Monday, August 11, 2014

OSPI HC Program Requirements

On another thread, nitpicker referenced the Highly Capable Program Requirements for All Districts document produced by OSPI. The 2013-2014 school year was the transition year, so everything is supposed to be implemented and up and running at the opening of school in a few short weeks. We're likely to be missing some required elements here in Seattle. And that's saying something because the OSPI has set the bar really, really low.

Here's what's required:

1. Districts will have a plan for identifying and serving highly capable students Grades K–12
APP is a 1-8 program, not K-12, so there will be two big changes here.  The District is going to have to allow eighth graders and high school students to test for APP eligibility. The District is also going to have to add services for second semester Kindergarteners and for high school students. IBX at Ingraham would probably qualify, but the "cohort model" and access to AP classes starting in grade 10 at Garfield isn't going to suffice. Also, they will have to provide highly capable services at every school where HC students enroll. Not all of the schools can claim to offer a "cohort model". The District is actually, for the first time, going to have to do something real for HC high schoolers.

2. Districts will establish policies and procedures...
Seattle Public Schools doesn't have a policy for Highly Capable Students. They did, policy D12.00, but the Board voted to suspend that policy on January 29, 2009 and never voted to un-suspend it. Even if D12.00 were an active policy, it doesn't meet the requirements of the law because it doesn't set the criteria for selection of the most highly capable students. There are no procedures at all and never were. The District is going to have to adopt a policy and the superintendent is going to have to write some procedures. Once that's done, students, families, and the community will be able to demand those procedures be followed. In the absence of procedures there has been no assurances of any kind for APP families and students.

I'm going to take a moment here to repeat another frequent theme of mine: the decision of what kind of student should be selected for the program - high cognitive ability, high performing, creative, leadership, etc. - is a policy decision, not a pedagogical one. It is a decision that the Board should make, not one they should delegate to the superintendent. The Board needs to step up and make the policy decisions and those decisions need to come BEFORE the procedure decisions reflected in the recommendations from the ALTF.

3. Districts are required to submit to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) an 
annual plan...
This requirement isn't hard to meet, mostly because the OSPI will accept pretty much anything as "a plan". I think it could be written on a cocktail napkin. You will notice that there are no benchmarks for the required elements for the annual plan. The elements can be as vague as the district likes.

4. Districts must make an annual public notification... of identification activity.
Again, no benchmark for effectiveness. Any public notification will suffice. No one told anyone south of downtown about the process for APP eligibility? That's because everyone says it is someone else's job.

5. Districts must have clearly-defined written... selection system procedures in place.
We're getting new ones from the ALTF. Whatever they may be, the superintendent will have to document them in a superintendent procedure. The current procedure is not actually written anywhere.

6. Districts must use the multidisciplinary selection committee for the final selection.
The District has always had this. You should read the WAC on who has to be part of the committee. A special teacher - or not. A person with expertise in cognitive tests - or not. Someone else - or not.

7. Districts must obtain written parent/legal guardian permission before testing students
The District has always done this. And it has long been seen as an obstacle to program diversity. This requirement has been the obstacle to universal testing.

8. An appeal process.
The District has always had this. And it has long been controversial.

9. Districts must make a variety of appropriate program services available to students...
I suspect the District will fulfill this requirement by claiming that ALOs provide HC services for students who qualify and choose not to enroll in APP. There aren't any real benchmarks for the quality of service.

10. Districts will keep on file a description of the educational programs...
This will require schools to describe their ALO. The District hasn't been 100% successful with this in the past. I don't think the OSPI will enforce this requirement (or any other).

11. Districts are required to submit to OSPI an end-of-year report...
The District has always done this. The report says almost nothing. There are no benchmarks for the report.


7 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The District is going to have to adopt a policy and the superintendent is going to have to write some procedures."

We can only hope as we have hoped for better for oh, the last decade. I won't hold my breath.

ALOs - in general - are a joke.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm jaded because we've been so disappointed with APP to date, but I still don't understand why everyone thinks the district will need to make big changes at the high school level. Yes, identification of HC kids needs to occur throughout, but in terms of actual service delivery, where does it say big changes are needed? Where does it say that HC services need to be available at every high school? Who says SPS can't just say "We have two high schools with HC services, and all qualified students are allowed to enroll in those. Kids who test in at any point during HS can transfer to one of those schools, or they can take AP classes at their own HS. Heck, we'll even throw in some extra counseling, a once-yearly check-in to make sure their social needs are being met if they stay at the non-APP school." Why doesn't that meet the requirement? I ask, because that is my understanding of what the district has been leaning toward. Nothing more. I'd love to be wrong though, believe me! Can anyone point me to the language that says this isn't enough? The whole "making a continuum of services available up thru grade 12" thing doesn't mean they all need to be at every school...

I'm also curious to see if Board members will vote to knowingly approve an application that includes false information (e.g., existence of HC policy, availability of services at all grades, etc.). Are there potential liability issues for individual Board members if they approve submission of a grant that they know to include false information?

One of the requirements I'm particularly interested in is the one that reads "Districts will keep on file a description of the educational programs provided for students selected (WAC 392-170-080)." Can anyone actually describe the educational program currently called APP? It's not what's on the district's website, that's for sure. I asked our APP middle school principal to describe what makes middle school APP APP, and she couldn't do it--said I would know better than her since we'd been through it. Now that they are getting rid of most of the "acceleration" portion of the program, and given that there's not really a curriculum, nor do the teachers have special training in working with gifted kids, WHAT is middle school APP? We can describe who's in it, but isn't the more important part what the IT is???

HIMSmom

Charlie Mas said...

HIMSmom, good questions.

in terms of actual service delivery, where does it say big changes are needed?

I don't know that there will need to be much change, but the District is going to have to articulate how, exactly, they are meeting the academic needs of highly capable students.

It may well be that all they need to say is, as you wrote, "We have two high schools with HC services, and all qualified students are allowed to enroll in those. Kids who test in at any point during HS can transfer to one of those schools, or they can take AP classes at their own HS. Heck, we'll even throw in some extra counseling, a once-yearly check-in to make sure their social needs are being met if they stay at the non-APP school." But then they would have to provide the counseling session. Then all they would have to do is explain how AP classes constitute HC services and say what they are doing for the HC students in grades 9 and 10 before they can take AP classes.

As I wrote, this may be enough because the OSPI has set the bar very, very low and, even then, will not enforce any benchmarks.

"doesn't mean they all need to be at every school..." The services have to be at every school that has an HC student. That's because HC services have been redefined as part of basic education. So an HC student is entitled to HC services wherever they enroll because every school has to provide basic education.

I think there is now a small set of virtual bleachers where people are sitting and watching to see if the Board will knowingly approve a false application. "Are there potential liability issues for individual Board members? There is no liability for them personally, but the decision could be challenged in Superior Court and, if it were, the District would lose on a summary judgement because there simply is no policy or procedure that meets the requirements of the WAC. Of course, if that were to occur, the Board and the superintendent would just quickly make a policy and a procedure and then approve the iGrant application again.

"What is middle school APP?" That depends when you ask. The District re-defines it pretty regularly. The most recent version is described in some recent Friday memos to the Board. I'm not surprised that the Hamilton principal couldn't answer the question because it looks like the answer was written for the first time in that Friday memo.

ben said...

Do you have any actual cites for that Charlie? I took a look at the language on the OSPI web site a while back and it didn't read like that. The closest you get is:

"Each student identified as a highly capable student
shall be provided educational opportunities which
take into account such student's unique needs
and capabilities. Such program shall recognize the
limits of the resources provided by the state and
the program options available to the district,
including programs in adjoining districts and public
institutions of higher education"

There is no guarantee of services on site where the student starts after being identified from my read. I think this is the just same as the way spec-ed is run. You may be offered instructional models that are only available at specific sites in the system, the district probably has to provide transportation but that's as far as the requirements go.

Ben

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ben. Per the WAC specific services are not required at every school the identified HC student attends. The district is required to offer "educational opportunities" that a parent may or may not choose.

The new HC policy should have preceded any work done by the two task forces. None of it is valid without a Board approved policy. How can these two work groups even exist without a policy that directs the Sup? I know these groups put in many hours but policy should guide the work. It's all ad hoc.

NGC

StringCheese said...

Any chance that the needs of single-subject HC children will ever be met?

Charlie Mas said...

The Task Forces should have requested a Board policy to guide their work. In the absence of the policy they were put in the position to make policy decisions.

As for the HC services at any school with an HC student, I get that from the inclusion of HC services as part of basic education. I could be wrong. I do know that every elementary school is going to have to be prepared to deliver HC services in the second semester of Kindergarten.