Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Oversight meeting Teaching and Learning II

This week the School Board will conduct its required management oversight of Teaching and Learning. The agenda for the oversight meeting can be found here.

In this session, the staff will share information with the Board about Curriculum Assessment & Instruction and Advanced Learning. Some of the information they are sharing does not ring true.

Let's start with the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It's sort of the good and the bad, internally and externally.

Among the strengths they list: "Shared commitment to equitable access to quality instruction". I don't think this is true. I don't think that the district has a shared commitment to quality instruction for advanced learners. There are a lot of people in the district, both in the JSCEE and especially in the schools, who don't believe in supporting advanced learners at all. This lack of commitment to adequately serve advanced learners also makes me question their claims of "Commitment to standards-based instruction for all students" and "Clear mission and vision, driven by equity, aligned to strategic plan"

If they are committed to standards-based instruction for all students, then what are the academic Standards for ALO/Spectrum students? What are the academic Standards for HC students? How are these Standards different from the grade level Standards for all students?

The proof appears on the very next slide. Among weaknesses they list: "Inability to equitably serve all students in all academic needs". You can't tell me that you're committed to it one second and then, in the next second, tell me that you're unable to do it.

It also shows up among the threats: "Out-of-sync information and messages from higher leadership and site-based school leaders hinders the quality of services." and "Lack of authority for accountability limits the ability to develop systems that provide reliable, consistent support for teachers and principals." So if there's a principal who doesn't want to do advanced learning, there's nothing that the central staff can do about that.

Among the accomplishments for the past three years (2013-2016) they list, under differentiation: "required Highly Capable services to be identified in school CSIP plans." What you'll notice is that none of the things they listed under Differentiation actually involve differentiated instruction.

The org chart on slide 10 shows four open positions: Director of College & Career Readiness, STEM & Arts (there's an interim), CTE Program Manager, and Advanced Learning Supervisor (there's an interim). Also, what are the differences between supervisor, manager, and program manager?

Slide 11 features a clear lie. It claims that 100% of schools identify Advanced Learning services in their CSIPs. This is simply untrue. Here's a link to the web page for CSIPs. You can count for yourself the number that don't identify Advanced Learning services. I didn't even have to get out of the A's before I reached Alki and Arbor Heights. Then comes Beacon Hill and many more. I'd like to know who is responsible for the claim that 100% of schools identify Advanced Learning services in their CSIPs and how this person reached that conclusion.

Page 12 says that 50% of the HC cohort schools are participating in collaborative planning sessions. 100% was promised when APP was split years ago. That promise, so easily made, was easily broken. You'll notice that the other MTSS-A goal is only about interventions, not about supports for students working beyond Standards. They have no plan to do that work. Also, isn't this year four of the three-year plan to implement MTSS? Shouldn't all of the schools be fully implemented by now?

Slide 16 is where we see the full shame. 0% of schools at full minutes in all identified areas of basic education. There isn't one school in the district that complies with the state law on basic education.

On slide 17 I see a target of "0% of schools applying for waivers". Really? Since when is zero a target? Don't we want at least a few schools using alternative materials? Aren't there some benefits to some schools trying different materials? Shouldn't some of the option schools be using different materials?

This brings us to the "mini-session" on Advanced Learning. Lot's to question here.

Let's start with the identified threats in the SWOT analysis:

  • "Continuing dependence on outdated, antiquated and unsustainable data systems" What are they using? Why don't the district's data systems accommodate advanced learning?
  • "Inconsistent achievement data collection" Really? What's that about? Are they talking about opt-outs?
  • "Equity and diversity initiatives hampered by inability to update 2190SP" Who is stopping them from updating 2190SP? Not the Board.
  • "Existence of Spectrum identification diverts energy from Highly Capable identification and services" This is interesting. They say that they are so busy identifying students eligible for Spectrum that they don't have time to identify students for HCC. How does that work? How much time are they spending on determining Spectrum eligibility? And, more to the point, what difference does it make now that Spectrum no longer exists?
  • "Time and resources used to address, often repeatedly, misinformation disseminated throughout the community." This is one of my favorites since there is no one disseminating more misinformation about advanced learning than the district. The solution to misinformation is to make the correct information available.
  • "Potential Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act violations" Shouldn't this be in Weaknesses instead of threats? The problem here is internal, not external.
I'm always amused when the district staff list a plan to do a thing as an accomplishment. They did it here when they listed "Additional HCC pathway available at Madison MS beginning SY 2016-17" among their accomplishments for 2013-2016. This is not an accomplishment because it has not actually been accomplished. Same for "All school CSIPs required to document provisions for Advanced Learners" Yes, you say you required it, but they aren't all there, so it's not actually accomplished. In a similar vein, the listed diversity accomplishments are good efforts, but what were the outcomes? Tested all of the 2nd graders in Title I schools. Good. How many qualified for advanced learning and how many more were identified than we usually see?

Slide 38 repeats the lie that "100% of school CSIPs now address Advanced Learning services". It's repeated again on slide 42. Someone needs to take responsibility for that claim. The Goal is stated as "Guarantee all HC identified students’ needs are met in the schools they attend" but the measures, "Communication to schools of all newly AL/HC eligible students in their building" and "Inclusion of advanced student focus in all school CSIPs" doesn't actually guarantee service, does it? Also, I notice that the focus is on HC students. Where is there any concern for ALO/Spectrum students?

The Diversity slide lacks a measurable goal. What's the target?

Three years ago, when Advanced Learning was last subject to the Board's management oversight, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Shauna Heath, acknowledged that the absence of any program evaluation was a problem and she promised the Board that there would be a program evaluation at the end of the year. Where is that program evaluation? Why isn't the lack of a program evaluation still regarded as a problem?

When APP was split the Board and the public were promised a written, taught and tested curriculum for APP. Where is it?

In a Standards Based system there are supposed to be clear, objectively measurable expectations for students. What are the academic expectations for students in HCC? What are the academic expectations for students in ALO/Spectrum?

Why don't any of the Key Performance indicators for Advanced Learning address ALO/Spectrum?

It's pretty clear that Advanced Learning is something that we talk about but we are careful not to ever do anything about it.


Anonymous said...

If the AL Supervisor position shows 'open' does that mean Stephen Martin is gone? Anyone know? If so another setback for AL.

AL Wondering

Anonymous said...

According to a admissions/enrollment staff member, there is a plan for all schools to offer Advanced Learning programs/services. She said it was not set in stone yet, but that was the plan. This was in response to my inquiry about waitlists for Spectrum placement.
Will this just be in class differentiation?

-Watering it down

Melissa Westbrook said...

I believe Mr. Martin is out on a sick leave and it seems unclear when he may return.

Yes to all that Charlie has said.

"A plan for all schools to offer AL?" We've heard that before.

Charlie Mas said...

@Watering it down, all schools will be required to provide Advanced Learning. This will be done as a Tier 2 curriculum in MTSS. That's what is replacing Spectrum and ALO.

The problem with that plan, of course, is that there is no way to confirm that it is happening and there is no record of it having ever happened before.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, your link is still live but the one at the Board page is not. Hmm.

Charlie Mas said...

It's pretty clear where this is going.

Advanced learning will shift to focus exclusively on HC and HCC at that. ALO/Spectrum are going away. There won't be any more testing for Spectrum eligibility, no more program, it's going away completely. Instead, students working beyond Standards will be found and served through MTSS. Which, of course, means that they will all be served with "differentiated instruction" in general education classrooms. This will be their plan and they will implement it districtwide immediately despite any single school where this can be shown to have worked.

Anonymous said...

Then what is the point of having families apply to spectrum programs this year? It's a waste of your first choice in open enrollment and a chance to change schools.
Such a hot mess.

- Watering it down

Anonymous said...

I just really hate this idea that HC services are going to be provided in schools that are traditionally skeptical or hostile toward air-quoted "gifted" students. It irks me more to see certain schools incorporate it into their CSIP knowing what a load of BS it is.


Charlie Mas said...

The District is proposing a LOT of change all at once and none of it with any precedent.

1. They are in year four of their three-year MTSS implementation with six years to go. They cannot implement MTSS, yet they are relying on MTSS to provide all kinds of services for students.

2. They are relying on teachers in general education classrooms to provide differentiated instruction for AL and HC students without providing those teachers with the resources (time, lessons, and more) necessary for differentiation.

3. They are relying on teachers in general education classrooms to provide differentiated instruction for AL and HC students despite the fact that a number of the teachers are unwilling to do it even if they had the resources.

4. They expect student families to believe that their advanced learners and HC students are being served in general education classrooms despite a total lack of evidence that any such thing is happening.

5. They talk about aligning the AL and HC instruction but have nothing to align it with. There is no set of Standards or academic performance expectations for AL or HC students and they refuse to produce one.

Anonymous said...


We're new to SPS, and my child will be enrolled in the 1st grade HCC program next year. I'm trying to understand how to best direct my advanced learning advocacy efforts, and I'm looking for a group who is already involved in district-level advocacy.

Is the "Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee/ Parent reps" the group that I should contact?

If not, what other group exists? From what I've read, it seems like most people are advocating at an individual level since advanced learning support is defined at a building level by the principal and teachers.

- New to SPS

Melissa Westbrook said...

New to SPS, yes,the HC committee group would be the best. Charlie and I (and several others) tried to start a Spectrum group but that didn't work.

You could ask that committee if each school has its own group.

Benjamin Leis said...

As I discovered last time I looked into CSIPS, the district doesn't keep current ones on their website. So yes the list you looked at may have been incomplete but that doesn't mean the schools didn't submit them. The only way to check is to verify with someone live.

But then once you start looking, you also realize the CSIP framework is very narrowly defined by measurable goals i.e. test scores. So its just not an interesting lever if you're concerned with the quality of services provided.

I think AL wants more out of this federal requirement than its designed for or the rest of the district is willing to give.

Charlie Mas said...

As I have often said, I don't know the truth; I only know what the district tells me. The CSIPs that are on the web page are the only CSIPs I know about and they are the only CSIPs the District is telling me about.