Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Highly Capable News

The APP Advisory Group will have its first meeting of the year next Tuesday, October 6 at the library of Washington Middle School, 6:30-8:00 pm.

Our agenda will include an Advanced Learning report from Stephen Martin, who heads up Advanced Learning Programs for SPS, and an overview of topics for the year ahead.

To join the Advisory Committee's email list serve (and to see previous posted emails) go to and click the Join Group button. You can use that link for removals too.
 If that link doesn't work for you, you can email the groups communications Director at and they will get you set up or removed.
Two stories were on NPR this morning on what they call "gifted and talented" education.  They pretty much mirror what we see here in Seattle Schools.

Estimates vary, but many say there are around 3 million students in K-12 classrooms nationwide who could be considered academically gifted and talented. The education they get is the subject of a national debate about what our public schools owe to each child in the post-No Child Left Behind era.

When it comes to gifted children, there are three big questions: How to define them, how to identify them and how best to serve them.
2. How do you identify gifted students?

Research shows that screening every child, rather than relying on nominations, produces far more equitable outcomes.

Tests have their problems, too, says Kaufman. IQ and other standardized tests produce results that can be skewed by background cultural knowledge, language learner status and racial and social privilege. Even nonverbal tasks like puzzles are influenced by class and cultural background.
In addition, the majority of districts in the U.S. test children for these programs before the third grade. Experts worry that identifying children only at the outset of school can be a problem, because abilities change over time, and the practice favors students who have an enriched environment at home.

Experts prefer the use of multiple criteria and multiple opportunities. Portfolios or auditions, interviews or narrative profiles may be part of the process.
 I think that costwise, most districts could either switch to testing ALL kids or have teachers/parents submit portfolios or narrative profiles but both would likely be an added cost to just giving a test to those who sign up.  Frankly, I'm not sure most districts would want the added cost.
And then you have the issue of finding kids and then underserving them (as the story states.)

I think the bigger issue is how to get information out to underserved families.  I know the district has truly tried (to the point of looking up test scores at Title One schools and calling families, only to get rebuffed) and I myself have done research but I truly have not found a system to finds AND enrolls more children of color in gifted programs.  If you have any thoughts or have done research, let us know.  (But let's be clear, APP as a separate entity is not going away and serving those kids is pretty much done this way throughout the nation.  As for Spectrum, if we had lower class sizes and differentiated curriculum, I'd have no probably doing away with Spectrum.

But as the article says, in the end, you get most gifted kids in a class and they receive very little in the way of "gifted" education.

3. How do you best serve gifted students?

This is the biggest controversy in gifted education. Peters says many districts focus their resources on identifying gifted or advanced learners, while offering little or nothing to serve them.

"There are cases where parents spend years advocating for students, kids get multiple rounds of testing, and at the end of the day they're provided with a little bit of differentiation or an hour of resource-room time in the course of a week," he says. "That's not sufficient for a fourth-grader, say, who needs to take geometry."

While this emphasis on diagnosis over treatment might seem paradoxical, it's compliant with the law:
In most states the law governs the identification of gifted students. But only 27 percent of districts surveyed in 2013 report a state law about how to group these students, whether in a self-contained program, or pulled out into a resource room for a single subject or offered differentiation within a classroom. And almost no states have laws mandating anything about the curriculum for gifted students.

In addition to a need to move faster and delve deeper, students whose intellectual abilities or interests don't match those of their peers often have special social and emotional needs.

That's why, paradoxically, many of the gifted education experts I interviewed didn't like the label "gifted." "In a perfect world, every student would have an IEP," says Kaufman.

"The whole NCLB era, and really back to the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 1960s, was about getting kids to grade level, to minimal proficiency," says Peters. "There seems to be a change in belief now — that you need to show growth in every student."

That means, instead of just focusing on the 50 percent of kids who are below average, teachers should be responsible for the half who are above average, too. "That's huge. It's hard to articulate how big of a sea change that is."


Another GW parent said...

I have never understood why the students qualified for HCC did not identify as special education. They should be, it is special education. They need IEPs and the parents need to be a part of the special education community. If they are treated as the outliers that they are, the stigma of the privileged "smart kids" may be decreased.
Full disclosure, both of my school aged kids are Gen Ed but I have experience with and interest in gifted education.

Anonymous said...

The term "special education", IEP, are defined in IDEA - the individuals with disabilities education act, and pertains ONLY to students with qualifying disabilities. It comes with very specific entitlements including procedural safeguards, right to automatic due process, rights to least restrictive environment (which is the presumed environment). None of these rights apply to HCC. If they did, mos students in HCC wouldn't be allowed a separate class, because it is a restrictive environment. Also notable, students in special ed are afforded "a floor of opportunity", nothing more. Is that really what you want? If you don't understand this, you should crack a book and do a little research.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

When our HCC population is as large as it is, it's harder to argue that they are outliers. The district *should* be able to deliver an adequate program for most.

Services for profoundly or exceptionally gifted students, however, should definitely be available through an IEP. You can't really expect a full program designed to accommodate such a small group, but you should be able to expect the district to find some other way to meet the needs of such kids. Right now SPS throws up road blocks instead, and pretends these kids don't exist. It's painful.

I get so frustrated reading comments like those on the NPR article that basically say "if kids are profoundly gifted, they should be able to educate themselves." It's such a hateful approach--along the lines of "if you're so special, prove it!" Does anyone really think gifted first graders spend their time researching curricula, planning comprehensive lessons, etc? Or that every gifted kid can just pick up a math text and read it and get it without any guidance? Gifted kids may learn faster and comprehend more deeply and see connections more easily, but they still need instruction, resources, interaction, etc. People sometimes act like we should just put 'em in a closet full of books and call it good. Argh.

But back to that IEP idea. Does anyone know of a non-2E gifted kid who has successfully been able to get an IEP in SPS? Is there a group of parents out there with kids who really, REALLY, need one? It's too late for my kid, but I'd happily join the fight.


Anonymous said...

HIMS Mom. Please see the above comment. The ADA deals with defined disabilities. Though you may feel your student has been disadvantaged by his exceptional giftedness, there is zero hope that you will remediate the situation via an IEP as an outflow from the ADA.

This does not negate your concern. An IEP is simply the wrong vehicle to address it and will send you down a rabbit hole in the local, state and federal system. What is needed is additional public and staff awareness of your student's dilemma and a non-IEP proposed solution turned into operating practice here and in pretty much every other public school district in the US.


Anonymous said...

You will not qualify for an IEP for gifted.


Anonymous said...

Many states do have IEP's for gifted students, though. I don't know the mechanism(I imagine it is slightly similar to our constitutional definition of advanced learning as basic education), but then they would get a floor of opportunity- which, yes, could be great. The floor would be access to advanced work, so if they wanted to stay in their neighborhood school they would be allowed appropriate books in class or math within a few years of their tested level. Advanced learning is basic education.

But that is not happening here, and even where it does gifted kids are not really considered part of the special education community unless they have something else (are 2e) to get them there. There isn't really reason to suspect that the delivery model would change from self contained. That is not what has happened in states with IEP's. Self contained is best practice, so moving away from that becomes harder with more rights for gifted kids.

I think, if this thread is about advocacy that will best serve gifted children, smaller class sizes is definitely the way to go. When my first kid was entering school, in the 00's, most people at our neighborhood school whose children qualified for APP did not send their children, because the neighborhood school offered some advanced learning(enough), and most people would rather stay in the neighborhood. Most people didn't even test. The only kids who went were outliers(academically and/or socially), and so it was ok that the requirements were slightly low(the same as they are now)- in this way we capture kids who had an off day, etc, and with "hard" bars it's almost always better to slightly overcapture than undercapture. Now parents send their qualified kids at about a rate of 100%, because there is zero advanced learning in our neighborhood, both structurally and in practice because class sizes have ballooned. HCC is the ONLY place to get any advanced learning access for many students. If we shrunk class sizes back down, teachers could differentiate, and every single student would receive a better education, with the side benefit of drastically shrinking HCC enrollment and possibly reducing nasty blog fights.

I have always hoped for smaller class sizes in the district, but only in the last few months, with McCleary money finally starting to appear, do I think it might be possible.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Not an IEP but:

WAC 392-170-080 Educational program for highly capable students — directs districts to take student needs and capabilities into consideration when providing services and to keep a description of individual student educational programs on file.
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.

Anonymous said...

IEP is the wrong terminology to use, but the concept of an individualized plan for gifted students not new. Ohio revised their gifted policies and have what is called a WEP, or Written Education Plan, for gifted students.


Anonymous said...

" into consideration " SPS will consider it, then do nothing.


Lynn said...

Pennsylvania has the GIEP:


The Gifted Individualized Education Plan (GIEP) is a yearly summary document that includes all curricular areas in which a gifted child is to receive education that is adapted and modified to meet his/her individual needs. Acceleration or enrichment, or both, are appropriate options. The options provided to gifted students must enable them to learn at different rates, to learn difficult material earlier, and to think at a level different from their classmates.

How often are GIEP meetings held?

A GIEP meeting must be held at least annually. In addition, a GIEP meeting must be held when a parent or teacher requests a meeting to develop, review, or revise a student's individualized education program.

How are parents invited to a GIEP meeting?

The school district must take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of the student attend the GIEP meeting or have the opportunity to participate. An invitation to the GIEP meeting must be provided to the parents at least 10 calendar days in advance of the meeting. The meeting should be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place.

Lynn said...


Our HCC population is large, but does that mean the enrolled students as a whole are higher on the scale? If not, serving these kids in the general education classroom is no easier than anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

@ Lynn, I never said serve them in the gen ed classroom! You know I'm a strong advocate for self-contained programs--differentiation just doesn't work. Plus, the kids need peers. What I said was that with such a large population, SPS should be able to deliver an effective program. Like HCC, but good.

@ others, Sorry, I should have said "IEP-like." Some states do offer various alternatives, such as those noted above. There are districts that are willing to work with families to create individualized plans. And like Melissa pointed out, WAC 392-170-080 says: "Each student identified as a highly capable student shall be provided educational opportunities which take into account such student's unique needs and capabilities." Yes, there are resource limitations. But there are things they can do to work with a family that may be cheaper than having the kid waste a seat in HCC classroom.


Jan said...

I think we fall short when we "buy into" the constructs of the current system (both nationally and locally). There is no "magic" in pieces of paper that claim to set forth individualized education plans (whether they are IEPs for SPED kids, or GIEPs or WEPs for gifted kids -- if they either are badly written (e.g. -- written to provide what the school can/wants to provide, rather than what the child needs) or if schools will not implement them. (Before you wish for an IEP for your gifted kid -- talk to legions of SPED parents with flawed or ignored IEPs.) I think we also fall short when we focus too much on whether the "self contained" group at the top is comprised of the top 2%, or the top 5%, etc. Because, as has been pointed out -- we STILL fail a cohort of kids with an APP program that starts -- and remains -- 2 years ahead. Some kids start 4 years ahead. Some start 2 years ahead but gain (or would, if given a chance) a year and a half each year. We have nothing for them -- except the "cohort" and the UW's early entrance program. AND THEN -- you add the problems in identifying gifted kids who come from minority or low economic communities, etc. Cripes -- where to start.

We need a board (and an educational climate) that cares about individualized education (I know -- "differentiation!, yay"). Rather than having principals that want to know if each day's objective is written on the board and whether each class is on page 54 of a text on November 2nd, we need principals who know their kids -- and ask teachers what they are doing for "Sally" -- who has mastered grade level math and most of the next level as well, or David -- who needs more reading challenge. And the same questions should be asked for Chris, who is a SPED kid with dyslexia, or Robin, who is bright, but has mild autism.

APP suffers mightily from neglect (some benign, some not so benign). Spectrum has been dismantled (in all but name) despite the wishes of Spectrum families and ample research to the effect that self contained is the model most likely to lead to success for those kids. ALOs were never anything but a Potemkin village of fake opportunity. But there were always kids good in just one subject who were barred from Spectrum -- and we didn't have self contained classes for gifted readers doing regular level math (or vice versa). And there were always profoundly gifted kids whom APP did not serve well.

We knew when NCLB came along that one casualty would be above average kids (who are already meeting the "minimum" standard -- and have use in a punitive system only to the extent that their passing test scores can rescue a class, teacher, or school.

Jan (continued)

Jan said...

We need a board that will demand of the Superintendent a plan to implement a robust program to identify gifted learners -- at the profound and extreme levels, as well as the "merely very bright" level, and to give them learning opportunities that do not now exist. If principals are hostile to the idea that every child deserves the opportunity to learn at his/her level -- they should not be principals any longer. If teachers are hostile to gifted ed, they should not be allowed to teach gifted kids, any more than teachers who are hostile to SPED should be allowed to teach SPED kids (right now, BOTH of these things happen, as parents at both ends of the spectrum can attest). The individual plan stuff is a great idea -- but only if it works (and works better than it does for SPED kids).

This work is hard -- but it is not impossible (except maybe for the really profoundly gifted -- kids who can do calculus at 8 or 9, and should be winding up college at 11 or or 12 -- and who need truly exceptional placements to find any "peer group" at all.) It is also impossible for teachers, though, if the administration is actively hostile to it (which many at District headquarters seem to be). I do NOT think all kids should be blended in classes (I am a supporter of APP, and was one of Spectrum, until it was totally dismantled in any meaningful form). But the entire system is FUBAR, with respect to gifted kids, 2E kids, kids gifted in only math or reading etc -- and trying to shoehorn the 'solutions' into the existing APP/IEP models seems to me to be insufficient -- even if they seem the likeliest to succeed (because there is at least SOMETHING there to argue from).

The Board needs to ask the Superintendent if he is willing to go all out to fix the delivery systems for both traditional SPED AND gifted learning -- or whether he just wants to sashay around with the mayor making plans to give away building space for early ed, and thinking up new executive positions so that various education cronies can supervise other ed cronies, none of whom do anything to improve learning in schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"ALOs were never anything but a Potemkin village of fake opportunity."

For the laugh-out loud moment of the day. Thanks.

If teachers are hostile to gifted ed, they should not be allowed to teach gifted kids, any more than teachers who are hostile to SPED should be allowed to teach SPED kids.."

This has been true for as long as I have been in the district. And I have said the same thing except that what I said is if the district has a program, it is NOT the principal or teachers' jobs to try to undo it.

One interesting thing about the rewrite of NCLB is that it would now expect to see growth at the TOP as well as at the bottom. This would be a good thing if we are talking about ALL kids in the public education system.

But for the (what? #) time, there has never been a champion in this district for these programs at any senior leadership level. And so you will never see this be any real concern for the district.

Benjamin Leis said...

I have to agree with Jan about Gifted IEPS (GIEPS) ala Pennsylvania. Since that state doesn't fund gifted education they end up being an unfunded mandate on the districts. As you might expect this tends to end up with all the negatives associated with both regular IEPS (paperwork, compliance, foot dragging etc.) plus all the problems of the ALO's (lack of substance and enforcement). The district doesn't need another unmanagable layer of planning. It does need to focus on how to realistically serve all populations better.

I'm also very skeptical that any rewrite of NCLB that includes growth targets for all students will turn out that well. For one, consider the effect of the existing adequate yearly progress requirements. If you think that they've made school better for those not achieving grade level proficiency especially across large urban districts then perhaps you might be optimistic. I tend to see their main result as an unrealistic (100% proficiency everywhere) targets coupled with highly punitive consequences. The result has been distortion of the curriculum (that which is not tested will not be taught), massive churn across districts, school closures, and here's the kicker ironically stagnant/declining test scores. I'm not enthusiastic about tightening the vise on public education any further. Put another way, I'd prefer benign neglect to whatever layer of common core like requirements and testing to ensure you've reached it or else.

Anonymous said...

For extreme outliers, there are things the district could do to help, right now, that wouldn't cost any extra money or involve a lot of hassle or bureaucracy. For example, allow independent study on campus. If you have a 6th grader who enters the school having already completed all the math you offer, and who wants to continue learning independently, how hard is it to let them do so on campus? It doesn't make any sense to force them into an Algebra I class if they already did it 3 years ago, nor does it make any sense to force them to leave campus, or take an additional elective and do all their math as an extracurricular activity. Since a school should be able to provide a seat for them in a math class, why not provide them a seat somewhere that allows them to work at their level? It could be in a lower level math class, or an English class, or the library, or who cares what. Just find a class that still has capacity and let them sit there with supervision. If they're going to be working independently already, it's not like they'll be missing out on the in-person instruction. This is one small, painless thing the district could do, and it would make a huge impact for some families. I'm sure other families have identified other easy improvements that would help help them immensely as well.

But as Jan said, it all comes down to political will, and sadly it's not there.


Charlie Mas said...

Yeah. We all know. So what are we going to DO about it?

Nothing will happen until families organize and act. There's no point in waiting for some savior to emerge at the District headquarters. That isn't going to happen. To get this to happen we will have to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Unless you need it for some reason, e.g. math placement, OPT OUT of SBAC! Just turn in the letter now. It gives you, your student, (and the teacher from last year who has not yet seen it) NO useful information.

Instead, honestly ask yourself WHY you are choosing to allow your student to be subjected to it.

* Practicing standardized tests? They get plenty of that with Amplify 3x/yr.
* Self-congratulation? You get off on seeing those high scores every year?
* Afraid to make waves? Your teacher isn't allowed to protest, but you sure can.
* Childcare? Coordinate with other opt-out parents and maybe do a trade for a date night.

There is no child-centered educational reason for an HCC identified child to keep testing.

open ears

Benjamin Leis said...

@Charlie - You continue to be more radicalized than anyone I ever meet on the ground currently in Spectrum / ALO / or HCC. I suppose this is anecdotal but I just don't see that level of anger / urgency except on capacity issues.

Lynn said...

HCC parents seem to be very unhappy with the middle school program - this is where it begins to fall apart. Spectrum parents whose principals dismantled their self-contained programs were definately angry.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Benjamin, Charlie isn't angry, he's just pointing out the obvious. And it's fine if AL parents don't want to act. But Spectrum will go away and APP, while it still might exist, is not going to get better.

It's surely better than nothing but it's not like a true gifted program.

And meanwhile, kids who should be identified and should be part of AL aren't being found and served.

That's why parents should speak up. A better program for their own child AND for other children.

Benjamin Leis said...

Sure I recognize that organizing can affect change. But the flip side (which is also fairly obvious) is that volunteers have to be energized enough to organize in the first place. That just doesn't seem to be the case. My rule of thumb is are people at least committed enough to spend some time physically meeting on an issue. I sort of expected the dissolution of the spectrum classrooms in favor of a blended model would galvanize people but after the initial buzz which frankly happens with any big change no matter whether its good or bad the reaction just died away. And I have to admit I've only personally had experience with the cluster model and it worked reasonably well so I wouldn't have lobbied much to change it either. Likewise looking at the opt-out rates on standardized testing ( I can only conclude that for now HCC parents unlike high school juniors love tests. I'd be happy to be proven wrong since I care quite a bit about this subject.

Anonymous said...

There are certainly some inequity issues with HCC in terms of minority population identification.

OSPI's numbers ( complete data sets are only through 2013 ) are very illuminating.

For instance for Grades 1-5 Seattle reported 3,229 gifted students of which 73 were African-American and 251 were FRL.


Anonymous said...

Dear crunching numbers and others interested in the subject of disproportionality in gifted and talented education. Please read this Washington Post article. (Another blog reader posted it on a different thread.) It profiles a community that initially worked hard to identify non-white, non-well off students. Be prepared to be disheartened by the fall after the rise of the program.


Anonymous said...

Seattle's program selects for learning capacity and previous curriculum advancement. Kids in an educationally disadvantaged environment aren't going to have the curriculum advancement part... Except by rare exception. Spectrum should have been a way to sling-shot disadvantaged intelligent kids upward. Didn't work out that way and Principals were encouraged to end spectrum.

I guess the idea of providing challenging and rigorous education is silly and naive. It never was about learning and growth. Everyone knows that education does not improve your socio-ecinomic condition. You have to be born into your caste, your wealth and connections.

Public gifted education should fill us with hope. It is a great thing to fully educate our bright and capable, even the ones who can't afford private school. We should be giving our smartest public school children all the education they can soak up to give them every opportunity to serve their communities and larger world as adults.

West parent.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben, if you don't take the test, you can't be in APP. Did you not know that? It's tied to getting in (at least that's what current parents tell me).

But see, if they go after Spectrum, they can just as easily whittle down APP. But we can all wait until it gets to that point and then realize, shoulda, coulda.

Anonymous said...


Thx for Washington Post link. some salient quotes:

"The school system already had staff psychologists who administered the three- to four-hour IQ evaluation at no cost to the families. But the data suggest that many poor families did not know about the gifted option, and furthermore, teachers at low-income schools were not widely referring these kinds of children.

In contrast, wealthier families would keenly chase the gifted designation. Some parents paid up to $1,000 to hire private psychologists, believing that an independent IQ evaluation would give their children the best shot at getting a good score. Card and Giuliano report that in the early 2000s, about one-fifth of gifted children from middle- or upper-class backgrounds had used a private IQ test to get into the program."


Melissa Westbrook said...

I will again point out that low-income parents can get a free individual test if they choose to appeal their child's school-given test score. The district pays for that. Now that still begs the question if those parents even know that is available but it is there.

I will gently point out that maybe what hasn't been tried is to find African-American, Latino and other minority parents who ARE part of the program who would be willing to speak to community groups about Advanced Learning and what it could bring to their child.

Getting more kids of color into the program means more kids served and a more diverse population of advanced learners (that we know are out there but haven't been able to reach).

Lynn said...

Crunching Numbers,

You provide data on differing rates of identification as highly capable, but you haven't shown where the inequity exists in the identification process. Are we looking for the wrong characteristics or are we using the wrong assessments?

There is no data to support the assumption made in the Post article about the reasons parents have for choosing private testing. The article also reports the claim that "For parents with resources, gifted education was viewed as "a means of segregating their own child." Park said. “It’s extremely sad, and it’s part of what gives gifted a bad name.” It's all opinion, and while I get that you agree with it, it's not proof of anything.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, You mean single out the 2(!) African American children at APP at Lincoln and their families to try to get them to evangelize about the program? I will gently point out to you that is a lot to ask.


Anonymous said...

State law regarding each district's HCP(highly capable program) stipulates that the demographics of students in the program reflect the demographics of the district as a whole. SPS is falling short by quite a margin and needs to remedy the situation, before another complaint is filed with OSPI.

I guess the state could hold back the funds provided or even fine the district. Parents of children in the underrepresented groups should consider contacting the OSPI.

The comments following the Post article were pretty good. Not the usual knee-jerk attack on the opinions expressed. The data was clear and the conclusions valid. Things can be done but they cost money and may make some people unhappy. Our current program is an embarrassment. The re-segregation resulting from the NSAP is one thing, but the HCC is just so out of tune with the make-up of the district to make lots of people squirm.


Anonymous said...

Depressed it could be those in the south end too. TM has a higher representation of minorities as does the south in general. So not a bad idea and it's not all about Cascadia.

IEP were really what the Robinsons put together for SPS. The program was called IPP but for some reason (say it outloud) it didn't stick. Indvidualized Progress Program. I am right about the I which is what we all believe in and which none are getting.

I have a 2e child and I say a prayer everytime I suffer through the meetings... for those parents of traditional SpEd kids. Save a tree and say we will try... but no guarantees. Even though it is like buying a house type of writers cramp meeting.

The only place it has helped is when the adminstrator tried to bully us into a lower placement in math than pathway. I knew all I had to do was email over IEP to their false claims of authority. Instead I just engnored it.

Do it!

Anonymous said...

"Lynn said:
Crunching Numbers,

You provide data on differing rates of identification as highly capable, but you haven't shown where the inequity exists in the identification process. Are we looking for the wrong characteristics or are we using the wrong assessments? "

The article points out that the inequity is in the access to the process. The district in the article used universal screening and saw their racial disproportionality in the AL program decrease drastically. They stopped screening universally and the disproportionality returned. That is the data that reveals the inequity. I am puzzled as to why universal screening has not been an advocacy point from within the APP/Spectrum community, since the racial disparities of the program are one of the most common kinds of criticism leveled at them. It seems it would be in the interest of the community to end those racial disparities, and universal screening might well be the tool to do it.

Melissa, I don't think it is the responsibility of the people of color who are grossly underserved by and underrepresented in Advanced Learning to fix the problem. It's a systemic problem, and must be addressed systemically.

SE Mom

Lynn said...

The advanced learning staff gave every second grader in the SE region the CogAT screener in the spring of 2014. I believe I saw somewhere that they're going to do that again this fall. It's not district-wide because the tests and the staff time required to administer the tests are too costly.

I don't see that access to the process is unfairly distributed. Any parent or teacher can refer a child. (If teachers are more often referring white or affluent students, or if principals are withholding information about the process I will agree that is inequitable.)

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see a short universal screening tool every year, maybe for kids who aren't referred. Maybe it should be an opt out form that is sent home not the other way around. Some teachers just don't refer. Most parents don't read all the paperwork. Kids should not be held back by the adults around them.
West Parent

Anonymous said...

In some sense we do already have universal screening, don't we? The district uses standardized tests (e.g., MAP, SBAC) to identify high performers, and those kids are invited to apply and go through the cognitive testing, right? It's universal screening for the achievement portion rather than the cognitive portion, but our current program requires qualifying scores in both anyway. Would something like universal IQ screening as a first step really make much difference, if the achievement requirement is unchanged? Parents would still need to agree to the testing, so I'm not convinced the order of events would impact much, aside from costs.

On a related note, does anyone recall the results of the universal screening they did in the SE region last year? My recollection was that it actually didn't ID more minorities--that it was good at finding FRL white kids who might not have been id'd (a good thing), but didn't have much impact re: race. I might be misremembering, though--anyone know where to find these results?



Anonymous said...

No HIMSMom, not the same for the expressed purposes of the universal screener, to identify high IQ low achieving individuals.

There are many factors attributing to these individuals but no doubt a low vocabulary IQ test would certainly help diversify HC classes and/or better serve those students in their local school (if things go as planned).

-Do it!

Anonymous said...

Are our kids getting Amplify tests? Amplify was just sold.

Lynn said...

There are no services available to high IQ low achieving students in Seattle Public Schools. What have you heard about a plan to change that?

I think we'd be better served if identification for highly capable services required only IQ scores. With a large enough cohort in a school, elementary students could be grouped by reading level just as they are in general education classrooms and walk to math.

Lori said...

A recent Friday memo to the Board (9/11/15) had this to say about increasing diversity in AL:

Assurance that the percentage of historically underrepresented populations in Advanced Learning programs is improving.

In recent years, major initiatives have been implemented to address disproportionality, including vigorous outreach, testing all second-graders at Title I and high ELL schools, administering nonverbal Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) batteries to all referred students, partnering with Rainier Scholars, and providing professional development opportunities co-presented with the Department of Equity and Race Relations.

These efforts have shown positive results. Districtwide enrollment shows a 7.01 percent growth in underserved populations grades 1-8 (all ethnicities other than Caucasian and Asian). During the same period of time, underserved populations being served by Advanced Learning programs grew by 18.7 percent. (See graph below, compiled and provided by Pennie Saum, Project Manager)."

Anonymous said...

@ Do it, I understand that, but my point is that universal screening for cognitive ability would also require changing our other eligibility criteria to make much of an impact. If the point of universal cognitive testing is to overcome parent and teacher bias in nominating kids (the primarily problem in that WA Post article, but not really our problem), the screener would do that--but if you kept the same achievement threshold, all the kids not meeting the achievement threshold would still not make it through.

If the point of the universal screener is to identify kids of high IQ but who are low performing, we need to also change the use of achievement results in our program (and then also figure out how to help lower performing kids jump in and succeed if the class is working above their current level). We'd first have to decide whether to even use achievement scores at all--if we don't, we could base it all on cognitive abilities and come up with new strategies to adjust to the differing achievement levels. If we did still have an achievement threshold, it might make sense still use that as an initial screen to save money.

So given our current eligibility criteria, the achievement tests act as a universal screener for potential eligibility as I said. But you are correct that our current process doesn't universally screen for cognitive ability. That would be great, if we also changed the program to admit and then appropriately serve those kids.


Anonymous said...

@ Lynn, thanks for that link. Somehow I missed that Friday memo. But I'm not so sure about that statement about improvements in AL disproportionality...

First of all, they say the percentage of underserved populations participating in AL has grown 18% over three years, while the percentage of those populations in district has only grown by 7%. The figure they use to illustrate that, however, suggests that the number of underserved (non-white, non-Asian) students served in AL has risen from about 4500 in 2011, to 5500 in 2014. (These are rough estimates, as the bar chart is unclear.) TOTAL APP+Spectrum enrollment for grades 1-8, based on the Annual Enrollment Report data they also linked to in that memo, was only 3309 in 2011, and 4513 in 2014. So I guess this means they're including ALO programs as well, even if they don't provide much. That seems misleading.

Secondly, they don't say anything about the overall makeup of AL programs, which is the key to looking at disproportionality. Based on that Annual Enrollment Report data, it looks like combined Spectrum + APP enrollment during that same period increased by 36%. Looking only at APP enrollment, it was an increase of almost 60%. It seems logical, then, that overall ALO participation would also have increased dramatically over that time, too.

So if total AL enrollment is increasing faster than underserved pop'm AL enrollment, is disproportionality really improving?


Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant thank you to Lori!


Anonymous said...

HIMSmom, yeah that is exactly the purpose of the universal screening. Once identified the school's are receiving PD on how to scaffold these kids up to needed achievement levels.

In addition Lori, there has been a lessening of the tight hold on the 95% especially where there may be a disability or disadvantage due to SES/ELL. Also, starting this year single domain achievers will be admitted into HC MS if they have the accompanying IQ scores.

-Do it

Melissa Westbrook said...

Depressed, that might be a tough ask but what else to do? Even universal screening is not likely to get more kids in if their parents don't hear about it in ways that speak to them.

SE Mom, what would you suggest? Do you think a more culturally open test would make a change? It would help but again,a lot of parents were told their kids were eligible and did not access the program. No one is saying someone else should "fix" the program but the question is what else to be done? What is preventing parents from wanting to access the program?

Lori's comment proves my point if the district is looking to Rainier Scholars for input.

Lynn said...

Do it,

Single domain achievers will be admitted into Spectrum next year - not HCC.

So schools are going to receive professional development on differentiation for students with high cognitive ability? Have teachers expressed an interest in this and will they be required to do it? That has been highly variable in the past.

Anonymous said...

@ Do it,

Aha, so it sounds like you are talking about universal screening in the context of some type of talent development type program, is that right? Not universal screening to find more kids who will meet the existing criteria now, but to find those kids who might benefit from some extra attention and challenge so that they might, down the road, meet the HCC eligibility criteria? That makes perfect sense to me, and is something I've suggested in the past.

Is SPS actually doing something like this now? I don't remember the AL office or district making any announcements about this sort of program, but maybe they're keeping it quiet for some reason. If this work is underway, it seems like good PR to share.


Anonymous said...

Yeah HIMSmom, according to ALTF recommendations.

And no Lynn that isn't what I understand. I went to the website to confirm it but it still says both reading and writing. I will email AL to find out. I am pretty that is outdated info. I have also saw that others on this blog discuss single domain acceptance into HC.

-Do it

Lynn said...

The task force recommendations are just that - recommendations. If you haven't seen evidence that they're being put in place, I would not count on it.

The eligibility criteria on the advanced learning website are brand new - so new in fact that they do not comply with the Superintendent's procedure also posted on the website.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant to say reading and math. The site is new the verbiage is old. I will look into it.

-Do it

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn said...

Do it,

No. The section on eligibility criteria is new this fall. There is no change to eligibility for HCC other than the fact that kids in K-2 will have two separate sessions of cognitive testing. The criteria for Spectrum eligibility have been changed. The procedures for appeals are being changed (and I suspect will be used to greatly limit the number of students qualifying for both Spectrum and HCC.)

Ryan O'Donnell said...

I'm just jumping into this blog. If anyone is willing to give me a call and provide some background I would greatly appreciate it! My contact info:

Ryan O'Donnell, M.S., BCBA
Co-Founder, Institute of Meaningful Instruction, LLC