currently in APP, but how it will effect all advanced learners in the area.

- Focus on the issues with testing and test manipulation (kids being underserved because they don't show "growth" at the 99th percentile, etc.) in the context of the overall failure of high-stakes testing, which also is damaging to SPED, to teachers, etc.

- Form alliances with SPED parents, so that the focus is on meeting all students who are outside the narrow band of "normal", and option schools parents who also usually feel their kids needs are not met in the mainstream curriculum.

Parents are not in the position to manage curriculum or change things much on a school-by-school basis, but they can agitate, they can petition, they can raise hell. But it can't be APP alone, and it can't be just about "my kids" or what is right for "my family", but for all kids.

And I also want to stress that many advanced learning advocates are doing this. I have met many an APP parent who is a strong advocate for real educational reform for all. And the kind of cross-school and cross-region coalition building that occured during the growth boundaries debacle was in many ways exemplary, as is some of the cross-fertilization that happens here. That needs to be at the forefront of the movement building (because that is what we are doing - building a movement).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind words. The reason I rarely comment is that most threads can get very negative or people are squabbling over hypotheticals such as "which delivery model is best" when we don't even have that luxury of deciding. IMHO, I agree with the policy stuff, but as a parent, my heart is at curriculum. I always felt the program had 2 main features: the curriculum and the cohort. Now we just have cohort, and that is being divvied up. When we started at Lowell, years and years ago, there was palpable excitement there. Who remembers the third grade Egyptian unit and project? There were 20 years worth of materials in the school, and a host of speakers who came in and each kid did their first long-term independent project on a subject, and it culminated in an amazing "Museum Night" in the cafeteria. For my oldest child, it was transforming. It was light years ahead of what our neighborhood school was doing. That was scrapped for a couple of reasons - first, the grade became too big to fit into the cafeteria for Museum Night. Then, the Egypt unit didn't fit in with the district's new alignment. Tossed. The kids at Lincoln will never know it. I'm so bummed about all the materials that were gathered in that downstairs room at Lowell over 20 years. Still, I think the elementary kids are getting something. But at middle school, the utter lack of a curriculum has been disastrous. It is solely up to the teacher. We've been lucky and had 3 pretty good ones for LA/SS too...but they each had a "pet project" and all were really more SS than LA. Also, my kid has 36 kids in each class. At the end of 8th grade, he has never read a classic in school. Not one full book. No Lord of the Flies, Huckleberry Finn, etc. (I'm old school, but I'd be happy if they read a new book too!) The selections they read in Shakespeare were from a "translated" text called No Fear Shakespeare, "suitable for all". (Note: in APP 5th grade, they read 12th Night in the original Elizabethan and perform it. In APP 8th grade, they read "selections" from the play in translation. "Hold thy tongue thou knave" = "shut up you jerk". Wish I was kidding.) There has been limited writing practice due to the class sizes (teachers can't grade hundreds of papers) so my son who struggles with writing has an outside tutor. I am sad at the education he has gotten for 3 years. (Music has been the standout). I did write Sue Peters and told her why we were leaving and got a gracious response. One final note: when we started APP (and I don't have data, just anecdotally) few went private after elementary. It was generally agreed that the education in SPS was equal to private. I feel strongly that is not the case anymore - and just check with the staff in the APP school offices to see how many transcripts and applications they are processing for private school. It is unfortunate - I am sad we are one of them. So my .02 - fix the curriculum. Make APP special again.
-Rare Commenter

Anonymous said...

The crazy thing is that SPS paid for an outside review of the APP program years ago (2007?) and they have yet to act on many of the professional recommendations, which include having a defined curriculum.


Lynn said...

The minutes of the May 1st Advanced Learning Task Force meeting are now available online.

Also available: Nancy Hertzog's recommendations for providing services in kindergarten through second grade. (She is recommending leaving highly capable children in general ed classrooms until third grade.) She's also recommending the district provide after school and summer enrichment programs - which leads me to believe she is delusional.

Notes on the reduction of self-contained classrooms in the Kent School District. (They are still serving the top3% in self-contained classrooms.)

List of task force members.

Each member is supposed to bring their recommendations to the next meeting on Tuesday May 20th. I suggest contacting anyone you know on that list to discuss their recommendations. I'll be asking the members of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee to attend so that they can hear what the entire committee recommends before Shauna Heath presents her suggestions to them.

Nancy Hertzog believes that with a bit of training, general ed classroom teachers will happily and effectively serve highly capable children in early elementary school. What do teachers say about that? The SEA has just five items on their website under Actions and Priorities. Here's a link to the one on advanced learning. It's dated 2002 - but the I don't think attitudes have changed.

Anonymous said...

I think the testing opt out plan would have worked better under an older regime. Now what they want to see is 1) growth and 2) lack of disparity between schools, so I feel like they wouldn't really miss the test scores as much. High achievers don't show a lot of growth. Plus they really get you by the throat- if you don't take some of these, you can't access higher level math or the programs at all.

I am disheartened to see how long this has all been going on, even with very fierce parent advocacy. It is not this bad in other districts. Other districts support advanced learners, and expect that different children will need different levels of challenge and plan accordingly. Other districts have gifted program coordinators at every elementary school and people at the district level in charge of the way the actual programs are running, not just the testing. The thing is our app program (a self contained program for the top 2% on the cogat and 5% on an achievement test) is completely unremarkable among large districts. They all have them. The next levels down are quite varied, and work to differing degrees, though we are going to be unusual when we get rid of ours entirely, and i don't mean in a good way. Other urban districts all have some diversity issues that they are all working on in advanced learning, just like us, as with most public programs. But our programs come under so much more constant threat. Parents get called horrible names for admitting they have a child at APP, and it's considered ok for principals who have the program in their school to "not believe" in advanced learning and dismantle whatever part of the program they feel like. Advanced learning is often unpopular with parents who don't have a child who accesses it, because it does take resources away from teaching to the middle 80%, so neighborhood schools have an easy time shutting it down, and right now they are allowed to.

I think change has to come from the top down. I do not believe parents can make a difference, though I would love, LOVE to be proven wrong. I think staff at JSCEE is very hostile to the idea that different students might require different instruction, and until that changes (I think starting with Banda), I don't see improvement on the horizon. We have somewhat ruefully started saving for private high school (though that has as much to do with the WP mess as my feeling that they will be getting rid of an app pathway at high school). I am still pretty angry about it, because I don't think private education is on the whole better, unless the public system is doing something really stupid. But dismantling advanced learning and purposefully creating a high school capacity crisis when you could avert it is really stupid.


Lori said...

Thanks for linking the latest Task Force documents, Lynn.

Remind me of the time frames again. The Task Force recommendation is introduced to the Board on 5/29, I believe. The Board would then vote 2 weeks later, right?

And, are the recommendations supposed to go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year? If so, is it possible that Lincoln, TM, and FP will no longer have 1st or 2nd grade classrooms for the 2015-2016 school year and beyond?

The idea of not starting APP or whatever they want to call it until 3rd grade is probably going to be chilling to many families I know whose 5 and 6 year old kids were unable to thrive in neighborhood schools and only found their place in APP. Telling parents to read some books, put their kids in afterschool programs, and tell the teachers about our kids strengths isn't going to be much consolation and doesn't seem like much of a plan.

If it were easy to teach these kids and meet their social/emotional needs in gen ed classes of 25-30 kids, we'd already be doing it. But it's not. It's hard. That's why they started IPP/APP to being with. But I guess it's time for the pendulum to swing back. I truly hope it works because if it doesn't, their messing with young kids' social and emotional well-being during some of the most formative years of their lives.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. About 1/3 (and that might even be low) of the kids in my son's neighborhood K class ended up qualifying for APP by 2nd grade. Maybe it was an unusual class, but it's hard to argue, with that level of a cohort, that he couldn't have been served in the neighborhood school in the early years. It should be OK for the curriculum to be looser and more creative in early elementary, which could go a long way toward helping all kids thrive.

In schools with no critical mass of advanced learners, it could be really lonely, though.

By third grade, the obsessive adherence to "standards" means it doesn't matter how smart the kids around you are, you need a school/classroom truly designed around advanced learners.

On the fence

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will say I am quite surprised that Spectrum parents, in many schools, seem to realize their program is being systematically dismantled and wring their hands.

Will this save their program? No.

Parents have power. But you have to have a mass of them to exercise it (unless you somehow have a great lawyer).

Lori said...

it's hard to argue, with that level of a cohort, that he couldn't have been served in the neighborhood school in the early years

It's actually not hard to argue with that at all. Ask anyone who left a school like that after K or 1st grade for APP why they left.

There are plenty of great schools with lots of highly capable kids in them. But some families still leave those very schools for APP in the 1st or 2nd grade because their kids' needs aren't being met.

I'm not going to get into a virtual argument about it because we're all going to view the situation through our own personal experience. People who kept their kids local can easily say that early access to APP isn't important. People who left for APP early will argue the exact other way, that it was crucial to their child's well-being. They can both be right. What matters is that in the future, the early movers may not have the option any more. That's who I'm worried about.

Lynn said...

On the timeline - by the first day of the 2014-15 school year we have to have an identification process and plan for providing services to students in 9th - 12th grades. That's it. Instead, district staff are wasting their time talking about K-2nd grade.

Anonymous said...

Lori, I don't mean to argue that my school was meeting the needs of those kids. It wasn't and that's why we chose APP and most of the others have too. I just mean that HAD there been a system in place, the cohort of kids was there.

Sorry to muddle the issue.

On the fence

n said...

I actually respect what Michelle Rhee tried to do. But her tactics encouraged cheating big time. The gap between her intent and her tactics needs much analysis before I would give her too much credit. She wasn't just rude; she was malignant in certain ways.

Again, her intentions and a few of her methods were admirable but certainly not all of them and those that went awry reflected too much ego and not enough integrity.

Having said that, someone with Rhee's sharp intelligence and committed intention is desperately needed. Banda isn't even close.

I have to add that you'll never please everyone. There will always be an element of resentment when anything is done for high achievers.

n said...

One more thing, whether the change is systematic overhaul from top to bottom or simply more input from parents, teachers, etc., nobody has indicated what a successful program/system would look like. Just more repetitive analysis of what doesn't work.

Also, parents of early learners often overrate their kids' needs for challenge. Social-emotional issues often mitigate the high academic abilities of those kids. Smart as they may be, they are not always ready to make the effort to accelerate their learning. I believe in a lot of creative opportunities but that is not what SSD considers appropriate curricula for highly capable kids. It seems that parents don't either. Unless I'm wrong. What would parents consider "challenge" for first and second graders? Specifics as opposed to generalities please.

Headmeetwall said...

I really don't want much. I just want the board to write and enforce an advanced learning policy. And I want a superintendent that tells his staff that every student should have challenging work.

Is that really too much to ask? I've been working hard helping elect board members for years trying to get this done. But it hasn't happened for all these years.

What is the way to get this done?

n said...

"...every student should have challenging work."

What is challenging work? Sounds simple but from a teacher's perspective, it isn't always simple. A lot of early high achievers have been sort of "spoon fed" and really haven't the skills to be successful meeting challenging work through effort and initiative. A teacher cannot teach twenty kids in the same manner two parents can teach a family of children. If children cannot work independently and don't have the initiative to do some self-learning or at least participate in their own learning without someone sitting next to them motivating,encouraging clarifying everything, then that student isn't really highly capable. Smart, yes, but highly capable? That's different. Sometimes that takes maturity.

Again, what does "challenging" look like to you?

n said...

And assuming that you are not just talking about high achievers, how does one keep a student motivated to work toward successfully completing "challenging" work?

Anonymous said...

Challenge for kids who would be in a self contained program or challenge for kids who are advanced in a gen ed program?

I think in a gen ed program, for math, walk to math should be standard. Advanced kids should be able to start multiplication if they show they're fluent with addition and subtraction. Fractions, and maybe perimeter, and a little more with money. There will be a few kids reading higher level chapter books, and they should have book discussions about narrative structure, foreshadowing, etc. although many kids can benefit from phonics work, they shouldn't have to sit through all those lessons. If there is phonics homework, they shouldn't get it. Maybe grammar homework instead.They should be allowed to extend projects if appropriate. If they are paired up for writing projects, they should be paired with approximate peers in ability, instead of used as peer support for struggling students. Maybe try writing a (very short) play if the class is writing fictional stories.

But what I think you are asking about is the self contained class, and your citation about kids not always being ready to accelerate is why I am in favor of keeping an achievement portion for the admissions test. Because you are right; not all bright kids want to accelerate. I would like those kids identified to their teachers, so they can offer extra engagement opportunities, or maybe think about why the kid hasn't wanted to accelerate- there might be a problem, or there might not be.

So the kids who are left have already demonstrated acceleration interest. They tested high on the achievement part. My kid (and this is why I remain anonymous on here) came into first grade at a Z level for reading, with the MAP about maxed out, and done with all arithmetic except for decimals. I do not believe I overestimated his need for challenge, though you will just have to believe me that I have deeply considered that possibility.

I think he should have had substantive book discussion of age appropriate material (which is difficult to find and so I think it would be nice to have teachers trained in gifted education). I want him to think about character motivation and authorial intent. I want him to write about it, and to copy authorial style in works of fiction. Maybe write a short book in Beatrix Potter's style, or a poem like Poe or Shel Silverstein. Spelling should include some root word study, and did, which was great. In math I wanted him to work on volume and hopefully some out of curriculum math concepts(mathforlove stuff), because further acceleration at that point seemed useless, but I didn't want him to just not think about math for several years to wait for the track to be more reasonable.

He did a character study of a fairly difficult long series( the Edge Chronicles if you know it), wrote 2 page typed essay on the character and made a diorama, which would have been inappropriately complicated for my gen ed first grade students, but was exactly right for him. He was very, very excited about it and loved it. He did not have neat handwriting, accelerated classroom skills, accelerated social skills, or excessive worldliness, so a grade skip would have been a monstrous failure. He is certainly advanced at Lincoln, but by no means alone, so I think this level is appropriate for some program at first grade. I wish they incorporated more real physics into the balls and ramps unit, which bored them to tears, when many of them would have flipped out over some formulas and speed tests using acceleration. Not for mastery or anything, just to show them. Let me be perfectly clear that I do NOT wish that for my gen ed classroom kids, even really if there were some advanced ones. That would have been inappropriately dry. They could maybe make up and execute their own experiments- they all could, with different (stated) expectations for their lab reports, in the gen ed class.

I feel like I have not properly answered your question, but there's my first shot at it.


Anonymous said...

Taught in a first grade classroom today. Mind-numbing boredom for all, not just the AL kids in the class.

Unit 12 of Envision Math (it's May already). Kids spent the whole time ranking objects like crayons, pencils, base-ten sticks by length. No measuring, mind you, but just comparing - short, longer, longest, etc. It was like preschool stuff for most kids, and Vogon poetry for any kid who could do any math already.

If kids have to wait til third grade for any AL, it will be very sad indeed.


Anonymous said...

To n,
My kids are past the elementary years, but what most parents of APP kids would want in 1st-2nd grade is essentially what they want in every grade - that their student is challenged and has a chance to learn meaningfully.
Specifically, have them read books that are developmentally appropriate but at their level - not the standard easy readers, but chapter books. My son loved reading comic books in 1st grade - Garfield and Calvin & Hobbs actually have a pretty high level vocabulary!
Also, give them challenging math, which may include moving on to multiplication, division and even fractions for some kids.
If 6 or 7-year-old kids spend day after day doing schoolwork that is very easy for them, bad outcomes will happen: behavior problems and acting out in school, being ostracized by other kids for being a "smart aleck", crying because they don't want to go. They also get so used to acing all their tests that they become afraid of ever making a mistake.
That's why so many APP parents fight to give their children the chance to learn at the level that's right for them.

Anonymous said...

Cross posted with you while I was trying to pare down my monstrous screed, and now I think you were more interested in hearing about in a gen ed class.

I don't know, exactly, about your concern. I don't think an advanced kid necessarily has to be more auto didactic than any other kid to deserve more challenging/advanced work, but I see your reasonable concern that you are not able to clone yourself 20 times for each individual kid, so I favor ability grouping. If a kid is struggling to keep up, they go down a level, I think. Book groups get switched up fairly regularly (this certainly happened in my son's first grade class. Spelling groups, too.


n said...

Totally agree on walk to math.

As for topics in math, absolutely. All that you mentioned and more. Algebra is taught in various places to first graders. Teaching money to young kids is problematic only in that real money works fine but picture money is often very confusing to early learners. Probably a small obstacle. If they can learn perimeter, they can learn area. There are few concrete topics that are unteachable to early learners. If the learners are interested. We do put inappropriate ceilings on grade level curricula. Blame individual teachers for that. Many teachers teach without ceilings. Older teachers tend to teach with ceilings. They don't want to teach the next teacher's domaine. I've encountered it. I teach what my kids are ready to learn anyway.

Foundational skills (phonics, phonemic awareness etc) crucial for all students including high achievers and early readers who are sight readers. The foundational skills support spelling and writing skills at early ages. Some good research on highly capable kids who could read by sight many,many words but when asked to spell them were totally without strategies unless they had a phonics background. They don't make the connection reading to writing.

Book discussions (ie Great Books) are excellent and I agree whole-heartedly. Book discussions are time consumptive but I think they are indispensable. Many teachers do few of them because of the time.

I am talking about all kids from regular through Spectrum. I am not talking APP because I believe - contingent on an honest testing that these kids really are in that upper crust of the most talented in the District - that they should be doing work that is way beyond the norm. And it should be engaging which is why I love the arts for almost all of that. History, reading, writing, understanding character. learning to collaborate and many other skills are enhanced through play (theatre) production. Also, community projects involving investigation and quantification manage the math component. For those really talented kids, a teacher should be a facilitator. All kids would be engaged and with engagement comes acceleration. It is a given. This kind of project-based curricula addresses diversity as well. Cultural lines are less absolute. Children of different cultures learn differently and their particular strengths would meld with the dominate group. That's my opinion in any case. In my experience, take away the pencil-paper limitations and all kids can find a way to contribute.

You've said a lot, Sleeper, and I agree with much of it. Do you think your child is typical of his peers at Lincoln? I am curious also about the number of students in his classroom? Do you have any opinions about class size?

sydneyd: that is unbelievable. Honestly. I teach first grade. We skipped all of the non-standard stuff except for a short (very short) exposure period a long time ago. I have never understood that particular need.

momof2: I totally agree that high achieving kids should be taught beyond any sort of ceiling at all. As long as they are engaged and making the effort to learn. I think "easy" anything bores everybody!

Thanks sleeper. You've answered well. I've little experience with APP but I expected more.

Thanks for the responses. I hope mine makes sense! I wish we could go back to a more enriching curricula because I believe students - esp. our younger kids - really need it along with a great big dose of math which isn't always a creative endeavor. But my kids and I love it so far.

n said...

PS: I was a Math in Focus supporter. I'm disappoint hearing this about enVisions!

Anonymous said...

I would definitely not get rid of phonics entirely for advanced kids in a first grade classroom. Not even in an APP one! But I would have them do less than the students who were also using that phonics work to learn to read. So maybe once or twice a week during the phonics lesson the advanced readers would work on their writing project or have book group.or if there was walk to reading, the phonics lesson would be relatively short. But I agree with you that it is crucial for spelling, and also that writing ability typically lags behind reading ability.

Your comment reminds me in second grade they did this thing where they'd have a Latin root word group they were working on each week, and kids would pair up to act out a skit of an assigned word. The idea was to have the class guess it based on your skit. That seemed like a great app second grade project.

Class size is too large at Lincoln, just like every other school in SPS. My other opinion about class size is that the reason we need huge self contained advanced learning programs is that we keep gen ed class sizes so large that teachers cannot effectively differentiate, so more and more kids have to be peeled off to be served.

I don't have an exact sense of the other kids' abilities in his class, and I kind of try to keep my eyes on my own paper, if you know what I mean. I do know he is more advanced than the median kid, in some subjects the most advanced(gets special work), but not a complete standalone overall outlier in any class so far. I worry that with more splits that will not be true anymore.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the bureaucracy's unwillingness to serve its constituents the underlying reason that ~30% of Seattle's kids are in private school and that charter schools are a popular idea? If the people don't see the school district addressing their issues, they'll find a another way.

Fed up

kellie said...


As someone who has spent a decade also tilting at windmills, I salute you.

I often think about you and your quote that is something to the effect of just because you know it is futile, does not recuse you from speaking on a topic. I thank you for continually pointing out over six superintendents, that it is always the same questions, the same committee and then we start all over again.

Thank you!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fed Up, I believe there are several reasons why the private school enrollment is high. (I'll be interested to see how charters do. I predict an early rush for the first ones but I suspect they won't get as many people staying on. That said, I suspect most will have a cap on enrollment.)

I think long-term suspicion of the district is a major reason why people have turned away. Will they support my kid? What about all this principal turnover? What about closures? All these things make parents concerned about what awaits them in SPS.

Anonymous said...

Let's talk about the discussion last night at the WP meeting about North APP. Flip Herndon stated that N. APP elementary will have to be split to WP and another elementary school if N APP elementary won't fit into the new WP elementary building (capacity 660 with four portables adding 100 more seats, bringing the total capacity to 760). Lincoln is at 700 for next year.

One mom with two APP-qualified kids made the valid point that with a new school to serve APP, more parents may choose to send their kids to APP. So, it's very possible that N. APP elementary will grow to beyond 760 by 2017.

Flip made the comment that if APP splits, the N. APP program would not be at stand alone schools. He also referenced the AL task force and that the criteria for selection may change. I read this to mean that maybe SPS might try to control the enrollment to APP with higher entrance standards. I don't think such a proposal would catch anyone--who has been reading the AL task force minutes, the APP blog, and this blog--by surprise.

So, Flip said that N. APP may need to break into two at non-contained schools. But, Joe Wolf made it clear at the last AL task force meeting that there was "no space to split [APP] in 2017." He explained that ALL the North boundaries would have to be redrawn.

Thus, Flip recommended a solution that Joe (the capacity expert) has already said won't work. What's going on? It's pretty clear that SPS does not know what's going on with North elementary APP. I'm really concerned.

-Advocate Mama

Anonymous said...

North-end APP middle school is problematic, too. The new 2017 district projections show a total of 856 middle schoolers. However, open enrollment #s show 707 north-end APP MS students already for 2014/15 (HIMS and JAMS)--an increase of 165 kids over the current year. So for the projection to be right, next year's growth has to be an anomaly, higher than the combined growth in the following two years? Yeah right! And Lincoln's incoming 3rd and 4th grade classes are both larger than the current year's cohort... Plus, with increased access due to a third site, hard to think there won't be an uptick in interest.

And regarding a third APP MS site in the north end, is this the first time they've pretty much assumed it's a given? I thought the original plan had been to move them all to W-P, and only keep a portion at HIMS if needed. Well, it's needed. Unfortunately, another split in 3 years can't be good for program integrity, continuity, etc. When there is no curriculum, and therefore no materials, it's hard to imagine what exactly they are exporting to new sites. Maybe that's ok for elementary school (?), but if sure seems like they need a core curriculum across the APP middle schools. This is getting ridiculous.


Charlie Mas said...

What to do?

STEP ONE. The Board must draft and adopt an Advanced Learning Policy.

STEP TWO. Families - all families - need to boycott all standardized tests (except those required for high school graduation or placement) until a clear and reasonable set of demands are met. Those demands should include - at a minimum - an effective written and enforced Advanced Learning policy, a written, taught, and tested curriculum for APP, Spectrum, and ALO (as promised), opportunities for teachers in advanced learning programs to collaborate (as promised), and a clear and realistic plan for providing the necessary capacity for advanced learners in all programs and at all grade levels. The boycott will end when all of the demands have been met - not just promised, but actually complete.

STEP THREE. The Board needs to require Ms Heath to provide them with the program evaluation for APP, Spectrum and ALO that she promised them at the Management Oversight meeting for Teaching and Learning a year ago.

Since student families can only take action on STEP TWO, then that is what they should be doing right now. Use or or whatever online petition you like - as well as paper and ink petitions - to get families to commit to the boycott. Get media attention. Believe me, the media will run this story. Give them a visual. Show up at Board meetings all wearing one color with buttons that say "Smart kids don't take tests." Testify at the Board meetings explaining your position. Make bumper stickers that say it. Encourage everyone you know to participate in the boycott. Produce a document that lists every promise that the District has made to the advanced learning community over the past thirteen years with a comment next to each one that says "promise broken".

Build a Facebook page that explains the boycott for the press and the general public. Frequently update the status. Open a Twitter account for the boycott and Tweet often, with links to the Facebook page.

Work to get support from elected officials for the boycott. Get them on record supporting it. Seriously, bug them about it. If they oppose the boycott, ask them what they think the community should do to persuade the District to keep its promises to this community. If they offer a suggestion, ask them "And what if that doesn't work?" After each suggestion, ask them "And what if that doesn't work?" There is no way that they are going to suggest anything that the community has not tried.

Write guest columns for newspapers in support of the boycott.

What would it cost to rent a billboard that says "Smart kids don't take tests"? This would be particularly good if you could get it on a billboard near the Stanford Center.

Anonymous said...

Kinda on board with a pledge...but I'd make the slogan something like:

"Books before tests"

It applies to more than just AL classrooms. I can't imagine too many people supporting a slogan such as "smart kids don't take tests." It's pretty snooty.

In the meantime, why not ask teachers what books they'd like to have in the classroom and donate collections of books. Do they want 32 copies of a specific Shakespeare play? A classic piece of literature to tie in with a history topic? It would be a much better use of money than a billboard.

just sayin

kellie said...

@ HIMS mom,

Yes, last night was the first night that it was made "crystal-clear" that APP will be split to HIMS and WP.

One of the challenges of the boundary redraws in November 2013 was that the many of the decisions had natural consequences that were not thoroughly explored. A natural consequence of placing the Pinehurst/Indian Heritage K8 combo at WP was that APP would be split again as WP can't handle, 5 feeder schools, a K8 and APP.

Charlie Mas said...

just sayin' is exactly correct about how direct action for the kids and the classrooms would provide them with more immediate help.

But it wouldn't change the situation. The problem is a political problem and it calls for a political solution.

If families provide the instructional materials, all that does is allow the District to continue to refuse to provide them. The goal is not to take action to benefit the students but to compel the District to take action to benefit the students.

Anonymous said...

What is APP? What is Spectrum?

The district's website has some information, but it's too general to mean much, and some of it is outright false (e.g., references to "the curriculum, teachers familiar with gifted kids). There's the APP self-contained classroom aspect, yes, but aside from that, how could the current APP and Spectrum elementary and middle school programs really be described? Not what they SHOULD be, but what they ARE.

I asked our APP middle school principal what makes APP "APP" and was told I should have a better sense of it than she, but after three years there I really don't. That's strange and troubling. You'd think the district's annual high capacity program grant applications might shed some light, but the level of vagueness and redirection in the required sections is unbelievable. So I ask, in all seriousness, what are APP and Spectrum? Does anyone know???


Lynn said...


Even the info on self-contained classrooms in APP is meaningless. Fairmount Park's APP classrooms will not be self-contained. I asked Stephen Martin to add FP to the list of APP sites on the advanced learning website and to provide a description of the program Julie B will offer there. The school name is on the list now - but there is no mention that the program described on the website won't be offered there.

I am running out of energy for this fight. I can't imagine how Charlie kept it up for a decade.

Lori said...

Interestingly, the APP-AC minutes from March state that Fairmont Park will only be "blended" in Year 1. First time I'd heard that.

Who knows what's going on any more, honestly. I am looking forward to the AL Task Force recommendation just so we have something concrete to discuss that might give us some bit of insight into how they think advanced learners should be taught.

Lynn said...

I saw that coming for Fairmount Park last fall. You can't maintain a blended program when APP kids are guaranteed a spot. There are already 26 second grade APP students registered for FP next year. Only 16 first graders - but when more kids test in next year, the Spectrum students used to fill the classroom will have to be moved to general ed classrooms.

The district is waitlisting Spectrum students until they know how many APP students are coming. (The rumor is the waitlist won't move until August.)

This is what happens when the program isn't defined.

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

Anon @ 12:03 PM
Please use a moniker next time, you might be deleted:
"APP V2.0 in middle school seems to be little more than the cohort at this point. My child asks me what's the point of going to school when you're not learning anything. This is more than tween ennui - there really is not much learning happening. My 6th grader rarely has homework and doesn't study. At home, my child is reading history books and literature anthologies to learn what they aren't being taught in school."

This is the same situation for my student in 7th grade. He comes home with no HW every day, the little he has he finishes in school. Interestingly enough, he asked me the same question a couple of times already. He is really frustrated in math, even though he is in the Geometry classroom: they are learning about area, perimeter, similarities, on a level he already studied in 4th grade. Also, nothing new in the science class. Little HM in LA/SS and Spanish. He is bored out of his mind. What can I tell him? Will it be better in 8th grade? Or in HS? Or in College? By that time he will loose his interest.
HIMS parent

Anonymous said...

HIMS parent, unfortunately it doesn't get better in 8th grade. I know plenty of kids who are happy enough, but for those who are bored and frustrated now, I'd expect more of the same. High school may be better.

In the meantime, I'd suggest looking at homeschool/independent study opportunities if that's an option for you in 8th grade. Your student might be able to work out late start or early out, skipping the particularly boring or bad classes. The math curriculum used at HIMS is weak, and since your kid seems to be advanced in math I'd look elsewhere for that, for sure. LA and SS are also disappointing, and your son might be better off with independent study there, too. There's no curriculum, so it's hard to say. Biology has been frustratingly easy for my kid, too, but at least they get to take the EOC exam--and there has been at least some material that was new to him and/or stoked further independent reading, so it hasn't been a total waste. And Spanish at least helps kids maintain their current level, even if there isn't a lot of growth opportunity for some.

Best of luck, and sorry to not have more encouraging news. There will be folks who say you should chill out, he'll be fine, it's only three years, etc., but I have a feeling your kid is more like mine. In hindsight, I wish we'd taken matters more into our own hands.


Charlie Mas said...

HIMSmom asked, in all seriousness,

"what are APP and Spectrum? Does anyone know???"

Before I enrolled my daughter in Spectrum fourteen years ago I went around asking people "What is Spectrum?" I asked a dozen people before I got a cogent answer. The answer came from the 4th grade Spectrum teacher at Lafayette. He said that Spectrum was advanced work along three axes: further, broader, and deeper. The students worked ahead of grade level expectations and the curriculum was compacted. The students were expected to apply their lessons in a broader range of contexts. The students were expected to achieve a deeper understanding of the concepts. I offered this definition to district officials and they confirmed it.

Since then, however, personnel have changed. It is difficult to quickly assess deeper and broader. It's a lot easier to quantify and assess further. So the definition became deeper, broader, and one grade level ahead as developmentally appropriate. Through changes in leadership and the telephone game that is played in the JSCEE, this has since be shortened further to "one grade level ahead". In fact, when I asked Shauna Heath your very question "What is Spectrum? What is APP?" She answered me right away: "One grade level ahead. Two grade levels ahead." That would reduce them to nothing more than grade skipping.

No more talk of broader or deeper. No more talk of a compacted curriculum. And, if it wasn't clear, she meant "One grade level ahead and no more. Two grade levels ahead and no more."

That's why we need an Advanced Learning policy.

this is APP said...

From a 2009 handout giving an overview of APP:

The primary purpose of APP is to provide a differentiated, challenging curriculum for highly capable students that meets their intellectual needs while being sensitive to their developmental level...The curriculum is fun, stimulating, interesting, and rigorous

...absolutely nothing about 2 years ahead.

Anonymous said...

In fact, when I asked Shauna Heath your very question "What is Spectrum? What is APP?" She answered me right away: "One grade level ahead. Two grade levels ahead."

But that's not even the case any more, at least in middle school. With the new APP LA/SS scope and sequence change for next year, Hamilton, at least, is changing it so that all kids--GenEd, Spectrum and APP--are covering the same subjects the same year. If everyone is doing US History in 8th grade, APP would not be two years ahead in content, nor Spectrum 1 year ahead. Science is the one area in which there is acceleration, although that may only be for APP, not Spectrum (?).

Ok, so maybe it's not acceleration in content, but rather acceleration in standards? Is that it? Does APP essentially mean "we teach the same thing, we just hold those kids to the standards for 2 grades higher"?

@ this is APP, yes, I've seem similar descriptions of the purpose. But I'm interested in the reality--what it actually is, not what it should be.


Anonymous said...


I think one of the issues is that there is no "one" APP anymore. What APP is at WMS is not what it is at HIMS. Ms Shadow was so important at HIMS and she, unfortunately, has passed. The promised alignment never happened, so now you have anonymous WMS APP families on a blog calling HIMS APP families a bunch of whiners because so many there are unhappy. The experiences sound to be very different at the two schools. I know we were unhappy enough at HIMS that we left the district altogether. If only we had just turned our frown upside down.

I just wish the district would tell the families their plan. They are like a cat torturing a half dead mouse. Just let the mouse go or kill it already.


Anonymous said...

have you ever seen a cat stalk a chicken? that is SPS and yet the chicken with its tiny brain is not worried. Why? after reading all 28 pages from serious and well meaninged participants... the chicken has evolved over so many decades and oh...SPS's advance learners are the model everyone looks too.

The way I see it we are in non-compliance in sped and MHGC as well as HGC and music/art/debate and everything. people of seattle we pay nothing for our our child's education because that money went to MI or some cul de sac and they hoped and they prayed and paid property tax there. Sorry teachers can do so much and if you think that your ed needs can be met at an outlying school... you are so right, seattle though has the full spectrum to deal with. MGJ tried to solve it by data which will never work. Banda has a chance here with this.... they are all special. put them together. Med frag/ sped/ 2e /1e and it is the the 1e folks that can traverse all of these back grounds. but are also the glue in interaction, support and family time. Hopefully we have moved beyond equity to mean pigment and not gender - ability- or mobility.

Anonymous said...

oh wow too much vacation... Hopefully we can move beyond pigment to know that gender- mobility and of course IQ - race neutral of course should define our next direction.

To get to the other side is the punch line but....

-love red