Monday, March 21, 2016

Proposed changes in the SP 2190, Highly Capable and Advanced Learning

A revised set of Superintendent's Procedures for policy 2109, Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning Programs was presented to the Curriculum & Instruction policy committee on November 9, 2015. It bears review.

There are a few elements that should be reviewed very closely:

  1. The language that explicitly guaranteed access to HCC for eligible students has been removed. HC services are available to all eligible students, but not necessarily enrollment in HCC. I don't know if this is intentional and I don't know if it means that the district is no longer guaranteeing admission to the program to eligible students who choose to enroll.
  2. HC students who choose not to enroll in HCC are supposed to receive HC services in the school where they are enrolled. Really? How is that supposed to work? According to the procedure, "these services will be appropriately documented by school administration." Hmm. I don't know that I have ever seen that done.
  3. Advanced Learning Opportunities are re-defined as services that "represent interventions contained in the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model.
  4. In nine pages of procedure although there are references to "the curriculum", there is absolutely no description of the HC curriculum. Highly Capable Services are described as providing "one or more of the following: enhanced curricula, appropriately differentiated instruction, deeper learning opportunities, and /or accelerated pacing." It is also described as "The curriculum is presented at an accelerated learning pace and/or advanced level of complexity and depth, requiring students to perform significantly above grade level." The HC services provided at attendance area schools "may include differentiated learning opportunities, flexible grouping and/or accelerated pacing." The absence of the promised curriculum continues to be a sore point and critical failure by the District. Not just from a public relations perspective, but from a pedagogical one as well.
  5. There is no description at all of Spectrum. None. Not even in the Program Design section. There are references to Spectrum services, but no definition of Spectrum services. Epic Failure.
  6. Advanced Learning Opportunities get only this as  a description: "These students are typically served within General Education classrooms through appropriate differentiation, flexible grouping and/or acceleration." Again, not sufficient to provide either guidance or assurance.
  7. While there is community and Family Engagement described for HC students there is none for Spectrum and ALO students.
  8. Assignment to HCC is no longer automatic for HC students. Families need to choose HCC in the Open Enrollment period. Spectrum assignment was never automatic for Spectrum-eligible elementary students, but is now automatic for Spectrum-eligible middle school students who enroll at their attendance area school.
  9. The Appeal process has been tightened up a bit.
  10. Candidates are required to participate in district achievement testing. District achievement testing in reading and math (i.e. Measurement of Academic Progress or Smarter Balanced Assessment) is required to determine advanced eligibility for current SPS students. Students who opt out of the MAP or Smarter Balanced Assessment are ineligible for HC or Advanced Learning eligibility. This appears to be a violation of the WAC 392-170-060 which says: "If properly validated tests are not available, the professional judgment of the qualified district personnel shall determine eligibility of the student based upon evidence of cognitive ability and/or academic achievement."


Anonymous said...

There is also an important change in the high school wording, p 119

"For Grades 9-12, HCC students may currently choose accelerated access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses at Garfield High School or an accelerated International Baccalaureate (IB) Program (IBX) at Ingraham High School."

"Currently" has been added and "pathway" has been removed. Also, it only mentions access to accelerated IB (IBX) and doesn't indicate that HCC students would also have access to IB. The previous version didn't say anything about it either -- that option was only just announced this year. Not sure if this is an oversight or a change.

good fit

Anonymous said...

These were the changes they planned to institute during this year's testing cycle but pulled back. Note that two changes to identification WERE implemented: a Cogat pre-screening for K-2, and teacher input required as "highly advanced" for HC eligibility. I don't know if they plan to use the latter when judging this year's appeals.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"these services will be appropriately documented by school administration." Hmm. I don't know that I have ever seen that done."

Ditto from me. There is no evidence that the district has ever followed thru on this tenet so why would principal do that now?

I note that the HC portion of the Work Session this week got pulled. Is this because staff is busy revamping everything and will roll it all out at once to the Board?

Charlie Mas said...

It may be that Mr. Martin is still on medical leave.

Anonymous said...

@Noted, so, if test scores indicate HCC eligibility, but the teacher didn't regard the student as "highly advanced" then the student wouldn't be referred? Or, am I reading too much into your comment.

SE Mama

Anonymous said...

SE Mama, I don't know. I doubt they would refuse eligibility if all score thresholds were met. I don't think it would be bad to require that teacher input indicate advanced in cases of appeal. I'm not in favor of eliminating appeals, but if the eligibility scores are all obtained privately, I think there needs to be some evidence that an elementary student will succeed in a rigorous, accelerated classroom-based program.


Anonymous said...

Charlie, p. 7 of 9 says: “Placement in the Highly Capable Cohort programs is guaranteed for Highly Capable students.”

Other comments:

Any student identified as Highly Capable who is not enrolled in the Highly Capable Cohort or Spectrum programs will receive appropriate instructional services based on the student’s areas of strength at the student’s attendance area school. Services may include differentiated learning opportunities, flexible grouping and/or accelerated pacing.

I didn’t realize “flexible grouping” was a service. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean in this context, by I suppose that any group you put an HC- or Spectrum-qualified kid in could count. All they have to do is show up at school—any school—and they are appropriately served! It’s like magic.

For Grades 9-12, HCC students may currently choose accelerated access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses at Garfield High School or an accelerated International Baccalaureate (IB) Program (IBX) at Ingraham High School.

Do HCC students still have accelerated access to AP courses? I thought they changed that. Which AP courses at GHS can HCC students access earlier than anyone else?

I love this one: Spectrum services are offered at all middle schools and several elementary schools. Students are either grouped within General Education or self-contained classrooms, depending on location.

So “Spectrum services” are available to all middle schools—either by putting you in a GE class or an HCC class? What about that makes it a “Spectrum service”? Better wording might be that “Spectrum-identified STUDENTS can receive AL services through either cluster-grouping of AL students in GE classes with the provision of appropriately challenging instruction (abracadabra!), or through placement in self-contained HCC classes when appropriate.“


Anonymous said...

In the “Community and Family Engagement” section it says this: Individual student progress for Highly Capable students is reviewed annually as part of parent/teacher conferences at elementary and middle schools.

Is this true, or a big fat lie? Do most middle schools still have parent/teacher conferences? Our HCC middle school doesn’t, and hasn’t for years.

And don't get me started on "the curriculum"! I'll offer $50 bucks to any SPS employee who can clearly identify the HCC middle school LA/SS curriculum. Not the standards, but the CURRICULUM.


Robert Cruickshank said...

These changes, if approved, would mean the elimination of genuine HCC instruction in SPS. It is quite clearly intended to replace it with a standardized curriculum for all students, but with vague promises of "specialized instruction" in existing classrooms that we all know will never actually be delivered - or, if they are, it will be done ineffectively.

While the status quo clearly needs improvement, especially in terms of addressing inequities in which students actually wind up in HCC programs, that's a matter of building on something rather than tearing it down.

Once again we see that SPS staff want to get rid of all specialized programs. The option schools are next in line for this treatment.

Anonymous said...

Despite all the hyperbole, the facts are that a substantial number of parents who made the effort to test their kids and get them ID'd as Highly Capable, have chosen to stay at their neighborhood schools. Presumably most of them are satisfied that their children are being educated adequately, or they join the cohort.

We're talking about 1000 kids HC kids staying neighborhood out of 4300, a little under 1/4. No doubt there are also parents who don't test their gifted kids as they have no interest in the cohort, so the number at neighborhood schools who could qualify if tested may be significant as well.

fact checker

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fact Checker, parents have, for years and years, tested their kids just to see how they do on the tests. It's near impossible to stop people especially since the test isn't free (and testing is the biggest cost to the department.).

As well, I would counter that because the numbers testing and going into HC are up, it is likely that more parents are finding their kids' needs NOT being served at neighborhood schools (I hear this about Bryant.). And, of course, Spectrum parents will be getting even less so that will be an interesting dynamic to see play out.

Anonymous said...

Bryant doesn't provide even a modicum of acceleration for its many high achieving kids. It's sad.

Bryant parent

Northender said...

I am one of those parents with an HCC child who will try out our neighborhood school for 1st grade. Too much instability in the next year at Cascadia (to be split or really overcrowded), so we will see how it goes next year. Our school has walk to math, but who knows for how long.

CascadiaMom said...

I find these changes disturbing and definitely indicate a watering down. Even worse as the higher demand for HCC services seems to make some more devoted to ignoring this group of kids.
What can we do? I am not an experienced person at advocating either at SPS or the Board. Melissa, can you recommend a course of action to show our displeasure with these changes?

Anonymous said...

DisAPPointed said...
In the “Community and Family Engagement” section it says this: Individual student progress for Highly Capable students is reviewed annually as part of parent/teacher conferences at elementary and middle schools.

Is this true, or a big fat lie? Do most middle schools still have parent/teacher conferences? Our HCC middle school doesn’t, and hasn’t for years.

You are at Hamilton? At Washington MS, there is an annual night (November) of 5-minute mini-conferences with each teacher, and (relatively new) a 30-minute student-led conference at school in late winter (no teachers in that meeting, normally). In our limited experience (6th grade HCC), we've found teachers reasonably accessible via email and open to appointments.

However, teachers are all over the map in how much they use the District's online tool (Schoology) to help students (and parents) understand what's up with curriculum, due dates, etc. Various reasons, no doubt, but some teachers must see an equity issue in making Schoology too important a component. BTW, it's incredible to me that The Source (grades and assignment tracking compenent) isn't integrated with Schoology.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Cascadia Mom,

1) it would be better in a group. Both the district and the Board don't seem to listen even when many individual parents speak out. If you can get the parents, either in your Spectrum or HCC program, to sign a letter of complaint, that would be best.

2)Also, have parents come - every single board meeting - 2-3+ to speak on this issue.

Reference this as a program issue that needs to be addressed and hasn't been for years.

worried said...

Thanks for bringing attention to this. I'm confused, though - if this agenda was for a November 9, 2015 board meeting -- were the proposed changes approved back then? Or are these changes still up in the air? I'm particularly concerned about the revisions to the appeals process, although just about all of the issues Charlie pointed out are important.

Lynn said...

Here's some information from the unofficial minutes of that committee meeting:

Annual Report – Superintendent Procedures 2190SP, Highly Capable Services &
Advanced Learning Programs Update:
Stephen Martin, Supervisor of Highly Capable Services spoke about the revisions to the procedures and the proposed two weeks of community engagement. Stephen will bring the results to the December 14th Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee meeting. The revised procedure has been reviewed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction as well as the Legal Department. Stephen is working with the Communications Department on the survey monkey. The community will have the opportunity to review the information and provide feedback.

In the minutes from the December committee meeting:

It was decided to extend the timeline for public comments and allow time for the new School Board Directors to review the information. There is an opportunity for the new School Board Directors to meet with Stephen in a 2x2 meeting to discuss in greater detail the procedures, etc. Stephen will bring back Superintendent Procedure 2190SP to the Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee meeting in February. Stephen will be seeking budget for talent development via afterschool tutoring to help get Title I students and English Language Learners (ELL) accelerated. Stephen will also be focusing on systems improvement projects relating to the enrollment system and data analysis. Moving forward, all schools will be required to address Advanced Learning in their Continuous School Improvement Plan (C-SIP’s) Michael Tolley explained the proposed changes will be implemented for the 2016-2017 school year.

Stephen Martin is now on leave. I expect we won't see a discussion of the changes until he returns.

Charlie Mas said...

It is incredible to me that the procedures that establish Spectrum and A.L.O.'s doesn't define them. They define who is in them, but they don't describe the programs at all. If you start reading these procedures with the question "What is Spectrum?" in mind you will get to the end without an answer. That's wrong. These procedures are the place to define Spectrum and that definition should be in here.

Also, despite multiple references to "curriculum" there is no curriculum for HC or Spectrum. That was promised and has never been delivered. They need to deliver it. Without it, no accountability is possible. The curriculum plays a critical role in the education and the management of that education for every other student in the district, so surely the curriculum is equally critical for HC and Spectrum students.

z said...

However, teachers are all over the map in how much they use the District's online tool (Schoology)

Just to be clear, Schoology isn't the "District's online tool". It is a 3rd party commercial website where the district has a contract that allows teachers, parents and students to share information. Yes, that means everything posted on Schoology goes to this 3rd party. You can decide on your own how comfortable you are with that.

BTW, it's incredible to me that The Source (grades and assignment tracking compenent) isn't integrated with Schoology.

With the above in mind, you can see why The Source and Schoology aren't integrated. They can never be integrated more than they are, because they are completely different systems managed by completely different organizations.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that tile of the procedure, “Superintendent Procedure 2190SP: Highly Capable Services & Advanced Learning Programs”. That is not what this procedure is and that’s not what the introduction says it is. Rather, the last sentence of the first paragraph says the purpose of the procedure: “The following procedures shall be employed to refer, evaluate, and select students to participate in the program.”

The procedure then proceeds to provide a lot of detail about identification and appeal and so on. It mentions the “programs” from a “referral” basis, not from a definitional basis.

For example, the Section on “Spectrum” is three sentences long. This is a “program” that purports to serve thousands of students and involves tens of thousands of teaching hours across the district every year. Can we honestly take seriously any “program” that would theoretically cost millions in tax dollars annually that is defined entirely by three sentences?

Clearly the only reason that “program” exists in the “superintendent procedure” is because it exists in the “board policy”.

These games by the administration are really a huge disservice to the students and parents because people actually make decisions about where to send their kids to school thinking that a program exists that doesn’t. The idea that there is a waitlist for a program that doesn’t exist is dishonest.

The district and the board should tell it like it is. “The district will identify “advanced learners” and communicate that information to the student’s school. The schools will make best efforts to provide a differentiated education. Check with your school to find out which services are available for students identified as “advanced learners” because they vary.”

The "Advanced Learning" office should then be renamed to the "Advanced Learning Identification Office" so parents quit bugging them about things they have no authority over.

Ex-Spectrum Parent