Thursday, June 30, 2016

No one is checking

I just read the Teaching and Learning update from the Friday Memo for June 24, 2016 and it makes the District's problem with accountability perfectly clear.

While these problems are examined in Advanced Learning, the truth is that these failures are repeated all across the district in every school, program, and classroom. The problem is that no one checks to confirm that the work is getting done.
The Board asked: "Is there consistency as a district regarding what we offer students identified as Highly Capable or as Advanced Learners?"

The Advanced Learning Department answered: "delivery mechanisms are to be consistent not in their structure, but in their ability to meet the learning needs of students. Consistency in AL programs does not refer to a scripted curriculum across programs and services, but an expectation of learning achievement and instructional quality appropriate to the needs of the learners." which is a really long way of saying "no".

The central staff answer that they have vaguely defined an expectation of learning achievement and instructional quality, but that doesn't address the question, which is not about what the schools are told to give the students but about what are the students getting. The answer from the Advanced Learning Department is, in fact, non-responsive because it carefully avoids discussing the core of the question: what do the students get? Instead, it only discusses the terms of the superintendent's procedure in meaningless jargon. The Board wasn't asking what the staff suggests that the schools should do, the Board is asking what the schools actually do. This inability to distinguish between the theoretical world and the real world is deeply troubling.

Ask yourself if this answer would be appropriate for general education. If the Board asked if there was consistency in the academic offering to students across the district and the superintendent answered "Well, we don't have a prescribed curriculum, but we expect teachers to do good work."

Ask yourself what is the value of a scripted curriculum -  the District is deeply invested in curricula and has, at times, brought pressure to bear to assure fidelity of implementation. If it has such a high value for some students, why does it have no value for other students?

And here is where we get the truth, in the very last sentence of a four paragraph response: "The team, however, does not provide scripted curriculum nor is it able to require compliance"

Not only is the team unable to require compliance, the team doesn't even check for it. The team simply isn't interested in it.

Imagine a skydiving school with a written policy that says that all of the instructors should pack the parachutes properly. Skydiving students are falling out of airplanes all over the place and all the school owner says in defense is: "I ask the instructors to pack the chutes correctly, but I don't tell them how to do it, I don't check that they have done it right, and I don't count how many students jump without a properly packed parachute. Everything to do with packing the parachutes is the instructor's job, not mine." Would this be an acceptable response?

This is a consistent theme in the responses.

"In compliance with the 2011 MTSS implementation, appropriate services for Advanced Learners are to be provided at every school as a part of Tier II Strategic Interventions"

Yeah, they are supposed to do this, but do they? No one knows because no one is checking.

The Board asks: "What proportion of our teachers has taken Professional Development in differentiation?"

The staff answers: dunno. Because no one is checking.

"Advanced Learning has offered 14 sessions of Professional Development (PD) in differentiated instruction at the John Stanford Center over the past two years. In addition, AL staff has facilitated full-staff workshops at over a dozen schools that have requested that support on differentiation."

That's twelve schools out of a hundred. As the staff says: "Attendance is not mandatory"

So here's the central problem: the central staff doesn't do the two things we really need it to do for academics, which is to check compliance and perform quality assurance. This is why there's a Board policy that requires an annual report on the quality and efficacy of the district's academic programs. Because those are the basic functions of management - check to see if people are doing what they are supposed to be doing and whether or not it is working - but Seattle Public Schools doesn't do it.

I use Advanced Learning to illustrate the problem, but it exists across all schools and programs. This is, essentially, the same story we saw in Special Education until it finally led to the need for state intervention and a corrective plan.

94 comments:

-sps parent said...

Of course one of the biggest lies was when the first splits happened there was a promise that all schools would use the same curriculum but when pressed AL couldn't produce said curriculum. I guess they also learned with HIMS defiant leadership that it isn't worth the fight. As a reminder that is also a very SES and racially homogeneous building so the optics and equity issue was not the issue. It was just blatant malpractice towards the HCC and AL did nothing because Tully and Heath cared less.

Anonymous said...

"This is, essentially, the same story we saw in Special Education until it finally led to the need for state intervention and a corrective plan. "

Are you hypothesizing that the SPED CAP or RCAP or MOU have corrected the "what the students are actually getting" problem in SPED?

SPED parent

Anonymous said...

"Because those are the basic functions of management - check to see if people are doing what they are supposed to be doing and whether or not it is working..."

I cannot tell you how strongly I agree with this and how my experience with my son's class last year tell me that this isn't happening at the school level either, at least his.

The teacher (not new) was not strong. I am a former elem teacher and told the principal about my concerns early on, after spending time in the classroom. She assured me she shared my concerns and that she was working on them. Nothing improved. I asked what was going on to make things better. Was told she couldn't share that with me. Things got worse. Early May, teacher left on leave and did not return.

Things happen, people have problems. I get it. But in a good school & district, there is accountability and a plan. Put it down on paper and try to make it better before there is a train wreck.

Who else knew about the situation? I have no idea. Was there someone at the Ex Dir or district level that could have, or should have helped? I would like to think so.

Forget differentiated learning. I would have been happy with regular math & reading instruction in first grade. It did not happen, and 24 kids lots out on a lot.

Where is the accountability?

~frustrated parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Consistency in AL programs does not refer to a scripted curriculum across programs and services, but an expectation of learning achievement and instructional quality appropriate to the needs of the learners."

Really? So as long as those kids get high grades/test scores, that's how central staff knows the program is working? And if every school goes its own way, how does the district truly know what meets the needs of HCC learners?

I don't know a district that does their AL program like this.

Charlie Mas said...

@SPED Parent asked: "Are you hypothesizing that the SPED CAP or RCAP or MOU have corrected the "what the students are actually getting" problem in SPED?"

No. I made no such suggestion.

Charlie Mas said...

If there is an expectation of learning achievement, what is that expectation, where is it documented, and who is confirming it?

If there is an expectation of instructional quality, what is that expectation, where is it documented, and who is confirming it?

In the absence of any such documentation or confirmation, the claim of expectations rings false.

Anonymous said...

For decades it has been the case that students with high test scores are selected for advanced learning, and then the district knows that advanced learning "works" because (a) parents continue to demand it and (b) students (who were selected as having high test scores) have high test scores.

I don't see how we can demand that the district check whether AL actually "works" without first asking for a statement of what exactly AL is trying to accomplish. Such a statement seems to me entirely within the authority of the board, but the best the board has managed so far is statements to the effect of "services should be made available if possible to students who are eligible to receive services", which don't really mean much.

Note that I do not claim that the goals of general education, special education, or other programs have been better specified.

Irene

Anonymous said...

Ok, then what exactly are you insinuating by the reference?

"This is, essentially, the same story we saw in Special Education until it finally led to the need for state intervention and a corrective plan. "

Would you like the state to step in and make SPS spend $3 million on a bunch of AL documentation and other procedural CYA stuff that in the end equates to little to no achievement improvements?

Really, why do you consistently pit AL and SPED against each other. why do you even mention SPED other than to point out you think SPED receives some level of preferential treatment?

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

It's actually clear to me now that AL doesn't have the authority to do anything in a site-based district. There will never be a HCC specific curriculum under the current model.

Achievement is measured by grade-level tests not the above-grade level needed for what was actually taught or known prior to being taught.

Differentiation is recommended as an effective strategy in theory for all children, but in practice there is a process that needs to followed to ensure it is appropriate. Assess what children know coming in (including out-of-level testing), adjust the learning goals for each student, and follow this process throughout the school year. If that's not being done, it's just jargon to appease everyone that "something" is being done to address differences. Also, it needs to be done everyday.

If every site offers a different curriculum then how can curriculum be aligned K-12? is there a curriculum map? Scope and sequence? Curriculum based assessments? Is the only thing really "there" CC standards and textbooks? How can we be assured every site is receiving a quality education? AL seems to be the focus of equity discussions, but the problem is so much bigger than AL.

- Nem

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog, it helps to get the word out to people about the inadequacies of the program. Is there any way to financially assist in this effort?

madrobot

Melissa Westbrook said...

MadRobot, we have never been asked this question before. I think more than money - if you are speaking about getting the word out - what parents need to do is tell the Times and other media about the issue. Tell the Board that you are unhappy with the lack of overall coherence to the program. Tell a friend. The Board will not act without pressure especially on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Swing and a miss on that one.

NEP

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:01p,

Luckily, Melissa and Charlie fill a void in this city for open discussions about our district. Your attempt to discredit Melissa in a very personal way is unacceptable. Please keep personal attacks out of your discussions.

- NEM

Anonymous said...

"The team, however, does not provide scripted curriculum nor is it able to require compliance."

As Nem suggested, AL simply doesn't have the authority to require compliance. That is the way the district is structured. Newbie parents - save your energy. Having watched this play out for the past 10 years and see only further degradation of the program, it doesn't look good. Look back at posts on AL from the beginning of this blog. What has improved?

What's galling to me is that classes in some cases aren't even covering the grade level standards (we have WA state standards - it's not all CCSS). Expressing concern to the principal will accomplish squat. Save your energy and supplement.

Who expects a scripted curriculum? That's a cop out on the QA. There could be core texts and topics, appropriate for AL, that form the basis of a class, with freedom for the teacher to supplement. Of course the district doesn't believe in using anything but the grade level texts (see recent SS adoption), and the middle school LA classes aren't supposed to use anything from the high school lists. Heck, in some cases the grade level SS texts would have been far superior to what the teacher put together, at least my kids would have learned some history.

-bitter

Anonymous said...

Amen SPED parent. The idea that OSPI galloped in, to save the poor, underserved disabled students from the big bad district is absurd. The idea that OSPI was there to provide accountability - also absurd. The idea, that students in advanced learning have gotten a raw deal because they don't have the perfect text book, or lockstep following of a prescription, and that's somehow equivalent to other grievances, is ridiculous.

Let's be clear on what state level special education oversight has been - OSPI reluctantly showed up to crack the whip on SPS, after years of doing nothing, never providing remedies for the same citizen's complaints over and over again, only because the federal government was asking them to do it. Their job: look like they were cracking down on SPS to the federal government but changing as a little practice as possible to school districts. First they forced SPS to hire an expensive pal of Doug Gil to essentially provide a survey monkey evaluation - devoid of any data, or even any numbers of measurement at all - at high cost to the district. This group was TIERS. Then he personally attempted to mandate a huge contract for his friends at TIERs for ongoing "consulting" by pressuring/mandating that the SPS sped director hire them. When that was exposed, (the SPED director failed to properly conduct competitive bids - even though OSPI was pressuring her to hire TIERS) OSPI left Zakkiyah McWilliams hanging out to dry. She was fired. NEXT OSPI, to save face, continued to insist that SPS hire a consulting firm. So, SPS hired the weakest group of nobodies imaginable, SENECA Group, because there was nobody else left after the TIERs snafu. What do we have as "accountability" from OSPI for special education? A secret "internal procedures book". It took millions of dollars in consulting fees, and probably millions more of wasted administrative busywork hires to write and nobody can read it, provide feedback, know if it worked, know if the "procedures" are being followed. A big book, that nobody reads - not even the staff. Now, there's accountability by OSPI. There has been no oversight. No checking of anything. OSPI does not come out to classrooms to see anything. They do check a few IEPs - but they do not check practice.

By the way. There is no curriculum for special education. There are no books. Not having a scripted AL dictum is really not the same thing as not having any materials. I have to say, I haven't heard a single parent anywhere - ever complain that they really wish for a lockstep guarantee of academic compliance to a prescribed curriculum. Really? I think that expectation is out of touch with reality.

Speddie

Liza Rankin said...

I sat in a C&I meeting this year where the elimination of the last self-contained Spectrum classrooms were being discussed. Jill Geary asked what was being done to prepare teachers to accommodate Spectrum students who would be joining their classrooms next year. The answer was "differentiated instruction." She followed up by asking what materials/resources would be provided, if classes would be smaller to make up for a larger range of student ability in one classroom. Blank stares.

Charlie Mas said...

Wow, SPED Parent, you really have a rich imagination. You have imagined that I wrote a whole lot of stuff that I never wrote. Why can't you just be reality-based? Why isn't the truth good enough for you?

"Ok, then what exactly are you insinuating by the reference?" I didn't insinuate anything. I wrote that the utter lack of any sort of quality assurance in Special Education in Seattle Public Schools is what led the OSPI to get involved. It's a simple statement of fact. I think that was pretty plain from the actual words that I used (as opposed to those you imagine I meant).

Here are those words again, just as you quoted them: "This is, essentially, the same story we saw in Special Education until it finally led to the need for state intervention and a corrective plan. "

"Would you like the state to step in and make SPS spend $3 million on a bunch of AL documentation and other procedural CYA stuff that in the end equates to little to no achievement improvements?" No. If I did want that then I would have written that I wanted that and would not rely on my readers to imagine such a thing. After all, there is no evidence in anything I wrote that would suggest that I desire this sort of intervention so it would be complete madness for someone to imagine it. And I don't rely on anyone making such a jump to such an absurd conclusion. I'm very surprised that you did. Very surprised.

"Really, why do you consistently pit AL and SPED against each other. why do you even mention SPED other than to point out you think SPED receives some level of preferential treatment?"

Actually I don't pit AL and SPED against each other. I defy you to support that accusation with any proof. I mentioned SPED because it was, far and away, the worst case of poor quality assurance in the district and because it was the program that was so out of control that it attracted outside regulation. That's not anything I would call "preferential treatment".

You need to calm down and pay attention to what is actually written instead of the voices in your head. I don't care to have such ugly words and thoughts falsely attributed to me.

Charlie Mas said...

Speddie wrote: "Amen SPED parent. The idea that OSPI galloped in, to save the poor, underserved disabled students from the big bad district is absurd. The idea that OSPI was there to provide accountability - also absurd. The idea, that students in advanced learning have gotten a raw deal because they don't have the perfect text book, or lockstep following of a prescription, and that's somehow equivalent to other grievances, is ridiculous."

It is, no doubt, because these things are absurd and ridiculous is probably why no one wrote them or said them.

Don't you have enough real things to complain about? Why do you have to invent stuff to complain about?

" haven't heard a single parent anywhere - ever complain that they really wish for a lockstep guarantee of academic compliance to a prescribed curriculum." Neither have I, so why mention it?

"Really? I think that expectation is out of touch with reality." No, what's out of touch with reality is thinking that anyone ever asked for that.

Surely you can find something real and true to rant about instead of going to all of the work of inventing things so you can spew your bile.

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

Really? Let me propose that perhaps just maybe you should read your post through a different set of glasses, or use an equity tool?

I've read your post several times and each time I come to the same conclusion which is, you're definitely making a statement designed to contrast the differences in the district's or administration's commitment to AL vs SPED.

You drop an innuendo, a hint that SPED has been fixed and someone should do the same CAP process for AL. It's been pointed out ad nauseam that the RCAP SPED process was a hoax, a fraud, a veneer of compliance.

I don't disagree with you, but you should step up and own it.

SPED Parent

Charlie Mas said...

There is no "innuendo". There are no "hints". I wrote plainly and clearly. There is no statement of contrast. In fact, I specifically state that the situation is similar for all district programs and schools:
"While these problems are examined in Advanced Learning, the truth is that these failures are repeated all across the district in every school, program, and classroom."

At no point did I ever suggest that SPED has been fixed. I didn't put any of that in what I wrote; you brought it. I'm not going to own it because it isn't mine. It's yours. You own it.

Also, the RCAP does not represent a difference in the district's commitment to SPED vs. AL because the District did not initiate the corrective action.

Please stop putting words in my mouth. I am perfectly capable of expressing myself, and I didn't write any of the things that you imagine I wrote.

To refresh everyone's memory, here is the entire paragraph I wrote that contained the only mention of Special Education in my post:

"I use Advanced Learning to illustrate the problem, but it exists across all schools and programs. This is, essentially, the same story we saw in Special Education until it finally led to the need for state intervention and a corrective plan."

So, as you can see - plainly - I am not contrasting any programs, but instead saying that the District is negligent towards all of them. I'm saying that it is "the same story" that we saw in Special Education - not a different story, the SAME story. That's not contrast. Any hint or innuendo about contrast is completely absent from what I wrote and exists only in your delusion. If anything, the situation in Special Education was worse - not better - because the absence of oversight was so egregious that it triggered intervention by the OSPI.

Also, there is nothing in there that even suggested that the OSPI intervention was a success or that everything is now good in Special Education. In fact, I specifically wrote that things are still bad all across the district in every school and program.

This post was not even really about Advanced Learning. It was about a districtwide catastrophic failure to manage:
"Because those are the basic functions of management - check to see if people are doing what they are supposed to be doing and whether or not it is working - but Seattle Public Schools doesn't do it."

Finally, there is nothing I wrote that pits Advanced Learning against Special Education. You want to know who is always pitting AL vs SPED? You. Stop it. It isn't productive.

Just as taking time from me and from readers to address attacks that exist only in your paranoid imagination is not productive.

N said...

Charlie, you write with a lot of voice. You do imply and we infer incorrectly, we are not trying to be obnoxious.

I was at a Spectrum school. My school had few complaints. As there were many more Spectrum sites then, our school was fairly close to another Spectrum school. That school chose to put children immediately at directly into the second grade curriculum using the materials we used to have in reading and math. The teacher at my school taught the first-grade curriculum but tried to go deeper and used a lot of project-based teaching and homework. Our Spectrum program always had a wait list and the other program did not. This gave parents a choice. I heard few complaints about the Spectrum programs in either school. Yes, we had complaints between Spectrum and non-Spectrum families but that is a different issue.

My current school tries to do ALO. It's hard. Given the time and class size and range of learning abilities, it's asking a lot. On paper, one can show how you address different needs but in the real world with little time during the day, really teaching to all those levels in a meaningful way is difficult. Reducing teaching to fifteen minutes with this group and fifteen minutes with that groups is rushing. And maybe there is a curriculum out there for each group that would help teachers narrow in on the best practices for each, but I haven't seen it.

I do not believe all teachers can teach to high achieving kids. We really don't always hire the best and the brightest. They are going elsewhere today. Feedback that I hear from parents seems to focus on writing skills. A lot of teachers today write rather poorly and that doesn't reflect well on their ability to teach writing to students.

Anyway, will we ever agree on high achievers and how to teach them?

One more: I originally wanted to reply about accountability. Isn't that the job of all those highly paid directors and principals? If an ed director can't get from a principal the evidence showing plans for differentiation and a principal can't get same from a teacher, what's the point of all these highly-paid monitors?

Also regarding differentiation, if you keep moving teachers around esp. at the beginning of the year, they really don't have much time to put together teacher-made curriculi in all the areas of teaching. Some understanding of time and planning is necessary if you want to improve students' learning.

Anonymous said...

Advanced learning, at least the Highly Capable Cohort, receives at least as much attention than any other program in SPS.

Each student who passes the test, and let's not forget parents are allowed to test multiple times each year, is guaranteed access to two schools, unless their neighborhood school happens to be their HCC school, in which case they still can choose to be served in gen-ed or HCC classrooms.

These students get free transportation to the HCC location, if they choose to attend.

So if you have the means, you can test your child six, seven times, whatever it takes. Then appeal and you need not mention the number of tests taken. Upon acceptance into the HC program, you and your child then can choose the school or, if you want, to ask for service at your neighborhood school.

Of course, other families have option schools they can apply for, but no guaranteed placement and no free transportation.

When your student enters the HCC, self-containment eliminates children below grade level, at the minimum, so your child will not have any exposure in academic classes to "average" or "below average" intellectual level students, except in SS at Thurgood Marshall.

For high school three guaranteed choices, Ingraham, Garfield or neighborhood, unless two of those are the same, plus guaranteed preference to all AP classes.

Any other vulnerable groups getting that much?

not sure

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not Sure, I don't think it is possible to test repeatedly within the district. Could you point me to the district page where it says this?

Sped students also get access to two schools but, like HCC kids, would have to give up services to stay in the neighborhood. You can certainly "ask" for services at your neighborhood school but most are not doing much (at least from the input from parents here.)

You are wrong about "your child will not have any exposure" to other kids in academic classes. You certainly do in middle school. And, while not academic classes, I know at least a couple of elementaries, kids are put in mixed classes for music and PE.

HCC kids do not, to my knowledge, get first dibs on AP classes. I believe those classes are open to all. Again, could you tell us where that is written?

I'm not arguing your point; you are right on many things. I just want to make sure I get clarity on some points.

Charlie Mas said...

not sure, can you prove that HCC students have "guaranteed preference to AP classes" at Garfield?

I'm not sure you can.

So why do you have to invent things to be angry about? Is it because the truth doesn't make you angry enough?

Anonymous said...

I think "not sure" refers to private testing, not district testing.

Private tests can be repeated as many times as a parent can afford, with as many psychologists as needed, until a sufficient score is obtained and then only that qualifying score need be submitted, without mention of any other testing.

SPS defines HC service in high school as priority in AP classes as there is no cohort model at that level.

In middle school, HCC classes are, for the most part, self-contained. Some exceptions at JAMS with some AL qualified(formerly Spectrum) students placed to fill the classrooms.

I would agree that the HCC is getting tangible benefits that, while entirely appropriate, are not forthcoming other needy populations.

Indeed, your mention of Special Ed options illustrates the disparity. Special Ed students do have a choice of locations, but at only at one will they be guaranteed service, whereas HC students can receive guaranteed service at two locations.

NE

Anonymous said...

That's a great question,about guaranteed AP preference. I know I read it somewhere. It was the definition of HC service at high schools, since there was nothing except IBx and the "accelerated AP pathway" at Garfield.

I can't find it on any document on the SPS website. So what do HC kids at Franklin or Roosevelt receive for service?

I'm sure it's somewhere in the SPS site. As I remember, it stated that a HC student could also enroll at a different high school if they needed AP classes not offered at their current school.

That was the definition of the service. Can anyone find that?

Angry Boid

Anonymous said...

"Sped students also get access to two schools but, like HCC kids, "

Absolutely incorrect. Students in special education with SM# > 1... (non resource students) have NO OPTIONS other than that which has been made available by SPS. That's not 2 choices - it's 0 choices. Let's not forget it. That's not anger - it's just a fact. Having scads of extra choices for HCC, with transportation, along with the ability to forgo the service (HCC service) is clearly a HUGE benny afforded one group of students alone. You may not like differentiation - but students still will learn in a regular education classroom. Maybe it won't be a Cadillac, but as a special education service you should know that Cadillacs are not what the district must provide. Unlike students who qualify for HCC, special education students can not realistically "decline" special education service because it provides the necessities to survive at all. (EG. Most SM2 provide health and safety services that students literally need to survive.) Furthermore, if you doubt the viability of declining a special HCC placement, the APP audit doesn't validate your skepticism. Students served in their local schools instead of at an HCC site sometimes even fared better than those in HCC schools. This lends credence to the notion that declining HCC placement is indeed a valid option.

How does the district do placement and assignment for special education students? Well, where ever there is room. As always. In previous years, students with special education needs at least got the legally mandated placement discussion during their IEP meetings. Now, the district believe that is no longer necessary. Instead they say - "we'll decide where you go to school, and where the services you require can be received. And, oh by the way, every school that we decide upon can do literally everything." Another reality of the 0 choice placements for special education. Choice is indeed still provided to SOME students with disabilities - those with the means to legally advocate either through citizen's complaints(free to the savvy), due process (expensive for both), or through the IEP negotiation process. To use these options - you've got to really know what you're doing. Relying on parent expertise means special education service is the most inequitably administered of all.

Speddie

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

HCC students arguably get the best deal of any "protected" group in SPS. Not without reason, they have, as a group, the wealthiest and most public-policy savvy parents in the district.

This blog is very pro-gifted and one wonders if there have been any "gifts" to the moderators over the years for their efforts.

Guy

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 12:04,

No gen-ed don't have choices UNLESS they are lucky enoughto get into an option school and they do NOT get transportation to said option school, if they are admitted, no matter how far they live from the school.

To repeat, parents can test and retest their children PRIVATELY, with their own money, as often as needed to reach the district cut score for admittance to the HC program and do not need to reveal the total number of times or frequency of those tests.

Appropriate? The private testing seems grossly biased towards the wealthy as tests cost over $3oo each. The choice of schools seems appropriate to me, but all groups deserve the same choices, and they don't get them. Yet, HCC parents want more and more before the other groups have caught up.

Raise up the others as well. We're all in this together.

Blackhole SUn


Anonymous said...

I kind of feel guilty for starting the argumentative discourse, but in my opinion it's best not to use SPED as a reference (good or bad) when writing about other groups of students.

Most of the regular readers of this blog know you're most likely going to receive some sort of critical response if you do so.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

SPED parent,
I think you're right. Kids with disabilities should be brought up to the same level of attention paid as other kids.

I'm not in favor of pushing highly capable kids back, but we need to bring others up, especially sped kids.

For all the neglect of gifted kids, gifted programs have been around much longer than special ed.

California had their MGM(mentally gifted minor) program reviewed in 1971(http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED060585), when special ed kids had no legal right to attend school. MGM was not comprehensive or even required, but gifted ed has been doing pretty well for itself for awhile.

Why can't parents of gifted kids at least turn around and acknowledge the rest of the district? They are so busy getting ahead, they forget about the kids and the other kids feel it through the gifted kids, intentional or not.

Empathy means understanding how others feel, even trying to feel what they feel.

Give it a go, HCC parents.

perpetual truant

Melissa Westbrook said...

Guy, nope, not a single gift. Charlie?

I'm pro-every student but yes, I believe in gifted education. I make no apologies for that.

SPED Parent, thanks for the advice; you're probably right. But I have advocated on Sped for many years. I helped elected Jill Geary very much because of her background in Sped issues.

Maureen said...

If it's a choice between a school that won't really serve your kid and a school that will, or a program that won't and a program that will, is that really choice?

But, you know, lots of people do test their kids and don't move them (right away at least) when they qualify. So these families also have a choice to stay (they don't lose access to their neighborhood school once their need is identified the way special ed kids do.) There is also the possibility of getting a scholarship to a private school.

I don't know why people push back so much at admitting that testing into HCC gives you more options than the average kid. Being smart gets you more options your whole life. Why deny that? What's the point?

There is also a sort of fiction that nonHCC schools are a great fit for all of the Gen Ed kids, but kids vary in a lot more ways than how well they test. We used to actually have some choice for most students (probably never Special Ed kids.) Now those choices are pretty severely limited for everyone, but less so for HCC kids. That is just an empirical fact.

Anonymous said...

I greatly appreciate all you do for all the kids Melissa and I for one am sending you an Amazon gift card for $25 to your email. You spend a ton of time at this and have provided me vast amounts of information.
Thank-you

_friend

alex said...

I would like to thank Melissa and Charlie for taking the time to publish such a thoughtful, intelligent and comprehensive blog. This information is invaluable to me, as a new & unhappy SPS parent. Who else is providing this information in this depth? No one.

Advocate for SPED kids, advocate for gifted kids, advocate for all kids. But, it's insane to argue that advocating for gifted kids comes at the expense of SPED kids. Yes, we're all in this together, but it's also a parent's duty to advocate for their own kid if they think their needs aren't being met. Who wouldn't do that? It's human nature, to argue otherwise is crazy. To argue that a gifted kid will be okay no matter what, no matter how under-served or bored, is offensive. Bored smart kids (including the most affluent ones, of course) can go terribly awry, clearly. We would never make the same argument that a SPED kid should just take what he is given, so why would that be the case for a gifted kid?

I read this blog b/c I want to know how to navigate SPS, and know what to look out for. If you think it's biased, don't read it, or write your own blog, but I find this blog to be an essential part of my SPS education.

Anonymous said...

@ Maureen, you're right--some families do end up with multiple viable choices. Many others don't. For them, the ONLY viable option is an HCC school. The parents of such kids are those who are most likely to be vocal advocates for HCC, warts and all. This subgroup of parents knows that this program is essential, so all the threats and insults and insinuations strike at the heart of something very dear to them, the social/emotional/academic well-being of their child(ren).

I will be the first to admit that HCC in its present form is problematic, and I have frequently voiced my discomfort with the fact that there's no "there" there. If it's JUST a cohort, it can't be justified. The whole reason for the program is to serve kids who need something different. If we're not providing "different" services, there's no reason to do it. It needs to be a what, not a who. But there truly are kids who cannot be served even somewhat well in a neighborhood school. They need--and are entitled to--a viable an option.

I don't know why people push back so much at admitting that testing into HCC gives you more options than the average kid. Being smart gets you more options your whole life. Why deny that? What's the point?

Interesting hypothesis, but it has not been our experience. Being smart may get you more options in some ways, yet fewer options in many others. My exceptionally smart kid, for example, was ostracized for much of his education, because the other kids could not relate to him nor he to them. There were no classmates who shared interests, could engage in what was a meaningful discussion to him, etc. He wasn't called on to answer questions in class because the teacher knew he knew the answer and it made the others feel bad, so he was instructed to sit there patiently and let the others try. He didn't have the option of learning material at his level in school. For most of his education he felt trapped, miserable both academically and socially. If there were a lot of options open to him, he sure didn't see them. Nor did we. Now that he's grown, I suppose you could say he has more options. But I don't think the promise of more options as an adult was worth all the pain and unhappiness of feeling so helpless and isolated as a child. Had he been a little less smart and a little more average, I think he would have been happier. Being an "above-average" type of "smart" may get you more options, but being exceptionally smart or highly gifted often has real drawbacks.

Anon4today

Anonymous said...

Looks like someone went over to the HCC blog asking for reinforcements...just pathetic. It's best just to not respond to the bait.

Biting tongue

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a 2E (hate that term BTW) kiddo and someone who works with SpEd students (not SPS), I seriously do not understand the animosity against the AL community. Can we all agree that parents want what is best for their students and we all want a better functioning SPS? Yes, it's true that most HCC kids will be "fine" without an AL department, however, do we really want to neglect the potential of a segment of the population. It seems sad that that is what some here seem to advocate and I do not see how that would be a good thing for society as a whole that we are willing to let students ready for more challenge to just be met with minimum expectations. Just as I believe resources should be put to good use to maximize potential of our students needing Special Education. I am sure SPS spends far more on Sped then on AL.

As far as the issue of "choice", for our family it definitely was not choice staying at our neighborhood school where my child gets in trouble day after day from being unchallenged in class (do you really expect a child who was counting to 100 and adding at 2 to be happy sitting quietly learning numbers 1-10 in Kindergarten and identifying shapes). My child had to leave his good friends and bus 40 minutes on some days to a different neighborhood . Hardly a "choice" since the home school was unwilling to offer appropriate differentiation.

And as far as repeat testing, what nonsense. Private comprehensive test results (cognitive and achievement) take HOURS and are hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands, Results are good for only 1 year, so I hardly think parents are getting their children tested multiple times within one year in time for appeals. My child tested in through the AL process without appeals but the process is so laborious no parent should take it lightly. Nor is it a cake walk.

Sped and AL are both important and need better from SPS. They have different needs, neither more important than the other. Period.

Northener

Anonymous said...

Yep, enter the braggarts, right on cue!. Thank you for making my point.

Biting tongue

Anonymous said...

Just to address a few posters.

Well anonymous. A choice is a choice. Lots of AL students have been served by neighborhood schools. Might not be great, nor potential maximizing, but it is school none the less. And often good. Compare HCC student choices with those of your average SM3 behavior student. Schools with those programs include Stevens and Laurelhurst and BF Day. Haven't we had literally 100s of posts on those students at those schools in those programs in the last month alone? Could those students just drop their "service" and walk over to their neighborhood school instead? Nope. They'd be expelled in a New York minute. For them, their disability requires that they "take it". If they reject "the service", they're out of school and out of luck. That leaves those students with exactly 1 option - go to school at Stevens (or Laurelhurst or BF Day) as the district has decided, or nothing at all. No local school, no option school. By middle school - there are 0 option schools for SM3 students, and forget about Center, Nova, or Cleveland option high schools. SOL. That is what 0 choice really is.

School at Stevens or Laurelhurst or BF Day appears to mean going to school with a cohort of students who are not at all welcome in their communities. Parents every day wonder how they can get "those" students removed and sent to... oh, nowhere. Yes. I get that you all love them - but let's look at the cold hard facts. And, from the repeated ongoing OSPI complaints (which the district seems to always lose) these schools don't even meet minimum "compliance" requirements, even by OSPI's minimal standards. FYI. OSPI complaints are not "substantive" - they are merely measures procedural compliance - the absolute floor of anything. Those types of complaints are like - school doesn't have a teacher, school uses staff for other students, school mis-spends the money. And, so on. Complaints are not "school didn't maximize my kid's learning" or "school gave me a different curricula than the other SM3 EBD program down the street".

Next we have Anon4today complaining that his/her kid has no friends and shares common interests with a peer-group. Is that an entitlement? Do sped kids have friends? (most I know have few or none)Having friends isn't an entitlement, nor is "sharing interests". The district is not obligated to find that for you, especially when it has unmet obligations in this very instructional area. If your social skills are diminished to the point of having no friends - then you will qualify for special education under the social/behavior SDI area. Welcome to special ed! Why is there no concern for students - who actually qualify under IDEA as needing a social cohort, for the fact that they do NOT ever get that social cohort that they need, or get choices that enable a social/emotional cohort. If you don't qualify for a social disability - then you are not entitled to something special because of it.

And finally - the "we already spend more on special ed". Do we? I see the district stealing special ed resources everywhere I look. I see schools using special ed staff for absolutely everything under the sun - including teaching general education and for performing basic school operations: recess, hallway monitor, bus duty. Yet, they are always billed to program 21. I also see students with IEPs denied access to all the offerings that other students get. General education is supposed to fund special education students - all day long. Special education is NEVER supposed to fund regular education students. It's an excess cost model.

Speddie

Jon said...

Can we get back to the Charlie's point that no one checks that the work is getting done?

So, right, no accountability. The superintendent isn't doing it. Neither did the previous. What can we do?

We keep electing new boards. This new board actually looks pretty good so far. But I've thought that in the past, and we keep getting ineffective superintendents who don't do the very basics, like accountability and tight budgeting.

What else is a parent to do? I'm not sure what levers we have to pull to fix this district other than electing board members, and it's really hard to make any change with such a blunt tool. What else can we do to get some accountability?

Anonymous said...

@ biting tonge,

Thank you for showing your true colors. I see now that it's not the HCC services that are the real problem--it's the HCC students themselves. Human intelligence varies, but it's only socially acceptable to talk about it if your child is in a tail at the lower end of the curve, not a tail at the upper end. The latter, of course, would be bragging.

Got it!

Anonymous said...

Pardon my typo. I meant "tongue."

Anonymous said...

Biting Tongue:
Before I had my 2E child I might have thought much the way you do, so I can understand some of what you think. I do think it would be good for your to consider opening your mind to that other students, even HCC, need district support too. Until I had my child I really didn't understand how challenging it can be, perhaps especially 2E. Believe me, hardly "bragging".

For what it's worth, in my position in SpEd, I work tirelessly to advocate for my students as much as possible. I work in a district that supposedly gets accolades for it's SpRd department. Yes,the district I work in is very good at meeting compliance, which is to say crossing all the t's and dotting the i's. However, when it comes to actual services, decisions made at the administration level are not always what is best for students and I frequently find myself looking for ways to advocate for services or to see a child in a more LRE. This past year was especially demoralizing and exhausting in my department. So be careful when you throw around insults you may be hurling them at a friend.

I would love to see all SPS families work together for the best from SPS. What a force it would be if SpEd and AL worked together to demand that there was accountability for learning of ALL students, as the the original intent of this thread. Don't blame AL students for SPS doing. And like it or not, AL services are required by law just as Special Ed is also rightfully so.

Northender

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Lots of AL students have been served by neighborhood schools."

I think a more accurate statement might be that there are parents who decided their child would be fine at their neighborhood school. Because there is little real evidence about how HCC kids get served at any given non-HCC school.

"Parents every day wonder how they can get "those" students removed and sent to... oh, nowhere."

Not true from my experience at Laurelhurst's meeting. Parents were looking for solutions for all students.

"General education is supposed to fund special education students - all day long. Special education is NEVER supposed to fund regular education students. It's an excess cost model."

Absolutely true.

Anonymous said...

News flash !

The legal requirements for AL and SPED are vastly different. Not to offend, but you're so wrong if you think otherwise. There are no federal requirements similar to the ADA or the IDEA for AL. The state does have a few subjective laws with wide ranging interpretations covering AL, but FAPE doesn't include teaching to a child's potential and I'm just guessing, but if it where absolute, I would expect to see multiple law suits by parents regarding AL deficiency.

I can't seem to find any case law setting mandatory AL requirements. If I'm wrong please share any such information with us.

I'm not going to waste your or my time trying to convince you of my position vs yours.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

Since everyone is talking about Garfield, is there data that shows blending students creates better outcomes for the non-gifted? Is it really comparable to tracking, the way it is at Garfield?

It sounds like these days students self-track and that's what Howard's dealing with. Kids not in HCC won't enroll in honors so he's forcing the kids together.

It seems like he's desperate to help the struggling ones. It's similar to arguments integrating schools back in the 50's and 60's. The court found in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka that it was injurious to the African American students.

"Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system." ...

If Howard is following the court's reasoning, a "sense of inferiority" is what he's dealing with and it seems he believes this will help. I don't know if that is his reasoning but he has some idea that this will help his school.

SODO Girl

Anonymous said...

I always grew up thinking gifted kids were SpEd kids. We rode the same short busses. We all had special classes. We were all mocked on the playground. We had particular educational needs. It seems strange to me that we make a such a distinction. Both tails are a challenge for the system, and require some planning, and effort.
West

Melissa Westbrook said...

SODO Girl, you may be onto something and it's worth a separate discussion.

Anonymous said...

My child doesn't feel very strong or coordinated, and he has a real inferiority complex when it comes to athletic prowess. Can I assume now that Ted Howard and the Garfield coaches will assign him to a varsity sports team anyway, so he can gain some confidence? He really needs the boost. I would love for him to feel more sports-minded, because exercise and fitness are so important to long-term health, help with concentration, promote positive social experiences, etc. It's also important that those jock-types to learn to appreciate and respect the nerdy, wimpy boys like mine, so I think it will be good for them to have less skilled athletes on their teams and relinquish playing time. Winning isn't important at all--what really matters is teamwork, right? I am relieved to hear that my son's current lack of athletic ability will not impact his ability to sport the Garfield colors. Who knows, maybe he has some hidden athletic talents or interests that just need nurturing. I do feel a little bad for the star athletes who hoped to leverage Garfield success into college offers, but the important thing is that we're building community.

Varsity4All

Anonymous said...

V4All - pretty snarky, but typical. The special ed community definitely advocates for the full range of extracurricular opportunities including sports, club sports, varsity sports, special Olympics for students who need that. Why should some students get access to lots and lots of opportunities (for any endeavor) just because they're good at it? And others get none. This notion cuts across the board. We'd like access for our kids to the full breadth of the school community - academics, athletics, arts, clubs, social events, everything. Too bad you feel the only way your needs can be met is through exclusion, implying that others should be segregated and endlessly remediated, until they will be as good as you - which will be never.

If Garfield teachers are asking for this - we should take heed. This isn't an idea handed down from central office, it's coming from the boots on the ground. Best to listen to that. And no. Parents aren't boots on the ground. The "it will never work, can never work, should never work" is born of ignorance.

As to Varsity athletics - the OCR has already sent a Dear Colleague letter providing guidance to districts to make all athletics more inclusive. It doesn't mean giving up varsity qualifications - but it might mean trying harder. And, Garfield already has many, many no-cut varsity sports. I know it sounds radical - but let's give inclusion a try.

#inclusionMatters

Charlie Mas said...

So here we are, no longer talking about the real issue, the District's utter failure to monitor the quality and efficacy of programs, and instead, waging a fake fight between Special Education and Advanced Learning over false issues and fatuous claims.

Hey, SPED Parent, stop it with the straw man arguments you have been making all through this thread. And, while you're at it, stop trying to pick fights with the Advanced Learning community - you have no legitimate gripe with them. You are clearly unhappy with the District, but the Advanced Learning community is not responsible for that trouble.

Do HC students have more choices for assignment than students with disabilities? Of course they do! That's not even in dispute. So do general education students. Again, not in dispute. If the SPED community wants more or better choices for school assignments then they should argue and work for that, but scornful remarks about the choices available to others will not be an effective means of advancing your cause because it simply isn't relevant. I have certainly done a lot of work to demand improvements in the program placement process and no group is more impacted by that process than students with disabilities. The SPED community has an ally on that issue in this blog - not an enemy. Do you not recognize that?

And no one should know better that the District utterly fails to perform compliance checks and quality checks - the two most fundamental elements of management - than the Special Education community because no one has been more harmed by this failure than students with disabilities.

So what is to be done?

1) The Board needs to enforce policy 2090, Program Evaluation.

2) The Board needs to demand that the superintendent draft a clear and well-defined mission statement for the central administration, particularly regarding academics.

3) The mission of the central office, regarding academics, must include checking for compliance and performing quality assurance.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Varsity4All, I agree. If all classes are to open designation, so should team sports. Ditto on music programs.

#inclusionMatters - Parents aren't "boots on the ground?" To start, this is always a good question - whose school is it? The neighborhood parents and students who attend or the staff? In my experience, I have seen both sides claim ownership. Teachers and staff say, "We'll be here long after you are gone" to parents and parents can equally say, "My best life investment is where I send my child to school (plus sweat equity and dollars while I'm here.")

I'm not sure who is necessarily right but if you think parents aren't boots on the ground, then maybe they shouldn't be working so hard for schools.

As for "no-cut" sports, I think that's pretty much BS. Sure, your child will get on the team but never play a minute real time and be resented for being there. That was my Sped son's experience and he felt such pressure, he left the team.

But Charlie's right, why does this discussion about accountability divide, rather than unite?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I didn't ask whose school it is. That is not pertinent. Teachers are in a better position to see what works and what doesn't. And to know the global impacts of various decisions. If teachers say a divided school isn't working, is harmful to many, and that 1 LA class should be more inclusive, then I believe them. The repeated and almost religious ranting against differentiation, and inclusion, really has no basis in anything other than prejudice. Think about it. Why can't LA be taught at different access points in 9th grade? Nobody is preventing your kid from reading great literature or writing great papers at high levels. We aren't talking about teaching sequential skills, or reading phonics. We're talking about literacy and content. Nobody really masters literacy, we all continue to read, learn, and see new things in literature and in language. I'm sure all of us could and would learn new things if we were to retake 9th grade LA now, even as adults, even if we're college graduates.

As to sports. Our experience is simply different. I never found my kid resented, and it was a necessary experience. Are you saying that those disabled athletes at Hale on the swim team are resented and unwelcome? That's truly the BS. I know it for a fact. Surely there's room for more inclusion, meaningful experience, and competition.

#inclusionMatters

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

I don't find the analogy to team sports or music particularly apt. Both of those activities are based on team - groups of people working together for a common goal. Academics is different - unless all of GHS is group projects which I doubt. -NP

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The repeated and almost religious ranting against differentiation, and inclusion, really has no basis in anything other than prejudice."

Whee? Not here. Parents are begging for differentiation. If you have PD and smaller class sizes, that's absolute the way to go.

My kid WAS at Hale and was made unwelcome on the no-cut team he was on. I'm glad things are different.

Anonymous said...

OK, NP. If sports and music don't work for you, how about languages? No need for higher Japanese or French or Spanish or Latin. We can all start over in level one, even if we've had 3 years at middle school. Surely we can all find something challenging, even in an intro class...is that effective inclusion?

open ears

Anonymous said...

Open Ears -

Inclusion matters says this: "Nobody really masters literacy, we all continue to read, learn, and see new things in literature and in language. I'm sure all of us could and would learn new things if we were to retake 9th grade LA now, even as adults, even if we're college graduates."

Spanish 1 for everyone, not matter how many years of Spanish they have already had. Gee golly, we can always learn something new, even those with graduate degrees in Spanish can learn something new in a Spanish 1 class.

-boring

Anonymous said...

Is there a recommendation to put all students in Spanish I?

-curious

Anonymous said...

Curious -

Of course, not. Spanish 1 for all would be ridiculous! We can only combine the less important subjects like LA at GHS or social studies at TM.

Would anyone ever suggest we do this for math? Algebra 1 for all in 9th grade, whether you are ready or not? Not a chance.

It's too bad that they don't know that LA really is important.

-stranger

Anonymous said...

Whew! Thank goodness. Great points. Algebra 1 is already the lowest math offered in high school for everyone no matter what. Too bad about social studies. If students haven't learned the revolutionary war - how could they possibly be expected to be able to do the civil war, or 20th century - and understand anything about it!


-curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

Stranger, and there's something I don't get - social studies at Thurgood Marshall. First, I didn't even remember that social studies was taught as a specific subject in my kids elementary years. I personally would not have cared if all classes were integrated on one subject but I'm not understanding the explanation from TM.

I think it's all a move to do away with all separate classes except AP and IB (which are very specific and, again, anyone can enroll in except for those ones that have a needed level of background like foreign language.)

Which nicely brings us back to our real topic - how can schools be accountable when the district lets them do almost anything they want with curriculum and programs and JSCEE management doesn't seem to care (which means that all they care about are test scores and can't really gauge how any given curriculum is doing.)

The Board should ask some questions.

Anonymous said...

The Board should most definitely ask some questions.

According to state law, for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education (RCW 28A.185.020).

Why would the legislature require that? Because it's an equity issue. Providing a general education experience to highly capable students would not provide an equitable level of challenge and learning. While anti-gifted advocates try to use equity arguments to make their case (when they are actually arguing for equality of services), equity demands that highly capable children receive accelerated learning and enhanced instruction.

State law also requires that once highly capable services are started, a continuum of services shall be provided to the student, from grades K-12. Eliminating access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction in 9th grade breaks the continuum of services and is thus illegal, whether Garfield calls these classes "honors" or not. The services need to be accelerated and enhanced relative to something.

The Board should also demand that the Garfield teacher who posted those hateful comments on Facebook be disciplined, and that any HC-qualified students assigned to her class be guaranteed another placement if desired. Clearly that would be a hostile environment.

Stunned

Anonymous said...

Things have gotten better since your child went to Hale, Melissa. For one thing, there are now enough kids playing Ultimate to have multiple teams so that everyone gets to play. There is not just one team. The Varsity team is very competitive but there is a JV team and a Freshman team too. Hale tries very hard to be inclusive. Sometimes it is more successful in some areas than others.

HP

Anonymous said...

Melissa-- Regarding your comment: "There's something I don't get - social studies at Thurgood Marshall. First, I didn't even remember that social studies was taught as a specific subject in my kids elementary years. I personally would not have cared if all classes were integrated on one subject but I'm not understanding the explanation from TM".

My child is currently in 6th grade and he did not have social studies as a subject in elementary. I also found the TM situation interesting as social studies just became a subject in middle school. Do Seattle elementary schools differ on what subjects they teach? Yikes.
BT

z said...

HP said: There is not just one team. The Varsity team is very competitive but there is a JV team and a Freshman team too. Hale tries very hard to be inclusive. Sometimes it is more successful in some areas than others.

There's something very important to take note of here.

I'm not sure there's a high school in the city more inclusion-minded than Hale, and yet... they have Varsity teams, JV teams and freshmen teams. They group according to skill level, rather than mixing everyone up to keep all the teams balanced. SPS could demand that all schools blend all levels of kids on these teams, to be "fair" (might be an interesting experiment), but can you imagine all the consequences?

People keep trying to highlight the differences between sports and academics, but if anything, it's more important to make sure ALL kids have the best opportunities available in academics. Lets face it, these kids aren't going to be professional Ultimate players, but they will need to be able to read and write and analyze various forms of written texts for their entire lives.

Removing honors classes is a social experiment with undetermined social effects, but with very real academic fallout, for both the highest achievers and the lowest achievers. The middle will probably not see much difference, though there isn't as much "middle" at Garfield, as a school like Hale, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

This discussion is revealing. The elimination of honors classes at Garfield isn't being done to help kids learn, it's being done to attack innocent HCC kids who are, through no fault of their own, being told that they are the root of the problems other kids have. Those who defend this proposal aren't talking about underachieving kids, because they don't actually care about them and because this isn't about them. Neither is this about student learning, as neither the teachers nor the parents supporting this idea have been able to explain how different learning levels will be accommodated - it's not even an afterthought. It literally doesn't matter to them.

This proposal will be deemed successful as long as it blends all kids in one class. Even if advanced kids and underachieving kids don't have their learning needs met, it won't matter, because their teachers are saying that those needs don't count and are not relevant. That's a pretty horrifying development and one that should scare every parent in SPS - especially parents of color, who are being told that their kids should be denied the advanced classes they'll need to get into college.

Scared

Southpaw said...

The proposal is academic not social in it's goals. The social interaction that is being forced between students who would have self-selected to remain apart, is intended to put pressure on the kids who won't pick honors because it's not cool. It's that simple IMHO. Slacker culture ruins kids' future for a few years of being cool. If the culture of cool can be made to encompass academic achievement, the new arrangement will have succeeded.

Anonymous said...

Do you think sitting in class with high achieving students will actually change the trajectory of a student's life? By the time they're in ninth grade, they don't have the academic skills to be academically successful.

Come On

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the thing. Whatever the intention of mixing students, no one is checking the outcomes to see if the goal is achieved.

If the goal is to improve academic outcomes for non-HCC students, no one has checked to determine if the experiment worked.
If the goal is to improve academic outcomes for HCC students, no one has checked to determine if the experiment worked.
If the goal was to improve outcomes for some kids without diminishing outcomes for other kids, no one has checked to determine if the experiment worked.

When self-contained Spectrum was dissolved, the schools that did it claimed that there would be no reduction in the academic outcomes for Spectrum students, but no one checked to see if that was the case. It was an empty claim because they knew that it could not be proven either way because no relevant data would be collected.

And so it all comes back to the original theme of the post: No One Is Checking.

Thurgood Marshall wants to blend HCC and general education students for Social Studies. They say it will be good for everyone, but they have no data to support that claim and they will not collect any data to determine the effects of the change. They are lying because they are claiming to know something they don't know.

Maureen said...

Graduation rates are up at RBHS after more students were included (and required) in advanced classes. That has been measured.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, the difference is that RBHS didn't eliminate advanced classes. That's what Garfield is proposing.

But at least you're pointing to a measurable outcome. Garfield isn't proposing any such thing. Neither is Thurgood Marshall. They are instead openly embracing the fact that they no longer care about student learning. All they care about now is taking away perceived privileges from HCC kids. It doesn't matter to them if kids are actually learning. The proponents of these changes believe that the act of putting kids in the same class in itself provides all the justification they need. While that could be a good idea, it only works if proponents can explain how all kids will get their differential needs met, and explain how they will prove this has been done.

Otherwise this should be rejected. But as Charlie points out, you never have to justify an attack on advanced learning. These attacks justify themselves. Madness.

Scared

Maureen said...

Actually isn't GHS proposing Honors for all? That seems a level below (in terms of both ambition and lack of concern for advanced learners) what RBHS and CSIHS do by requiring all juniors take IB Lang and Lit (a college level class).

I expect putting all students in the same "Honors" 9th grade classes will not reduce HCC students' participation in advanced classes and graduation rates and may conceivably increase non HCC students' participation in advanced classes and graduation rates. So there you go, measurable success. (Even if "their" motivation is to destroy HCC, that doesn't mean "they" won't have measurable success.)

Anonymous said...

There's no straw in my statements.

If you want to write about AL, then write about AL, don't make a contrast using SPED.
That's how you get yourself in trouble with people and come off looking arrogant. Just take a look at some of your past comments and you will see this is just one in a series of comments where you bring up SPED and AL together.

If you are so concerned with the failures of SPS to serve SPED students perhaps you might put your intellect to work and create a meaningful post covering the last few years of the events and a thoughtful summery of the current state of SPED.

SPED Parent

Anonymous said...

@ Maureen, your comment confuses me. You said:

I expect putting all students in the same "Honors" 9th grade classes will not reduce HCC students' participation in advanced classes and graduation rates and may conceivably increase non HCC students' participation in advanced classes and graduation rates. So there you go, measurable success.

Putting everyone in the same 9th grade "honors" classes, in and of itself, reduces HCC students' participation in advanced classes, unless you believe the courses they deliver for these new, rebranded honors classes are going to be actual honors-level courses and not just honors in name only. Granted their transcripts may include just as many honors-sounding classes as before, but I care about the reality, not the appearance.

And on the off chance that these will be actual honors-level classes, how do you feel about the fact that many more of Garfield's most vulnerable students will be likely to fail their LA and SS classes in 9th grade now, since not all students are ready for honors? (Or is Garfield's new party line that all students ARE ready for honors level work, even though the article on Mr. Howard talked about students reading at the 5th grade level and the need to eliminate honors classes?)

Stunned

Anonymous said...

Stunned can only imagine his/her kid getting what they need - when that "need" is defined as "more than what somebody else got", and hence it's segregation or bust. "Whaaah! My kid is entitled to MORE because they are gifted and need MORE than those non-gifted kids. And how will I even know what "more" is if they are in the same room as students who are not gifted? My kid can only get enough - if they get more than somebody else's kid. "

The fact is, it's always the other way around the remedial classes are the "lesser" classes. They aren't just something that's ok for somebody else. They are less. And clearly at Garfield we've evolved a track where some students are simply getting less - not because they need less, but because some parents feel their kids need to be defined as getting more. And clearly - teachers do not believe they can maintain 2 separate and unequal tracks.

Come On - thinks kids who are not in advance classes - have no future at all. Well, I wonder what he/she thinks should be done with them. Seriously folks. You wonder why there's animosity surrounding the HCC program. Just read this thread - and see if any of that animosity seems deserved.

And Charlie disingenuously claims this is all about "checking the results". Nobody checked the results for the value of maintaining the exclusionary practices. Nobody has ever evaluated the validity of positive results yielded from maintaining separate (and unequal) tracks for 9th grade LA at Garfield. If you even once walked into a self-contained special education classroom, or knew anybody unfortunate enough to be stuck there - you would know enough to know that segregation and exclusion doesn't work. If this was all about the fact that "the district doesn't check results" - then, you'd never support segregation in any form. Ever. Because in the absence of data and fervent program review and fervent student evaluation repeated often - you simply have segregation for segregation's sake. And that is exactly where we are today. And one chink in the segregationist mantle - and out come the status quo.

Melissa - ability to differentiate instruction is indeed an strawman. Are you kidding? The idea that a 4th grader should sit for 2 hours a week with his peers at T.M. is soooo unbelieveable for social studies because … of what? Ability to differentiate - is already a requirement to get a teacher's certificate. Read all about it. And the bigger the classes, the MORE you need to differentiate. Any teacher will tell you that this is standard practice.

Speddie

Anonymous said...

Ooops. "http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=181-78A-270"> is the link on WA state's requirement for differentiation.

Speddie

Anonymous said...

No, I don't want my hcc kid to have more than my gen Ed kid. Most people with hcc kids also have gen Ed kids, you know. My hcc kid was not able to learn new things in a gen Ed classroom, so I have a foundation for my skepticism that they will now be able to learn in one with apparently no new tools to make it so, and an even wider range of ability. My gen Ed kids CAN learn in a gen Ed classroom. They all currently have the same opportunity to learn, but one of theirs is probably going away(if it was there to begin with- sounds like the honors class was not very rigorous before, but the answer to that should be to make it appropriate so that HC students can just have the same floor of opportunity my gen Ed students have- the ability to learn new things during a year.)
-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

Speddie, differentiation is not a strawman argument. And no, all teachers have not been fully trained nor given the materials to use. If you can prove otherwise, please provide that evidence. Frankly, I think of how you speak of HCC parents and kids unworthy.

Maureen said...

Stunned, you say: I care about the reality, not the appearance

But I was responding to Charlie's point about "no one is checking." To check, they will only look at measurable results. If they call the inclusive classes "Honors" and they measure participation rates in Honors and AP classes and graduation rates then I expect they will be able to call this change a success. They could also probably throw in suspension and expulsion rates and those would look good too since I doubt the increasing boredom for HCC students that everyone is predicting will actually lead them to threaten a teacher or something and get expelled and they have said elsewhere that they are going to make a concerted effort to reduce suspensions and expulsions in the general population. So the change, when they "check" will almost certainly be a success (I'm not clear on how Charlie thinks they can check before they have instituted the policy.)

I do hope they will find a way to provide enough support that more students won't actually fail 9th grade LA and SS. More likely, they will have some sort of grading rubric that requires a bunch of extra work to get an A, but pretty minimal work will get you a C.

Anonymous said...

Just the title "honors" stinks of elitism. Are they the only students to be honored? What about the kids who overcome SES adversity and despite all odds make it. They might not get all As or an IB diploma, but in my book the are the ones deserving of honors!

Divisive bickering

Melissa Westbrook said...

Divisive, I don't who thought up the term "honors" but that's really not the issue. You can call it anything you want.

And again, all kids deserve a good education.

Anonymous said...

Speddie - That TM 4th grader is already learning with his peers. If that's the goal there is no need for change.

HCCie

Maureen said...

My HS didn't have "Honors" but we had Phase 3, Phase 4, Phase 5. Same thing, except, actually, we all sat in the same classrooms with the same teachers and had a graduated syllabus that told you what the requirements were for a grade for Phase 3, what you had to add for Phase 4 and then for Phase 5. The Phase 5 senior English Lit reading list was crazy: you picked books worth 1-5 points off of a huge list and wrote a report on them (can't remember how many points, but at least ten books over the year). The only book worth five points was An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. It was worth five points because it was the only novel Fr. Weibel had ever found to be too boring to finish. There were other requirements too (page length and rubrics for papers, extra questions on exams...) Most classes were taught that way. There were separate Junior and Senior Advanced History Classes that were categorized as Phase 5 for grading purposes as was Calculus. Everything else was blended. Not ideal, but better than teaching to the center all of the time and you sure learned how to follow a syllabus.

Charlie Mas said...

@Speddie, why so nasty? Why do you have to put words in people's mouths? Why do you have to invent things to argue against instead of arguing against what people actually write? Is it because you can't address what they actually wrote?

Why do you express horror at the idea that a student who arrives at school ready to learn might actually get to learn something?

No person in the advanced learning community ever said that they wanted anything more than what every other person wants for their child: an appropriate academic opportunity. I would imagine that someone from the Special Education community would recognize that, but you don't. You seem to think that your child is the only one who should get what they need at school - everyone else who wants that is a whiny baby.

The fact is that no classes are "more" or "less". They are either delivering an appropriate academic opportunity or they aren't. A size ten is not better than a size six just because it is made of more material - the value isn't in the amount of the content but the fit of the content.

The presence of "Honors" classes at Garfield does not make the other classes "less". The presence of AP classes at Garfield does not make the other classes "less".

You keep hearing dog whistles and codes that you are using to interpret some pretty plainly written comments. The sentiments that you're ascribing to others didn't come from them but from your own imagination.

"And Charlie disingenuously claims this is all about "checking the results". Nobody checked the results for the value of maintaining the exclusionary practices."

Yes. Thank you for agreeing with me. Apparently it isn't all that disingenuous.

"Nobody has ever evaluated the validity of positive results yielded from maintaining separate (and unequal) tracks for 9th grade LA at Garfield."

Yes. Thank you for agreeing with me. Apparently it isn't all that disingenuous.

"If you even once walked into a self-contained special education classroom, or knew anybody unfortunate enough to be stuck there - you would know enough to know that segregation and exclusion doesn't work. If this was all about the fact that "the district doesn't check results" - then, you'd never support segregation in any form."

Again, you are agreeing with me as you pretend to disagree. And, as far as segregation goes, I'm still for keeping 1st graders, 3rd graders, and 5th graders in separate classrooms - even though that's segregation. Are you really opposed to that?


"Because in the absence of data and fervent program review and fervent student evaluation repeated often - you simply have segregation for segregation's sake. And that is exactly where we are today."

Again, you are making my point while you pretend to disagree.

"Melissa - ability to differentiate instruction is indeed an straw man. Are you kidding?"

Nope. Not kidding. We have almost no evidence of any ability to differentiate instruction anywhere in Seattle Public Schools in any reliable way. Why? Do you have this evidence, Speddie?

Anonymous said...

If you know of teachers who can't differentiate, please report them to OSPI to have their certificates invalidated. It's already a required skill to become a teacher. Aren't you the one who opposes testing teachers when others have called for retesting them? Now you want teachers to re-prove that they're able to teach to diversity which is part of certification? Ridiculous.
Here. you can find the regs.

WAC 181-78A-270

Approval standard—Knowledge and skills.

Each preparation program must be in compliance with the program approval standards of WAC 181-78A-220(5):
(1) TEACHER RESIDENCY CERTIFICATION.
(a) EFFECTIVE TEACHING.
(i) ...
(ii) Applying principles of differentiated instruction, including theories of language acquisition, stages of language, and academic language development, in the integration of subject matter across the content areas of reading, mathematical, scientific, and aesthetic reasoning;


Ask the google to find ALL of the scads of places teachers learn about this while they're getting their credentials. UW, SU, SPU… all teach differentiating. It is standard practice. Look at Harvard online teacher's college - you'll find more differentiating. There was a whole symposium last week in Seattle. Resources about. Ask the google.

As to your love for segregation. Would you say that "Oh - we white people just want some segregation and nobody should care. If you want integration - just go ahead and integrate. We;re just sticking to the segregation for ourselves." Would you really say that? When you oppose exclusionary practices - that is what you are saying. Just a little exclusion for us… won't hurt a thing.

Segregation is the wrong side of history. And "we can't get our needs met in an integrated society, or an integrated class because THEY aren't my peers" is a claim as old as segregation itself. And the fact that these classes continue to exclude blacks should give you at least a small clue.

Charlie, why so sanctimonious? You don't live here, your kids don't go to school here, your kids aren't even in school anymore, you only talk through the blogosphere. Seriously. You don't know me, and have no clue if I'm nasty or not. Some of my best friends are HCC parents - afterall.

Speddie

Melissa Westbrook said...

No one is saying teachers don't have the knowledge to differentiate. But most teachers don't have the training for differentiating for highly capable students. And, teachers need resources as well so training is not the only issue.

You are saying it is segregation because the program is largely white. And yet there are an awful lot of Asian students (something that gets forgotten over and over.) Why are there so many Asians in HCC - and that's a minority group - and yet people don't count that at all?

HCC is not exclusionary any more than the jazz band or the football team. But somehow, it's okay to be gifted in music or sports, just not academics. One child's abilities doesn't make another child lesser. In any way.

HCC does not "exclude blacks." That is simply not true.

Speddie, I would ask you to watch your tone; it is sounding somewhat threatening and we don't allow that.

Anonymous said...

And the threat is?

In actuality - the real "threat' you hear is diversity.

Speddie

Melissa Westbrook said...

"You don't know me, and have no clue if I'm nasty or not."

I consider that threatening. Again, please watch your tone.

Anonymous said...

I was called nasty by a blog author. Charlie says, "Speddie, why so nasty?"

Is there a threat in answering a blog author's question? Charlie was actually sarcastically and belligerently posing a question. Should I feel threatened?

But, he's the status quo.

Speddie

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, I think we are going to leave this discussion here.