Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Advanced Learning Task Forces' Recommendations

Advanced Learning Task Forces
Report & Recommendations                  
August 2014

The Advanced Learning Task Forces met for more than 50 hours during the 2013-2014 school year to studyidentification and service delivery models for Highly Capable students. They found that many aspects of our Highly Capable/Accelerated Progress Program work well and do not require changes. The task forces believe the current delivery model should remain in place with the recommendations below providing additional opportunities and direction to enhance equity of access to Highly Capable services.

This task force was not asked to address Advanced Learning programs beyond those for Highly Capable students. The task force recognizes, however, that Spectrum and ALOs are a valued aspect of Advanced Learning, and the District should continue to address the opportunities for advanced learners beyond students identified as Highly Capable. Enhancing those opportunities will ultimately benefit all students.

RECOMMENDATION 1Maintain existing delivery model.
The District should maintain the fundamental elements of the delivery model, which were affirmed by the task forces, including self-contained classrooms for Grades 1-5self-contained LA/SS and science classrooms in Grades 6-8; guaranteed pathways to regional sites with a concentration of students to form minimum cohort sizes;guaranteed seats at designated high schools for those who are identified as Highly Capable by eighth grade; and significantly advanced and accelerated learning opportunities. Additionally, the District should maintain the APP/Highly Capable Advisory Council.

RECOMMENDATION 2: Define the Advanced Learning Office’s role in services, programs and curricula.
The Advanced Learning office should provide guidance and oversight on: (1) consistent alignment of scope and sequence, curriculum and instructional materials for Highly Capable sites ; (2) specific mechanisms for evaluating AL programs and services, with metrics and checkpoints; and (3) programs and services that emphasize rigorous and fast-paced instruction that is deep and appropriately accelerated, providing differentiation without a ceiling. The District should provide adequate staffing and funding to allow AL to fulfill this recommendation.

RECOMMENDATION 3: Enhance the Advanced Learning Office’s role in professional development.
The Advanced Learning office should ensure that teachers and principals receive (1) professional development on the academic and social/emotional needs of Highly Capable learners, including twice-exceptional childrenwith appropriate recognition and validation for the training that staff receives; (2) regularly scheduled time for teacher collaboration across Highly Capable sites; and (3) professional development for secondary counselors on theacademic and social/emotional needs of HC students.

RECOMMENDATION 4: Improve communication from the Advanced Learning office.
The Advanced Learning Office should review its communication strategies with SPS families, teachers and administrators. This could include: streamlining and clarifying existing communications; finding additional ways to reach out to the families of all students who demonstrate potential (especially those from under-represented groups) about Advanced Learning; and giving increased emphasis to communicating the application, testing andappeals processes to ensure that all families understand all Advanced Learning opportunities.

RECOMMENDATION 5: Enhance equity in access to Highly Capable and Advanced Learning services and programs.
The District should provide additional pathways for identification of students who need Highly Capable servicesat all grade levels. In addition to teacher nomination and parent nomination, the District should investigate testing all kindergarten and/or second-grade students with an unbiased, non-verbal, cognitive screener (such as theCogAT screening form). In addition, the District should design and implement plans to support students who demonstrate potential for high achievement, especially those from under-represented groups (including special education and high-poverty students), through talent development initiatives. Details of administration and implementation would be developed jointly by the Advanced Learning office and the Equity and Race Relationsdepartment.

RECOMMENDATION 6: Expand Advanced Learning opportunities.

The District should ensure that all elementary schools have a Highly Capable plan, offering clear and consistent options and supporting teachers (through professional development and appropriate curriculum) in their implementation of these plans districtwide. Those services will be provided to those Highly Capable-identified students who elect to stay in their neighborhood schoolsThe District should ensure all HC-identified kindergartners receive services beginning mid-year in their neighborhood schools.

Middle school:
The District should investigate strategies for allowing students demonstrating advanced performance in a single subject area to be placed in advanced classes. Further, the Advanced Learning office will guide implementation of the aligned HC Humanities curriculum in HC middle schools.

High school:
The District should consider, in addition to the current high school programs: 1) developing and/or expanding college-level options, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB),Running Startindependent study, and early graduation at more neighborhood high schools. 2.) reviewingthe IBX program at Ingraham with the potential to expand it to other IB schools; 3) examining additional internship or mentorship opportunities.

RECOMMENDATION 7: Rename the Accelerated Progress Program.
The District should change the name of the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) to Highly Capable Cohort(HCC), within Highly Capable Services. Students identified as eligible for HCC should be designated as "HighlyCapable" rather than the current "Academically Highly Gifted.” This change would align with state language and eliminate the acronym confusion between APP and AP. The name change would also align with Superintendent Procedure #2200, which defines Service as “a supplementary support to basic education that is required by federal, state, or local law and/or regulations.” It specifies, Required services are Special Education, English Language Learners, and Highly Capable students, as defined by the state.” Procedure #2200 specifically defines Program as an educational opportunity that is not mandated.
NOTE: Consider HCC to designate the self-contained Highly Capable Cohort. And HCC/APP for use in transitional documents (web site, forms, etc.)

Report submitted by Stephen Martin, Supervisor of Highly Capable Services, on behalf of the second Advanced Learning Task Force after the 16 attendees of the August 8, 2014, meeting reviewed and unanimously approved the document.


David said...

On the one hand, I like these recommendations. They call for APP to stay APP, Spectrum (or something like Spectrum) to be expanded, and the Advanced Learning office to start doing more than just administering tests for entry to APP.

On the other hand, I suspect the only thing that will be implemented by the district staff is changing the name from APP to HCC. Changing the name is easy, highly visible, and has the appearance of doing something without actually having to do anything. I'm not sure much more will come of this other than a name change.

Po3 said...

Ditto David

Greeny said...

Maybe what is needed is a groundswell of support for the recommendations, or at least #2, which includes the critical piece: district needs to staff up AL to make real action on the rest even possible. Seems that StratPlanning and CFO ought to get their financial priorities better aligned.

Anonymous said...

Ditto Greeny!

That said implementing the WAC means there will be change in EVERY school. So David, much more is going to change and to do that AL (now already HC) has to oversee that including professional development, program monitoring and etc. I believe they are roughly doubling their staff, yeah! The other recs for SpEd/race/$/ELL inclusion and single domain in middle school are where we are going to have to fight. I say bring it on! Write your Board members, go to meetings and make sure these go through. I will. Also, I will fight for rigor for all. What about y'all?


Anonymous said...

Pretty much what was expected: keep self-contained for any qualifying student who wants it, make it possible for HC students to get service at every school as well.
However, will the there be two levels of HC in the future, those that must stay at their neighborhood school and some subset that qualifies for self-contained?
That's certainly been the trend in other districts with contentious self-contained AL programs. Is this a foreshadowing of such a change.

Lynn said...


We already have advanced learning services for students who are not identified as highly qualified. Are you seeing something in the recommendations that suggests we might add a third intermediate level?

Usually when someone describes APP as contentious they are indicating their lack of support for the program. I don't think of it as contentious. Most parents and teachers I know see the need for the program.

dw said...

Lynn said: Usually when someone describes APP as contentious they are indicating their lack of support for the program. I don't think of it as contentious. Most parents and teachers I know see the need for the program.

If that's true, I can only guess that you spend most of your time around other APP parents and teachers, because that's not the case around our fair city in general.

I say this not to antagonize, because I think you are one of the bright spots here on this blog, but if you spend time in various schools around the city, especially areas where students are more likely to be struggling than bored, you'll find a very different attitude. There is a great deal of animosity for APP, especially the self-contained nature. I myself have spent more than my share of time trying to explain why APP is not just a good thing for the advanced kids, but for everyone, but it's difficult for people to understand.

I'm pleased with most of the recommendations, but I have little faith that the district will do a good job of implementation (or un-implementing their horrible mistakes in recent years). The district seems hellbent on eliminating Spectrum and watering APP down to nothing. Regardless of this paper, I'm not optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Look at rec #1 APP is still APP but called HCC with the hope of broadening the reach to those that have been slipping through the cracks. Nothing is watered down. In fact there is work towards more merrit. And yeah LA/SS has changed but that changed with the splits and the loss of Ms. Shadow.

The Robinson's gave us a gift which was to think about each child as a work in progress. Now how do you deal with 50K in that manner? You don't. UCDS is paid 3x per kid and they barely make it with a 20th of the population. SCD will tell you they are close but in all reality they are just a cash register school. No one teaches IPP in this district.

Seattle has a ton of high IQ kids which is not a blessing or a curse. But these kids need service and just like any high need population, that service should be cost effective, scalable and overseen. Right now it is just cost effective. ((APP kids bring in more $ than other kids and yet require less in services throughout their k-12 time (not including identification which really has been paid for by the state). In fact, many have been tutors and student teachers before that was frowned on.))

These recommendations move us closer to the other two. Scalable and overseen; aren't they the same thing? Without one you can't have the other. 'Do it my way' principals have jeopardized the program's integrity post splits.
Moving forward TM,WMS,JAMS will have new administration hired by the old (sic intended) Soup ... Who knows. But with these recommendations we contain this mess. So much energy is expended over the handful of bad APP classes. But we are going to expand and our s&%@ sandwich is turning into a hoagie.

Rigor and depth should be what ever class offers. Thankfully that is now the law of the State. I will fight to insure the common sense recommendations move forward.


Carol Simmons said...

Thank you for posting the Recommendations and thank you to the Task Force for expanding the identification of students and their eligibility into APP/AL/AP/Gifted education.

Thank you also to Director Peaslee for her comments at the Compassionate School Conference and reported in the Seattle Times:
"The most important thing we can do for our students is make our schools work for them-not for us, not for the data-cllectors but for our children."

Lynn said...


Thank you for your kind words.

Maybe I am living in a bubble. An unusually high proportion of the students in my immediate neighborhood (and extended family) are highly capable. I see a lot of controversy here about APP - but I think that's because people are much more likely to take the time to complain about something they don't like than to write in support of something that doesn't affect them and that they aren't paying much attention to.

I too am concerned about implementation: Having staff available to monitor services offered and to create curriculum is great. I don't see anything that gives them the authority to compel principals to maintain program consistency though - and that is the problem. As long as the JAMS principal can create mixed APP/Spectrum classrooms and can decide whether to provide blocked APP LA/SS classes we can't count on any improvements.

Anonymous said...

Yes thank you Peaslee for attending a conference which has nothing to do with SPS. Thank you not holding any community meetings for your region in 2014. Thank you for not dealing with any real issues effecting students. Please keep up the good work.

boring board

Ann D said...

Can the parents and community not address the failings of spectrum and ALO by creating a plan and pushing it through at the board and school (BLT) level? Isn't community involvement in the schools part of the BLT mandate? If guidelines or a plan are needed can't it come from the community?

What would it take? Can it be crowdsourced?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you for not dealing with any real issues effecting students.

You can call Peaslee out for the community meetings but bell times? Testing? Student data collection? Native American program? She has been front and center on these and they affect all students.

Anonymous said...

Yep bell times, Hum lets see start times for high school went from 8:00AM to 7:50AM Just what the parents asked for. Do I thank her for that? No I can't because she now refuses to meet with parents.

boring board

Anonymous said...

Although ALO was a failure, I would not say that Spectrum was a failure, at least at our elementary school. It was working very well and was inclusive (meaning students could participate without testing in so long as they could handle the pace). Our spectrum program (which was administered by teachers dedicated to challenging the students - this is what makes the difference BTW) provided the students with excellent challenge. Then the district cynically eliminated Spectrum from our school, mid year with no warning. I feel that this was to move Spectrum students to an underperforming school to raise test scores without having to do any work to address student needs within the school (that's my conjecture). The APP program that my student is now in at HIMS is a joke. There is no challenge - no acceleration. APP parents are generally very disappointed in it. And students are forbidden from on campus self-study to remediate the problem.

I do agree with Ann D that, at this point, it would be better to develop an advanced learning program from the "bottom up". The district politics preclude the administration from effectively serving the students based on what I have observed.


Anonymous said...

ifaprogramworks, Regarding HIMS APP students, what specifically do you mean by: "And students are forbidden from on campus self-study to remediate the problem." ?

Anonymous said...

What I mean is that students must leave campus to access single subject homeschooling to provide appropriate acceleration and challenge. Students are not allowed to spend time in the library on self-study. We tried using the library for 30 min. of after school study but it was too difficult as the library is often closed after school for staff meetings. Since the district doesn't have the resources or the curriculum in place to challenge those students it would be helpful if they would make it easier to remedy the situation with creative self-study avenues. However, the bureaucracy seems too deeply entrenched to accommodate that.


Charlie Mas said...


Which school had Spectrum eliminated by the District? I don't recall the District directing the closure of any Spectrum program. In fact, the District is going to have to create some - at the new middle schools and at elementary schools in the new middle school service areas.

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, both View Ridge and Wedgwood claim that they can't have self-contained Spectrum because they don't have enough students to form the classes. If that's the case, then the District should consolidate the programs, right?

Charlie Mas said...

Recommendation #1: Keep delivery model.
This recommendation appears to contradict Recommendation #6 that calls for HC services for students outside the program. It also appears ignorant of the plans for a different delivery model at Fairmount Park.

Recommendation #2: Role of AL office.
Just what do they think the AL office can do if a school chooses something out of alignment with scope and sequence, curriculum, or instructional materials? The AL office has no authority to direct schools to do anything. I do like the requirement that they evaluate programs and services, but again, what consequences for programs that don't meet the benchmarks?

Recommendation #5: More equitable access. There are some parent/guardian approvals required for universal testing - and an expense. The talent development recommendation is a bit too vague to be effective and, again, the AL office and the ERR office lack any authority for implementation.

Recommendation #6: HC Services.
Here are the recommendations that contradict Recommendation #1. Like so many others, they will be impossible to implement, or, more precisely, impossible to assure. The people responsible for making it happen, the AL office, will have no authority to make it happen. Consequently, it won't happen.

Lori said...

I wish that the task force hadn't limited #6 to only Kindergartners as deserving advanced opportunities beginning as soon as identified. I get that they did this to be compliant with the new law that says services are required from K-12, but still.

It seems that all kids, once identified and once the parents have indicated that they will move the child to APP the next fall, should start receiving appropriate instruction for the remainder of the year. Not only would this help the child in the short-term, but it might translate into an easier transition to APP in the fall and less catch-up/repetition for the APP class.

It's a pretty common question from incoming APP families: how do I get my child ready for the advanced work? I believe that they shouldn't have to. The neighborhood school has about 6 months with that child prior to the transfer - why not start acclerating then, or let the child walk a grade up to math for the rest of the year? (and this is mostly rhetorical - I know the answers - class sizes already too big, no room for a student to walk to next grade's class, no teachers available for pull-out...) It just seems odd to think that only Kindergartners would benefit from such an approach.

Anonymous said...

Lori, all buildings will have to accommodate HC students with the new WAC - and that isn't limited to just Kindergarten.

Charlie there are no teeth you are right but if the Sup and Area Directors say it... The schools will fall in step. Now that is a very large if. In addition, they are rec's from a task force formed by a prior sup. Asked for by at least one former BD.


Lori said...

3inAPP, right, they will *eventually* have to support them but will they really make accomodations, change classroom rosters, etc mid-year? That's what I'm skeptical about. They only specifically say that Kindergartners will be served starting mid-year. I suspect, because it's not clearly spelled out here, that older children will begin to have their needs met the *following* school year, when it's "easy" to create new classrooms rosters with cluster-grouping or whatever the school intends to do.

But if anyone who was on the Task Force wants to chime in and say that indeed, the committee discussed and intends for #6 to apply at all grade levels, great!

Anonymous said...

That is the way I read the WAC Lori; once identified they will be served. Students in other grades will likely be served within the classrooms with the option to stay at the neighborhood school throughout.


Anonymous said...

These are still recommendations. We have yet to see what the District will change (or not change) based on the recommendations. Was there a Friday Memo to the Board?

How much has changed based on the recommendations of the 2007 (!) review of APP? Very, very little. The program has split, and will split again, still without a defined curriculum, despite suggestions from the 2007 program review.

SPS had posted two new positions for AL, so maybe there will be some work on curriculum, site alignment, and differentiation for newly identified students, but I'm not sure where it leaves this year's students.


Anonymous said...

I get the frustration Waiting. We all are. However the TF recommendations and the consultant recommendations in 07 where just that. The WAC has to be implemented this school year (passed in '11). It clearly states identification (and that will include something beyond achievement -MAP- and teacher recs) and interventions are needed for all HC students.


Lynn said...

Once a student has been identified as highly capable, by law access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education for them. How can we plan not to provide access to a basic education from February through the remainder of the school year?

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

The district website’s description of “Spectrum” doesn't fit the reality at Wedgwood. Wedgwood is a great school, but Spectrum exists in name only. (a) No self-contained classrooms; (b) Spectrum kids not clustered in a specific classrooms as far anyone will acknowledge; (c) there’s walk to math, but that’s for anyone that qualifies on the MAP; (d) nothing written about Spectrum in the office and I asked; (e) not a single handout, email or meeting the entire year for “Spectrum” students/parents from the teacher and I asked; (f) no specific Spectrum reading or other materials, beyond the differentiated materials that any child receives. Given the neighborhood school model, I would agree that the self-contained Spectrum classrooms probably no longer make sense. But they could still have a defined program and oversight, and they don’t. I’m guessing that they knew that if they said they were “eliminating Spectrum” there would have been even more of an uproar, so instead they've said they were changing it to a new model, which doesn't exist. It’s either incompetence or an intentional deception, and now the principal responsible for eliminating the program has moved on with kudos from the administration.

8/19/14, 10:08 AM

reposting for
-anonymous poster

Anonymous said...

Just read Wedgwoods website. It explains the transition to non self- contained or " integrated" classrooms. No big mystery.

Charlie Mas said...

"integrated" classroom = general education class

Self-contained Spectrum has been replaced with nothing.