Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Seattle Schools News

Great story at KUOW about Highland Park and their "yoga breaths and mustang money."  Kudos to Principal Chris Cronas and his staff for their work. 
"Do you know what grit is?" Cronas asks the students. "It's when you work really, really hard on something and you never give up on it."

Next, the deep breathing. Cronas squeezes a rainbow-colored ball as he speaks quietly.

“Let’s all practice our breathing with the ball and my voice. Ready? Go. In. Hold … one, two, three, four, five, six.”
"This is not rocket science. This is Education 101. Kids need to feel safe. They need to feel respected," Cronas said. “They need to know that the people at their school love them and will give them the structure they need to succeed."
For the School Board meeting tonight, the public testimony list is nearly full.  Most of them, including me, will be speaking to the Seattle Preschool Program Service Agreement.  Others are speaking on discipline, recess, nutrition policy, lunch times, and deaf and hard of hearing. 

On the City Pre-K program, I am sensing a low-key campaign by staff for the program which seems to insinuate that it is expanding in SPS even before a vote has been taken.  There's this video at the district's website about the program.   There's nothing wrong with having a video but I would expect, from the district's side, that the video would be far more information and less hearts and flowers.  That's the kind of video I would expect to see from the City side but maybe the City produced this one.

The Executive Committee agenda for tomorrow's meeting is finally available.  The Executive Committee reviews the agendas for the next two upcoming Board meetings.

 The Board meeting on April 6th sees just a couple of Action items and no less than 26(!) Intro items, with 22 of them BEX or BTA project approvals.  One of the new Intro items is a board policy on Data Privacy which I'll have to learn more about as this is a long-term special interest to me.

The Executive Committee agenda also includes documentation on the Superintendent's evaluation which makes for some interesting reading.  He only gets a "Basic" in customer service but "Proficient" in most areas including Special Ed. 

One big item (see page 58) coming up for the Board is amendments to board policies that would require:

Board approval for program and site placement and closure recommendations from staff or the Superintendent.

Memo Reader alerted us to some interesting finds in the last Friday Memo.

Highly Capable Records Breach (partial:)

Yes, we did make adjustments but continue to have technical / capacity challenges. HCC processes 5000 students closer to 10% of our SPS students than the 2% funded by the state. We are not linked into the student computer systems; therefore huge amounts of work need to be done by staff. It typically takes four months to process the new requests each year. And this year we have been pushing to speed the process up so we can do early hiring.
That's a fascinating stat - 5,000 students applying for HCC programs.  See that complaint about the computer systems? Wait, there's more of that.

Service-Based Budgets:  
We completed our three days of program review and program requests. One common thread is a large number of departments that are not able access data through our existing processes. Departments invent their own home-grown systems because they can’t get the systems to talk with each other. DoTS will eventually (mid-year 16-17) see increased levy money. Meanwhile, we have a dozen projects that are crying for support. We will see if there might be a way to speed this process along. It is taking incredible amounts of duplicate time and energy to keep parallel systems.
Folks, between HCC and this news, I am baffled.  For years, this district has asked for (and received) money to align these computer systems.  This issue of non-compatibility continues to happen and it's just downright ridiculous at this point. 

Staffing and Budgeting (partial:)

Schools received enrollment information last week and some are asking for further review. Enrollment services looked at the history of our projections and reduced our expected growth from 1200 to 800 still somewhat higher than what we experienced last year. Some schools are pushing back saying they expect to grow by more than we project. One particular trouble spot are the four high schools in the SE: Rainier Beach, Cleveland, Franklin and Garfield.
Staffing will go out to schools on February 24th. The state is giving us more primary teachers with no increases at intermediate. And we will be held accountable for using those teachers at the assigned levels if we hope to receive that money. Principals will need to create smaller classes in primary grades; larger classes in intermediate grades. And there will likely be more splits.
Program Placement:
The board has expressed concerns that some programs are moved, added, deleted, without board awareness. “Program” definitions are difficult in every district – so the following may or may not technically be “programs.”
However, know that the following placements are either under consideration or underway:

- Cascade Parent Partnership phase out of “high school” program for running start.

- Open Doors Youth RE-engaged (alternative graduation route) is being explored with Seattle Colleges.

- International Dual Language pathways are being considered for expansion

- HCC pathways are being considered for expansion

- Grants that have gone away are being considered for ending employment
Those last three?  I cannot understand how either "program" can be considered for expansion when the district doesn't really support the locations they currently have.  As for the last item, I don't know exactly what it means; I'll ask for clarification.


Salaries (partial): 
By mutual agreement, we suspended the performance pay for principals and are redistributing that money partly to salary; partly to PD and joint planning around our closing the gap work.
Water Stations (from Flip):
  1. We have filled out applications to the state for all of our schools (98) to receive money for one water bottle filling station. The closing date is February 19th and then will take several weeks for us to know if we received the grant money. I'll let you know if/when we receive notification.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the same Chris Cronas who was reviled in the NE for killing self-contained Spectrum at Wedgwood? Times change.

DistrictWatcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

It is the same guy. Maybe he changed, too.

Maje said...

I know it's small, but I'm excited about the water bottle filling stations! My kids have long complained that they don't fill their bottles at school because it takes to long, is too messy, etc. Such a great idea.

PreK said...

The district's video was lovely and emotional, and I respect the principal of Bailey Gatzert.

However, the district failed to provide the board- policy makers- with critical information regarding the mixing of school, city and federal governance programs.

The district also failed to provide the board with operational costs to the district. What are the operational costs of running the city's prek program.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maje, little things mean a lot. I'm sure many students will be happy (although I'm sure 1 per high school or middle school will mean a lot of waiting in line.) Grateful to see this.

Testing truth said...

I think the 5000 kids testing is not specific to HCC. I know almost the entire 5th grade at our neighborhood elementary school had their kids tested. Some were ecstatic to get the Spectrum label. I think the comment about 5000 kids should be corrected to say that they tested for AL status not just HCC.

The biggest reason people had their kids tested was to avoid our local middle school. SPS should be asking why people want to escape. If they fix that school, people will want to stay in the neighborhood.

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

My experience with Chris Cronas at Eckstein is that he was always supportive of the kids. He also knew a vocal group of parents of APP qualified kids at Eckstein whose kids weren't in spectrum. If we had cared about self-contained we would have gone to APP. Eckstein attracted a bunch of those families. He was also in on the meetings where those parents asked to get rid of honors math & just mix ages instead, to make scheduling more flexible for electives. He was probably surprised by the anger at Wedgwood.

-Cronas fan

Charlie Mas said...

Copied comment from an anonymous source:
Middle schools are the weak point in the Seattle Public Schools system. We need better curriculum and classroom control in middle schools. This has been the case since I attended the middle schools here in the 70's. Concentrate on our middle schools - school district - and I guarantee you will see upward trends in test scores and high school graduation rates.

I think the best change that could be made in our middle schools would be to get rid of our "Spectrum" "HCC" and "APP" Programs and opt instead for an opt-out honors curriculum in every grade. All kids and teachers would be required to step up to this honors curriculum which would be an in depth grade level curriculum.

People whose kids are in APP could choose to enter a grade level above their "age grade". And all students would attend the school in their home area. This would even out the populations at all schools - with high end learners going to all schools and all kids receiving honors curriculum. It would reduce bussing costs. I think it would make all our middle schools better and help reduce behavior problems at school which happen many times when kids are bored.

Anonymous said...

"HCC pathways are being considered for expansion"

Reads to me as "we are planning another split"

-Speechless

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous (give yourself a name), do you mean APP kids would skip a grade or there would be above grade level work for them?

On the one hand, this was tried at Maple Elementary to great success. But it was only one school's effort and the district didn't support it.

Again, what you are saying is something I could support IF there were the supports and resources you cite. But, I'm not sure every school truly could take back all these kids and that's where Facilities would push back.

You then get to the Charlie problem which is what is the tail that wags the dog.

Anonymous said...

Anon said, I think the best change that could be made in our middle schools would be to get rid of our "Spectrum" "HCC" and "APP" Programs and opt instead for an opt-out honors curriculum in every grade. All kids and teachers would be required to step up to this honors curriculum which would be an in depth grade level curriculum.

This is pretty much what they have done at JAMS, without formally saying as much. They didn't have enough Spectrum students for self-contained, so they are in HCC specific LA/SS classes, only those classes aren't being taught at the level one would expect for HCC. It's a stretch to call them honors classes. Moving HCC students one year ahead in the standard curriculum (whatever that is...) would do little to increase the challenge for them. Math has not been HCC specific for a few years. Students not identified as HCC can take math a few levels up (it's not really advanced, just accelerated).

anon2

Anonymous said...

Studying material a grade level higher, but still at the same slow pace, is hardly the answer for HC students.

DisAPPointed

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, we attended the 30th anniversary celebration for Garfield High School Music Director Marcus Tsutakawa at Benaroya. It was one of several side by side concerts that the Seattle Symphony does each year. Mayor Murry was there, officially declaring March 1, 2016, "Marcus Tsutakawa day."

http://www.seattlesymphony.org/concerttickets/calendar/2015-2016/concerts/seattlesymphony/sbs-garfield

-orchestra fan

Kathleen said...

Please consider writing Frank Chopp and ask him to hold- back charter school bills that will not pass Constitutional muster. His e-mail address is: frank.chopp@leg.wa.gov

"With the regular session drawing to a close March 10, it's unlikely that there's time or will to consider anything other than the bill now before the House. In the interest of keeping the existing charter schools open, the legislation should pass, but with the understanding that the Supreme Court is likely to send the issue back to lawmakers to find a more HONEST solution next year at the same time the Legislature attempts to devise a final fix for public schools funding"

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20160302/OPINION01/160309918

Anonymous said...

Very happy to read about the amendment to return Program decisions to the School Board. No more tricky and constantly changing definitions about what is a "school" and what is a "program". Boo ya!

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

Speechless, maybe, but I'm not sure we can read too much into that statement: "HCC pathways are being considered for expansion." We have known they are intending to "expand" HC in West Seattle for a long time now. In fact they've used that exact wording. From Stephen Martin last April: "We welcome the opportunity to expand Highly Capable services in the West Seattle neighborhood." It's possible that's what he was referring to in the memo.

Also, I agree with DisAPPointed. I actually think the way JAMS is doing it, essentially grade level with the cohort, is far better than straight acceleration a grade ahead in a gen ed classroom would be. And if the anonymous poster actually means skipping grades and entering high school earlier? Yikes. Just because a kid is academically capable for early high school does not mean they are socially or developmentally equipped to do that.

good fit

mirmac1 said...

An observation from last night's intro re: expanding the City PreK program:

Cashel Toner admits to NO engagement with staff and families on placing City PreK because "we've been working very carefully with our board to see if this was going to be a viable option". I'm going to go on record asserting that the board as a whole has NOT been involved in staff' own visions for City PreK.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I did find it odd that they wouldn't have ask the school communities (and the communities in general where they want to place the new pre-Ks) what they thought.

Charlie Mas said...

There is a belief - it's out there - that ALO, Spectrum, and HC students are getting something better than general education students. Let's address this belief.

Advanced learners should be getting lessons that are different from general education students. We'll come back to the question of whether they are or not. So certainly different, but better? Let's say that the advanced learners are getting acceleration - a grade level or two ahead. Is that better?

Before you answer that question, answer this one: Are third graders getting something better than first graders? The lessons given to third graders are more advanced, but does that make them better? To make it fair, should the first graders get the third grade lessons? Of course not. And the fifth graders are getting lessons that are more advanced than the lessons given to third graders, so does that mean that the fifth graders are getting something better than third graders? To make it fair should the fifth graders get the third grade lessons as well? Of course not. The fifth graders are getting - and should be getting - lessons that are right for the fifth graders, the third graders are getting - and should be getting - lessons that are right for the third graders, and the first graders are getting - and should be getting - lessons that are right for the first graders. That's what is best for each of them.

Let's return to the first question and it becomes very clear. The HC third graders, who are (or should be) getting the lessons that are right for them, are getting something different - but not something better - than the general education third graders, who are (or should be) getting the lessons that are right for them. The more advanced lesson isn't better unless the student is ready for the lesson.

Let's examine the idea that all students get the Spectrum curriculum a little closer.

One possible interpretation is that all students can be successful with the Spectrum curriculum. If that were true - and I'm unable to dispute it since there is no such thing as a "Spectrum curriculum" - then what we now call the "Spectrum curriculum" should be the curriculum for general education students and Spectrum students should get something else, something more advanced. This idea may have merit, but let's recall that a lot of students in our schools are struggling with the grade level curriculum as it is. Of course, once we successfully address the obstacles to those students' education, they, too, may be ready to succeed with the "Spectrum curriculum".

A second possible interpretation is that there is no meaningful difference between Spectrum or HC students and their general education peers. While I do hear people give voice to this idea from time to time, and while that is likely true for students on either side of cusp of the division, it is not true in the whole and the suggestion is not supported by the data. Let's stop that silly talk.

Anonymous said...

The question is are we going to have a district that allows parents to test and retest their kids until they get into a program that excludes 90% of the district. Of course kids have different needs and those needs include learning to work with and socialize with all of one's peers, not just academic peers. HCC kids are missing out on being in class with those who struggle, maybe a lot, with academics.

The district is doing these kids a disservice. They are not being well socialized in these programs and will suffer in college and life. Do parents really think the HCC label helps in college admissions? The kids get the same overcrowded schools and crowded classes; they also get the labeled as needing to be sequestered in a self-contained program in order to flourish. Colleges will look more favorably at a student who manages to succeed in an inclusive environment and has comparable test scores and grades.

Do HC kids need something different than gen-ed students? Sure, and the law the says they will receive different service. What that will look like can range from walk-to's, pull-outs or extra work in elementary, accelerated math and higher standards for identified students in middle and honors options and AP classes in HS. Self-contained is a lazy way for the district to do things, a blunt tool to cut up the vegetables. HC kids deserve a local experience like everyone else and the district has said it will provide that at every school.

a robot

Melissa Westbrook said...

A Robot, AL does not exclude anyone. That is factually not true. It's the same thing if someone does not make the football team or the band. Those are open to all to try out but not everyone participates.

Again, except at Cascadia, these kids are in schools with other peers. Do you give them no credit for making friends? I wasn't with all my friends all the time in my classes in high school. To think that the only people they would socialize with or interact with are people in their classes isn't fair (and probably not true.)

You have no idea about kids being well-socialized; that's your assumption. What factual knowledge or research do you have about this?

Colleges and universities general have no idea the size of a class in any given high school nor do they care. They look for rigor (in the form of taking the highest level classes you can), they look for a well-rounded person (other activities and interests) and they read personal essays on what this student wants to achieve.

Again, we can discuss all the various ways to serve HC kids. That's fine and if you want some change, go to the Board and advocate for it but good luck because Charlie and I have been doing that a LONG time and no change. Seemingly no one is interested but the parents.

Self-contained is a long-standing practice in schools and districts throughout the country.

Your last sentence is the key one - can the district deliver the services and supports to allow all kids - with disabilities, with academic strengths, with academic struggles - to be in one class?

Anonymous said...

A Robot provides the perfect example to follow Charlie's post. Because it's very clear that A Robot believes HCC kids are getting something better. But different is not better. In many ways, it's much worse.

Let me tell you what HCC kids at Cascadia get:
The extreme stress and upheaval of leaving a school they planted roots in as kindergarteners (and later)
The knowledge that, come 5th grade, they'll have to say goodbye to 2/3 of their new friends
6 and 7 classes per grade, which means a whole new group of kids to get to know just about every year
High turnover of PCP teachers who are overwhelmed by the numbers
A schedule that is at the breaking point because of the massive number of kids
2 classes at a time in one gym
Recess on a parking lot
an hour long bus ride across town
The worry that their program will split again

WHY would a parent put their kid through that, if it wasn't the ONLY choice for that kid? Trust me, everyone of us tried the "local experience" before sending our kids to HCC. And for everyone of those kids, it didn't work.

But this I will admit. For lots of us, our HC kids are thriving. They are happy. They love school. They come home enthusiastic about what they did that day. Could it be that some people see that as "better?" Because HC kids get to like school? That is very sad indeed.

2HC

Anonymous said...

Have no fear, "a robot", HC students (and former HCC/APP students) are doing just fine.

They are being well socialized, and are not suffering in college and life because they participated in advanced work as children. They are not being denied college admissions due to participation in a segregated program during some of the K-6 years, either. They DO get that inclusive environment for high school and even much of middle school, so your fears are for naught. (You sound confused about what HC services look like in middle and high school.) They also do NOT get "labeled as needing to be sequestered in a self-contained program in order to flourish", so no worries there, either.

And the parents? We DON'T really "think the HCC label helps in college admissions," so don't worry about that, either. Parents enroll their children in HC services not for the label, but rather because their students seem to need something different. We want our kids to enjoy school to some extent, and to not feel it's a waste of their time. We understand that overcrowded schools and crowded classes are a part of SPS, and we expect the same in HCC. There are no illusions that switching to HCC helps escape those realities.

Thanks for all your concern, but you can rest easy.

DisAPPointed

Charlie Mas said...

"The question is are we going to have a district that allows parents to test and retest their kids until they get into a program that excludes 90% of the district."

Is that the question? I have to wonder who is asking this question because it is not one I hear a lot. By the way, what are you asking this question about? Is it sports? Is it music? It certainly isn't ALO or Spectrum because those "programs" are delivered in the general education classroom. As far as HCC goes, the there is zero exclusion in high school - the HC students take classes available to every other student in the school - and only the Language Arts/Social Studies class is "exclusive" in middle school.

"HCC kids are missing out on being in class with those who struggle, maybe a lot, with academics."

Actually, no. They aren't. There are kids who struggle, maybe a lot, in the HCC classes in elementary school and, as noted, HCC students from grades 6-12 are in with non-HCC students for all of their classes except middle school ELA. What the HCC does provide is the HCC students with the opportunity to struggle, maybe a lot, with academics. This is much more valuable to them than watching someone else struggle.

"The district is doing these kids a disservice."

I suspect that your concern for the well-being of HCC kids is disingenuous. If you were really concerned about them then you would have educated yourself enough about them to know that your concern is baseless.

"They are not being well socialized in these programs and will suffer in college and life."

Do you have any evidence of this?

(cont.)

Charlie Mas said...

(cont.)

"Do parents really think the HCC label helps in college admissions?"

No. They don't. What an absurd suggestion. Whoever put this idea into your head? Again, do you have any evidence of this?

"The kids get the same overcrowded schools and crowded classes; they also get the labeled as needing to be sequestered in a self-contained program in order to flourish."

Who is labeling them this way? No one I know - other than you.

"Colleges will look more favorably at a student who manages to succeed in an inclusive environment and has comparable test scores and grades."

You have evidence of this?

"Do HC kids need something different than gen-ed students? Sure, and the law the says they will receive different service. What that will look like can range from walk-to's, pull-outs or extra work in elementary, accelerated math and higher standards for identified students in middle and honors options and AP classes in HS."

Ha ha ha. Funny thing. Don't you know, this is what HC, Spectrum, and ALO students are supposed to get, just like all other students who are working beyond Standards. Are they getting it? Sometimes. Reliably? No.

"Self-contained is a lazy way for the district to do things, a blunt tool to cut up the vegetables."

Self-contained - which only happens in elementary school and one class in middle school - may be the lazy way for the district to do things, but it is also the only reliable way to get it done. If the neighborhood schools were able to differentiate instruction effectively then families would never move their children out of those schools to place them in HCC.

"HC kids deserve a local experience like everyone else and the district has said it will provide that at every school."

And, like you, I look forward to the day when the District can fulfill that promise. But this isn't that day. The District cannot provide these children with an appropriate academic opportunity at the neighborhood school. It will be great when they can, but right now they can't. The solution is not to serve the children poorly while the District figures it out - if the District EVER figures it out. The solution is to provide the children with Plan B - HCC - until the District figures it out.

In future, please do not mock families with your false concern for their children's well-being and do not tell these families that the choice they made - a choice they didn't make easily - disserves their children when that's simply not true. It's like you are accusing them all of some sort of child abuse when, in truth, they have taken difficult steps to do what is best for their child.

Ed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Ed, unless you can supply some documentation, I will be taking your comment down. That's fairly serious.

Anonymous said...

How can 0.3% black students at Cascadia fulfill the state mandate to represent the area served? I know the northend is pretty white, what with the legacy of Seattle's shameful history of outright housing discrimination followed by red-lining, but 0.3%?

Somebody needs to sue SPS for violating the law or at least complain to the OSPI.

The Board of Directors needs to order the district to make HCC reflect the community, as required by law.

The program as it is now, is disgraceful as it reflects and perpetuates the racial inequity in our city.

More diversity would be good thing for all the kids in the program and the School Board needs to take a hard look at this programs lack thereof.

Fremont

Anonymous said...

sorry-

...the program's lack thereof.

Fremont

Anonymous said...

If you want to hear some actual experts on gifted kids and college admissions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JdpgeE7NqE

I don't think No Robot or Charlie know what they're talking about. Charlie sounds like Gov."segregation now, segregation forever" Wallace and no robot is adding to the anxiety parents already feel about moving their kids away from the neighborhood.

Fremont, however, makes a good point. Why can't SPS get more AA kids in Cascadia, or poor kids for that matter?

Voting Bernie

Anonymous said...

Districts must review identification procedures to make sure student selection reflects the demographics of the area they serve.

Area, not district.

Bryant send the most kids to Cascadia. Bryant has 1% black students. And go on down the list of where the kids come from.

It sucks.

SNE

Ed said...

It would not be possible to provide you copies and the culture of fear will find him faultless. THATS "fairly serious".

Anonymous said...


If the district were following state law, they would already be creating
a continuum of services model in local assignment schools (a whole other issue)
and reserving self-contained for the true outliers. If the district were
following state law, they would be periodically having placement meetings on
students using assessment data that makes sure the student is in the appropriate placement (including exiting them from the program, if needed). If the district were following state law, they would actively be working on making sure that eligible students from underrepresented demographics were put on the fast track for identification and services since HCC must reflect the district's demographics.

For how the HCC really works, read http://discussapp.blogspot.jp

Parents rarely tell how the program really works on this blog.
However, when you read the APP blog, you find out that it is a watered
down behemoth where the few students who need self-contained are languishing.

The fact that, after all these years, Melissa and Charlie are still defending the demographics in HCC (and the on-life-support Gen. Ed program called Spectrum) as not exclusive--after all the peer-reviewed research on how eligible children
from underrepresented groups are systematically excluded from these programs,
after all of changes in programs nationally (including in less "progressive" cities
and states) in order to respond to the research and equity demands, and even after WA state law now requires demographic reflection of the district in Advanced learning--is disgraceful.

--about time

Lynn said...

I did this. If you look at the ten schools that send the most kids to Cascadia, they had 135 Black students last year.

Anonymous said...

State law say there must be access to acceleration and enhanced instruction for HC. It doesn't say that some HC kids aren't really HC because they don't measure up to your definition of "outlier."

HCC is serving kids in the 98th to 99.99th percentile of the entire state. From 98 to 99.99 is a huge jump. Crazy big. That doesn't mean we shouldn't serve the 98ers. Because not a chance Gen Ed is going to be right for those kids. All of them are outliers. The 99.99 percenters are outliers among outliers. (And I heartily agree that we could do better serving the extreme cases.)

What is advanced? To the parent of a 99.99 percenter, a mere 98 percenter may not seem all that advanced. Those parents may complain about a watered down program on a blog. Let me make something perfectly clear: it is not students watering down the program. It is curriculum imposed by the district. Students did not suddenly decide 6th grade ELA was too hard and that they should go repeat what they'd already covered in 4th. The district made that choice.

Next, almost 9% of the district is identified as HC. 9% of the district at 98% and above seems mathematically impossible. Because how can they be 98th if they are really 91st? It's a percentile across the state. Seattle is a very highly-educated city. It makes sense that we would have a higher percentage of 98th and above here. All of those many 98 and above kids in HCC did not cheat their way in. I wish that tired assumption would go away.

Lastly, Cascadia fills from the north end, which is less diverse than other parts of the city. While a very low percentage identifies as black, 26% identifies as Asian, Hispanic and mixed race. Those numbers aren't surprising when you look at the makeup of Seattle as a whole. And FWIW, my kids have met friends in the program who moved to Seattle from 15 different countries. That certainly counts as cultural diversity, if not racial. That said, it's just not true that underrepresented groups are excluded. No one is excluded. HCC is open to all who qualify. I really would like more racial diversity in the program. Rather than complain about how disgraceful it is, I'd like to see more creative solutions for identifying people who don't seek out testing, and enticing them to move into the program.

2HC

Anonymous said...

Is the problem that underrepresented groups aren't seeking out testing and/or aren't accepting placement in HCC, or is the problem that fewer of those kids aren't meeting the eligibility criteria? If the latter, has the district ever analyzed the data to see how much lower the cutoffs would need to be to get proportionate qualifications by race? It would be valuable to know. If the discrepancy is large, they could always pilot a less drastic set of alternate criteria, say for ELL and FRL kids. Then see how they do in the program for a couple years--do they keep up ok in classes, do test scores stay a bit lower or do those gaps disappear, etc.

HF

Anonymous said...

Why would African American parents send their kids to Cascadia?

Let's not kid ourselves, racism is still alive in Seattle and looking at a school with 3 out of 700 kids being African American? The odds are that your child would never in the course of their studies at Cascadia have another African American in their classroom and would stand out ALL the time.

I'm not saying Cascadia is unwelcoming, I am sure many, many families wish it was more diverse, but its current composition will make the parents of African American students think twice and apparently they are deciding it's not a good fit.

As the AL department can give HC status to kids who don't make the threshold(affirmative action), one would presume it does and wants to make HCC more diverse, but if parents are scared off by the lack of diversity, what can they do? They can't force kids to go.

Doc

Anonymous said...

I think we throw words and phrases around sometimes without really thinking about them. Like just now when you called 750 kids racist? I'm sure you didn't really mean that. I mean that's just so unfounded, how could you have meant that? Certainly white privilege is alive in Seattle, but the situation at Cascadia is not racism. Those kids and their parents did not choose the school because it's 74% white.

But luckily I moved past that throwaway sentiment to the meat of what you are saying, and I think you have landed on something very true. Parents of children of color are hesitant to send their kid to Cascadia because of the lack of diversity by the numbers. To change this we need outreach in the underrepresented communities: awareness building, access to testing, and personalized contact from a counselor and/or other families of color when a child tests in. That's a start. When enough people make the first step, others will follow.

I know children of color at Cascadia. I don't know what box their parents checked on the form and I'm not going to ask that. They are thriving just like the other kids who are finally experiencing school the way they need it to be.

2HC

Lynn said...

Here is some more data on the area served by Cascadia. I looked at the reading MSP scores of sixth grade students enrolled in Eckstein, Hamilton, McClure and Whitman in 2013-14.

The students who scored Level 4 (exceeds standards) at those schools were identified as:

.18% American Indian
8.42% Asian and Pacific Islander
1.75% Black
5.96% Hispanic/Latino of any race
75.79% White
7.89% Two or more races

Enrollment at Cascadia was:

0 American Indian
12.5% Asian and Pacific Islander
.3% Black
2.2% Hispanic/Latino of any race
75.3% White
9.7% Two or more races

The advanced learning office looked at reducing the required achievement scores for all students for HCC and Spectrum identification. This would have increased the percentage of advanced learners who were white. I don't recall hearing that they've ever considered reducing the required achievement scores based on economic factors or racial identification. They do say that they are now considering socioeconomic status and English Language Learner status in the selection process.

Melissa Westbrook said...

About Time, I have never defended the demographics of the HC program.

Again, be reality-based an offer solutions.

I know that the district has tried many ways to get to more kids of color. Seemingly none of worked if you look at the stats. I know that Bob Vaughn had personally called families whose children had scored well on the WASL and got no traction. I think what would help is for principals with large populations of students of color would get on-board but, for various reason, don't seem to push the program.

The issue of seeing few kids (or teachers) of color in the program is a good point, Doc. I'll bet most people wouldn't like having their kid being the one of few in a mostly Asian/white program.

Lower the scores for kids of color in underserved categories? Maybe, I don't know the current research on that.

But if someone has a better idea - beyond just serving kids in their own schools which doesn't look to be happening either - please tell us (or your board member.)

Maybe the new program for African-American boys can include this issue.

Anonymous said...

I didn't call anyone racist. Not kids, not anyone. I said racism is alive in our culture and AA parents might be feeling that a school with 0.3% AA kids might not be comfortable for them.

Doc

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you have said--for years--that these programs are not exclusive because all students can apply and get in. That disregards the reams of research that demonstrates that the entrance criteria itself has usually been biased against underrepresented groups. That is long-standing defense of the demographics in which I was referring.

As long as you don't see any problems with the demographics, you are defending the demographics.

People can also search this blog under key words and find your quotes over the years when you were much less guarded in your defense of the exclusion of these programs--it's here for the world to see. Plus, I'm sure many of your readers have good enough memories that they know the pattern.

Your words have spoken for themselves. Your curt "lower the scores" comment (rather than referring to the intensive research, including the links that readers have sent over the years on how other districts now identify students who have been systematically excluded) sadly pretty much sums it up.

--about time

Melissa Westbrook said...

About Time, I have never said I don't have a problem with the demographics. I do.

Again, what would you change? Still waiting for constructive answers.

I wasn't being "curt" on lower the scores; I was asking a question.

Also, those links? I've sent them onto the Board over the years. Nothing changed and that's because 1) Charlie and I have gotten zero traction on this issue and 2) there is no champion for AL in this district to make it a better program or better represented program.

Please go right ahead and attack me and Charlie. How did you help with solutions?

Anonymous said...

Great news that you have been working behind the scenes to get this issue addressed.

When you say on your blog--for years--that these programs are "not exclusive" because
anyone can test in, you have given a very different message. That message, which has often been a rebuttal to people who have had concerns about the demographic exclusivity of these programs, has helped defend the demographic composition of these programs. Like it or not, words matter. Stating facts is not an attack.

I have worked for a long time educating and advocating for children and their families. I don't like to toot my horn, but I want to make it clear that I don't sit on the couch with a remote.

--about time

Anonymous said...

I believe Melissa has worked for a long time to improve these programs, including the demographics. Not just behind the scenes, but here. She has said that she is not against self contained programs, which some people have taken to mean an endorsement of demographics. I would also like to see the program improved, including demographics, and think the first best step would be advanced learning in every school. The longer I am involved with sps the more ridiculous it is to me that we don't have this. It would help with so many issues. I think some people think unless you are willing to dismantle hcc tomorrow you aren't committed enough, somehow, but that's not true. I think the district likes hcc big, honestly. They have a lot of kids to siphon out of crowded areas, and this makes them into moveable chunks.

I also have complained on the app blog about the lack of rigor, but at the middle school level it appears to be 100% district driven. Our school has mixed spectrum and hcc kids, and we actually have no idea whether the spectrum kids could do hcc level work because no one is getting it. The district should allow the middle school la pathway to have an advanced option. And a lot of the other ones, especially at the middle school level- the watering down really is district level, not population driven. Different at elementary, but the fix for that is local advanced learning options.

-sleeper

Lynn said...

Unfortunately the last elementary Spectrum classrooms will be gone next year. Local advanced learning options have been reduced to whatever your principal and teacher choose to offer as frequently as they get around to offering it. If that was sufficient, we would not have 5,000 students referred for advanced learning testing each year.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Lynn, your news should make a lot of people here very happy (you'd think.)

Beth D said...

Are people in other cities as opposed to HCC-type programs as Seattle? It's so frustrating to keep hearing that HCC must be racist, is definitely elitist, is not needed because gifted kids can do just fine in regular classrooms at their neighborhood school, etc.

Momof2

Beth D said...

Most HCC parents just want a school that can teach their child at the appropriate level (or close to it). We are willing to sacrifice being able to go to the neighborhood school, having a decent playground in elementary school, being shipped around by the district based on their ongoing capacity crises, etc.

Momof2

Anonymous said...

Yes, other cities and states are very opposed when advanced learning/highly capable programs (not synonyms for gifted, but can include gifted) systematically exclude demographically underrepresented students. In fact, many districts changed their identification criteria several years ago. The students who qualify and need services are now legally protected to receive services in WA.

The state of WA also now requires these programs to reflect the demographics of the district. This is a direct result of research and best practices being followed in other places. A continuum of services model means that students get served based on their needs, not that they will denied services.

The parents of students who are highly capable but have been systematically denied services are the focus of this thread. They want their children to be taught at an appropriate level, too, but their students have been systematically denied entrance.
Many of them seek Charter Schools as a recourse.

Spectrum, a general education program, is over because it was a federal violation of LRE for students with IEPs (students in Spectrum and HCC have proportionally much fewer IEPs than in gen ed). Once the district established that HCC is their definition of Advanced Learning, SPS had no choice but to get rid of Spectrum (or deal with federal violation penalties). Charlie also acknowledged this several weeks ago. I think many Special Education advocates are likely relieved.

--about time

Anonymous said...

No, other cities don't have as much animosity, regardless of demographics (which almost always skew wealthier/whiter because of the deleterious effects of poverty of children). I think people in Seattle more often think the school district alone can fix every problem plagueing society. In some ways it is very optimistic. In other ways it is closed minded.

Yes, it is difficult to get an IEP if you are performing above grade level. This fact naturally depresses the number at Cascadia. Lately the number of 504s has been skyrocketing, but because of an especially proactive special Ed team, no change in population. And the demographics are only supposed to represent the area, which they do- they specifically use the word area when in that same paragraph they use the word district. I wish the district would have let the advanced learning go ahead with their project to give enrichment to high IQ lower achievement kids in the SE to help work then into HCC, but the district gave a flat no. I don't even think they needed much money.

-sleeper

Lynn said...

Parents of students who are highly capable but have been systematically denied services are a figment of your imagination. These students do not exist. Every highly capable student in the district is guaranteed access to services. Other students may be bright or gifted, but unless the district has identified them, they are not highly capable.

You keep making the claim that there is a legal issue with Spectrum but provide no evidence. This is merely your opinion.

The district has not defined Advanced Learning as HCC. Advanced Learners is the new label for Spectrum students. Advanced Learning services include the former Spectrum and ALO programs, Honors and AP and IB courses.

Anonymous said...

HCC is the only legally protected group in SPS under the state's definition of Advanced Learning (as determined by SPS). All other AL students in SPS are general education students.

Lynn, the district is now required by state law to have the highly capable program reflect the district's demographics. The identification process has been biased. No one said the district isn't guaranteed to give services once they are identified. Underrepresented students have sytematically been denied services because they haven't been identified. That will be changing per state law.

Read Special Education law regarding LRE. Spectrum was in clear violation of LRE and the district knows it. You can't warehouse students with IEPs in classrooms when other general ed students in the building have considerably fewer students with IEPs in their classrooms.

Many other cities and states have been more proactive and didn't get to the point where Seattle is regarding advanced learning (or lack of diversity in schools, for that matter--see Louisville's answer to Supreme Court ruling). Changing unfair policies in response to research and ethics, rather than having to react to state and federal law, would have been a much better, less acrimonius result.

Seattle's response is not what I would define as "optimistic" but, rather, reactive. SPS policies are typically far from "progressive".

--about time

Anonymous said...

Underrepresented students have systematically been denied services because they haven't been identified.

What specific systems and policies are denying services for them? Or is it that they are not scoring as high on the eligibility assessments, and thus are not qualifying? Are those one and the same?

HF

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Yes, other cities and states are very opposed when advanced learning/highly capable programs (not synonyms for gifted, but can include gifted) systematically exclude demographically underrepresented students."

I don't believe that was the question.

Also charter schools serving gifted kids? That's a funny one because one of the first things I researched on charters was how they serve gifted kids. There's just not a lot out there. Will your kid be in smaller classes and get more attention at a charter? Probably but that's not gifted education.

"I wish the district would have let the advanced learning go ahead with their project to give enrichment to high IQ lower achievement kids in the SE to help work then into HCC, but the district gave a flat no."

I don't recall this event, could you refresh my memory?

Lynn said...

It was a budget request from advanced learning. They identified some promising students when they screened all second grade (I think) students in the SE and wanted to pay teachers to work with these kids after school in the hope that they would eventually qualify for Spectrum or HCC.

I don't get it. How would it be appropriate for the district to pay for special enrichment programs for promising students at a high poverty school? First, I thought improving the scores of low achieving students was the number one priority (the most important work of our time). Second, advanced learning services exist to meet the needs of students who can't be/ are not served in the general education classroom. If these students aren't already working above grade level, the general education classroom is exactly what they need. The curriculum is designed for students working at grade level.

Anonymous said...

I think of it as like any program to direct funds at impoverished kids to offset the effects of poverty. I know it is not as simple as poverty=-10 achievement points, but I was glad to see a program directed not just at getting kids who are behind to catch up to grade level, but to counteract the effects of poverty on kids who would be performing well above grade level but for poverty effects. Maybe it wouldn't work, and maybe the neighborhood gen Ed classroom is the best place for them after all, but this seemed so worth a shot, and if this district was really serious about helping the demographic issue(instead of allowing low level animosity toward the program to flourish so they can move it whenever and however they want to solve capacity crises), they would have jumped right on it.

-sleeper