Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spectrum is Dead

A reader sent in this letter - from View Ridge's principal, Terri Skjei - and frankly, it's all I need to believe that Spectrum is dead.

But the letter also makes me wonder about this slow death. What is the point?

A few thoughts on the contents:

1) quite calm and thoughtful, almost the epitome of "we want your input" except that there really is no need to give any. The fix is in.

2) The principal is either misleading families or has been mislead herself because in the third paragraph she states, "With the support of Shauna Health (sic), the Ex Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and direction of task forces specifically working on recommendations for Advanced Learning..."

No, none of those task forces worked on "AL" - they all worked on APP and only APP. In fact the charge of the last two did not include Spectrum or ALOs.

The district should disabuse any principal of this thought so that they do NOT pass it along to parents. It's simply not true.

3) It's hard to believe that the numbers aren't there at View Ridge for Spectrum as it was created. It seems to me a creative fiction to say so.

141 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. I would be steamed if I was a second grade family who had been waiting for third grade Spectrum. How do those families feel about this? Is anyone on the blog?

I am sure they have the numbers for spectrum, but with the current anti-advanced learning political climate, I certainly wouldn't move a child from one school to another for Spectrum. I'd assume something like this would happen. That could be depressing enrollment.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

The letter doesn't say what the "enrollment" issues are. In my mind, an equally plausible possibility to the assumption here is that there were many qualified Spectrum students. What does a school do if more than 50% of the students are Spectrum qualified, and, further, that a substantial group of the "remaining" 50% were children with IEP's? In that scenario, pulling off the Spectrum qualified students into a self-contained class will be equivalent to pulling out the IEP/Special Needs kids into a special class (which, I believe, might be illegal, and would, in any case, be unpalatable).

I don't know what number View Ridge is working with, but my scenario is not impossible -- View Ridge is becoming a hotspot for university employees, and it would not be surprising to find a large number of Spectrum qualified kids.

zb

Anonymous said...

I have to think that the death of Spectrum is a significant factor in the increase in elementary school APP enrollment.

Jane

Anonymous said...

I love how they do this after Open Enrollment.

HP

Lynn said...

There are 27 APP and Spectrum second grade students at View Ridge this year. I can think of a simple, effective method of grouping them for third grade.

Anonymous said...

I am 100% positive it is, Jane. I believe Whittier is sending the second most kids this year, after John Hay, which has incredible crowding problems. My guess is if this had been public knowledge before open enrollment, View Ridge would have sent more too.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

There were about 30 spectrum kids in VRE 1st grade this year and I'm sure more for next year (with many APP qualified). The motivation behind this is more school than district driven. The school has had a lot of issues/lost lots of families from both Spectrum and non-spectrum because the division between the two groups socially is not good (spectrum vs non-spectrum).

The concerns here are the lack of communication about how they are going to serve the advanced learning kids, how the teachers (some anti-spectrum, some passionate advanced learning teachers) are going to respond in the upper grades, and why, when they have been trying to deal with his issue for a few years, they decide to make this change AFTER open enrollment. This could be a good thing with clear communication and a clear plan on how it is going to work - but nothing has been said. I'm also not sure what they are going to do with these survey results. VR already loses a lot of kids to APP - this will likely drive away many more if the differentiation in teaching is not there.

Concerned VR Parent

ben said...

If self contained classrooms define what Spectrum is then yes its definitely being phased out. I know there is very little in the way of formal curriculum. Theoretically, were there standards one could compare if they were being met in the new clustered classrooms or not. And I suppose even by the Shauna Heath's definition of one year ahead you could measure how well the new model is working. I wonder how the first and second grade parents at VR have found their experiences so far? If they're happy I wouldn't be as alarmed by this. Also, if we're just defining Spectrum as 1 year ahead, why not actually accelerate and move all the kids 1 year up? For example have one teacher teach the 3rd grade and 2nd grade spectrum students. It seems like a blended class that way would be easier since at least everyone would be on the same curriculum.

Ben

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jane is right. Those APP numbers will continue to climb because my understanding (and this was several years ago now) is that a significant number of students qualified for both APP and Spectrum.

If schools are doing a hodge-podge of methods to serve Spectrum students AND the district will not tell parents that they are (as well as likely phasing Spectrum out), expect APP to get bigger.

Anonymous said...

Oops - I meant in 2nd grade/not first grade

Concerned VR Parent

Anonymous said...

Let them eat worksheets!

--Marie

Po3 said...

I have had children in "differentiated learning" classes.

Here's what it looks like in the the classroom, using 3rd grade as an example. Teachers have to teach students performing at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade level - which is technically a multi-grade classroom.

Accelerated learners become TAs and those below grade level don't get their needs met.

In my opinion it is the worst teaching model out there and am sad schools are still trying to sell it to families.



mirmac1 said...

You are correct zb that the students with IEPs would be denied the "least restrictive environment" mandated by IDEA.

Lynn said...

2013-14 Spectrum Enrollment data.

View Ridge has 21 Spectrum and 3 APP first graders this year.

Anonymous said...

Shauna Heath came to View Ridge a while back to meet with families and gave the almost exact same talk as the language contained in the survey. It makes me view this as a message from downtown channeled through Ms. Skjei vs. a message from Ms. Skjei.

At the intermediate level (grades 3-4-5) more than 50% of the students at each grade level are APP/Spectrum qualified. And to clarify there are more students with IEPs in the Spectrum classes than in General Ed.

A good portion of the students in General Ed. qualify for Spectrum or APP in one subject, so there may not be a need for a wide range of differentiation. A lot of the General Ed. kids are pretty smart themselves. Lots of intelligent, highly educated parents in the attendance area and apples from trees...

Inside

Anonymous said...

The district just needs to come out about what they are doing. Everyone knows and can see what is happening.
Individual schools continue to make changes to their AL programs after open enrollment. This is hould not be allowed to happen. If the district has Spectrum then it needs to be the same at each school each year. Or the district needs to come out in the open and make district-wide changes to the program in the light of day. Why is there such lack of transparency/secrecy. Probably because the agenda is so unpalatable to so many that they don't dare be open about it.
There is big demand for spectrum. There are waiting lists. There are plenty of students who meet the criteria for spectrum, who are capable of working ahead of their grade level "ceiling' and SPS should be thrilled about that. Isn't that a great thing really, that we have so many kids in this district who are smart/capable and/or hardworking and/or have great parental support ( and/or whatever other factors that contribute ). Our kids are our future, our potential - can't SPS see this. Parents can see this and they usually want to do everything to nurture that potential, or at least not turn them off the whole education thing.
Some schools probably do have 50% of kids that are spectrum qualified or capable of working at that level. These kids should all be working at that level - no waiting lists.
I don't believe that means the remaining kids are the only the ones with IEPs (as another poster suggested) - plenty of academically capable kids have IEPs for various issues. Maybe the solution is smaller class sizes or more TAs or whatever for the kids who are not working ahead (try to really bring them up to grade or beyond) and larger self contained classes for spectrum-level? But the goal should be to increase the number of spectrum level classes at each grade - isn't that a measure that you're doing well as a school or a district if you're moving more kids out of gen ed and into more advanced classes? Why would any district be opposed to this?
I totally understand that parents don't feel good if their kids aren't in the more advanced classes. But it shouldn't be about parental feelings/pride. It should be about meeting kids where they are at academically and then raising them up.
They need differentiated instruction to do this but this can't successfully be done in a class of 28 kids with 1 teacher. Extra (harder) worksheets don't count - differentiation means differentiated INSTRUCTION - that is actual teaching. Unless you have "walk to" subjects, self contained classes, or additional teaching assistants in a class, I don't believe you have meaningful differentiation in most cases.
There is huge demand for advanced learning opportunities (real tangible ones, not the meaningless current "ALO"). APP is growing and growing, spectrum is still wait listed even as it being dismantled, and there are a heap of really capable 'undesignated' kids. Maybe this is a sign that the current grade level curriculum and expectations are too low for a large proportion of our population here. Providing appropriate level instruction, more appropriate goals for these kids should be a given.
Sorry for the long post - I'm so riled up about this and I don't even have a kid in Spectrum. This is just another example of the poor decision making and management and under -handness of the district.
We ALL pay for SPS and we need to start demanding that it is transparent, accountable, and acts in accordance with the wants and needs of the community it serves. I wish I could start a revolution to take back Seattle Schools!

TBSS

NW parent said...

Po3

That is definitely one of my concerns with replacing Spectrum with differentiated learning that so far seems nebulous and ill defined. Not good if they're basically harnessing some of the faster-paced learners to help others like a TA.

Feels like they should be very concrete and specific about their plans -- and explain them to families -- before they make any move.

Anonymous said...

Is that happening at VR, though, mirmac and ZB, or is that just something to be concerned about? We shouldn't dismantle effective programs just because something bad *could* happen. That would be slapping the wrist of a child for thinking about stealing a cookie. Or closing a the only road through town because people might speed.

I am extremely anti- grade skips. My own advanced child is not even a little bit socially advanced, and my experience with those kids versus the kids in gen ed is that if anything they skew a little younger, and often have enough trouble with their peers. they definitely don't need to be with kids a year more sophisticated. I know it might work for some kids very well, but it's a terrible systematic solution.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

"opinions, concerns, and beliefs", THAT'S what guiding educational decisions? WHO'S opinions, WHICH beliefs? (Not mine! Mine would be do what the evidence says supports student growth).

Teaching & Learning is running amok here. Either they have the professionalism and disciplin to use research-based best practices, or, they don't. Instead, they use their "opinions, beliefs, and values".

Bottom line: research proves ability grouping has the strongest positive affect on learning. Clearly, there are nuances, and clearly, there are practical considerations for implementation, but "adult feelings" should not be THE DETERMINING FACTOR.

There is a unsystemic approach here, but it's only hurting one group of learners. And, it will (and has) caused community strife.

With current cabinet make-up at JSCEE, families with children whose needs won't get met should stop wasting time trying to fix this (reasonable dialogue is not possible because minds are already made up, and those are the folks who make the decisions). Some alternative is going to be necessary. Invest energy in that something, whatever it is.

Ms. Heath, and Mr. Tolley think common core + differentiation will be the magic miracle grow for every child, every classroom. Heck, why even bother with special Ed, because CCSS + differentiation is 'the bomb'! Oh yeah!!

Did they, and the principal NOT understand, even with a self-contained special Ed classroom, or general Ed, or spectrum, teachers were to do their differentiation in those settings, because even within an ability based group, there is tremendous diversity? Why bother having grades bands, just mash them all together randomly and use miracle grow and all is good. I love teachers, they work incredibly hard, and yet, because they are human, they simply can't walk on water.

-sad

Lynn said...

TBSS - yes I think the problem is that the standards are too low for many of our students. It's possible to teach to those higher standards and provide extra support to students who need it. It is expensive to do that though - and it costs nothing to have bright kids sitting at their desks bored for much of the day.

Anonymous said...

" Lots of intelligent, highly educated parents in the attendance area and apples from trees..."

It is high time to break this district up.

North District - "Snowlake NonUnified School District"
The rest - "Gen Pop"

--sick of the elitism...

Melissa Westbrook said...

"That is definitely one of my concerns with replacing Spectrum with differentiated learning that so far seems nebulous and ill defined."

Actually that sounds like the current description of Spectrum.

Sleeper, to my knowledge, this is happening at every Spectrum school. The most recent one that I have knowledge of (from parents) is Whittier.

Sick, we can discuss the issue of gifted education. But the real issue is the lack of any real leadership in a program where parents are making enrollment decisions based on the program.

If the district will do this to one group of parents, they'll do it to another and next time, it may be you.

This is one place where ALL parents should stand up and say, "We want transparency."

Anonymous said...

OK, so we are discussing advanced learning so I guess it was only a matter of time before someone played the 'elitism' card ; )
It is not elitism to want your kid to do actually learn new skills at school. That is why we send them there.
You know the saying " a mind is a terrible thing to waste" - well, that is what we are talking about here. If my 1st grader can learn multiplication and division - she should be doing that. If your 1st grader is isn't ready for that - that is fine and age-appropriate - but don't call me 'elitist' for not wanting my kid to sit in math and line up counters to do addition 1-20. That is just a crazy waste of time and 'a mind'. The kids who are working on addition/subtraction skills are going to struggle and have an unhappy time doing multiplication if they haven't mastered the earlier steps. Should they suffer and get discouraged and lose interest in learning and feel they are "dumb" because they can't get multiplication at age 6 - NO of course not, they should build up the skills they need with other similar age kids who are working at that level. So why should people expect the 6 yr olds who are doing multi digit addition, or multiplication or more to languish while the class covers simpler concepts that they already are proficient at? Who is going to engage them and teach them new stuff (a teacher just can't do that in a class of 27-28 and worksheets don't count.) So these kids are expected to suck it up, be bored or disruptive, to think school is boring and lose that desire to learn. Well I say Hell No. Call me elitist if it makes you feel better, but there is a lot more than parental pride, jealousy or whatever at stake here. Our kids future, their careers, and path in life depends so much on developing the right skills and attitudes at school - not just learning academical concepts - though obviously that is important, but feeling included, feeling empowered to learn, feeling like the belong in our education system. This important regardless of socio-economic group, race, intellectual ability - and probably even more so in disadvantaged populations. Getting kids engaged in learning and excited to learn, willing to persevere and do their best, and have pride in their accomplishments is the key - but that is not going to happen if they are struggling and inadequately supported or if they are resting on their laurels, bored, and uninspired. Parents and administrators need to put their opinions, pride, jealousy, political agenda's or whatever, aside and do what is right -what is shown by research to be educational best practice

TBSS

Anonymous said...

Also, if you're not too worried about all this because you're not in spectrum and it doesn't affect your kids - well you still should be. Sometime, it could be your turn and SPS will make secretive decisions, follow hidden agenda's that aren't those of your community, make unwanted changes, dismantle, or move your program/school.

I think it's bit like that famous poem...
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me"

Only we could insert the names of the various schools and programs that have suffered under the vagaries of SPS management over the past few years! This is SPS modus operandi - divide and conquer - and its arguably the only thing this district manages to do well!

TBSS

Anonymous said...

Pardon, Melissa- By "this," I meant are students with IEP's being clustered in gen ed classes, not spectrum dissolving (which I agree with you is happening everywhere). It looks like at View Ridge IEP clustering is definitely not happening, possibly the opposite, but it's not currently a concern or valid reason for dissolution. Whittier's spectrum dissolution is partly responsible for the app enrollment surge this year (along with several other factors).

Rock on, TBSS.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

All advanced learning programs in SPS require that a child spend at least kindergarten in a general ed classroom. This is an observation, not a complaint.

All advanced learning programs in SPS require a parent or guardian to either sign a child up for testing, or to give consent when a teacher suggests it. What I'm saying is that entry into advanced learning programs requires an active choice.

To date, the overwhelming majority of Spectrum programs had more kids than they could take.

And differentiated teaching has been in practice for many years in SPS.

Teaching & Learning leadership has failed to ask: if differentiated teaching is so successful, why do such a large percentage of families with kids who qualify for accelerated learning programs choose to remove their child from a gen ed classroom with differentiated teaching?

I am frustrated and angry that leadership is paying attention to the way they WANT things to be, rather than looking at the way things are, and asking, given actual circumstances, what is best for all kids (and I do mean all - I think a very lousy aspect of Spectrum was that qualifying didn't guarantee a seat, and the implications of so many kids leaving gen ed do need to be carefully considered). All kids should get to learn in school. That so many parents given a choice to take their kids out of gen ed try to do so SHOULD tell teaching & learning something about the success of differentiated teaching in SPS.

And all that ranting doesn't even touch on the fact that Teaching & Learning leadership does not appear to comprehend the capacity implications of their desire to send APP kids to schools closer to their homes. Guess which schools send the most kids to APP and really need them to leave for APP? The most overcrowded ones.

Meg said...

oops, that last comment was from me. I didn't mean to be anonymous

Anonymous said...

Spectrum wasn't working for single subject gifted or high achievers without the cognitive test scores.It creates groups of kids who have a high floor of ability and leave the rest of kids, who may have extremely high single subject giftedness, and/or very high achieving kids- these kids are stuck in the classrooms with no floor in ability. There are ways to differentiate and if teachers say they can't there are others who say they can do it. The walk tos are also a solution that is spreading. I don't think gifted kids have to suffer academically of the school gets it's act together. They should actually do better if the school is managed properly.
gg

Anonymous said...

Meg- exactly!

Its abundantly clear that the current grade level curriculum and goals are too low for a significant portion of students in Seattle. (Something to celebrate, really, yet it causes so much angst here).
It's also clear that parents are voting with their feet when they have the option of addressing the need for accelerated or advanced curricula via ALO/spectrum at a local school (i.e they are leaving in droves for a more-well defined accelerated program though it's on similarly shaky ground).

SPS administrators just refuse to see what is in front of their noses.

Parents can see their kids are capable of more.
Teachers can see when their students are capable of more (even if sometimes they would rather turn a blind eye to it)
Objective testing demonstrates these students are in the top percentiles nationwide, and are capable of more.
So why is SPS so against providing actual opportunities for advancement rather than merely paying some politically correct lip service to the idea.

TBSS

Anonymous said...

Honestly the amount of differentiation in the assignment schools ( not Option ) is what is frustrating to new incoming parents who aren't aware of it. I had a coworker who moved here from the Chicago area and he laughed when I told him he should tour elementary schools. Couple this with the academic waivers that some schools have filed for math instruction ( and will again if SPS chooses Envision ), we don't have equal access to education...

LakeCity

Melissa Westbrook said...

You can absolutely differentiate.

BUT
- are all teachers up-to-date on how to do it for both teaching and curriculum? That's on the district to give them that professional development
- bigger classrooms? Yup and that makes it even harder to do.
- this blog has always advocated for students with single subject ability to get the rigor they need. Again, that's on the district.

I am surprised at the success of Walk to Math only because when my sons were in school, teachers said they did not like pull-out subjects and that practice ended for awhile. But great if it now works.

Lu said...

Spectrum is gone so quit moaning and get something better, like the walk tos starting as early as possible; for math K and reading 2nd grade.Maybe not everyday walk tos at early ages, but give kids some time with academic peers. All kids would benefit.
I remember when self contained went away at Lawton. AL said they would track the kids and compare their test scores. Do they do that and use real data? Are do they just fly by the seat of their pants?
Maybe it's so hot button they just have to do things like this. Benevolent dictator style.
I hope VR parents demand rigor for the Spectrum kids to continue and for rigor to increase for the other students.

Anonymous said...

gg - yes if a school gets it's act together, if you get a highly skilled teacher or a lot of classroom aid, if you get walk-to subjects, it is possible to differentiate well. I wish we could do that. The problem with SPS is that every school does something different, and every few years it changes. There is no money for classroom support (except perhaps if you have a PTA thats flush with funds) and class sizes are huge. There is no consistency and no equity - so it is going to be such a different experience from one class to another , one school to another, one year to another, that it is just not a fair.
SPS has not so far been able to introduce any consistency in their spectrum or ALO school offerings thus far so I'm not inclined to believe that will change.

TBSS

Charlie Mas said...

It's time for a walk out.

It's time for the Advanced Learning community and their supporters to remove their children from Seattle Public Schools for one day every week. On that day school communities should organize activities for the kids - a field trip or something - but take them out of the school.

It goes without saying that this is the last straw. Opt out of ALL tests (except those required for class placement or graduation).

This is it. The community has to draw the line, and this is the place to draw it.

Charlie Mas said...

TAKE IT TO THE STREETS!

Anonymous said...

Yeah Charlie

"TAKE BACK SEATTLE SCHOOLS"


TBSS

Anonymous said...

Charlie said " It's time for a walk out."

Except Seattle parents have been walking out... look at the rate of private school enrollment, it is staggering.

LakeCity

Anonymous said...

There was legislation introduced to treat Seattle School District like it was 4 districts. I would love to do that, because it is just too big. Too many centralized decisions that make no sense for teaching and learning. Whether it is ELL or SpEd or Advanced Learning, student needs do not seem to be driving this decision making. A race to the middle? Or race to the bottom (of results)? A race to homogeneity. Worksheets for everyone!

When (1) I read about the math adoption process, that the focus was not on what is best at teaching kids, but rather, what is best aligned to common core... and then (2) it appears 'opinions' and 'deeply held beliefs' are driving advanced learning instruction practice for Spectrum students (at least, at Lawton, Lafayette, Wedgwood, Whittier, and now Viewridge), and (3) I consider what has been done and is being done to special ed students (pushed out of one K8, yet placed against their will in another K8), it seems ever so hopeless. And then, (4) on another thread, this blog reports more staff are being added to the district headquarters, to be in charge of important, esoteric things, while real schools and students are being squeezed, and squeezed hard. The WSS formula is at bare bones. School counselors don't exist in K5s unless Title 1 or PTA dollars pay for them. Is it me? Does it seem as bad as it ever was, only, it is getting worse? Any achievement gap getting closed anytime soon? Doubt it. But hey, you can cease to teach kids who are learning, that is one way to close the gap. Not saying that that is what is happening, but, it does feel like mediocrity for all. Is that what equity is? Hope not.

I wonder if other parents, seeing the writing on the wall, are cooking up a charter? That would not surprise me one bit. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Really, schools should be a place of learning of academics first and foremost. Reading, writing, arithmetic. Music, arts, world languages. That is school. Not really sure that is a shared value. Perhaps it is not.

-sad



Anonymous said...

The second to last Advanced Learning Task Force 2 meeting is tonight at JSCEE at 4 pm. They will be discussing the final recommendations. Interested observers are welcomed but only the ALTF2 members are allowed to contribute today. Discussion will only be around APP service delivery model, though. Because this TF and the other one are only dealing with APP

in Rooms 2776-2778 from 4-8 PM

--just information

Birdie said...

Indeed, Spectrum is dead and the dominoes will continue to fall. Get ready- Eckstein.

Watching said...

Sad, Will you point to legislation to break-up Seattle Public Schools?

Anonymous said...

TBSS and others--

I would invite you to write your concerns and thoughts about AL and spectrum and so on to the school board members, and in particular to the C&I committee members. The AL policy is due to be presented to the C&I committee in a few weeks, and now is the time for sharing your thoughts directly with the policy makers.

I believe I heard Sue Peters say at the last board meeting that she wants to hear from more of the AL community members. I imagine she may read these posts here, but a direct letter will at least reach their in boxes.

It may also be worthwhile/useful to testify at a BOD meeting. At least get it on the record even if they don't listen. But, they sometimes do listen, and they tend to listen more when more people are speaking up about the same thing.

--use your voice

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lu, how do we "get something better?" I'm all ears.

Lake City, private school enrollment is about the same as it has been here for about 30 years. More people are not going to private if SPS is increasing. (Are private schools expanding? If so, I missed it.)

That said, yes, the Seattle average is much higher than the national average.

Yes, the district may not like what happens if there is a surge in charter schools.

Anonymous said...

@watching

It wasn't to break up SSD, it was to treat it as though it was 4 different districts (by geographic region), for funding purposes. Seems like a tacit acknowledgment that it is just TOO big, that the economy of scale breaks down at a certain point (as oppose to getting more efficient). When I look at the math adoption process, and it seems their ardent assertion that 'one size fits all' is illogical, because one size cannot possibly fit all 26 or 28 thousand K5 students, and yet that is what Teaching and Learning seem to be --punitively-- driving toward, it seems like yes, this district really is too big to manage effectively.

-sad

Anonymous said...

Director Peaslee has spoken on the topic of AL. She seems strongly anti-AL, don't know why. But, then again, many of the things she says, I can't quite follow. So yes, please do write the Board, and cc the Mayor, and say you are in favor of learning in public schools, for ALL children, and that includes ALL children, even advanced learners.

uncle

Anonymous said...

"Lake City, private school enrollment is about the same as it has been here for about 30 years. More people are not going to private if SPS is increasing. (Are private schools expanding? If so, I missed it.)

That said, yes, the Seattle average is much higher than the national average."

Melissa, are you aware of any studies as to why the rate is so high? Beyond anecdotes, I mean.

LakeCity

Charlie Mas said...

Action You Can Take:

1. Opt out of all tests (except those for graduation or placement) until the District corrects itself.

2. Organize a school walk out.

3. Write to the Board and demand an advanced learning policy.

4. Demand to see exactly how and how often differentiated instuction happens in classrooms.

5. Demand the evaluation of advanced learning programs that Shauna Heath promised to the public and the Board on April 24, 2013.

What else?

Anonymous said...

@sad and Watching,

I think the legislation you are referring to is a bill that was proposed by Pollet last session. It would not have broken up the district into smaller pieces. Its only focus was on the calculation that is made for funding capital facilities from the state.

I don't completely understand the calculation, but the gist is that all school districts are provided a certain amount of $ and square Ft per student. This is averaged across the whole district.

Seattle is growing in certain parts of the city, and not in other parts, so when you look at the whole the amount of "new" building that is needed is less than what is truly needed because we actually need more capacity in some areas of the city.

It's trying to deal with the reality that some areas are more densely populated with kids and families than others, and that to plan for schools to be close to where kids live, we need to be able to calculate on a regional basis instead of averaging across the whole district.

Does that make sense? I can dig up the bill number if you are interested. It didn't get out of committee, but I'm hopeful for next session.

Eden

Anonymous said...

Well, I dug around and found this study:

http://www.wce.wwu.edu/resources/cep/ejournal/v002n001/a014.shtml

" While some of this may be due to a demographic shift in the type of white families moving into Seattle (those not having children), an important factor to consider is that Seattle has one of the highest rates of private school enrollment in the country, which has been between 25-30% for the last two decades, corresponding closely with the implementation of district-wide mandatory busing in 1978 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 25, 2005). "

LakeCity

Anonymous said...

But we haven't had bussing in a long time. And that also corresponds with the shift from families moving out to the suburbs to families staying in the city. I think that the fact that it hasn't changed since we got rid of bussing debunks the bussing theory, and points to a more demographic answer.

Specifically I constantly-constantly- hear people say class sizes and lack of advanced learning support, but the class size thing is true many places with lower private school enrollment. We just also have the demographics (money, emphasis on education in families) to support a lot of private schools.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Lake City--

That quote and data was true in 2005, but things are changing. The last few years Seattle has been growing faster than the surrounding cities. More people are staying in the City and raising their kids in the City.

And mandatory busing was eliminated with the NSAP. Now people have a guaranteed assignment to their attendance area school.

That study was valid when it was made almost 10 years ago, but more current analysis of demographic trends need to be made.

Think about it: in 2005 Ballard was mostly retired Scandinavians, and 10 years later it is filled to the brim with young families of all types.

Eden

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

Spectrum was dead at View Ridge long before this decision. Innovative, thoughtful teaching has been happening in the general ed classes, less so in the spectrum classes. All this does is end the divisive practice of splitting kids up based on “ability” (i.e. parents' willingness/ability to advocate for their children), particularly damaging when there are more kids in spectrum than in general ed.

I’m optimistic that we’ll see more access to advanced learning opportunities for every student at VR as the self-contained classrooms are phased out.

What’s troubling to me is how opaque the process was...

--hopeful observer

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

I think the moniker above really has it correct - "uncle." My child started at Lowell a year or two before this aggressive dismantling of AL began. I have been writing letters, opting my kid out of tests, going to Saturday meetings with SB members, talking to principals and teachers, talking with other parents, etc. What good has it done? Things have gotten far worse than when I began. Obviously, one person can't do it alone, but it hasn't (apparently) gotten bad enough to motivate many others yet.

I am more pessimistic than I have ever been about AL. Now it's all about "equity" (which does not mean what a lot people think it means) and teaching to standard. Former Lowell principal King actually said grade level classrooms should be like McDonalds. Any random 4th grader should be able to be moved to any other 4th grade classroom and immediately know what was going on. I understand grade level standards, but that is awful. Unfortunately, it's not just Seattle. Education in the US just makes me very sad.

This blog is very good about highlighting the issues of AL but it's pretty much only the choir who reads it. I am also tired, cried uncle and pulled my kid from the district.

-pickle

Anonymous said...

Reposting for anon:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
As a parent of both a General Education and Spectrum identified child(ren) currently attending View Ridge Elementary, I applaud the decision to continue the blended first and second grade "Walk to Math" model through third grade and eventually beyond. I can assure you this has been discussed for over three years with the administration and community and if you as a parent at View Ridge didn't know, you should have. Meetings have been held, petitions have been circulated and our teachers have been advocating for it!

Students needs are being met and they are thriving in first and second grade with this model and there has been a great deal of damage through the systematic segregation in third-fifth grade. Children have been labeled and placed on a track that is not easily altered. A student may excel in one category and not another, but unless you test high in both on a test given on a Saturday morning once a year, you are never given the opportunity to advance. Same goes for those that do test into Spectrum who are struggling to keep up, should they have to struggle in a math class they can't handle? The "Walk to Math" model allows children to have the opportunity to be placed in the correct pairing. In regards to reading, children have been separated into reading groups within a class for decades, and has worked well.

Lastly, but VERY important, there is a huge social piece to this decision. Children have been damaged! Let me say it again, children at View Ridge have been let down by the administration. And no this is not a one or two case scenario, it is prevalent. Segregating students into a Spectrum/General Education contained model has put a huge strife between our students. Separating the students has created a social piece that is hurting our children and needs to be dismantled!

5/20/14, 3:09 PM

--NEP

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lake City, studies? I suspect the district has quietly investigated but it seems clear to me that there are several reasons.

1) habit. Parents don't enroll or leave SPS and get entrenched at a private school and don't leave. (Caveat; I believe more parents, given the costs, do come back in high school.)

2) name brand. Lakeside, Bush, etc.

3) religion

"I’m optimistic that we’ll see more access to advanced learning opportunities for every student at VR as the self-contained classrooms are phased out."

Tell us how that works out.

"Students needs are being met and they are thriving in first and second grade with this model and there has been a great deal of damage through the systematic segregation in third-fifth grade. Children have been labeled and placed on a track that is not easily altered."

And you know all of this for all children at VR how?

Tell us more about this "damage."

Here's the unalterable fact. Spectrum is a district program backed up by broad research. That some parents and teachers don't like it doesn't make it damaging.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who wrote in support of the spectrum changes at VW…..
Since I'm not at VW parent I don't have insight into any problems with spectrum or how the solution has/will work out. It may be great. But I will say this - I can see how it could be divisive to have 2 populations at a school when one of them could be perceived as being more privileged or superior in some way that the other. However, I find parents and kids rapidly pick up on the hierarchy of any walk-to groups as well. This should not mean we do any kind of 'real' differentiation -we shouldn't hold some kids back so that we don't hurt other's feelings.
However, I am against the idea that these sort of education tracks are set in the very early years and can never be changed. One of the problems with spectrum (unlike APP) is because the seats are limited it effectively means that kids who qualify later in elementary years can not get into the program. Any kids who qualify on testing or who display equivalent capability in class should be able to be in a spectrum class. Perhaps it should go the other way too - if kids are struggling in the advanced classes they should be given a chance to catch up but then advised that they may be more appropriately placed in gen ed.
But parents need to be grown up about it. Whether it's spectrum or walk-to -math, it should be about where the kids needs are going to be best met (where they can be challenged but successful) - not bragging rights.
Having lots of walk- to subjects could be really good for kids of all abilities, and a good way of dealing with single-subject gifted kids. However, even with those, parents and kids quickly come to know who is in the top groups etc and some have issues with this. And kids should not become permanently stuck in a group, but moved according to growth etc.
Spectrum, ability groups, walk -to groups what-ever you call it, could be done really well - however, I think SPS should look to the programs and outcomes that other districts who do these sorts of things successfully and without the drama than we have here. Whatever is done needs to be done consistently between schools - so it needs to be mandated by the district, not decided on a ad hoc basis by individual schools. And definitely not after open enrollment - it is just not acceptable for families to be misled in this way.

The new form of spectrum that is being rolled out at VW may be all fine and dandy but that is just one school in the district. It is short-sighted to say that just because you've got a version that suits you that we don't need to get the district to act on the overall program.

TBSS

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

you're so snarky Melissa. VR parent makes good point. It's been on the table, it is working in grade 1 and 2, and self contained causes social problems for kids that walk tos don't. Walk tos are very different and yes, kids know it's advanced math, but it isn't a segregated classroom all day, every day. And, really, the agressive dismantling of AL? With 10% of MS students in APP, which means 20% of middle class white kids, that's hardly a dismantling.Let's move on and make this a win-win.
gg

Anonymous said...

NEP, I really appreciate and concur with your comments. I think a lot of people commenting here are not VR parents. I also thought that the principal's letter seemed thoughtful and sincere.
-RR

Anonymous said...

TBSS,

I would love for the "Walk to Math" blended classroom model to be universal over all schools in the district and happy to recommend it!

In our North East cluster, thankfully the self-contained model is a thing of the past. Precisely what you believe in, "However, I am against the idea that these sort of education tracks are set in the very early years and can never be changed," is being eradicated from View Ridge and I hope the others will see that.

View Ridge Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, I have no idea if you are the previous Anonymous but our blog does not accept anonymous posts. So your comment is being deleted (see above the Comment box for details).

I didn't say VR was getting rid of Spectrum. But Spectrum is very specifically spelled out in the district (despite principals going their own way).

Kids calling each names over Spectrum? That's very sad and I am not aware of it happening in any big way when my kids were in the Spectrum program.

GG, how is it snarky asking someone to elaborate on what are pretty drastic statements? I don't think so.

And GG, how is this at VR a "win-win" for AL? (Or will it be snarky to ask for a clarification?)

new to this said...

I know this is an APP thread but since walk-to-math came up and it is being used as a alternative to AL, how does it work where it works?

We have talked about it but have run into problems with class sizes and how to configure classes. One model discussed was high/med, high/med, low with all sections roughly the same size. How do you assure that low kids will be in a classroom size that will actually help those kids? What should be the max size of a low group? Is there a max size for a high group? Should medium and highs be grouped or should highs have a cutoff as you approach low highs and high mediums?

I'm interested in the nuts and bolts of configuring a walk-to-math program. Those of you doing it, how did you do it?

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

New to this, this is NOT an APP thread; it's a Spectrum thread. So ask anything.

Is Walk to Math really an AL alternative? I'm not sure I know that to be so. Does anyone have info via district/school on this?

Anonymous, you are not understanding a couple of things.

One, you MUST give yourself a name/moniker.

Two, once deleted, we cannot repost comments.

Three, you must be confused about my role. It is not to repost comments that are posted incorrectly. If someone else wants to save your comment before deletion, fine. That is not my role (I do it occasionally but no, it's not my job here.)

mirmac1 said...

NEP, that was true at Lafayette when we attended. Hated it.

gg, my child is one of those with high single subject ability, a manifestation of her disability. I say we need a "Divergent" program. : )

juicygoofy said...

Just want to clarify, Whittier has not (yet) replaced self-contained Spectrum with walk to math. It was discussed (after open enrollment), but there have been no formal changes announced.

Yes, there are a large amount of students entering APP from Whittier, but many were on the Spectrum waiting list. Others are not happy with the new principal and the many changes she's made (less PE per week, sudden removal last year of an excellent music/choir teacher, crisis over instrumental music teachers and funding, lack of sufficient budgeting for tutors, replacing the PTA-run art program with a SPS art teacher and lackluster curriculum, and more.) Some, like us, simply think Lincoln is a better fit with its cohort and socio-emotional program.

Again, we can't blame Spectrum issues entirely on the Whittier exit numbers..

Anonymous said...

As a teacher who can live with or without Spectrum self-contained, I believe as families stay at neighborhood schools, funding will become more equitable. PTAs at Spectrum schools raise a lot of money. Those families will start donating to their neighborhood schools where their children will be attending.

That could be a positive for most schools. My school will lose kids and money so we will have some tougher decisions to make at budget time next year.

JMPofV

Charlie Mas said...

The culture of a school is the responsibility of the adults at the school, starting with the principal. If the culture is divisive, as a couple of View Ridge Parent have suggested, that's due to poor management by the adults at the school and the principal in particular.

There are plenty of examples of schools with self-contained programs but without divisive cultures. That was, in fact, the norm in Seattle until recently. Do we see this divisiveness at Thurgood Marshall?

The existence of Spectrum waitlists are entirely due to the District keeping the program artificially small. The program should be right-sized to meet the needs of all eligible students who elect to participate.

The inability for students to qualify in a single domain is also within the District's control. The District could choose to set the eligibility criteria however they like, including single domain or even self-selection.

"Tracking" is only a lifetime sentence if it is administered poorly. The suggestion is an indictment of the administrators, not of ability-grouping as a tool.

All of the evils complain of here are well within the district's control. The fact that the District has allowed them implies that the District approves them.

Melissa Westbrook said...


JMPofV, but under AL, all children i AL won't be at their neighborhood schools. Your statement (and correct me if I'm wrong) seems to imply that you believe kids should be in their neighborhood schools.

I wish I thought PTA funding would even out as more kids are at their neighborhood schools. Given our city and its demographics, I don't think that will happen.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was thinking Spectrum kids. Our school draws off kids from at least seven surrounding schools. True that the larger geographic area is largely white middle class, there are pockets of less prosperity. The schools from which many of these kids are drawn should benefit from their return. And it is my belief that these kids will return to their home schools if and when self-contained Spectrum programs are eliminated.

JMPofV

Lynn said...

JMPofV,

You think they'll return to the non-Spectrum neighborhood schools that didn't meet their needs this first time they tried them? And that will benefit those schools because they come with PTA-contributing parents. How will it benefit those students?

Anonymous said...

Wow - so these well-off spectrum-qualified kids are going to prop up their neighborhood schools financially and that makes everything fair.
Something is seriously wrong when instead of thinking about how and where to provide an accelerated curriculum and reasonable goals for these academically gifted kids, folks are thinking about the PTA funding potential of their parents. And a teacher said that???
Those kids are in school to be educated not redistribute the wealth. Putting a damper on advanced learning in order to level the playing field is just plain wrong.
Charlie is right - most of the issues that we have with spectrum and AL could be remedied or would not be issues at all if the district managed it properly.

TBSS

Anonymous said...

@Uncle: Peaslee and the Board were were not amused by SNAPP's advocacy against the last levy. Not in the least. Her attitude toward AL may have been irreparably harmed as a result. But lets hope not.

@Sick: Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one. - Bill Clinton.

No, I'm not calling you one, but as incompetent as we've seen one district behave, do we really want to multiply that by four? Methinks not. I prefer the devil we know. (Figuratively, of course.) WSDWG

Charlie Mas said...

I understand that there is a disagreement about how to serve advanced learners.

Some think that they learn best in self-contained classrooms and that they are ill-served in the general education classroom. There is, of course, a mountain of data and research to support this contention as well as some clear reason.

Others believe that the students are best served in an inclusive setting with students of all abilities and skills.

We are not going to make peace between these two camps. I don't think either can be convinced by the arguments put forward so far, and I don't hear any new arguments. So let's not try to resolved this difference. Instead, perhaps we can just agree to disagree.

In that case, let us remember that any family that wants to choose an inclusive delivery model for addressing the academic needs of their advanced learner has that option. They can keep their child at the neighborhood school. Or, if the neighborhood school is the designated Spectrum school, they can simply choose not to enroll their child in Spectrum. That child will then be placed in a general education classroom and reap all of the benefits associated with that delivery model.

But what about the large number of families that want the self-contained model? They are not trying to take the inclusive model away from those who want it, but those who are pushing the inclusion model are trying to remove the self-contained option.

In the interests of harmony and to honor family choice, can we please just keep the self-contained model as a choice? No one is insisting that every child participate in it, but can we at least not take the choice away from the large number of families that want it?

Anonymous said...

No no no no no

Emphatically, JUST ONE PERSON at Lincoln decided to not vote for the BEX levy. Can't say that I understood the reason, but it was not that PTA or 'that school'. The most vocal no group that I encountered were Thornton Creek neighbors and Wedgwood residents, concerned about too many students on one lot. They were told the 2nd school would be knocked down. The story has now changed. It won't be. Does Directly Peaselee and the board have a negative attitude towards expeditionary learning? I think not. Point is, all elected officials come to their offices with certain held values and beliefs.

Please don't paint a whole school, any school, by the choices of just one person. Inaccuracies or falsehoods like that can and will hurt a school and ultimately children. SNAPP is just the PTA name. That school, Wilson Pacific Elementary, sited as an interim in Lincoln, with no playground, for 6 whole years, has probably the most volunteers supporting the District than any other school, including those who work to support the levies, planning, etc. That school does not have a Spectrum program. Being in favor of ALL CHILDREN, in EVERY SCHOOL, LEARNING SOMETHING, EVERYDAY, shouldn't that be a given, especially if you are serving as a trustee of public education? The thing is, ALL children might include dove whose parents you don't like, and, it likely includes some children you don't relate to, but, that's the job, as a trustee, you still should meet your responsibility to ensure their education needs are met, everyday, every year, and that ALL children grow academically everyday, every year.
-uncle

Anonymous said...

Some people sure got riled up at the notion that keeping spectrum families at their local schools might help those schools by making PTAs stronger and keeping money local.

Suddenly that little side comment became vile and suggested to some that this was all about money.

No, dear people. I see it as one small side benefit to this whole argument. Many parents at my school like their neighborhood schools but choose the self-contained classroom at my school. A lot of these people are very active and contribute time and money to my school. Keeping some of that effort, energy and money at the local school would/could benefit that school instead of mine. It could make their neighborhood schools better schools.

That's all. If you choose to read this small observation of a side benefit to the neighborhood school as some betrayal of all that education is and ever must be, fine.

JMPofV

Melissa Westbrook said...

JMPofV, that was not a side comment on your part. That was one of the main points you made. Now you are calling it a "side benefit."

As I said before, many Spectrum students also qualify for APP. I suspect some of the APP growth is due to some Spectrum students not being able to access Spectrum at their regional school and I suspect that will continue.

And those kids (and their side benefit parents) will again, not be at their neighborhood schools.

I don't think the comment about your comment was not a blanket indictment of you or all of education.

kellie said...

From a capacity management perspective self contained spectrum died, when the NSAP was implement.

It is important to remember that Spectrum was in a many ways a capacity management strategy disguised as an academic plan.

Spectrum was "placed" at schools with empty space with the plan that the spectrum label would draw students to the school. Once this plan worked and there was a full class, that program was full. Now with the NSAP, the schools with spectrum programs are neighborhood programs. At this point, there are very few students in the "full" programs that are not also attendance area students.

Anonymous said...

If the district wants AL kids in their neighborhood schools then wouldn't it make sense for these neighborhood schools to have spectrum or some other REAL, well-defined walk- to subject or ability grouping alternative ( I don't mean like the current nebulous ALO designation which is as good as nothing) with all qualified kids ( by testing or teacher nomination) neighborhood kids guaranteed a space. This is likely to mean large percentages in AL programs in some schools and smaller ones in others- it might be better to have a single AL school in some geo-zones to provide a reasonable sized cohort for kids in areas with lower numbers of qualifying kids. I don't think this should be done in regions where high number of kids in a school qualify and a good sized cohort is present.
If SPS genuinely doesn't want kids to have to leave there neighborhoods for AL then it will have to stop using these programs in the manner Kellie describes - to fill unpopular schools and use the motivation and means of incoming parents to try to turn around these poorer schools.

TBSS

Anonymous said...

@uncle: Say NO a thousand times, but it won't change the facts. I know it was only a handful of people - that was the problem. When the (former) President of the PTA and other groups break off and form their own AL advocacy group, bypassing the APP-AC, for example, then allow the "leader" to vocally oppose a levy via blackmail tactics, it's playing with fire. APP's profile is already fragile and the arrogant, elitist and privileged labels quickly and easily stick, but take years to rub off. I think SNAPP's levy stance was a huge blunder, as it further separated an already tenuous relationship between North and South APP after the original splits, and pissed off many communities who need building space. For APP folk, SNAPP made it clear we were no longer one community. I agree with how things should be, but you can't deny how they were and still are. Alienation of leaders may not have been a foreseeable consequence at the time, but it happened. We can hope memories are short, but we should also seize all opportunities to bridge build with Board members.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

"It is important to remember that Spectrum was in a many ways a capacity management strategy disguised as an academic plan."

Kellie: Great point. So right. A thousand times. If only SPS had half the length of institutional memory we parents do. The magnet theory of "if we build it, they will come" built self-contained Spectrum. The NSAP and all we rapidly reproducing urbanites are tearing it down.

So much pain, discontent and inequity is caused by lack of capacity, while we fight among ourselves over ideology. Sad. Frustrating. Exhausting.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

So it's possible, possibly, to offer better math differentiation in the upper elem. grades with blended Spectrum/gened classrooms IF the teaching model is changed to a team - basically, a blended class has half the day w/the math/science teacher and half the day w/the language arts/SS teacher, and then flips with a paired class.

That way, the math teacher doesn't have to prep for language arts/social studies - so there's more time to prep for multiple tracks of math and actually do differentiation. AND the admin can pick the teachers who are actually rock stars at math to teach the math part, thereby letting twice as many kids get the great math instruction.

However, blending the classes and then having kids in the same teacher all day essentially requires every single teacher to prep everything at more than one level - not going to happen. Just not possible in the confines of a 24 hour day.

If your school is doing away with Spectrum or has ineffective ALO, consider blocking (at least at Grades 4 and 5 at a minimum) - it lets the better math teachers teach twice as many kids, and without having to teach language arts, they can get even more creative. The same is true for language arts - they don't have to prep for multiple levels of math, can do training in fewer fields, and thus reach great expertise.

Also, if you get the crummy teacher (b/c every school has a few, even if they're just so-so) ... you only have that person half the day! Way better than having the bad luck of the draw all day.

I'm a huge fan of split class schedules like that - it's working well for my kid and teachers - got a great math teacher, and the so-so language arts teacher is only half the day (if that person had been teaching math and my kid had had to endure the attitude all day, we'd probably be homeschooling, seriously - this way no one has all day with the person).

Signed: 4/5 blocks

Anonymous said...

So it's possible, possibly, to offer better math differentiation in the upper elem. grades with blended Spectrum/gened classrooms IF the teaching model is changed to a team - basically, a blended class has half the day w/the math/science teacher and half the day w/the language arts/SS teacher, and then flips with a paired class.

That way, the math teacher doesn't have to prep for language arts/social studies - so there's more time to prep for multiple tracks of math and actually do differentiation. AND the admin can pick the teachers who are actually rock stars at math to teach the math part, thereby letting twice as many kids get the great math instruction.

However, blending the classes and then having kids in the same teacher all day essentially requires every single teacher to prep everything at more than one level - not going to happen. Just not possible in the confines of a 24 hour day.

If your school is doing away with Spectrum or has ineffective ALO, consider blocking (at least at Grades 4 and 5 at a minimum) - it lets the better math teachers teach twice as many kids, and without having to teach language arts, they can get even more creative. The same is true for language arts - they don't have to prep for multiple levels of math, can do training in fewer fields, and thus reach great expertise.

Also, if you get the crummy teacher (b/c every school has a few, even if they're just so-so) ... you only have that person half the day! Way better than having the bad luck of the draw all day.

I'm a huge fan of split class schedules like that - it's working well for my kid and teachers - got a great math teacher, and the so-so language arts teacher is only half the day (if that person had been teaching math and my kid had had to endure the attitude all day, we'd probably be homeschooling, seriously - this way no one has all day with the person).

Signed: 4/5 blocks

Anonymous said...

The problem I have with this back and forth about whether it was or was not a representative sample of a PTA who wanted to vote down a levy is that that should NOT have anything to do with whether those children get educated. The whole point of having a public, bureaucratic institution is so that unpopular minorities are not abused at the hands of popular majorities. They are supposed to use research and data and be as fair and principled as possible.

If that was happening we would see advanced learning programs in every school, a robust but almost certainly smaller app program as a result, smaller class sizes in the south than in the north; a standard principal selection process, and the first pick of, say, start times, goes to the south. Instead anti science populism is driving the dissolution of advanced learning; one board member's anti app vendetta is allowed and justified even on the blog, and a couple popular schools get to pick their start times, moving every other school in the district around, and extra transportation much poorer schools who could use it more don't.

Can you imagine if it was Wedgwood she hated? Or Special ed? Surely we would not say, "well, it is ok and to be expected that Michael DeBell hated special ed, because after all a few of those parents are quite obnoxious. They crossed a lines and as a result obviously several thousand other students should expect to be lose access to education. Next time make sure all the other parents at you PUBLIC school share political beliefs with every board member." It is not the job of the public not to annoy board members. It is the job of board members to be fair and equitable despite individuals and not to play favorites, especially not over personal rivalries. I find it unacceptable that this state of affairs is allowed to go on, honestly. Banana republic.

-sleeper

ben said...

After reading this whole thread I'm still wondering the same question, how effective are the current blended /differentiated classrooms working at View Ridge? I've read one passionate defense of the new model and no specific criticisms. Are the parents of students at VR in general happy? If so I'm not inclined to worry much about this change. If not I'd like to know what the problems are.

Lynn said...

Better yet, every school would start at the time that's best for it's population and every school would have small class sizes. Do the citizens of this state value children and education or not?

Anonymous said...

Ben, the ones who are unhappy tend to end up at Lincoln if they can, or leave public altogether. So I know a lot of people who were unhappy with the model, found it much like an ALO(so, nothing) and didn't want to wait until third grade. It's possible those people have more outlier children for whom a self contained spectrum class was only barely going to work, so a differentiated model would work less well for them than a more typical spectrum student, but I don't know. That may be splitting hairs.

I think right now it's sort of hard to see, and we'll have to see how people vote with their feet next year. I doubt people who are just sort of unhappy or sort of happy would come read about it on a blog.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

I personally think the blended works well at 1st and 2nd grade if you have a teacher who is very organized and implements reading groups with lots of parent volunteers. The concern I have for 3 - 5th is there are typically way less in terms of parental classroom volunteers and the language arts side of things is a lot different as you get older - more complex and rigorous/harder to truly serve all levels in one classroom. A walk to Language Arts Block might work better - then you can pull those advanced language arts kids who aren't in spectrum due to math into a class with more suitable curriculum.

Concerned VR Parent

Anonymous said...

Language arts one-class differentiation or walk-to-la works perfectly fine if teachers are trained in it and principals buy off on it. Principal buy-off is needed for scheduling classes or pairing teachers in a way that works.

In fact, it is in some ways easier to accomplish lA differentiation than math differentiation.

I am more than pleased to see self-contained Spectrum go away, as long as strong differentiation or walk-to-subject teaching is employed. Self-contained does not work in schools with limited classroom spaces and teaching resources. It was highly unfair to Spectrum-qualified kids who could not access the service. It had social-emotional negatives that are more minimized via differentiation or walk-to-subject programs.

Onward/Upward

Anonymous said...

@Sleeper: Of course you're right. No debating it. If only reason prevailed. But that old warning repeatedly given especially to APP folk was to "think not just of yourselves, but of everyone in the entire district." And I swear, any time we advocate solely for AL, somebody in JSCEE docks us points for being "selfish." Board members have to get along with JSCEE staff to get anywhere, and some of that discontent unfortunately appears to rub off. McLaren routinely praises the same staff who have a history of hostility toward AL, and presently seem bent on undermining getting the best Math we can get, in favor of embracing the uninspiring common-core. As long as AL is viewed as having it better than others, we'll take the pot shots. Which means we can't risk pouring gas on that ever present smoldering fire. APP leaders going against a badly needed levy, and against one of their own parents running for school board was, IMO, ill-advised. I urge people to think "bridges" with Board members, not power or leverage. As we are seeing, it only takes a couple bureaucrats downtown to wreak havoc in hundreds of families and students, while reason takes a vacation. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas writes "They can keep their child at the neighborhood school. Or, if the neighborhood school is the designated Spectrum school, they can simply choose not to enroll their child in Spectrum."

This is not a solution -- because drawing off a population of students does not provide an inclusive model anymore in the general education classroom. If I were to believe my Spectrum qualified students can be appropriately educated in a classroom with 10% Spectrum students, an inclusive model is not something I can chose on my own, if all the other Spectrum students are choosing to go elsewhere. It's a false premise to set up one choice (an inclusive classroom) as being independent of the existence of an other (a test-score selected classroom).

zb

zb said...

"In fact, it is in some ways easier to accomplish lA differentiation than math differentiation. "

I'd love more explanation on this, on "walk to" differentiation and how it can be well implemented. We had LA reading groups across classes, when I was a child, in the dark ages. It seemed to work pretty well.

The scheduling issues seem to be a cost, but one that seems manageable to me, but I'd like to hear more about it from a scheduling point of view. I remember a principal once telling me that the demands of the schedule are sometimes almost solely determined by access to cafeteria/gymnasium space (in elementary school), so I am guessing there are some technical issues involved.

in 3+ grades, it seems that the kids would be ready to deal with some of the demands of having multiple classrooms and multiple rooms.

zb

Charlie Mas said...

zb, you're not asking for an inclusive classroom, you're asking for a designer level of Spectrum-eligible (10%). That's not on the menu. Your choices are self-contained or inclusive. With the inclusive model you don't get to choose how many intellectual peers your child has in the class. It could be 10% (3), it could be 30% (9), or it could be that your child is the sole student in the class working beyond grade level. That's often the case for families living south of downtown.

To say that you can't have your inclusive classroom unless the self-contained model is taken away, then you're acknowledging that the vast majority of families would choose the self-contained model. If the self-contained model were an unpopular choice then there would be plenty of Spectrum-eligible students in the general education classroom.

So which is it?

Is it that you want a designer level of intellectual peers or are you willing to accept the pot luck inclusive classroom composition?

Are you acknowledging that you want to dismantle the self-contained model that the vast majority of families want so you can have the right temperature inclusive model for your child?

Anonymous said...

As a VR parent, I'm not chiming in yet b/c I have NO IDEA how this will be implemented so I don't know if I like it or not.

There was an evening meeting about a month ago that I took as a warning this might be happening, but I did not attend, and do not know what was actually discussed. This is how the meeting was presented: "SPS ADVANCED LEARNING PARENT COMMUNITY MEETING: Shauna Heath, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for SPS has committed to coming out and meeting with our parent community on Thursday, March 20 from 6:45-7:45 pm. All are invited. Shauna recently met with our staff, we had an informative and interesting session learning about changes in state law, services for advanced learners, updates on the work of the task forces and options and processes for future discussions. Shauna will be sharing this information with our parent community this Thursday. We hope to see you there! "

WTM works great for us, yes. Since I haven't been told how the rest of this will work (Walk to reading? blocks? differentiated in every classroom? Perhaps that is what this vague survey is really asking?), I don't have an opinion.

We have some great teachers already differentiating on their own - it's just what they do. Meet every kid at their current level and help them rise. Others just shoot for the middle and will not be able to deliver 3 different curriculums (below, at, and above grade) in one class. I love the idea of blocks - ex. a strong math teacher teaching to several sections a day. I wonder how the teachers feel about that?

I do have an opinion that this "roll out" is half-baked and the usual principal/AL/SPS doublespeak. This survey is THE notice to parents. Sorry if you attend Laurelhurst or Bryant currently and are transferring to VR next year for the self-contained program! I wonder if those families were went this survey too?

-Diane

Anonymous said...

Thanks Diane - that meeting is certainly not presented as a discussion about the possible/planned changes to spectrum at the VR site. This is the problem - not just that it is being changed (which could potentially be for better or for worse) but the lack of transparency, real consultation and community engagement (perhaps those connected parents who were 'in the know" understood what the point of that meeting with Shauna Heath was - but that does not constitute a community-wide process), presentation of evidence for/against proposals etc, and the fact that this is being done piecemeal, differently at different locations, and AFTER enrollment.
What about the kids who are transferring specifically FOR the self contained spectrum? Too bad they signed up for one thing, and will get something entirely different. Perhaps they would have been better off to stay at their current schools instead of going through all the upheaval of transferring for something that may not end up being that dissimilar to their existing schools AL offering. It is just like at WW a couple of years ago. It is dishonest and makes a farce of the school 'choice' - you can't choose without correct information. These things don't just happen overnight - they are in the pipeline for some time but it is the same old SPS lack of transparency, playing politics etc

sps'ed off

nacmom said...

OK, a little history is in order for understanding how this got to be such a big freaking deal at VRE. Pretty much, it's (like most things in SPS) a numbers game. The NE 'cluster' of the city has relatively well educated, affluent families. As a result, there are at lot more AL eligible children. But NOT more schools offering the programs, naturally! So, a few years ago, under NSAP, the Spectrum population there(which had been capped at ~1/3rd of the grade under 'choice'), began to inflate as the program was not offered at most surrounding schools and many AL parents do not think much of SPS's ALO differentiation. Wedgwood's 'spectrum surprise' added to this crush as VRE was now the only school to offer it, with transportation, if you lived in the NE cluster.

Soon, there were grades where 2-3 of the 3-4 intermediate classrooms were self contained spectrum - some grades approached 70/75% advanced learners. The UNINTENDED result/consequence was that kids not in spectrum were now relegated to a single class for 3 years vs. spectrum families 'selecting' a single self contained class for 3 years(the opt in concept).

Bad feelings ensued. Some parents an kids behaving badly, trash talking etc - you know , typical of SPS 'fight amongst yourselves' crap. Not coincidentally, class sizes were also skewed unfavorably for Spectrum as those classes got HUGE vs. some relatively awesome sized GenEd classes. Overall, a major social dystopia created by - wait for it - not enough seats for eligible kids. In this case, at other nearby schools where many of these kids lived!

Years of angst, hand wringing, fighting and discussions as well as previous attempts to mix the kids up in PCP has led to this decision. A solution to primarily (though not entirely) social issues caused by a numbers problem. A fixable numbers problem. There are pros and cons to every model, there is no perfect and no one thing will magically make everyone happy. This will make some people very happy, others very unhappy. But this decision was not made with the academic needs of the AL kids as the top priority.

As with all things in SPS, I caution: Be careful what you wish for. Rarely does change come without some unintended, unforeseen, usually blindsiding consequences. Only time will tell what those will be.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nacmom, thank you for that backstory. I didn't know how the balance was out of whack.

Wise words.

Anonymous said...

Again, some kids, those who do well on the tests, get options other kids don't. Choice should be equitable.NSAP should keep kids in neighborhood schools and teach all of them at the level they need. That's equity. Self-contained anything should be reserved for those who cannot function in an inclusive environment. If parents want self-contained, they need to realize that it should be a special needs program, not a top 10% program or top 50% like at VR.
Cluster grouping and walk tos work and other grouping strategies can also come into play WITHOUT self-contained classrooms or programs.
This whole premise that teachers or administrators want to lower test scores of the top students is ridiculous. We need a rational system of teaching all kids that helps the child reach potential. Self contained works as a blunt tool for academic success, at the expense of some social development for those in the self contained classroom or program. Kids need to be together and learn together. They need to see others who have different abilities and they need to be grouped, but not all day, every day. Every school needs to deal with all special needs kids except the distant outliers. So you have a medically fragile program because it's a service that is best delivered in one or two locations, and likewise, there should be a small program for kids with extreme intellectual giftedness. Otherwise kids should be, and can be, served locally.
We can't have district with 20% of northend middle schoolers attending APP. It's an academy of the few for the few. Do they get something better? Yes, the selection of the top 20% sets floor of academics that doesn't exist in a regular school. Regular schools have no floor, academically. So, they teach from 1% on the bell curve to 100%, because some extremely bright kids stay local, while APP deal with 90% to 100%, district-wide, 80% to 100% in the north.
That is math and it is not equitable.
gg

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Self-contained anything should be reserved for those who cannot function in an inclusive environment. If parents want self-contained, they need to realize that it should be a special needs program, not a top 10% program or top 50% like at VR."

Okay, but see the parents did NOT set up Spectrum. The district did. The district said this was important and possible and set up Spectrum to be self-contained. (And this was before Spectrum was called Spectrum.)

Don't blame parents for what the district created.

Yes, we can have a district with 20% of the kids going to APP if they qualify. You cannot quantify that number (they tried that with Spectrum and we can see how that turned out).

Again, I am hearing the death knell for Spectrum and the continuing expansion of APP (as we speak).

Anonymous said...

gg, I think you'll get most APP parents to agree that if schools were able to provide effective differentiation to advanced learners, with a small, special program for the extreme outliers, that would be great. Could be a win all around. Unfortunately, what we've seen time and time again, is that teachers and schools rarely provide appropriate differentiation.

It's one thing to say equity means teaching them all at the level they need, but quite another to actually implement that sort of teaching.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

HIMS mom,
it will take effort from downtown, principals, teachers, AL dept. and most importantly parents. But if parents of APP are just going to fight a rear guard action and not insist on and work to build quality instruction for advanced as well as the rest of kids at local schools, we won't get there very fast. Times have changed, imagine and help implement a better model.
gg

mirmac1 said...

gg, thank you for speaking up. I've learned to shy away from these threads. (yes. Me. Shy away.) Even if you don't mean to offend, stuff seems to happen.

Growing up in the 60s-70s (ouch!) we did more than survive as A students and TAs. Having survived quite well, I am more concerned about those with no floor; those with no bottom of expectations. My schools and teachers did their form of differentiation, with pull out and AP classes; and it worked well, thank you.

In this era of manufactured capacity crisis, I believe our schools must stick to the knitting. Not create new academies and boutiques. But raise the floor. If that is not good enough, well, to some UW's not good enough for the Stanford kids.

: )

Anonymous said...

App families have been and have "insisted" on, "demanded," and "required" their neighborhood schools to provide advanced learning for years. They are always told no. Every family I've talked to who came after first grade has asked for more and been told no. I have a single subject advanced child in gen ed and have been asking for more at our local school. I even offered to provide it. No. For years now. Other people asked-no. Next school over-no. App parents are completely powerless in this regard. Unless and until there is a shift in culture downtown or schools are somehow held accountable for adbanced learner progress or whether they keep them, the answer will always be no. Holding app parents responsible for this is like holding the waiters on the Titantic responsible for the Titanic hitting the iceberg. They are trying to help, but they aren't driving the ship.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Nacmom ... very similar to what has been happening at Whittier.

C. Holden

Anonymous said...

Re implementing effective differentiation ….. "It will take effort from downtown, principals, teachers, AL dept. and most importantly parents."

"most importantly parents??!!!

I'm sorry but it is not the job of parents to implement differentiation in the classroom. Yes, parents can and have been involved on various SPS committees about AL (for what that's worth since the committees recs are typically ignored!) and many parents volunteer in schools but it is NOT the responsibity of parents. This needs to come from the top in intentional, systematic way. Not all parents are available during the day, not all parents can be the squeaky wheels that pester their kids teachers for more challenging work, not all parents can afford tutoring or enrichment - and nor should they have to be. Managing the AL program is the role of the school and school district. They introduced the AL programs - they need to actually live up to they own publicity.

I reiterate it is not the parents job.

mirmac1 said...

Again. I never once mentioned APP parents or darn smart kids etc.

When new APP programs are placed at Emerson and Pinehurst, then moved ever two years, I will consider the concept of powerlessness.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac, I think the district is more concerned with those/our kids who are behind or struggling too, as it should be. They're not doing right, but we all approve of more resources and money going there, as it does.

I just don't think that fact excuses them from teaching advanced learners, 40 year old school experience aside. Lots of things have changed for the better. Sped is wildly better than when my brother went through in the 80's. Advanced learning still needs work.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

You mean like having your program dissolved after open enrollment, split every two years, and threatened every year?

Though I was talking about individual parents who try at local schools. There they are powerless. At the app programs they are just part of a politically unpopular group, though often have their children's needs met. Different problems.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting that so well @6:08, sleeper. At least VRE still has SOME structure (like walk-to-math, or maybe blocking) in place for kids working above grade level, even without the self-contained classes in 3rd grade. VRE's neighboring school in the NE also has a similarly large population of advanced learners, and there, it is exactly what sleeper describes. No, no, and no again. If anyone bothers to respond.

We fought the good fight there but we're done.

ALO parent



Anonymous said...

Mirmac's all 'it worked for me when I was a kid 40 years ago so it can darn well work for everyone else now too.'

Do we really want to get started with all the ways to pick apart this argument? Should we start with Gee- the Down Syndrome kid shipped off to boarding school in the 60s seemed to thrive. it can darn well work the same way for everyone else too.

1) Not OK to generalize based on your own or someone else's singular experience 40 years ago.
2) Not OK to set ceilings on other populations (gifted) while advocating heavily to raise floor for own cause (sped). Meh.
3) Specialized schools such as Cascade Partnership, Language Immersion, STEM are not Boutique schools. Insisting on calling them such turns people off. Would it be OK to call certain sped programs Gold Cadillacs? No it would not. It would not further the conversation at all. Neither does the Boutique moniker that Mirmac likes to throw down at every available opportunity.

There are serious problems with Advanced Learning as well as General Ed and SPED in SPS. Parents need to work together to insist on fixing them, not get snarky with populations not directly affecting their own particular cause.

"Kinder Gentler"

mirmac1 said...

I'm not "generalizing" when I preface my opinion based on my experience. I'm not proposing imposing a ceiling. But, hey, Stuff Happens. I'm prescient. Post on a thread, "snark populations," and expect the spitballs to fly.

: )

Anonymous said...

Look, the change is happening. Self contained Spectrum is gone. It's time to move to the next level and keep rigor up for those who had it(self-contained classrooms and APP) and add more kids who need additional challenge. The past is the past. Blame and regret doesn't change the present and only distracts from the future.
Again, anyone talking about putting a ceiling on kids learning is being alarmist. And calling for a walkout? Come on. Should I pull my kids because one of their teachers went on sick leave and there's a new sub every week? Or because I don't agree with discipline at my school?
Let's act like adults and try to forgive the districts sins of the past and work to make an AL plan that works. You say, Charlie, you want some set in stone regulations or policies. I agree it's very frustrating and confusing to have things always in flux. It's a hell of a way to run a railroad, as they say, but AL is complicated in any district and raises the same issues everywhere. SPS just is a little more lousy-goofy than most, but savvy parents have been able to navigate the labyrinth and end up with their offspring getting into good colleges so all is good in the end, right?
Gg

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The past is the past. Blame and regret doesn't change the present and only distracts from the future."

Nope, sorry. Spectrum may be dead but we need an autopsy and post-mortem. "move on" is exactly what this district does to distraction. No, there needs to be a real dissection of what happens so it doesn't happen again.

You think pulling kids would alarmist. Clearly someone else doesn't.

This isn't a "one kid" issue; it's about a whole group of students within a whole program. If they ALL walked out/didn't show up one day - say a test day - wouldn't that be interesting.

No Charlie doesn't want anything set in stone. He just wants a policy. Could we just start with that? Because it currently does not exist.

All is good in the end? No offense but you clearly do not understand the massive issues with AL in this district, starting with under-represented groups who hey, didn't all get into good colleges.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I love this idea of a walkout. I wish I was willing to put my face on it to organize it but my school is pretty anti-AL, despite the numbers. If it was organized, I would totally keep my kid home.

Intrigued

Anonymous said...

Emotions run too high on this blog re advanced learning and spectrum. Hey, I was a spectrum teacher. I loved spectrum. I could do all kinds of wonderful stuff. I was trying to point out a possible bright side to the whole issue.

Mirmac is right. Best to stay away from threads about advanced learning. Or in my case, best to just stay away. :) But I'll continue to read. I always learn something.

JMPofV

Anonymous said...

We'll I am offended. I was talking about the kids in college now, the north end and middle class kids whose parents negotiated the warrens of AL to get their kids a decent education in the old days. Kids like Charlie's and your kids. It was a hassle but you could get Spectrum if you went down to John Muir and Washington and Garfield, it was harder, but doable. Now APP is full to overflowing with Johnny-come-late lies and they want the perks too. But the jig is up. No more safety valve for parents of well prepared kids, they can work with their local school and get it better for ALL kids or.. Well, to be crass, it's a lot of money to go private just for academics now that the busing north has stopped, academics is the only reason to leave.
Do a thousand post-mortems- the patient is dead and you aren't going to find answers for tomorrow's problems in the corpse.
And I said people who think the district wants to lower scores of high kids to reduce the "gap" are alarmist and reckless as well. some people believe talk like that.
gg

Melissa Westbrook said...

GG, you don't know Charlie or me. You can make all the assumptions you want about us but fact is, you don't know us or our children. Please do not make assumptions about others' lives.

You have some assumptions as well about what "well-prepared" kids and their parents want or do.

You are entitled to your opinions but not about my life or Charlie's.

Anonymous said...

JM
You got to have a thick hide for this blog, but seriously, I've heard Spectrum self contained called the dream classes. Top 10% in ability, with another program for those whose need another school. Very select group for public school. Probable the best grouping possible. Two subject gifted as well. Those kind of kids can do everything well and have minimal social issues.
Now, ideally, in a blended but walk to environment there could be other exciting groups, something for every student. A grouping of the art talent as well as math and reading but without the segregation of self contained. Grouping isn't the problem, and I think that is an evolution in thought from the old days, it's just how to group. A more refined and intentional grouping that benefits all kids.
gg

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but you and Charlie have both referred to being in Spectrum. My apologies.
I am talking about people I know who have college or post college children and the tales they have told to me about navigating AL in SPS.
gg

Melissa Westbrook said...

"A grouping of the art talent as well as math and reading but without the segregation of self-contained."

1) Nothing stopping any school from doing this and yet I've never heard of it happening.

2) Good luck with that because I've also never heard any principal express interest in this idea.

There is a lot of "wouldn't it be nice" and we wouldn't need Spectrum at all IF we had district-mandated ALOs in EVERY school with specific directives.

But that hasn't happened has it?

Anonymous said...

Well, three years ago there wasn't any elementary schools doing reading and math walk to's with one teacher doing all the math and now there is such a thing. VR is going to be doing something new, it seems like at least some parents, maybe most, are excited to move beyond self contained. They have expressed satisfaction with the 1-2 model and look forward to expanding it. Usually the happy parents don't post, but several VR parents stated sincere optimism about the direction the school is going. As I saw on a TED talk, the subjunctive allows dreaming of possibilities but it also allows for regret and recrimination and remorse.
We need more dreaming about what could happen and less about what should have.
gg

Anonymous said...

Nacmom provides the perfect background for the situation in VRE. I'd like to add that SPS didn't really have a defined Spectrum model, and that VRE has changed its delivery model over the years to accommodate its changing numbers and population. I applaud the Principal for actually trying to meet the needs of the students. All students. While being accused of lack of transparency, I believe that she is actually trying to better communicate the changes planned. The way of communication can be improved for sure, but it is a start. For a couple of years a very vocal anti-Spectrum group of parents has tried to dismantle the self-contained classrooms, and now the time is ripe. I am not sure how much differentiation goes on at VRE, except for reading groups in the lower grades and the walk to math, my children never experienced it.
The Walk to Math has worked for most, and those who feel their kids are not challenged enough move on. My family had an overall good experience at VRE in academic terms. Spectrum is a label that should be gone, but addressing the needs of AL, and every other single student should not. Thanks to the teachers at VRE for their willingness to adapt. Thanks to Ms Skjei for trying to meet the students needs, it is not an easy job.
-Former "Spectrum" Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll have one last comment.

For most on this blog, it's about their child or their school. That is not the case for Charlie and me and that's not just because we no longer have children in the system.

We are activists who are looking at the big picture and what this means for all schools. What it means when parents are told one thing during Open Enrollment and come to the school only to find the principal changed a program.

The big picture is that the AL program is mostly uneven and unclear. There is no stated policy.
There is no clear vision and this despite three taskforces.

I have repeatedly said that I have no problem with Spectrum going away if I thought the structure were there to replace it.

It's fine if most VR parents are happy with the changes. They may even make sense.

But I have to wonder if incoming parents are being notified about these changes. I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Incoming parents were not promised self-contained classrooms. The tours focus on what is currently happening, but no one in the administration makes promises for what may happen in the future. It can be frustrating for parents who like to plan, but Ms. Skjei and others do a good job keeping only to known facts. The delivery model changes somewhat every year.

--hopeful observer

Lynn said...

This is equivalent to showing up at your child's elementary school in September and learning that your principal believes split grade classrooms or single gender classrooms are best. Nobody promised you that wouldn't happen - but you should be able to assume major changes will be announced before you commit to a school for the year.

Decisions about how advanced learners are served should not be made based on the opinions of families whose children are not in the program. This is equivalent to my expressing an opinion about about how children should receive special ed services in my child's school. My role in that discussion would be to listen to and support parents who know best what their children need.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, nobody is suggesting that the principal made the changes because of pressure from any parents, but rather because she is looking for a way to better serve her student population. If you attended VRE you would know that the changes aren't dramatic. And yes, thanks to the NSAP the schools can't control the number of kids they accept and the school has ended up at some point with split grade classrooms.

While this "flexibility" might be best for VRE, having a walk to math or a walk to read or a walk to whatever subject is not equivalent to having a Spectrum program.

Does VRE need a Spectrum program? (And as it has been pointed out often enough in this blog, what does that mean anyhow?)According to the last report card 35% of its students are AL, so for sure it needs to meet the needs of these students. (And no, not 35% of the students live outside the attendance area). An ALO designation is what should come next to make it clear what the school offers.

-- FSP

Anonymous said...

"ALO designation" - don't make me laugh!
As many parents with kids in "ALO" schools will tell you, the ALO label is not worth the paper it's written on.
I'm not saying spectrum (whatever that actually is nowadays) is the only way to provide accelerated curriculum to kids capable of doing it, but I'm pointing out the until the district introduces a universal, well-defined, rigorous ALO program and ensures/supports its consistent implementation throughout the district, the "ALO" designation can mean anything or nothing at at all.

ALOad of BS

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

Copying this anonymous post from above because, well, the blog really needs to understand that this mentality is quite prevalent out in the community.

NE Reader

first they make advanced learning sound like special ed by calling it "enclosed classroom" then they dumb it down with the term"inclusion" and you get a classroom designed to move at the lowest common denominator. Have you ever tried to teach like that? It is totally unfair to the students who are interested in education. Principals that support inclusion are using lingo to set an adjenda of conformity and lower expectations. Do not trust them

Anonymous said...

I'll add that I do not support self-contained Spectrum or self-contained APP precisely because these programs do not support cognitively capable children who do have need of an IEP or 504. Nor do they recognize asynchronous giftedness. These policies leave behind many students who would strongly benefit from access to a curriculum tailored to their capabilities.

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

Would love to buy you a beer for that signature, ALOadofBS.

I think even our principal would laugh at that one.

Knee deep

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE parent, one of my sons is twice-gifted and he was in Spectrum. I don't think having a Sped student negates being in APP or Spectrum.

Anonymous said...

I get what you are saying, NE Parent, but as a parent who has a student with disabilities in APP, you are wrong to suggest that there aren't students in APP or spectrum with IEPs and 504s. There are.

I agree with you that there is an issue both with identification of academically gifted students with disabilities students in general and those who are academically advanced in either math or reading, but not both. But I don't see how dismantling self-contained programs would help those students.

I would be all for keeping the cognitive screening for APP but getting rid of the achievement portion. We need enhance access for students with disabilities to advanced learning rather than dismantling it for everyone.

Parent

Anonymous said...

NE Parent: You have the luxury I don't. If I wrote what you wrote, I'd be crucified. I'm not allowed to advocate against anyone or anything, because I'm an AL parent. In fact, I have to advocate for everyone else's kid, or I'm called selfish. (Well, I'm called that anyways, along with elitist, exclusionary, etc.)

The double-standard is so prevalent and embedded in these discussions, I simply marvel at it sometimes. Schadenfreude, I guess. But I still don't get it.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

No one seems to be aware that SPS is bringing a new Spectrum program online next year at Lowell ES. The district added this so that there was one Spectrum feeder school for each middle school and with Meany MS coming back online they needed one in the Central part of town. The nearest Spectrum program was at Leschi before this, feeding to Washington MS.

Here is some info that a friend shared with me. Not sure of the source.


Spectrum coming to Lowell in 2014-2015

The Lowell Elementary School Spectrum Program (to begin in the 2014-2015 school year) will meet the needs of advanced learners through 1. Various modes of instruction, 2. High intensity experiences involving immediate feedback, questions, challenge and supports from teachers, and 3. A variety of activities and instructional practices.

The Lowell Elementary School Spectrum approach is guided by and will be implemented to address the following:

1. Provide a rigorous curriculum.
2. Provide an accelerated curriculum that focuses on student proficiency in grade-level expectations and one grade level beyond or more in reading and mathematics.
3. Bring district-identified academically-gifted or academically highly gifted students together through cluster-grouping strategies to form classroom rosters.

The Lowell Elementary School Spectrum approach will build heavily on the existing school-based Advanced Learning Opportunity (ALO) instructional framework and will incorporate the research-driven and evidenced-based WIC-R (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration and Reading) methodology to accelerate and target student learning in math and literacy.

Writing is the method we use to advance ourselves academically. It is not possible to write what we cannot think. Writing is a reflection of the thought process. It allows ourselves and others to understand what we know and don’t know so that we may work together toward better understanding. Writing about all academic subjects and sharing that writing with others helps us make huge academic leaps.

Teachers model effective learning process skills by discussing, writing, and editing along with and in view of their students. Students receive instruction in writing-to-learn strategies, the writing process, and timed writing. Students experience a writing program that stresses prewriting, drafting, responding, revising, editing and post-writing activities. This approach parallels the thinking process and allows students to clarify though and organize experience. It provides a graphic representation of thought and enables students to review, revise, and extend thinking, often serving as a catalyst for cognitive jumps.

The writing strategies that are most necessary to the implementation of Spectrum at Lowell include Cornell notetaking, Learning Logs, letter writing, and essays. Students are taught Art Costa’s Model for Intellectual Functioning. They use these questions in their Cornell notes and in their learning groups. Helping students to develop these levels of Inquiry prepares students for more rigorous coursework. Guided by teachers, students involved in project-based learning (PBL) activities are led through a range of thinking processes which are based on the assumption that students need not acquire one type of thinking before progressing to another. In PBL groups, students work through the different problems or questions. Time is given for discussion that helps them to “pull their thoughts together” to reflect on how their work relates to major course concepts. Socratic dialogue is routinely used to help students engage in all levels of critical thinking, pursue understanding with mutual respect and be willing to be persuaded by arguments and/or evidence more powerful than their own.


-- Ann

Anonymous said...

(The final part I had to trim, too many characters)

Lowell Spectrum continued:

Collaboration is promoted by providing a forum in which students are simultaneously nurtured and challenged. Whether they are working in study groups or sharing their writing in reader-writer workshops or readarounds, students know they can trust other students to both support their learning and to provide another source of feedback and new ideas. Students are taught to debrief their group efforts in Learning Logs, articulating bothwhat they have learned and what they hope to do more effectively the next time they are together. Collaboration augments one’s learning and illustrates the power of synergy.

Reading provides a basis for instruction in the Spectrum program model. Students receive instruction in reading-to-learn strategies to access rigorous curriculum. Students are exposed to reading from a sociological perspective, as they read the words on the page (as they read and interpret the world in which they live).

WIC-R Methodology Overview:
Writing
· Prewrite
· Draft
· Respond
· Revise
· Edit
· Final Draft + Publication
· Dialectical Journals
· Learning Logs
Inquiry
· Costa’s Levels of Questioning
· Socratic Seminar
· Project-Based Learning Units of Instruction
. Quickwrite Discussions / Intro to "Sociological Imagination"
Collaboration
· Group Projects
· Study Groups
· Jigsaw Activities
Reading
· PREP (Prepare, Read, Evaluate, Practice) strategies
· Reciprocal Teaching
· Think Alouds
· Reader Response
· Vocabulary Building


-- Ann

Anonymous said...

Stevens ES on Capitol Hill had a reading block schedule starting in first grade, with some in-class reading group work in kindergarten. This year they also instituted a math block schedule. We didn't stick around to see how it went. I have heard from a few first grade parents that the method of identifying and grouping was imperfect at best and that kids were not being allowed to work up and that some behavior issues started with students who weren't being appropriately challenged. I keep hearing of little boys who think their dumb because their teachers give them work that is too easy.

Still, might be worth connecting more with the Stevens community to learn more about what works and doesn't.

-- Ann

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said...

WSDWG,

I would not crucify you and I don't believe self-contained Sped parents would do so.

However, I don't doubt that spitballs might fly your way. I agree with NE Parent. Plus I see s/he is expressing her opinion in a neutral manner. But I understand your reticence.

Howsoontheyforget said...

Terri Skjei misleading? Say it ain't so!!!

Skjei was the infamous principal and assistant principal 2002-2007 during the Shayne Hill molestation debacle at Broadview Thomson.

http://seattletimes.com/html/education/2004456273_hill04m.html

Several teachers reported Hill's behavior to Skjei and she told teachers they need to handle it, not her.

Glad to see she's still doing such a great job.