Sunday, May 31, 2015

What's Happening at your Middle School and Spectrum?

I got a query from a parent about changes coming to Washington Middle School and its Spectrum program.

The parent stated that he/she was not able to attend the PTSA meeting where this was presented but that it seemed to others to be fairly vague and no one is really sure what is coming.  The parent also asked:

I see that there are similar changes happening at McClure, so wonder if this is district-wide?

Well, the district has said very, very little about Spectrum and is seemingly allowing principals to chart their own course. 

(Editor's Note: It does very much look like the district believes they can DO everything in one classroom and provide ELL, Sped and AL services.)

That certainly might be the goal but seriously,

- where the PD/certification for all this specialty teaching?
- where's the IA for classes with this number of challenges?
- with what class size?  Because once you get over 24, that's a big class with many kids who need particular services)

Back to the subject at hand, what are you hearing/seeing at your middle school?

(And, as per usual, any comments not on topic will be deleted.)


Anonymous said...

This isn't middle school but at my elementary school, the principal has harassed (I don't know if we've got enough for a case but it is a reality to those of us experiencing it) spectrum teachers. My guess after reading about the MS situation is that schools are possibly attempting again to dismantle it and are trying to move out those teachers in favor of younger teachers. I suggest that because I know at my school we are the more veteran teachers.

I think it is time the union showed up. It rarely does for elementary teachers. What a crummy thing to do to good teachers. I feel like a


Anonymous said...

I have heard that there will be NO self-contained spectrum classes at McClure, Washington and Eckstein next year. The claim is that this is about making the master schedules more efficient. In theory the teachers will give extra work to Spectrum students and nothing else.

So watch the new race to see as many Spectrum students as possible get qualified for HCC. I remember a time, not long ago when APP qualified students preferred to stay local at Spectrum schools. Now if you want rigor it is HCC or nothing.

- spectrum is dead.

Anonymous said...

At Whitman ... only 6th grade LA/SS self-contained classes. After that, just "extra" work in a blended class.

N by NW

Anonymous said...

We are spectrum at Eckstein and have heard NOTHING about this. Where is the source/why would this not be communicated to spectrum families?

NE Mom of 3

Anonymous said...

This isn't middle school but at my elementary school, the principal has harassed... spectrum teachers. My guess after reading about the MS situation is that schools are possibly attempting again to dismantle it and are trying to move out those teachers in favor of younger teachers. I suggest that because I know at my school we are the more veteran teachers.

This sounds similar to what has happened to some veteran APP teachers (elementary and middle school). At JAMS, I believe there weren't enough students for self-contained Spectrum classes and the students might be blended with APP for LA/SS. APP/HCC LA/SS is more like Spectrum (and that's being generous), so you might say APP is dead as well.

MS parent

Anonymous said...

Melissa, the laws are clear that districts must "provide ELL, Sped and AL in one classroom" (whenever appropriate) which is why all three legally mandate a continuum of services model (including advanced learning in the WA state law). SPS isn't complying with the continuum of services section of the law for AL.

Also, unlike the federal madates of ELL and Sped, districts have large leeway on determining who qualifies for AL in their own districts.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Where does the State say anything about AL in one classroom? Spectrum is a district provided service, and not required by the State. HCC is the district created program (or service?) that fulfills State mandates for Highly Capable students.

Chapter 392-170 WAC

WAC 392-170-078
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.

WAC 392-170-080
Educational program for highly capable students.

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. Districts shall keep on file a description of the educational programs provided for students selected.

-the facts

Lynn said...

the facts is correct that WA state laws do not address advanced learners (our Spectrum students). There is no continuum of services requirement for advanced learners because the district created the term.

Anonymous said...


The new principal installed at WMS has an agenda. Tolley didn't put her there randomly. Spectrum classes are being disbanded for 6th grade there. She hates AL. She thinks it is.... Well, she said calling general Ed general Ed is demeaning. That's why that is now called scholars. Not all programs/services/students at WMS. Just gen ed. The teachers I've spoken with are happy about this change. They feel themselves to be guardians of the 'right way of thinking/doing/being", and that means making things look a certain way, as opposed to functioning a certain way.

The only reason Eckstein still has spectrum is when a different principal there tried to get rid of it, THE PARENTS pushed back REALLY, REALLY hard and were vigilante. Their advocacy efforts alone saved their program. But, who knows how long that will remain. Ability based grouping delivers results. For ALL. The evidence really is clear. The grouping may not fit the preferred narrative of whatever political agenda is going on with those in control, but, that's how it is. Evidence be damned. Data is irrelevant, because some folks care more about the optics or theory rather than the results.

Eliminating an achievement gap can be done 2 ways: support those underachieving intensively and specifically to help them grow to achieve high marks, or, cease to provide instruction to those achieving high marks and watch them sink. Cynical, but true. But hey, guess what, tamping down true spectrum hurts the economically less-resourced talented tenth more, because those working families can't afford to seek outside support for their kids to make up for what the District isn't providing. Those families don't have the luxury to partial home-school a single subject or two. So yes, squash spectrum like an undesirable learning tool in need of excommunication, and really, kids get hurt, but particular kids get hurt the worst.

WMS beware

Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough Already, yes, I know about those mandates. But clearly, that hasn't been happening. And the district says they would like every teacher to have ELL/Sped certification and I'm just pointing out that to do that - to serve every student in the classroom - you'll need more than words on paper.

There is a state mandate for AL services (otherwise APP wouldn't exist). If not, why are there transportation dollars for APP? Yes, it's true.

Lynn said...

The weird thing is that in three years when Meany reopens as a middle school, Washington Middle School will look like JAMS - lots of highly capable students and not enough Spectrum students to fill a classroom. She could have just waited it out.

Anonymous said...

I will say this for the first time posting to this blog: enough already is partially right! Every class room in Washington needs to be able to accommodate (when realistic) ELL/SPED/AL with appropriate learning-C&I. This is based on the fact that AL students are now considered basic education.

However that doesn't mean that the self contained classes in elementary or MS for spectrum or HCC program are not in compliance they are just what the Sup has chosen to do historically. Since the last revision of the HCC rules they remain the only service that has Sup support for self contained ES and a limited amount of self contained classes in MS.

Nothing has changed here and no I doubt that means that MS spectrum students will test into MS HCC in search of rigor. It may mean though that more MS will be pushed to add additional rigor for all classes. But that will be up to the schools.

To this post directly MS is just a ragged period of time with social/ emotional exploration being stunted by busy and boring school work to the determent of the love of learning.

I have said it before but here is how I see it breaking down. Before the State acknowledged that AL programs were basic education spectrum had merit especially for those with high IQ and limited achievement in math or reading. Going forward AL becomes the new SPED in that you can insist that your school provide services for your AL identified student and not spend hours on the bus each day. OSPI will monitor the schools for compliance. And parents will report/ advocate for their kids to get AL in every class room... Just like Sped/ELL

Concomitantly but still on topic, HCC will continue to be self contained in a couple of classes in MS and self contained ES because that program works best for all, is supported by the research and is the gold standard for the state when it comes to social emotional as well as academic achievement for the AL students as well as the district as a whole.


Lynn said...


There's a state mandate for highly capable services but Spectrum is something different. Here's a quote from the policy: The District identifies and provides appropriate instructional programs and services for students who demonstrate high academic achievement, but who do not meet the definition of Highly Capable. Such students are identified as Advanced Learners.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Lynn, you are right from my post above I used AL and HC interchangeably but they are not. It is confusing right?

To restate my prior post:

HC+ELL+Sped+GenEd = Basic education SERVICES, hence the need to change from APP which was by name a program which the Sup could get rid of at his will if not for the state mandate as mentioned above.

In addition, all those services should be available, where appropriate, in every classroom in the State.

Spectrum is a SPS program and as such is managed however the Sup and the Bldg see fit.


Anonymous said...

On the discussapp.blogspot blog some of us have devoted a number of conversations to middle school HCC standards. This applies to Spectrum because at some middle schools such as JAMS, Spectrum students have been folded into the HCC classes.

The consensus is that for HCC AND Spectrum students alike the quality and challenge of these so-called middle school advanced learning classes is advertising not reality. The level of discourse and academic expectations is at a general education standard. The reason for the lack of rigor is puzzling. I myself don't believe it is a grand plan to undermine the programs. Some middle schools with advanced learning have solid principals. The staffs seem committed and capable. And yet the actual classwork seems so lacking. The reading is not challenging. The discussion is not robust. The homework mainly isn't enriching and that is when there is any homework at all. The projects are few.

Seattle's private middle schools and optional public schools seem to offer more on the whole in their standard classrooms than advanced learning offers to kids who identify as needing "more." This institutional lack of rigor is quite odd and as a parent quite unsolvable I fear.


Anonymous said...

"The district identification process must apply equitably to all enrolled students and families from every racial, ethnic and socio-economic population present in the public school population they serve. Districts must review identification procedures to make sure student selection reflects the demographics of the area they serve."

More from the OSPI HC language. Compliance anyone?

--enough already

Anonymous said...

So much for the "you tested in for APP and (Spectrum until lately) during Kindergarten so you are in self-contained for the rest of your elementary SPS life (and significant parts of middle and high school) good ole days...

Again, from the OSPI HC mandate:

Not just a continuum of services, as basic ed. should be provided (rather than the go-to self-contained), but that: "Districts shall periodically review services for each student to ensure that the services are appropriate." The language provides for the changing academic needs (and need for change of placement) of the child and also addresses the need to exit HC when appropriate.

Again, compliance anyone?

--enough already

Anonymous said...

@enough already, what language are you citing? Where they seem to be out of compliance is in the actual delivery of an appropriate program with "accelerated learning and enhanced instruction" for those identified as performing or showing potential for performing at "significantly advanced academic levels" (see @Puzzled comment above). Per Washington Administrative Code (WAC):

WAC 392-170-012

For highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education. School districts may access basic education funds, in addition to highly capable categorical funds, to provide appropriate highly capable student programs.

WAC 392-170-035
Definition—Students who are highly capable.

As used in this chapter, highly capable students are students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments. Outstanding abilities are seen within students' general intellectual aptitudes, specific academic abilities, and/or creative productivities within a specific domain. These students are present not only in the general populace, but are present within all protected classes according to chapters 28A.640 and 28A.642 RCW.

WAC 392-170-075
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.642 RCW;

(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.

WAC 392-170-078
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.

-the facts

Anonymous said...

Complete chapter, "Special Service Program - Highly Capable"

-the facts

Anonymous said...

Look under the "Identify Your Highly Capable" section.

BTW, the program formerly known as APP (now HCC) is out of compliance
in terms of identification, delivery according law.

I should have read the law before! (I no longer live in these
parts). I've been stating these same facts about best practices
and the lack of diversity for a long time. Now I can quote the WAC
when people on this blog try to keep defending the indefensible.

It's great when the law catches up with the needs of the less
powerful. Sadly, history is full of people in power needing
laws in order to make them be fair and just. These APP and
Spectrum debacles are some of latest examples of such.

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll try to gently say this - I have been around a long time. I know the laws around HC. Yes, I know that APP the district's answer to a state mandate. Yes, I know Spectrum is NOT covered under that (and I have never said it does). Please don't try to explain HC to me. This is one place I stand on firm ground.

Enough Already, what would you have the district do differently around compliance? Because I think they are making a pretty big effort (compared to when I was there) in identifying students and reaching out to parents.

And again, when I was there, parents of kids who struggled would have a meeting with the teacher to talk about whether this was the best placement. One child in my son's class left. I don't know if they do that now; I would think a teacher/principal would do this to help a kid.

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

Enough already, let's say I can't read. I'd love to hear you explain what you think the district needs to do to be in compliance with the law -- please don't just say that they're not in compliance and we should just "read the law". It's a really simple question: What needs to be done? Why are you so loathe to answer it?

Anonymous said...


If you use the search engine (enough already APP), you will discover that I am anything but "loathe" to discuss what the district should have been doing years ago.

I'll restate it for you since you seem to be trying to make me the issue instead of the fact that the truth about HC legal non-compliance is now out in the open.

It's basically a Sped model applied to HC:

Identify using best practices (more than one test, more than tests if the other criterion strongly justifies placement testing criterion based on more than testing, consideration of the expected CogAT differences between socioeconomic groups), selection committee made up of range of professionals but led by HC specialists, have a continuum of services (like Sped), and do monitoring for placement (like Sped is required to do). There would also be an HC assigned to schools to monitor and deliver services to those who are not in a self-contained program. Look at the Fairfax,VA website for a very good example of a Sped model applied to HC (as I've also referenced on this blog more than once when I stated this same information)

Now, what about this lack of compliance, eh?

--enough already

Lynn said...

There have always been students moving out of Spectrum/APP when the programs were not a good fit for them. The law now requires the district to have a procedure for exiting a student from the program. Our procedure says this Students may be exited from Highly Capable Services if the services are no longer appropriate. A meeting of the parent/guardian, teacher, administrator, a representative from the Advanced Learning Office, and the student (at parent/guardian's discretion) shall precede such an eligibility change.

When I read the language requiring a periodic review of services for each student, I think it's meant to help students who need more intensive services than our current offerings. It's always puzzled me that anyone would assume that a child who met the HCC eligibility requirements at age five would eventually have their needs met by the general education program. What would cause that? These kids master new material faster and (if they are given appropriate instruction) the gap would be growing rather than shrinking.

The district's new policy and procedure were recently audited by OSPI and the only finding requires us to test students who are new to the district and provide services within three months of their enrollment rather than requiring them to wait a year. It appears that the state finds our identification process and self-contained service model to be completely appropriate.

Back to Spectrum in middle school. There is no law that disallows self-contained Spectrum but there is also no way to force principals to offer a self-contained program. If a program is going to be disbanded, the least they could do is allow current students to remain in the program through their final year in the school. It is never OK to change the program delivery method for the coming year after open enrollment ends.

Principals prefer heterogenous classes because they make adults feel better. Many teachers apparently believe they can meet the needs of all students in a single classroom. Advanced students and their parents generally do not agree.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have realized that this thread has gotten off track and I specifically said not to do that. I have two choices.

Go back and eliminate all the discussion that is not about the topic.


Wait politely and see if people can somehow restrain themselves.

I'm going to wait but understand - you were warned. It's rude to me to continue and it tangles up the discussion of the topic at hand.

Barry said...

Self-contained Spectrum is illegal as it denies sped students of a LRE. Nyland made that clear in his friday memo.

If Eckstein has self-contained Spectrum this year, it will be the last year, same for WMS, HMS and any other school offering self-contained Spectrum.

The district cannot segregate non-HC students and comply with state and federal law regarding Sped, so middle school as well as elementary will have no self contained spectrum next year. I would also think filling self-contained HCC classrooms with Spectrum or any non-HC students would be illegal, so no more blending at FP or JAMS.

OSPI is on SPS about Sped and LRE in particular, it seems, and Nyland showed what the district is planning to do about compliance when he showcased McClure's inclusive model. Self-contained will disappear from the delivery options listed for Spectrum soon.

Anonymous said...

Do any of the long-timers know why Spectrum was originally created? Was it an acknowledgment off the fact that teachers have trouble providing significant /appropropriate differentiation within regular classrooms? If so, it would seem that we'd continue to need something Spectrum-like, unless today's teachers are aldo magicians. Or was it created for other reasons? What were things like in the pre-Spectrum days?

And Lynn, you said earlier there's no way to force principals to offer a self-contained program. Sure there is--the district just has to require it and enforce it. It requires a commitment at the top, though, which we don't have.


Anonymous said...

MW, in favor of future positive discourse I would hope that you would delete all post about HC/HCC identification and delivery unless they tie back to the thread at hand: MS Spectrum and relevant facts pertaining to it. That should include everyone of enough already's post.


Barry said...


Wrong, the requirement for LRE does in fact make it illegal to have self-contained gifted classrooms outside of the HC program. Nyland made that clear. Spectrum has no legal standing in regards to being self-contained. It is not an option for any principal any longer. It's gone.

Anonymous said...

The conversation about what's happening in Spectrum really can't be isolated from APP/HCC. Changes in Spectrum delivery have created growth in APP/HCC enrollment, and the APP/HCC program is subsequently turning into more of a Spectrum level program.

The district AL committees decided to make no changes to the identification criteria for APP/HCC or Spectrum. It's kind of a moot point. The discussion is about what's being delivered for those students identified as Spectrum level. For JAMS Spectrum students, they currently have blended Spectrum/HCC classes. For the most part, they are HCC classes in name only. It is not comparable to the APP/HCC program at WMS. Will WMS follow suit, and eliminate what remains of the APP program there?

The posts that veer off topic are trying to correct the misinformation related to AL and Spectrum/HC. Delete if you must, but readers should be fully aware of what Spectrum is and isn't. HCC falls under different rules.

MS parent

Anonymous said...

If Spectrum is illegal, what about walk-to's? If all the Spectrum-eligible children walk to advanced versions of their core classes, is that allowed? How is that really any different?

Or is teaching kids at their own level no longer allowed either ?


Melissa Westbrook said...

HIMS Mom, Spectrum was originally a program called Horizon (also mostly self-contained). I'd have to go back and look at my files to see why the name changed.

My understanding is that many parents of APP kids did not want to go to the one APP site which was at Madrona. The program did not fit the school and APP got moved with John Stanford himself saying that APP should never share with another school. (As well, there were parents who did not want to leave their neighborhood and objected to the long bus ride.)

So you had some amount of APP kids not going to Madrona but who had to be served. Someone in the district decided to create self-contained classes at one school in each region. To fill them out, my perception is they took the next couple of percentage points down the list.

There was nothing stopping the district by keeping the APP kids in their neighborhood schools and providing services there but it didn't happen that way.

I don't believe that Spectrum is "illegal" but no, it's not under the WAC.

Lastly, I am the moderator of the blog and I have the last word on what is and isn't on topic. I am not going to have people who don't sign their names make references to my life and my kids when they don't know me.

Lynn said...


Can you provide a link to something that would explain that? (Not intending to be argumentative - looking for info.) It seems that if this had been declared illegal I would have seen some mention of that.

As for Nyland's showcasing McClure's change to Spectrum, he visits and reports on schools every week - this was nothing out of the ordinary. I am so far not impressed with his understanding of either the law or gifted education.

Anonymous said...

good article on how gifted and special ed can be served in the same classroom.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Melissa. So it sounds like the program's origin was more a political or logistical decision rather than one based on student needs and best practices? Why am I not surprised...


Barry said...

I can't find a court case on this issue, but one would think Nyland has something to back up his statement. It is logical that putting a third of a school effectively off-limits to sped by making self-contained "gifted" classrooms whose students meet no legal definition of "highly capable", would present a serious problem regarding LRE compliance.
A school could just as easily form self-contained "gifted artists" or "talented dramatist" classrooms that would exclude kids who don't pass whatever test the district dreams up. Spectrum is not a state or federal requirement, it is defined by SPS alone and therefore can't be used to deny LRE to SPed students.

I'll keep looking for actual case law.

Lynn said...

So your statement that self-contained Spectrum classes are illegal is based on Nyland's remarks? He does not appear to be very well informed (see signing the Gates grant without board approval) or very careful in his language when speaking spontaneously. It's possible that OSPI has recently ruled that self-contained Spectrum classes are illegal. It's equally likely that Superintendent Nyland just finds them offensive.

Schools do create self-contained classes for talented musicians at both the middle and high school level. Enrollment in higher level theatre classes can also be limited to students who have won a role in an upcoming production through a competitive audition process.

Lynn said...


Here's a link to some history of the Horizon Program.

This evaluation of the 1987 Horizon Program, a program for gifted and talented elementary school students in Seattle (Washington), found that the program had little cohesive form or substance. Horizon was developed in 1977 as a magnet program to encourage desegregation.

Anonymous said...

Same line of reasoning. Is differentiation within classes illegal? What if one student was assigned a book to read but another was assigned a book at a lower level? How about if children were given different worksheets? Wouldn't that violate the right of the children to the "same" educational opportunities?

This is silly, we must demand appropriate teaching to meet children's needs. We will be required to group at least roughly by ability because we can't afford a teacher for each student.

Instruction is a time based commodity, how many hours does your child get if the instructor is covering 5 different grade levels of material in every 6 hour day. Is that fair to anyone?

-West Parent

Anonymous said...

`As all kids gain access to a more fair and beneficial education through LRE, areas like music, drama and sports are coming under increasing scrutiny for lack of inclusion.
Much work to be done.


Anonymous said...

Grade advancement might meet the academic needs of many Spectrum students. I hope that option is offered by principals who eliminate basic educational services at their schools.

-West Parent

kellie said...

@ HIMSmom,

As Mel noted, Spectrum was the replacement for Horizon.

Horizon was primarily used as a desegregation program. We all remember these types of programs. Place an attractive program that focuses on rigor and place the program in a struggling, mostly minority and mostly poor schools.

Spectrum was the follow on program. Spectrum was was very similar in design but placed at a different type of "problem" school. Spectrum was to be an attractive program that focused on rigor and was placed in "under-enrolled" schools and all over the district. In other words, Spectrum was not restricted to the predominately lower socio-economic parts of town.

The distinction is that in the desegregation version, the program was (theoretically) strategical placed to mix up the socio-economics. Spectrum could be placed at schools that had a wide variety of causes for low enrollment.

Guess what! Spectrum worked! (to solve that capacity problem, no comment on the other items in this thread) Spectrum schools tended to go from NOT popular schools, to popular schools with a wait list in under 5 years.

Then along comes the NSAP and capacity issues and Spectrum effectively died with the passage of the NSAP. This is simply because programs like Horizon or Spectrum were designed to solve the problem of empty space at buildings. They were not really designed as AL programs. They were designed to be attractive to families that would most likely have moved to the suburbs or gone to private school.

Now that we have mostly full buildings everywhere, Spectrum is a thorn in the side of the master schedule. With no comment at all about the academic needs of students and from a purely operations point of view, most buildings are running beyond capacity and any program that restricts the ability to put any student in any class, reduces the building efficiency.

IMHO, you could have scheduled Spectrum's funeral during the change to the NSAP.

* First to go was 2-up elementary schools, because the spectrum / not spectrum split was too obvious.
* Next was the 3-up elementary schools, because it was impossible to divide up the grades evenly.
* Last would be the 4-up elementary schools, because they had some flex.

I think middle school spectrum limped along a little longer because it was still "capacity controlled" for the first two years of the NSAP. In year three, al Spectrum students were to get spectrum services and that meant you could no longer build nice even class sizes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, kellie.

It was indeed the NSAP that saw the beginning of the end. Now we're at the end of the end. We can argue til we're blue in the face if it's for the better, but it is gone and it has been said here many times that capacity drives program design so it should come as no surprise.


Charlie Mas said...

I think it's an interesting suggestion that the presence of self-contained Spectrum in a school prohibits an LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) for students with disabilities.

What, exactly, is the promise of an LRE? It's participation in an academic class with "typically developing peers"? Or am I wrong about that? Does the removal of the Spectrum-eligible students deny the students with disabilities access to academic experiences with typically developing peers? I'm not seeing that, but that appears to be Barry's position.

Enough Already makes a much stronger case when expressing concern about the concentration of students with IEPs in general education classes after Spectrum-eligible students have been removed. However I'm not sure how the addition of students with special needs makes the class any easier for the teacher. Of course, there are those who contend that Spectrum students do not, in fact, have any special needs, which undoubtedly makes it easier to answer that question.

In the end, the strongest case for dismantling Spectrum comes from Kellie: tight building capacities, and the fact that the students do not come in convenient 30-packs, do not allow for self-contained Spectrum. Too many butts; not enough seats.

Regardless of the reason - legal, pedagogical, or logistic - the fact remains: self-contained Spectrum is dead. Perhaps it is time to turn our focus to something a lot more important than our arguments for why or whether that's a good thing and pay attention to what really matters:

How will our schools meet the academic needs of students working beyond Standards? It doesn't matter why or how the students came to be working beyond Standards - aptitude, motivation, diligence, tutored up, whatever. What does matter is that our general education classrooms have a poor record of supporting work beyond Standards and little promise of improving that record. Unless you think it's okay for these students to go unserved at school or receive an inappropriate academic opportunity - in which case you're just wrong - you have to address the problem of how to serve them.

So what's it going to be? MTSS? Differentiated instruction? Project-based learning? Individualized instruction by computers? Grade skipping? It's really a fundamental question of teaching, isn't it? How to address the various and wide ranging academic needs of a classroom full of students? If ability grouping is off the menu, then what is Plan B?

I'm ready to concede that Spectrum is dead and HCC is wounded. So what can anyone offer to replace them? And, more to the point, why haven't we heard all about the replacement when the old solution was removed?

The District has wanted to dismantle Spectrum since Olchefske was superintendent. He was open about it. I'll say the same thing I said back then. Before the floating bridges across Lake Washington there was a ferry service. The bridges are way better, but the ferry service wasn't stopped when the bridges were proposed. It continued until the bridges were built. It's okay to replace Spectrum, but it makes no sense to dismantle it until the replacement is up and running. The District is eliminating the current solution before providing the replacement. The cars are driving off a half-built bridge.

Anonymous said...

I have the solution! Forced labor camp for spectrum kids- They could do manual labor until they are no longer ahead of the curve, and 16 hour days so they wouldn't have time to read. It would be kind of the opposite of what we did for children last century.

Really, we should have some public protest truancy cases to make a point. If kids are not taught, why mandate attendance?

-west parent

Anonymous said...

Charlie, the issue is that when removing kids in Spectrum makes a gen ed class go from an expected 10-14% (district average is 14%) kids on IEPs to 20+% and in some cases apparently closer to 50% kids on IEPs, then the kids on IEPs are not in "gen ed", they're in an inclusion class without the additional supports you'd expect and in many cases, it goes well beyond a standard "inclusion" model.

Some districts do offer inclusion classes where they have up to 25-30% of the kids in the class on IEPs with a gen ed and special ed teacher in the room the entire time to support the group. SPS is...not doing that. Just throwing a gen ed teacher and all of the kids on IEPs into a mess. It isn't LRE and isn't fair to any kid.

I think a lot of the self contained stuff just doesn't work well in elementary school, particularly not in the smaller elementary schools we have in Seattle. In middle school, you have enough volume for more segmentation without having such an adverse affect on others.

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

So the idea is that Spectrum students are needed to create a buffer so that the percentage of students eligible for special education services in a particular classroom doesn't exceed the district average. That's the criteria we look at when choosing an appropriate instructional model for advanced students?

That's nutty

Anonymous said...

Those federal laws that protect students with disabilities from being warehoused are such a bummer.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

I was told when I first entered teaching that Horizon was the District's answer to "white flight." So Kellie has confirmed that. Also, my first job was at a school to which "Horizon" was moved the year of my first contract. I didn't understand then what I get now: that that school was a poor, under-populated building. Once it became a "Horizon" school, within a year it was well on it's way to becoming a highly-desirable school boasting an active and productive PTA. It continues to be in high demand to this day.

Thanks, Kellie, for finally an informed recitation of the history of the program and it's raison d' ĂȘtre I've always wondered, and I sort of understand better the reasoning behind some of the changes. Too bad they don't think we "more experienced" teachers can't handle going back to teaching general ed.

I want to add that teaching high achievers isn't easy. The challenge is keeping them engaged. Many teachers I know don't want to teach Spectrum for two reasons: (1) unengaged students become behavior problems and (2) parents can be fussy. It's hard work keeping up with high achievers - I don't care if they are top two percent or top ten percent. They are different.

I guess I'm not a

Victim after all

Anonymous said...

"Too bad they don't think we "more experienced" teachers can't handle going back to teaching general ed." - s/b ". . . can handle going back to teaching general ed."


Anonymous said...

A self-contained Spectrum program gave parents (like myself) the illusion, at least, that their children were working at a level appropriate to their capabilities. In practice this varied from teacher to teacher, and some years were not very challenging or interesting.

Without a self-contained program, parents are going to have to monitor what their children are doing at school much more closely, and advocate much more frequently on their behalf at the school, as there will be a constant downward pressure on the level expected of students in blended classrooms. In my experience, schools hate it when parents do this and even with technology like Fusion and The Source, it can be very difficult as a parent to figure out what exactly their students are doing and being taught at school.

If you get an unresponsive teacher who is just punching the clock, there's little to nothing you can do about it. You can ask to be moved... good luck with that.

So like many other parents in this situation today, I suspect, instead of keeping our student in Spectrum, I would have moved to HCC, since that was an option. Now that our student has moved to HCC, we see it is not a rigorous as it was for our older student who already went through elementary school.

Wallingford Dad