Thursday, September 11, 2014

Proposed Advanced Learning Policy

I now have a copy of the Advanced Learning policy brought forward by staff. It is essentially identical to the proposed policy that was roundly rejected by the Board about a year ago. It hasn't gotten better with time. The proposed policy is little different from the WSSDA model policy, which is crap.

The policy fails to fulfill the minimum requirements in that it does not say what kind of students HC services are for, it does not say why they need HC services, and it does not address the requirements of policy 2090:
The Board requires efficiency and effectiveness in all facets of its operations. In order to achieve this goal, the Board shall provide:
A. A clear statement of expectations for the district's instructional programs,
B. Staff, resources and support to achieve the stated expectations; and
C. A plan for evaluating instructional programs and services to determine how well expectations are being met.
 The full text of the proposed policy is after the jump.



It is the policy of the Seattle School Board that students identified as Highly Capable or Advanced Learners shall have the option of being served by services or programs that address their academic needs through differentiated curricula.

Highly Capable Students are students who exhibit markedly greater than average potential or ability in cognitive ability, in specific academic achievement (in reading, mathematics, social studies, language arts), or in exceptional creativity in cognitive functioning and/or academic scholarship.

Advanced Learners are students who demonstrate above average achievement and cognitive abilities that warrant enhanced opportunities in grades 1-8 to reach their potential. Such students may be served either in c depending upon site.

In order to develop the special abilities of students identified as Highly Capable, the District will offer Highly Capable Services which provide Kindergarten through twelfth grade students selected for services access to basic education opportunities that accelerate learning and enhance instruction. The framework for such services will encompass, but not be limited to, the following objectives:

A. Expansion of academic attainments and intellectual skills;

B. Stimulation of intellectual curiosity, independence and responsibility;

C. Development of a positive attitude toward self and others; and

D. Development of originality and creativity.

The Board will annually approve the District’s highly capable plan application to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which will include: the number of students the District expects to serve by grade level; the District’s plan to identify students; a description of the highly capable services goals; a description of the services offered; a description of ongoing professional development for highly capable services and general education staff; service evaluation and fiscal report; and assurances that the district is legally compliant.

The Superintendent is authorized to develop procedures consistent with state guidelines for nomination, assessment and selection of children of demonstrated achievement or potential ability in terms of general intellectual ability, academic aptitude and creative or productive thinking, in order to implement this policy.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

This policy is atrocious.

It doesn't say what kind of students the HC services are for. Are they for students with:
  • markedly greater than average potential in cognitive ability
  • markedly greater than average ability in cognitive ability
  • markedly greater than average academic achievement in a specific domain (reading, mathematics, social studies, language arts)
  • exceptional creativity in cognitive functioning
  • exceptional creativity in academic scholarship
Are we going to assess for all of these? I don't think so.

How do the goals for HC services, namely "Expansion of academic attainments and intellectual skills, stimulation of intellectual curiosity, independence and responsibility, development of a positive attitude toward self and others; and development of originality and creativity" differ from the goals of general education? Wouldn't we want this for all students? How is this any different for HC students? What is it that we want for HC students that is different from what we want for general education students? Anything?

There is no explanation of why HC students can't be served in a general education classroom. Unless, of course, the district wants to acknowledge that these goals are not pursued in general education classrooms.

There's no explanation for why advanced learners warrant enhanced opportunities in grades 1-8, but don't warrant advanced opportunities in grades 9-12. Do they stop being advanced when they enter high school?

The policy shouldn't dictate the delivery model "either in self-contained classrooms or in cluster groupings within general education classrooms" for Advanced Learners (Spectrum) as it does. You'll notice that it doesn't dictate the delivery model for HC services. That's stepping beyond policy-making and into management and administration. Especially since the policy in this case doesn't actually set any enforceable rules, it's a waste of ink.

The policy references "cluster groupings" without defining it. What the hell is a cluster grouping? It sounds like a fungus.

The policy shouldn't commit future Boards to approving the District's highly capable plan application, it should only commit them to considering it for approval. The policy can't require a specific voting outcome.

This policy would allow the superintendent to base the selection entirely on creativity. Is that what the Board wants? The superintendent could base the selection on "productive thinking". I don't even know what that is.

This policy is dreadful and the Board should reject it - just as they rejected a proposed policy almost identical to it last year.

The staff have spent almost six years developing this policy and all they bring forward is the model policy language from WSSDA. Really? That's all they have to show for their time and effort?

Why is the staff writing policy anyway? Isn't that a Board duty? What other Board duties are the delegating to staff? Oh, right. All of them.

51 comments:

show me the beef said...

I think the cluster portion wasn't copied over from the policy as I couldn't find it. I assume they are saying that there should be cluster grouping (small number of advanced learners per grade level in a class/per building - mini cohort) or self contained as is the current "APP" model.

Anonymous said...

The descriptions of HC and AL students don't make much sense, and don't fit with how SPS currently determines eligibility.

Also, the policy starts off with a reference to differentiated curricula. To be in compliance, shouldn't there have to actually BE curricula for HC students--curricula one could then compare to non-HC curricula?

Finally, what's with continuing the stereotype that HC kids are a bunch of memorizers who don't think creatively, and who have negative attitudes towed self and others? It sound to me like whoever wrote the model policy had a bit of a distaste for these kids and their "special abilities." Some language revision would help here, as would inclusion of context re: why these are issues for HC (and AL?) kids specifically.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

The district policy is so vague that it will allow for virtually anything.

Beyond that, I don't understand how the Seattle School district policy can written for services for 1-8 grades only. Here is what the Washington State law says:

"WAC 392-170-078
Agency filings affecting this section
Program services.

Districts shall make a variety of appropriate program services available to students who participate in the district's program for highly capable students. Once services are started, a continuum of services shall be provided to the student from K-12. Districts shall periodically review services for each student to ensure that the services are appropriate."

-pickle

Greg said...

It's incredible this is what they come up with after six years. Someone should be held accountable, yes. But also would it be worth it to talk about what reasonable language for the policy would be?

I attempted to rewrite the draft policy, but found that, once I cut everything that was meaningless, there were only a couple sentences left and too much still missing. Maybe one option might be to go to the WAC language and use some of that? If we did that, maybe something like this could be considered for a draft of the policy?

-----

The Board requires Highly Capable students in the District have access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction.

Highly Capable students are students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels.

The District shall identify highly capable students with a clearly defined process using multiple objective criteria including referrals based on data or evidence from teachers, other staff, parents, students, and members of the community.

A continuum of services shall be provided to Highly Capable students from K-12. Within the limits of the resources available, each student identified as a highly capable student shall be provided educational opportunities which take into account such student's unique needs and capabilities. Teachers for Highly Capable students shall have training, experience, advanced skills, and knowledge in the education of Highly Capable students.

The District shall annually review services for each student to ensure that the services are appropriate and provide a report to the Board. The report shall include data to determine if the services provided met the academic needs of Highly Capable students.

-----

How is that?

Anonymous said...

It sounds so fuzzy, but the wording is really similar to other districts and seems to be based on the WSSDA model policy.

See Bellevue's Gifted Program, for example. Bellevue's program specifies that instruction will be delivered by "teachers with training or experience working with gifted learners." I would like such a requirement to be part of Seattle's policies.

Anonymous said...

Greg and all--Without the Superintendent procedures written, all of the important and critical details are left undefined. The Policy is meant to be overarching to some degree, and it is in Superintendent procedures where the details get specified more clearly.

The WAC requires:

"Selection of most highly capable.
Each school district's board of directors shall adopt policies and procedures for the selection of the most highly capable students by the multidisciplinary selection committee. Such policies and selection procedures:
(1) Shall not violate federal and state civil rights laws including, without limitation, chapters 28A.640 and 28A.642RCW;
(2) Shall be based on professional judgment as to which students will benefit the most from inclusion in the district's program; and
(3) Shall be based on a selection system that determines which students are the most highly capable as defined under WAC 392-170-055, and other data collected in the assessment process."

It is SPS policy that that superintendent procedures accompany board policy, especially on "controversial topics"

I think we can all agree that Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning is a highly controversial topic.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that was me above, sorry.

And here are the relevant excerpts from SPS policy:

http://tinyurl.com/Policy-1310 POLICY ADOPTION & SUSPENSION; CREATION OF MANUALS & SUPERINTENDENT PROCEDURES
Relevant excerpt: "The Superintendent shall develop administrative procedures (called “Superintendent Procedures”) to facilitate the implementation of Board policies.
Such procedures need not be approved by the Board, though it may revise them when it appears that they are not consistent with the Board's intentions as expressed in its policies. Procedures need not be reviewed by the Board prior to their issuance; though procedures are to be provided for information to the Board committees and may be tested periodically by the Office of Internal Audit. On controversial topics, the Superintendent is encouraged to request Board input prior to issuance."

I think they should be writing up the Procedures at the same time as the Policy so that the Board and community have time to review and confirm that they meet the intention of the Task force recommendations.

But I don't know if this is happening. I was at the C&I meeting, and it wasn't clear.

Eden

Anonymous said...

I would they'd want to start with something that explains why they need such a policy in the first place, them express their commitment to serving these kids well. Something along the general lines of:

Research indicates that students who are highly capable have different learning styles and needs than typical students... Provision of appropriate services to HC children is considered basic ed and required by state law. SPS is committed to providing appropriate services and learning opportunities to support such students.

Then it could go into a list of the basic things they need do, e.g.,

"The district and its staff shall...

-develop policies and procedures for the nomination, assessment, selection and of the most highly capable students, including an appeals process. These must be submitted to the school board for approval (per WAC).
-conduct outreach to families to inform them of any planned identification activities, and to ensure that those interested are aware of the nomination/app/selection process.
- provide a variety of appropriate program services available to identified HC students grades K-12, which take into account such student’s unique needs and capabilities. Appropriate services are those that address HC students' needs for accelerated and sufficiently challenging instruction, as well as those that address social and emotional needs.
--provide professional development to ensure teachers serving this population are trained to address their unique needs.
-- evaluate the effectiveness of these services every 5 years, including the selection process, fidelity of program implementation, impact on student learning, and student/family satisfaction.
-- annually develop a highly capable plan application for submission to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This shall include...The plan shall be submitted to the Board for review and approval prior to submission to OSPI.
-- and anything else I've forgotten...

Then that bit about authorizing the Supt to develop specific procedures...

Greg said...

Well, maybe I don't understand what we want in a policy. I thought my version covered what Charlie said was needed from policy 2090.

Specifically, my draft had a clear statement of expectations (access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction for K-12 that take into account such student's unique needs and capabilities), staff and resources to support (teachers trained in highly capable learning), and evaluation (annual report showing academic needs are met). Personally, I'd be thrilled if the district acknowledged APP should be all grades K-12, should not be limited to two grade levels ahead maximum, and that teachers must have additional training to teach APP students. Wouldn't you? I also like that the policy I drafted echoes the WAC, as it makes it hard for the district to argue with it, and makes staff out of compliance with both the Board and State when they fail to achieve it.

I do think it is useful to attempt to draft new versions of the policy if we think the offered policy is poor. Perhaps someone else would like to give it a try?

Anonymous said...

Not to pile on, but I think so many parents are used to complaining, but don't know what a good advanced learning program/policy looks like. We have friends who moved their kids to the Shoreline program. What astounds me is the level of information available.

Here's there policy:
http://www.shorelineschools.org/school_board/policy_manual/content/2166.pdf

It includes things like requiring a plan for professional development for teachers, for clear guidelines, for a committee to make selection. For an ANNUAL plan.

Then here's the information about the program (and note that it is available in multiple languages at each school).

http://learn.shorelineschools.org/spec/hprogram

I encourage Seattle parents to check it out - it has some great ideas as to what to advocate for. A clear, thorough mission statement. There is a clear point of contact for questions, and I know from experience there is a prompt reply. Also of note: advanced learning newsletters that go out, an information night for parents (can you imagine?), a student contract and expectations to be signed each year, a probationary program for kids not performing up to the standards, guidelines for testing and appeals, and for re-entry into the program. A defined, articulated scope and sequence (a curriculum) of what is covered in each grade. Documents with links about gifted learners. Links to all state codes/RCWs. There are even links to each individual classroom teacher's curriculum/agenda. Talk about transparency. And you know what? There is just no controversy about the program there. There isn't the hatred of advanced learners, which I feel like Seattle has with its "secret society" of APP. It's clear in Shoreline if you deserve to be in, and you have to keep up to continue to be in it.

Can you imagine if our APP/HCC schools had an information night each year about what to expect from the program each year? If you got a newsletter with latest developments, such as finding out which teachers attended the annual gifted teaching conferences, and brought back learnings? If we learned about curriculum changes to things like Language Arts/SS and were sent info on how best to support our students? If our kids had to perform up to standards or be put on a fair and reasonable probationary status?

So many missed opportunities. SPS doesn't even have to reinvent the wheel...why not look at some other districts and make some changes? I do not understand why SPS can't get this under control. It is not hard to see why the program is in decline. And APP parents get a bad rap for being crazies, and hated by the district. With good reason - they have made us nuts! We're sick of fighting for every scrap of accommodation or even the most basic things, like, um a building, or a library or access to a class. We all have PTSD. Fix the system - and parents will get out of the district's way. My friends in Shoreline are so pleased with the program, they never have to complain, or advocate, or show up at board meetings with signs. They just send their kids to school and they get adequately served. Imagine that.

-Rare Commenter

where's the beef said...

"Personally, I'd be thrilled if the district acknowledged APP should be all grades K-12, should not be limited to two grade levels ahead maximum, and that teachers must have additional training to teach APP students. Wouldn't you?"

YEP!

Lynn said...

Rare Commentor,

What do you mean when you say the program is in decline?

Anonymous said...

Lynn, talk to an old timer, and you'd hear about just how much APP has changed since the first round of splits.

ben said...

Is everything really better up in Shoreline? I do like their website layout more than ours but the policy to my read is nothing remarkable, more a small variation on the OSPI language that had to be implemented. (For that matter so is the SPS version.) I dug around their program descriptions and it sounded a lot like self-contained Spectrum. It was unclear how differentiated they were beyond a year ahead in math/reading. On the other hand I don't know anyone actually in it and there may be more here than meets the eye. I do agree with your main point however that I'm not entirely sure what an ideal program really would like that could actually be implemented.

Anonymous said...

"creative or productive thinking"

Hopefully that means students who who do not test into an AL service or program will have another avenue of access. Teacher, principal or parent nomination perhaps. Seems like it could be used to give traditionally underrepresented groups increased presence. Otherwise, it would take an affirmative action matrix of some sort to add points to a students test scores based on various factor like income, language, even race.
The way this policy is written it would be up to the super to decide subjectively who gets in without the minimum test scores.
Bruce

Anonymous said...

Bruce, do you think that's the talent part of G&T? The Seattle metro area doesn't really emphasize the creative aspect. We get more STEM/IB + orchestra/band emphasis. High Schools offer electives like video production and drama for those with creative outlets, but we don't have magnet schools for the arts/dance like some cities.

reader

Anonymous said...

Ben,

Not saying that it is perfect, but yes, I think it's better than ours. And in watching the implementation there versus ours. I think that our APP in its heyday was superior (and had the 2 year in advance thing) but it no longer does. APP is now about a year ahead and even that is in theory. Comparing my APP kid's middle school experience to our friends in Spectrum MS, I found zero difference, and in fact, in many ways their experience was more rigorous or in depth. I believe this was because it was really up to individual teachers rather than following a curriculum. None of my kid's teachers in APP middle school had any professional development in teaching gifted students, which all of the Shoreline teachers had. (And I note, all the APP teachers we had in elementary school who had training are all gone now. Every single one. I can't speak to whether any of the current elementary school teachers have gifted ed training. Please ask. I don't believe they are supported by the district this way. Seattle was the only regional school district who didn't send anyone to the national conference - Shoreline and Bellevue sent several, and they came back and brought new methods to their colleagues. (We follow our friends' experience closely). So while we have lip service that APP/HCC is "really rigorous", I haven't seen it, especially in middle school. I believe that if there were the attention to the program (things like newsletters, information nights, yearly plans) there would actually be a change, as it would be someone's job to pay attention to the program. Right now, by their own admission, all Advanced Learning at the stanford center does is testing. No curriculum development, no professional development. You're right, the policy may not be perfect - but it's being followed and their program is thriving. As for the program in decline - just ask anyone who remembers the old Lowell days. Our program still sounds like it's superior (2 years ahead!) but the reality is, it's not.

- Rare Commenter

Anonymous said...

@reader

My guess is this is a way to put kids who can't test into APP another pathway. Based on a nomination, the AL office can look at a student and determine if the service or program is appropriate and the superintendent can place the student. I don't know about artistic parts of the CogAT.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a place for music prodigies, if any come along.
I think it also let's the superintendent pull in poor and ELL kids who teachers identify as needing AL service but who can't make the test scores.
Bruce

Anonymous said...

@Rare,

They haven't. And I've got at least one teacher I know of who has asked every year.

-Daddio

Anonymous said...

When it gets down to it, it isn't about the stated curriculum or even the cohort. It's about the teachers' willingness to challenge the kids academically and creatively. If you find that staff ** and you should definitely shop around the year before you make a move ** then you'll be in good hands no matter the state of HC downtown.

The program does not have to be in an HC either. Mine went to TOPS recently enough that most of the staff is still there so I assume my assessment is current: K5 didn't meet my kids' needs but 6-8 more than fit the bill. They started HS extremely prepared.

veteran

Anonymous said...

For the past three year, the APP teachers at Lincoln (at least) have had professional development specific to advanced learners. It was paid for completely, I believe, by the PTA. I don't believe it was in any way comprehensive, and mostly focused on math, but there was training. Not from the District at all. The school had to pursue it independently. Sign.

- McCleary

Anonymous said...

When you have such a high percentage of students in the program and there is no monitoring of student progress--coupled with a dysfunctional district like Seattle--the result is a watered-down and ill-defined highly capable program.

Whenever it is brought up that APP students who stay in general ed. currently do at least as well as those in self-contained, some reply that the emotional component is not being addressed in those programs.
When I have brought up that self-contained students should be monitored for appropriate services (as those in special education are), some reply that test scores should not interfere with self-contained eligibility.

Yes, Lynn, APP has been watered down significantly. For those of us who advocate for appropriate services for students, being repeatedly told we are against these students has become commonplace on this blog.

You can't have an excellent program when no one wants the boat rocked. Not rocking the boat is what the district is currently choosing to do with this watered down program.

--enough already

Charlie Mas said...

There should not be any program anywhere in the district that is not evaluated for its effectiveness. This is Board policy, but it isn't happening, most notoriously in advanced learning, but also in option schools, language immersion, and a number of other programs.

Likewise students in programs - all programs - should also be periodically evaluated to confirm that the program is the right academic opportunity for them. This is done formally in some programs, informally in others, and not at all in many.

Lynn said...

enough already,

You are interpreting Rare Commentor's statement I do not understand why SPS can't get this under control. It is not hard to see why the program is in decline differently than I did. (Did you not notice that I asked for clarification?) My reading was that because the program is so ill-defined and under-supported, parents are no longer choosing it. That of course would make no sense as enrollment is growing.

The program is not academically challenging for many in the same way that the gen ed curriculum isn't challenging for many students. Providing students with an academic challenge isn't a priority in this district. We aren't meeting the needs of the brightest students in any classroom. If the solution for APP is to remove the children with the lowest test scores, is that also the solution you'd like to see in gen ed classrooms?

Children have to have high math and reading test scores before they enroll in APP to qualify for the program. Why wouldn't you expect qualified children who don't move to APP to continue to have high test scores? These kids score well on tests whether they're challenged in a classroom or not.

Parents aren't moving their kids to the program to improve their test scores. They're enrolling their children so that they can learn something new at school every day, so that they don't become perfectionists, and yes - to increase their chances of having classmates who share their interests.

If there are students in APP who can't keep up with the pace in the classroom, it would probably be best to find a program that is a better fit for their abilities. I don't think that's what is happening. I think there are plenty of students in APP who don't find the work challenging. Their classmates aren't holding them back. The solution is to provide more challenging work.

Lynn said...

Shoreline has a Student Expectations Rubric that is used to determine whether a student in their HC program is placed on academic probation.

Rare Commenter and enough already is this how you think we should evaluate students for continued program placement? It not, what would you suggest?

Anonymous said...

Parents do not choose APP for the program. There is no effective program to speak of. Academic rigor has been much less than we got in gen ed. Parents choose the program so that the kids in APP can meet each other, work together and challenge each other. In many cases it is a revaluation for kids to meet other kids with their interests. That has been the best part of APP - ask any APP parent.

Do not even think that APP program popularity is an indicator of success. The program and curriculum is a mess.

-ItsTheCohort

Anonymous said...

ItsTheCohort,

Agreed. In every way, but especially after elementary. And yes, I think there should be some method to see if kids are appropriately placed if they are not maintaining certain standards. But since we have no curriculum and no ongoing benchmarks, that would be impossible. There is only one initial test and that's it. I understand people's frustration with APP with it's "in it forever" nature, but it's just a symptom of the problem that APP kids get nothing in the way of an advanced curriculum once they are in. All they have now is the cohort - which indeed, is worth a lot. But I would gladly take a probation program because it would indicate that there was actually rigor and depth in the program that could potentially be too challenging for a few, who would then be appropriately served in a robust Spectrum program. Ah, dreams...
-Rare Commenter

Anonymous said...

@ McCleary,

I asked last year about any HCC-specific training that my student's (new) teacher received. I was told there was math training on providing extensions for gifted learners for math teachers only, but no school-wide introduction to gifted ed teaching. I'm hoping that with a new description of service delivery models, that can be considered on the top of priority there. Other states require a gifted ed endorsement; if WA doesn't, there should be substantial professional development on it. At a bare minimum.

-Daddio

Anonymous said...

In the cohort,

Highly capapble cohorts exist because, when done correctly with the students who need them, they typically help students learn. Schools exist primarily to help students learn.

Having a group of students like your student, without enriched teaching or better academic outcomes, is not a legitimate reason to have a program that is separate from the general population in a public school.

I appreciate your candor, but it unfortunately reinforces all of the reasons why the program is not up to par for the students it is intended to serve.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Having a "great cohort" for some, for the sake of the cohort alone, that approaches 20% in some regions of the city, means another cohort will be disproportionately minority, disabled, and impoverished.

Mathie

Anonymous said...

"Having a group of students like your student, without enriched teaching or better academic outcomes, is not a legitimate reason to have a program that is separate from the general population in a public school."

I think you're wrong on this one. If these kids learn differently from other kids and have different needs, that's actually a fabulous reason to have a separate program. In fact, that's why the state requires this group receive special services, no? We can argue about how best to right-size the program and what criteria to use for inclusion, but the fact remains that there is a group of kids at the upper end of the cognitive abilities scale who just can't be served well in a typical classroom.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

HIMSmom, as someone that has harped about the deficiencies of APP curriculum, do you really believe the cohort is enough? Really? We chose APP for the promise of more challenging academics. It has not lived up to our expectations. Having the cohort is supposed to make it possible to deliver the content at a more accelerated and challenging level.

It should be both - the cohort and more challenging academics - not an either or. If you just have the cohort, without the more challenging academics, that's not providing gifted services.

sheesh

Anonymous said...

@ sheesh, I absolutely do not believe the cohort is enough. Far from it. The cohort is WHO gets served, and then there needs to be an appropriate WHAT--the service. A challenging academic program should be at the heart of that.

I think my previous statement was confusing because it was addressing others' comments, and out of that context doesn't seem consistent with my prior, often strong, viewpoints on the importance of rigor. I'll try to clarify. In the ideal world--or even just in in an adequate world--there should be an especially challenging curriculum, delivered to a small cohort of highly gifted learners. In the current SPS reality, the academic challenge is absent--but that's no reason to then say the cohort isn't needed either. At least it's something. Not enough to be acceptable, but better than nothing.

HIMSmom

Charlie Mas said...

HIMSMom hits the nail on the head.

The students should have the appropriate academic opportunity. In the absence of that, they should at least have the cohort.

Right now they aren't getting the challenge they need from the district, the schools, or many of the teachers. Since all the community really has is the cohort, and since the only part that can really be assured is the cohort, the community has promoted the importance of the cohort beyond its actual value.

The cohort isn't so prized for its own merits; it is prized because it is often all the students have and, without that, they have nothing.

Charlie Mas said...

In this way, the cohort is a lot like acceleration. While I think everyone would like advanced learning to mean deeper and broader, those qualities are hard to measure. Acceleration, on the other hand, is easy to measure, so that's what we get even if that's not what we want most.

In a similar vein, the rigor of the curriculum is difficult to measure and it is even harder to assure. A cohort, on the other hand, is easy to measure and to assure. If we demand a cohort we can tell if we're getting it or not. If we demand rigor we can never know if it's there.

Let's remember that the District refuses to evaluate these programs for quality and effectiveness despite promising just such an evaluation.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

A cohort in and of itself is not a legitimate value in a public school when it does not produce intended educational outcomes. A cohort in and of itself is illegitimate at best, and illegal if it is non-sanctioned segregation.

A cohort has been determined to have value for highly capable students when it is embedded in a structure where the curriculum promotes deeper thinking and the teachers are trained. The legitimate goal is to meet the educational needs of the students who need a cohort or self-contained program.

Test scores are one measure of the effectiveness of APP or any program. APP-qualified students in general education often have better outcomes than their counterparts in APP.

The fact is that the program has too many students, they are not monitored for progress, and no one wants to rock the boat. APP is a watered down and that is clear. The large "cohort" is actually part of the problem.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

The larger APP cohort is a direct result of the destruction of Self-Contained Spectrum, and the subsequent exodus of families voting with their feet.

The simplest way to ensure quality is to keep self-contained Advanced Programs, like them or not, because all other AL has been, and will continue to be, abject failures.

There will always be kids in every school who perform near the top, no matter what program they're in, but they will be outliers just like many APP kids within the program. That doesn't mean a regular classroom suffices for any & all AL kids.

That the district excluded qualified kids via waitlists and lack of space arguments is the failure of the district to support students and families in need. It is not the fault of any students or families who got in.

But as long as we have Shauna Heath and other self-containment blamer/haters in SPS, APP's decline will continue.

Okay, critics. Go ahead and pounce.

WSDWG

Lori said...

Test scores are one measure of the effectiveness of APP or any program. APP-qualified students in general education often have better outcomes than their counterparts in APP.

Even if this were true, it would be meaningless because of the inherent selection biases at play. Highly capable kids who thrive at their neighborhood school likely different in significant and unmeasurable ways from their counterparts who don't thrive in that same environment.

If we really want to test whether self-contained APP is "more effective" than neighborhood placement on producing "good" test scores, we'd have to randomize the students to attempt to control for confounding variables. Or maybe do propensity score matching to reduce confounding, if in fact we had any way to measure those factors that lead some parents to choose APP and others to stay local.

But as it is, as long as parents have a choice to stay or move, it isn't appropriate to compare the two groups as if they are similar and conclude that one produces better outcomes than the other. The groups are inherently biased.

Anyway, it's a tangent, but I've seen this claim made before and felt it needed to be addressed.

Anonymous said...

In response to Enough Already:

When comparing APP kids in the self-contained program to APP-qualified kids in their neighborhood schools, one also needs to look at the neighborhood schools those kids who stayed are in. While not all neighborhood schools differentiate, some do. Kids who get their needs met in any school, tend to achieve higher scores on tests - surprise!! So, a blanket statement like "APP-qualified students in general education often have better outcomes than their counterparts in APP" should have lots of qualifiers. As we know, schools vary tremendously in this district.

I also don't know where you get "no one wants to rock the boat." That is not my experience. I was very happy with my child's early elementary experience nine years ago, but APP Middle school was so bad that we left. i think lots of people "want to rock the boat," but the problem becomes what would that actually look like? If a third (or whatever) of kids were removed from the program, what elementary schools would have room for them?

If schools around the district were strengthened, fewer people would choose to leave their neighborhoods for APP, not to mention the improved outcomes for the larger number of students who didn't test into APP. When my kid entered the program in 1st grade, they were the only kid from their school who did. Now, lots of kids leave that school for APP because the education at that school has declined over the past few years. The growth of APP proves people are not happy with their neighborhood schools.

It's easy to talk about the "large "cohort" is actually part of the problem," but it's much harder to talk about the myriad problems that caused this to happen in the first place.

-pickle

Anonymous said...

The growth of HCC(APP) is from several causes.
Kids not getting challenged at neighborhood schools(absolutely number one reason)
Easier to get in.
Increased awareness of the program.
Program is seen as a "better" education with better results, i.e. better colleges.
Problems at neighborhood school, some related to rigor, some to personality conflicts, some with the child not fitting in.. The difference with HC parents is that they can be more demanding and go to HCC schools if not satisfied.
Schools are often happy to lose the harder to teach HC kids and their sometimes difficult parents.
Some, I'm sure it's a miniscule number, see a certain status in having kids "go to Lincoln" or "go to Hamilton APP" or IBX or Garfield.

It's not wrong to want to be in the program and perhaps with alignment and differentiation strategies, clustering, walk-to's, etc., more parents will choose to stay local.
I believe most parents want to be in their neighborhood and would work with their school to make it healthy place for advanced learners.
As far as self contained Spectrum, it looks like it's on it's last legs. I don't see why we need self-contained classrooms at local schools when we have program that almost any high ability kid can access.If schools can get it together and create sufficient levels of rigor in mixed classrooms, then more kids will stay and HCC will shrink on it's own. HCC enrollment will illustrate how well the district does at providing service for HC kids at neighborhood schools.
B

Anonymous said...

@B: You make a lot of good points that I agree with, and since the return to neighborhood schools, it would seem that parents are better-positioned to demand proper rigor in their classrooms. But the legacy and mindset of social promotion, above all, remains, which tends to hold accelerated and HC kids back. Many of the arguments against self-containment center around keeping HC kids and families at schools as a resource, which is not aimed at their betterment, but the theoretical betterment of "all kids," etc., etc., which means, essentially, using certain kids and families as pawns for one purpose or another.

It cuts both ways, because if everything worked right and as it should, we wouldn't have such a large and growing HC cohort, which indeed may pull resources and focus from potential AL in neighborhood schools. But, on the other hand, the AL opportunities that were promised by Bob Vaughan & Co so many years ago, never materialized in any form or fashion at 95% of neighborhood schools. Take that, along with killing Spectrum instead of opening it up or genuinely running it as a true cluster grouping model, and in the end, who can blame parents or kids for opting for APP?

Perhaps the most common reason I've heard among parents in a dozen years in APP is that the local school didn't or wouldn't do anything at all to accelerate or meet their child's needs. Period. Too bad. Tough luck. Go somewhere else if you don't like it. So, many did, and who can blame them?

There's a lot that can be done to make AL services better in SPS, including to APP/HC. But the history has been 99% talk and 1% action, and we shouldn't be diluting and weakening APP if we're trying to be fair to all students in SPS.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Agree, the onus is on the district and the neighborhood schools to step up and provide effective service for HC students as well as a welcoming environment for their families. Not to use the families or the students as a resource, but accept them as the parents of students with extra needs, just as they would welcome SpEd families.
Just bear in mind, both the school and the HC family have the HCC card to play, which is unique and potentially can cause either party to get impatient.
B

Charlie Mas said...

I agree with Enough Already. There is little virtue in the cohort by itself. Some, but not really what people need.

The problem is that absent the cohort the community doesn't trust the District to provide anything at all. This distrust is well earned.

The District will have to earn trust if they want to dissolve the cohort. The District hasn't shown any interest in earning trust, so the community isn't going to allow the dissolution of the cohort.

Anonymous said...

Charlie: With the cohort comes the environment that some kids desperately need to feel part of a group, and not isolated or marginalized. Much of the special needs aspects of many HC kids is provided by the cohort itself. One of my kids may not need it, but the other was miserable and suffering in a Spectrum classroom before she moved to APP. And it was such a different environment that she fit right into, it should not be marginalized or discounted. Cohorts do matter, and not just for APP kids. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Lori,

I anticipated a response like yours when I wrote my comment.
Thanks for Statistics 101 tutorial.

The return to neighborhood schools would be the largest
inhibitor of your potential study since many of those schools now have populations that are incredibly similar to APPs. That would actually be comparing oranges to oranges.

Also, since the population at APP is so large and, therefore not a discrete "nerd culture", the influences that would contribute to the effects of a personality-homogenous program are also dissolved.

Of course, some may argue that putting a large group of demographically similar children together for the sake of being together is a great way to educate children. That is one reason people choose some private schools.

--enough already


Melissa Westbrook said...

"I believe most parents want to be in their neighborhood and would work with their school to make it healthy place for advanced learners."

And that's if your school wants to work with you. My experience was that the principal said there really wasn't anything they could do for my son.

Granted that was a long time ago but we see today that many principals have very different opinions about serving advanced learners.

All the things you list that need to happen to make parents want to stay? Quite the list.

Lynn said...

enough already,

What are the changes you think neighborhood schools could make to meet the needs of highly capable children? I believe many families would prefer to keep their children closer to home.

In the north end in particular, the fact that there are 700 children enrolled in APP @ Lincoln (with it's less than optimal facility) tells us that the neighborhood schools aren't working for many. As the demographics are similar to many of the schools children leave, we can't assume that's the reason for moving.

It's my observation that the nerd culture in APP is alive and well. It's not every kid - but it's much more comfortable to be nerdy there than in many other schools. Have you seen something else in these schools?

Anonymous said...

B's descriptions are honest ones. I agree with enough already re: cohort for cohort sake comment. As to nerd culture, there is still a pecking order within HCC. That doesn't go away probably for the reasons B stated. There is also a nerd culture in many, many schools! There's one in Southshore and Franklin which I can testify to where staff and teachers welcome and nurture these kids. The drawback with cohort and homogeneity is they can limit perspectives and foster myopia.

reader

Anonymous said...

Lori is right, though. There are differences between children that lead parents to make different choices(the children I know who stay are primarily easier to have in classrooms, and have parents who can spend more time and money on outside supplementation, for example).

I think until the system of evaluation of schools and teachers changes to incentivize teachers to do something for advanced learners, local schools will not consistently provide anything for them. The constant call to send families back is purely punitive. I know you see us react negatively, ea, when you mention this, and it is because we all have tried for several years 100% fruitlessly at our neighborhood schools, and I would guess all have a high degree of certainty that everyone going back would do absolutely nothing. The schools would just keep saying no, and those kids would have to repeat several years of material. I don't agree that there is no curriculum. I agree it is weak, should move faster, and should be more differentiated. But it is a better fit than 2 years behind it would be (gen ed).

I had a teacher tell me once at a first grade conference that I should be very happy my child had finished standards for the year, and that she had no measurable goals for the child, who could just "relax and have fun." Many other children in that class were in the same boat, and everyone asked for something educationally to happen for their children. Nothing did, and there were no consequences to the school or teacher. The teacher teaches the same way to this day- the goal is to get 100% of children to standard, and that takes 100% of her time.

If a low performing or average student does not make progress, it brings test scores down, and negatively affects the teacher and school, so everyone's goals are aligned. IEP's have teeth. But if an advanced student learns nothing new, their tests scores will stay high, and nothing happens. You can ask until you are blue in the face, but there are no consequences to the school if they tell you no, so they are just going to tell you no. They are overtaxed doing the things they have to do. So the only way they are going to be taught anything new is if either the principal has made it a personal mission to teach advanced learners (unlikely if the school is crowded; it certainly happens sometimes) or the teacher, out of the goodness of his or her heart, decides to use their free time to do something extra for that child. Some of them do, and those people are saints. We have been so lucky to have several of those teachers. Education cannot be based on charitable mood and uniform sainthood of every person who enters the profession. All other learners have systems of accountability in place to make sure learning happens. Not pure standardized test scores, but more personal assessments, too, like the one Lynn posted above. They don't always work, but they are there, and I see evidence of it with my children who are not advanced. Not all our teachers have been great, but we haven't had to have superhuman teachers just to get those kids educated. They can just be good people trying hard, and it mostly works.

I would also be happy to see app (excuse me, "hcc") shrink, but We shouldn't accept punitive action toward any group. If you actually want it to shrink, advocate increased rigor at neighborhood schools. Some sort of yearly progress goals for each child, no matter how advanced. Standard walk to math up to two years, everywhere. Stop having ceilings on reading assessments at 1 year above grade level, and then have books in the classroom at actual measured reading levels. People don't want to move their kids. If there were options at neighborhood schools, they would stay. When neighborhood schools were less crowded, more people stayed.

I am not holding my breath, though, because the only thing that has kept NE schools from exploding is that they offload so many kids to app. I can see this starting to happen in other parts of the city now, too.

-sleeper

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