Wednesday, March 08, 2017

UW Equity Summit on Gifted Education

This is the final segment of my series on gifted education in Seattle Schools.

UW's Robinson Center for Young Scholars held an Equity Summit on Gifted Education on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 9/10th.

It was a full house of superintendents, school board members, educators, administrators and the rest of us.  Members of Seattle Schools included Wyeth Jesse, Director Blanford (briefly with one interesting turn at the mic - more on that to come), Director Peters (both days), Director Harris (both days), and Director Geary.  There were also teachers/staff from Seattle schools.

I found talking to the teachers over the two days very valuable because, as always, those on the ground tend to have the best insights.  But there was some very clear division among them about HCC, mostly along equity lines but also over the issue of any kind of separation of students. (I was also told that emails were being subpeoenaed over the issue for some court case.  I have no other information on this.)

The head of the Robinson Center for Young Scholars, Dr. Nancy Hertzog, stated that the focus would be on gifted education across the U.S. and the systemic advantages for white students.  She said that there needed to be more "broad questions" about access and barriers for children who need advanced learning opportunities.  She said that instruction matters as well as teacher beliefs and student attitudes and that change had to come from parents and school boards as well as schools.
She said that gifted education could include enrichment, acceleration or advanced curriculum.

And then, that was it on gifted education.  Nearly everything that followed over the next two days was about equity in gifted education.  Now given that was the actual title of the summit, that was not a surprise.  However, there was virtually no information given about districts that were finding gifted learners across all races and classes, best practices in delivery, nothing.

The next speaker was the Vice Provost, Ed Taylor.  He talked about the four prongs of inequity: standardized test scores, discipline, drop-outs and who has access to gifted programs.  He stated that white students were twice as likely to be referred to gifted programs except for those with black teachers.

He found fault with the term "best and brightest" and I would agree that it's something of a broad statement.  But then he said that, for him, "People figured out that I had talent and reinforced it and I got the right classes and support."  I concur that for many kids it would help if adults encouraged them to believe in themselves AND their ability to stretch and strive.

But, is giftedness a talent?  I'm not sure.

He ended with a great quote:

Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.... 

The freedom to learn... has been bought by bitter sacrifice. And whatever we may think of the curtailment of other civil rights, we should fight to the last ditch to keep open the right to learn, the right to have examined in our schools not only what we believe, but what we do not believe; not only what our leaders say, but what the leaders of other groups and nations, and the leaders of other centuries have said. We must insist upon this to give our children the fairness of a start which will equip them with such an array of facts and such an attitude toward truth that they can have a real chance to judge what the world is and what its greater minds have thought it might be. --W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Freedom to Learn"

There was then another UW speaker, Mia Tuan,Dean of the UW College of Education.  She didn't have all that much to say except for "Where are all the brown and black kids in Seattle's gifted education?"  That is a good question but I'm surprised that she didn't ask that question of all the area's gifted programs.  (There's a project - find out if other districts' gifted progress reflect the make-up of their district and if students of color are under-represented.)

After the talk,  Director Blanford asked for the mic.  He announced to the group how Seattle's gifted program was "political" and that was a problem.  He didn't expand on that but asked Ed Taylor what his experience was with that.  Provost Taylor seemed taken aback and just said he didn't really know.

What it felt like was that Director Blanford wanted to make a point in public.  No one seemed to know what he was talking about. 

Then we had one of the two best speakers of the summit, Dr. Gary Cohn, who is superintendent of Everett School District.  He was Superintendent of the Year for Washington State this year and Everett SD has a 90% graduation rate that includes ELL students.  I know; how did he do it?

Well, to go back several years, you can read about it here at my post at the time.

What Dr. Cohn had to say at the Summit was that "equity was a core value."  He said it was about telling kids, "You can."

He said his district screens all their first graders for their gifted program.  He said they had been trying new assessments and trying to remove barriers.  He said there were advanced pathways available for all in middle school.  He said middle school students could start taking high school English, math, science and world languages in middle school.

He said they also had a program that works to get kids to take AP courses.  He said they give practice tests and have a summer boot camp.  He said they had been busing families to high schools to talk to parents about college and career options, knowing that parents are a good way to push and reenforce the message the school is trying to deliver.

He took a couple of questions from the audience including Director Blanford who said that he had heard great things about Everett but said "my challenge is a political question - a zero sum" and "someone has to lose."  Cohn said that their reality is that we might confront pushback and but that as long as they have multiple programs and expand them to include all students.  He said it was important to be "careful with language." 

I managed to get a few words alone with Dr. Cohn and asked him about what I had read about Everett several years back.  He said yes, that was part one of three phrases and they are now in the third phase.  Given what great work they seem to be doing, it might be worth a case study on their efforts.

I was just so impressed with him and I asked him if he might be lured away.  He looked startled and then smiled and said, "Larry Nyland is a sweetheart."  Cohn and I exchanged a long look at each other and then I said, "Yes, he is a good man."  He said he really was happy where he was and then had to be on his way.

The next session was a panel discussion on Providing Equitable Access to Quality Early Learning Environments.  There were three panelists: Kristie Kauerz, P-3 Institute Policy and Leadership, YW College of Education, Angelica Alvarez, School Board Director, Highline Schools, and Dan Finkel, Founder and Director of Operations of Math for Love.

Kauerz remarks:
- birth to three is the "sweet spot" with the most opportunity at the lowest cost
- the NAEP test results show achievement gaps that are especially profound in 4th grade
- the achievement gap may start at 9 months
- scholars are becoming more interested in income versus race as income is a better predictor of outcomes than race.  But she said there was no one discounting the intersectionality of the two. 

Alvarez remarks:
- she said Highline had hired an early learning director and P-3 director. She said most districts (and I think she means other states) are P-12 and "where is the funding?"
- there needs to be sustainability and follow-thru with PD for principals and teachers on brain development.

(Editor's note; I absolutely concur on more accessibility to good pre-K but until this state fully funds K-12 education, I'm not sure what districts can do beyond be supportive in policies.  The space and the funding is not there and yes, this is one place the City should (and has) stepped into.  But again, if our schools are full to the brim, the district cannot sacrifice the children they are charged to educate.)

Finkel remarks:
-children need more play-based experience with math and be allowed to ask their own questions
- he said that SPS had used his company's Summer Staircase curriculum at 19 locations
- he said there was a difference between gifted and talent, prodigy versus genius but did not elaborate.

(Editor's note: I, along with some of the teachers at my table, were a little confused about Finkel's presence on the panel which seemed more in support of his company than valid information on gifted education and equity.)

There were then some breakout sessions and I attended the one by Tom Halverson of UW College of Education and some of their grad students.   There were different tables and each table was assigned a perspective.  Our table had Vertical Equity versus Horizontal Equity.

Vertical Equity was defined as unequal treatment of unequals.
Horizontal Equity was defined as resource allocation; maybe not equal but with a "differential resource allocation strategy."

Then we got to a very challenging issue of "how this plays out in the real (policy) world with what they called the "Margin of Perceived Competitive Advantage" (the haves).  This link is the presentation we heard.  (There is a paper out on this topic - "Exploring the Politics of Differential Resource Allocation: Implications for Policy Design and Leadership Practice," co-authored by Thomas Halverson and Marge Plecki. Unfortunately, this paper is behind a paywall so I was unable to read it.)

Those who have historically had an advantage (Haves) are willing to support those who have been disadvantaged (Have Nots), up to a point at which they feel like they are losing their "competitive advantage" within the system (Haves can no longer use their economic or social/political capital to gain an advantage for their children.)

Sadly, this was not a long discussion and I didn't get to ask one question I would have liked to asked: how do they know this in a measurable way?  (The paper by Halverson and Plecki may explain this but it wasn't disclosed at the Summit.) I'm not sure that most Haves would admit they are losing their "competitive advantage" but maybe the work was done by asking increasingly provocative questions to elicit a reaction.

(The other discussion was lead by the SPS director of AL, Stephen Martin, on Hi-CapPLUS.  From OSPI:

Pilot Project — HiCapPLUS — Will Address Gap in Professional Learning HiCapPLUS meets a critical need for professional learning, and technical assistance among teachers and administrators who serve gifted and talented children. The project is a grant award from the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, U.S. Department of Education.
The project goals are:
- launch a user-friendly, navigable online environment on the OSPI website and produce content for professional learning modules
- produce content for technical assistance units
- promote HiCapPLUS by sharing information and knowledge with districts, ESDs, schol and educational partnership statewide.

The next panel discussion was "Breaking the Language Barrier" with Manka Varghese, UW College of Education, ELL Certificate Program, E. Jean Gubbins, Professor and Associate Director of the National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), University of Connecticut, Teddi Beam-Conroy, Director of Elementary Teacher Education Program, UW and Jamila Appleby, ELL Techer, Champaign Schools.

Gubbins remarks:
NCRGE did an ELL study and recommended the following:
- adopt universal screening procedures
- create alternative pathways to identification, testing in Spanish
- establish a "web of communication" because parents are not always as informed about programs in their school/district; what are the barriers for parents to access information
- eliminate nomination as a gatekeeping step
- use native language ability and achievement assessments
- provide periodic opportunities to assess EL acquistion
- create a pre-ID program for kindergarten
- create a talent pool or "watchlist" of students who exhibit high potential
- view screening, nomination and identification as a continual process

For staff
- view PD as a lever for change
- ESL leader should be part of the AL group

There was also reference to a Texas study of Mexican-American gifted students.  They found that the students felt very supported in elementary school and their bilingual identities were "affirmed." But, when they got to secondary school, there was no more instruction in Spanish and teachers thought because they didn't speak English well, they were not gifted.

Appleby remarks:
-again, eliminate nomination as gate-keeping
- use interviews, observational sketches and memory drawing to find students - the belief being that "observation is one of the best basis for identifying children."

I was not able to stay for the entire afternoon and missed a student roundtable as well as talks on state initiatives and on professional development.  

Day Two of the Summit had a couple of new notables in the crowd - Director Scott Pinkham and former state superintendent candidate, Erin Jones.

Day Two is also where there was more from SPS and I got a bit steamed about it.

There was a panel with Matt Okun, Instructional Specialist from AL, Maria Breuder, McGilvra principal and Kristina Henry Collins, professor and researcher on STEM identity and talent development at Texas State University.

Okun remarks:
Okun has emerged from AL as something of the pitbull for that department.  What I mean by "pitbull" is the aggressive push for HCC to change dramatically based only on racial disparities.  He said that the goal was "to build a program that is culturally responsive and equitable."

I would posit that the district's goal here appears to be as much about equity as it is about social justice.  This is my premise on what direction the district seems to be moving and I'm not sure the district can handle as much work that being a social justice district would take instead of just doing the work to be an equitable district.  (But that's a discussion for another time.)

Okun claimed that AL is two-tiers which is news to me because the ALO tier is part of AL - vague and weak that it is.  He also claimed that ALL students are being served at every school with ALOs.  He must just be reading the CSIPs because that is not true.

He also said - referring to the district - that "our system is not set up to react quickly."  Okay, then change it.  Oh right, we're talking about Seattle Schools.

He also made confusing statements about how many HCC sites there are; it was confusing because he did not reference grade level.

He also said that AL had been going out and making site visits to schools.  This is the first I've heard about this ever and I'll have to ask if those requests were made by principals or PTAs.  He also said there was a lack of ability to get the message out to communities about AL.

That just baffled me because I'm not sure what is stopping the district from getting the word out about this program.  I think it is far more than a lack of ability.

He did show a chart that I'll have to get about enrollment in AL by grade and race.  It is down for blacks, up for whites, up for Hispanics and multi-racial is climbing.

He said that "We have to look at gifted education and ask, 'Where do we want to be?' "  He said they currently have self-contained classrooms and schools.  Again, currently there is just one self-contained school but he must have missed that.  He then said the district has "tough decisions" to make.

Breuder remarks:
She said they are using the Racial Equity Analysis Tool (yet another discussion we should have here as it was a focal element of the Board retreat last Saturday).

She said that there was "eligibility inflation" for HCC, noting that it's for those who place in the top 2% and yet 8.1% are eligible.  She said it was possible to buy your way into HCC.

She said time, resources, mindset and skill sets were important elements for success and that teachers don't have all those.

I did agree with her statement that districts need to be more intentional in realizing that they are THE institution in "institutional racism."

She said the appeals process had to change.  Maybe but I think the real work is to find out why parents of color don't appeal as often as white/Asian parents.  I think it may be that for the parents who are low-income, they have not been told that the district will pay for the appeal.

When Principal Breuder said that many more white children were getting in on appeal and did NOT explain the policy that for F/RL students a private appeal testing was free, you could hear a ripple go thru the room.  

I pause here to say that I went to Wyeth Jesse and told him that I felt both the SPS speakers had not presented the full story.  I have no problem if they have a POV but fairness dictates that the whole story be told.  He posited that perhaps Principal Breuder had gone from presenting information to advocacy.  I agreed. 

Dr. Collins remarks:
This woman was a wonderful speaker.  She talked about "color-blindedness in gifted and enhanced education."

She said with the REAT, you have to look at who's at the table making decisions.

She said it is important to ask "why" several times, not just one time.  She said if tests are biased, why are they still being used?

She had a great line somewhat about paternalism and students of color, "You're trying to 'save' me but you can't see me."

I was really pleased when she referenced a fairly old but very good report, "National Excellence; A Case for Developing America's Talent" from 1993.

She also referenced another good paper, "Profiles of the Gifted and Talented" by Betts and Howe.

She also mentioned some behavior issues, saying that so-called "anti-social behavior" could very well be signs of giftedness.  But she also stated that it may be "students unwillingness to perform to educational culture."  (This is another great, if delicate, topic for discussion that I will bring up in another thread.)

But she also stated this and I agree: "Students need to feel emotionally safe to risk thinking and talking beyond "getting the right answer."  If I behave, you'll get a good grade anyway.  And what does that tell a child?"

She also mentioned this organization, SENGifted, that looks promising.
Founded in 1981, following the suicide of a gifted student in Michigan, SENG has worked to offer support and guidance to the gifted community, through education, research, and connection. With the right intellectual and emotional support, gifted people can accept themselves and fulfill the potential of their incredible capabilities. And, perhaps more importantly, they can learn to work with their high sensitivities to feel balanced, happy, and at peace.
I'm sure to some that sounds like the "snowflake" kind of thinking and yes, all kids need to be supported emotionally but the idea is to realize the differences in emotional needs.

She also spoke of "attitude barriers" like policies, privilege, talent value elitism and stereotype threats.

She mentioned the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking which I had never heard of before.
Building on J.P. Guilford's work and created by Ellis Paul Torrance, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a test of creativity, originally involved simple tests of divergent thinking and other problem-solving skills, which were scored on four scales:
  • Fluency. The total number of interpretable, meaningful, and relevant ideas generated in response to the stimulus.
  • Flexibility. The number of different categories of relevant responses.
  • Originality. The statistical rarity of the responses.
  • Elaboration. The amount of detail in the responses.
With the five norm-referenced measures that he now had (fluency, originality, abstractness of titles, elaboration and resistance to premature closure), he added 13 criterion-referenced measures which include: emotional expressiveness, story-telling articulateness, movement or actions, expressiveness of titles, syntheses of incomplete figures, synthesis of lines, of circles, unusual visualization, extending or breaking boundaries, humor, richness of imagery, colourfulness of imagery, and fantasy.[1]
 The last session was with Tom Halverson of UW's College of Education, Rene Islas, Executive Director of the National Association for Gifted Children, Mary Fertakis, School Board director for Tukwila School District and Kurt Lauer, principal of Federal Way Academy.

Halverson remarks
He opened by saying it was a hard nut to crack to realize that we don't have a fair legal system or health care system and yet people expect schools to get it right when they face the same kinds of issues those other entities do.

1. What's the problem here - broken or fixed?
2. What are our policy goals - be clear on what you want to accomplish (and here is where I think SPS should be concentrating their efforts on to get buy-in from teachers, principals and parents)
3.  Who are your policy targets - who/what needs to change

Islas remarks:
He said children do better when they are challenged and made uncomfortable by the challenge.  (This is an interesting statement given how there are some who say education should be "fun.")

He said ELL students were underrepresented in gifted education as much as minority groups.

He said new data should that children living in poverty or are an ethnic minority are less likely to be IDed for giftedness.  He said that even students who are performing at the same level as other students and show aptitude are not being seen.

He said NAGC was trying to build on the new ESS Act which has a few positive things for gifted students.  He said that leadership needs to step up to support those students.

He referenced something Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, said that the frontier in education has moved from D.C. to state capitols, districts and schools.  Meaning, that once again as it has mostly been, public education is a local issue.

He said there needs to be better qualified, trained and supported teachers for gifted students.  He said there needs to be more accountability for those programs.  

Fertakis remarks
She was pretty direct in saying that we need to use political will to put children first and not adults.  She said that white colleagues should "use our privilege for good."  

She said the case should be made through data and not emotion or opinion.

She said that her district had involved students in the process and gave a draft of their racial equity policy to middle and high school students for feedback.  One item they got back from those remarks? "if staff were not upholding the principles of the policy, could they be fired?"  Out of the mouths of babes.

She said some boards create policies but don't truly implement them.  She said they needed to be embedded in the culture.

She echoed a previous speaker saying "People give lip service to equity until those kids are competing with their kids."  

She also said that districts should stop with the edu-speak because it marginalizes parents and makes translation information difficult.

She also spoke of an ELL test that is culturally neutral and focuses on creativity.  I'll have to try to find out what that is.

She believes there should be no gate-keeping and every kindergartner should be assessed.

Lauer remarks
He said he had been a third grade teacher in SPS and Spectrum had been all white.  He said that when he was at Graham Hill, they did put Spectrum kids in with Gen Ed but that changed when "they got sorted for the next level" which I assume meant middle school.

He believes classes should be set to the highest 10% using differentiation with more open-ended assignments and meeting each student at their level. 

He said that study skills needed to be developed for higher level learning.  

I did hear some useful information/perspectives at this summit but I wish there had been time for Q&As, check-ins from people about their challenges/failures/successes.  What is out there that is working, whether regionally or in other states? 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed report.

This article talks about how many of the same challenges with identification persist at the college level. There are many colleges that do a great job of moving kids out of poverty but they are all challenged by finding enough applicants.

- kt

Anonymous said...

The McGilvra principal said it's possible to buy your way into HCC? If she has heard of this happening, has she reported details to the district so they can investigate and potentially stop accepting reports from the unethical psychologist(s)? Or is it just a feeling she has, since people don't seem to understand how national norming works and just can't make sense of the 2% vs. 8% thing?


Anonymous said...

"scholars are becoming more interested in income versus race as income is a better predictor of outcomes than race. But she said there was no one discounting the intersectionality of the two. "

Yes over and over I read about studies looking at income levels and early access to quality education and outcomes. More recent studies (Stanford etc) in achievement are focusing much more on income rather than race.

It makes sense sense and this summit by focusing on "race" alone, inadvertently ignores poorer whites and Asians. They are no doubt also not identified for gifted programs. In the current political climate where poor whites and Asians are not only left out of the conversation but virtually ignored, who will advocate for them?


HCC Parent said...

"He took a couple of questions from the audience including Director Blanford who said that he had heard great things about Everett but said "my challenge is a political question - a zero sum" and "someone has to lose." 


Seattle's Strategic Plan: "Every Student. Every Classroom. Every Day"

Anonymous said...

"Detracking" Seattle Public Schools means AL/HCC parents WILL be giving up something. I assume that's what Blanford means by "someone has to lose."

Seattle Equality Educators (subgroup of the SEA union), Wayne Au and others urging detracking would be wise to include AL/HCC parents in frank, honest, pragmatic discussions about what our schools and classrooms would look like and how they would serve ALL students in their more socially just vision versus seeing AL/HCC community as an impediment or assuming they are somehow the enemy. These are all families and kids we're talking about here. If you are, in fact, asking (or telling) someone to give up something, it's best to know what you are concretely proposing to take its place. And to work doggedly to bring along the community WITH you rather than making it an us versus them dynamic, which seems to be the case now.

Social justice as a concept is one thing; making it work in real-life classrooms (all kids in one classroom with differentiated instruction) in SPS with the budget situation we have is quite another. Time to talk brass tacks and not just lofty ideals.

Concerned parent

Jet City mom said...

That is a pretty good turnout, I hope that when there is a summit to benefit students with IEPs & 504s, the same people attend.

Anonymous said...

Re: Buying into HCC. The SPS had a list of approved psychologists which, as I read their policies, were the only ones you could use. I may be mistaken on that. If this is the case then they would need to house clean their own list of psychologists ( I suspect that the reality is that the statement is probably not true - I suspect that, because these tests are expensive (~$300) they are looked on by some parents as "buying" into HCC. We used a private psychologist at first mainly to see if we should bother to put our kid through the SPS testing (based on the MAPs scores we were invited by the district to take the test). We did the private test and since it looked within range, we did the SPS test. Both tests seemed to jive pretty well.

Re: Equity. It appears to me that the equity problem will be more easily solved (fingers crossed) than the lack of an AL curriculum. I suggest that because the district seems to have dismantled AL curriculum during the time we have been involved. In contrast I think they are implimenting concrete policies to increase equity (such as honors for all at Garfield). I hate to see the SPS focus on equity alone because it is their classic MO to do that and leave the hard problems unsolved. It also leaves kids unserved when they do enter the HCC program. Here's hoping they tackle both problems simultaneously.


Jet City mom said...

HCC parent, Im glad to hear that the information gleaned from the district tests, is similar to results from professionally administered intelligence testing, that hasn't always been the case.

My daughter was identified by Dr Nancy Robinson as being highly gifted, but she did not even place as needing enrichment by SPS when we attempted to go through that process.

Many hoops.

Anonymous said...

My experience was that my child did not qualify on a private test, but qualified for hcc on the district test, in the same year. I had done the private test ahead of the results to see if I could learn more about some learning differences he has. People don't talk very much about private tests when the child doesn't qualify but I promise it does happen.

rumor bias

Hanley said...

Detracking HCC students will increase the dropout rate as highcap students realize the schools are unwilling to/uninterested in/unable to teach them anything. Many gifted individuals like Mark Zuckerberg, Russell Simmons, Steve Jobs, Oprah, Bill Gates, John Lennon, Jay-Z, Chris Rock, Frank Sinatra, Eminem, and Prince gave up on school because it's wasting their time. Not all gifted people will go on to achieve that kind of eminence or are gifted in fields that attract much attention, but gifted individuals can tell a cruddy school program that makes them sit there not learning anything. Gifted students who do stick with school even though the curriculum is not suitable for them are at an increased risk of "checking out" which ironically causes them to fall behind, perform poorly and drop out.

FYI, the presence of highly capable individuals in the prison population is 4x that of highly capable individuals in the general population.

Detracking HCC students will almost certainly increase the suicide rate among SPS students. Highly capable students face unique social and emotional challenges during the school years because their interests are out of sync with those of age mates. Many gifted kids are socially isolated and targets for bullying and exclusion. In the worst cases, they can become antisocial. Estimates are that 4 out of 5 school shooters were unidentified or unserved highly capable.

The reason highcap programming was added to basic education in our state is that low income, minority, and disabled highly capable students are underidentified for services.

So, the impacts on highcap youth may appear to be "snowflake" issues to some, but as a gifted adult with gifted children in SPS, I would urge everyone to stop and think about whether our state's dropout rate is a "snowflake" issue. When schools feed gifted students into a headed-for-prison pipeline, is that a "snowflake" issue? Is students committing suicide a "snowflake" issue? Are school shooters a "snowflake" issue?

I'm glad the UW's Robinson Center for Young Scholars (aka people who know what they're doing) put on the seminar and that so many could attend. Thanks for writing it up, Melissa!

Sounds like the overwhelming recommendation is for universal testing and eliminating gatekeeping. But maybe the courts will shut down schools before we get that far. We'll see.

Jet City mom said...

rumor bias, that is interesting that your child didnt qualify through an individually administered test, but did through the district.

I would have anticipated that the longer test would be more accurate.
My daughter was in a follow up study through the UW, otherwise we would have not had the resources for testing, or actually even have thoight of doing anything but sending her to the neighborhood school.

I do agree that there are many unserved students, particulary those with co existing learning differences, whose parents do not have a strong educational background.

Anonymous said...

I also attended the Equity Summit. As a teacher of the gifted I was hoping to see some success stories. Primarily there was a repetition that the lack of diversity is morally bad, which I agree with, but with minimal data and even fewer solutions I was ultimately disappointed in the event itself. The table discussions were the most thoughtful discussions on a wide range of topics that I've ever attended. Yet, these were always cut short in favor of a series of rather toothless presentations.

I did get to see plenty of animosity and what I would term ignorance from the presenters. The same people who have control over the programs and policies say they cannot change the implementation of the policies that they themselves control. How do they benefit from an inequitable system?

The issue seems to repeatedly be one of identification. That's the equity issue in a nutshell. You need to find the students in order to serve them. So implement universal testing and mandate that identified students receive services. If that means they have to go to another school or the local school has to be held accountable then that is what has to happen. It is not optional or waiveable from a schools perspective to simply not provide these state mandated services.

Then you've got to track the student in their progress both in demographic and academic terms. If students of color are suddenly exiting the district at a certain grade and are attending a local private school what is a district to do? Should the district be penalized that a student transfers or is given an enticing scholarship to a prestigious institution? No, that would be bizarre. However, the school district should not be penalized that those students of color transfer out either as long as it's not for some lack of service in which case that needs to be remedied.

Equity in funding: Where is the money, the per student allocation, going? Most goes to teaching staff otherwise known as FTE. However, where is the ancillary or per student funding going to? Is it funding services as the law requires or is that money being diverted to other outcomes? I understand money gets pooled but without any tracking how do we know that any money is being spent on these students at all beyond a room and a teacher?

Equity in access: Gifted students deserve equitable access to achieve their potential or to have their potential developed. I have seen a little hope in this because of the budget crunch and CORE 24 high school graduation requirements. If students have increased opportunity to earn HS credit in earlier grades that provides room for tons of AP/IB/College in High School options later on. An AP class in my experience costs less than a general ed course because the cost of texts are generally pushed onto the parents (unfair but common). While I can see that Ingraham and Garfield don't believe younger students can achieve at high levels I counter that those teachers didn't bring the curriculum to the student and instead tried to teach at 14 year old like they were a 17 or 18 year old. Which speaks to the general lack of any training on gifted traits anywhere in the district. Acceleration is not the only solution and not even the only best practice but it is the cheapest.

Simply dismantling gifted services dismantles hope to any child who grew up in poverty, as I did, because if the services are not mandated then schools will not be forced to provide them.

Something one of the speakers said stuck with me. My paraphrasing of it was that 'giving opportunity equates to denial'. We have to guarantee these services especially to ensure that our identification of gifted students from all backgrounds has an actual service model to go with it. Or we will just go back to low S.E.S. students getting what they can rather than what they deserve.

Mr. Theo Moriarty

HCC Parent said...

Once in a HCC cohort, my child was finally able to connect with others. Let's not take this away from certain students.

Anonymous said...

I, too, was disappointed that there wasn't more of a focus on promising practices and success stories, and that the Robinson Center let it become yet another forum for animosity toward gifted students and gifted education.

Universal screening sounds like a great (but very expensive!) idea in theory, but one has to wonder how much difference it will make in the overall HCC demographics. Didn't the universal screening of 2nd graders in low-income SE district schools end up identifying disproportionately more white students? Not exactly the result they were hoping for... but not all that surprising, either, given all that happens re: brain development from the prenatal period to 2nd grade, and how that development will be impacted by factors such as parent income, parent education, caregiving practices, environmental exposures, etc.

Doing the universal screening earlier than second grade isn't likely to help, either. Look at our K readiness data--the racial disparities are already there. If we want universal screening to be the solution, we need to also establish different score requirements for different groups. It's not going to be acceptable to say, for example, that 98th percentile is gifted for a white kid, 99th percentile for an Asian, and 87th percentile for black or Hispanic, but we could probably have a somewhat similar effect by setting different cutoffs by income and language status instead. (As a bonus, it would be more justifiable, too!)

But even doing universal screening and adding group-adjusted cut scores wouldn't do the trick re: equity in enrollment unless we also eliminated the achievement testing component, or made similar adjustments to the required scores. Either way, though, we're acknowledging that some of the students who would qualify for the program would not be as academically ready for the program. So, we'd need more changes.

We'd need to either do something to help get those kids up to speed (HCC summer boot camp? An intensive pre-HCC academy year?), or we'd need to adjust the curriculum so it's not so focused on acceleration.

I think these would all be positive changes. However, I am also positively convinced that SPS doesn't have the capacity or political will to do all these, and doing a half-assed job at addressing the issue isn't going to cut it.


Anonymous said...

@HF Great points there!

How then do we develop the school skills and content background knowledge that would allow any underprepared student to successfully integrate into a program that should demand a great deal of school fluency to really actualize?

Shouldn't there be like an development class? Use the development class for a year or two and then move that student into all day general gifted services that they qualify for?

I chose to teach a mix of Spectrum and HCC so I could both see the difference and to be a sort of single domain or untested talent scout. Since we do still have Spectrum classes at my school (which I am proud of) and they do have a mix of highly skilled students and AL qualified students I thought I'd see if we could do some content/skills/perspective development and I think that it worked. I may have dialed my expectations a little high considering the differences between HCC and Spectrum preparation but overall I think they progressed significantly as learners. They also got to discuss and be respected as the gifted young people that they are. Combating negative stereotyping of giftedness and the false narratives that any student is a better human than any other simply by a program designation was the initial thrust of my perspective training. It was amazing to be that they had no perspective or sense of identity as being gifted. The services were being thrust upon them and all they knew was that they took a test and were in a different class. By providing context and facts they understood that they needed an intervention and that they weren't in a Varsity class looking down on the JV team. They were kids who needed what they needed.

It was beautiful to see how they gained some internal peace from that realization. How much would the district benefit from some positive self talk?

Mr. Theo Moriarty

Anonymous said...

Positive self talk is needed at every level, in every room and hallway. There is a self defeating culture in SPS at every turn. Doing away with labels and open doors and arms to opportunity (rather than capping, gate keeping, limiting, labeling, and generally blaming anyone but ourselves)...will make a difference. New leadership is required.

Fix AL

Anonymous said...

Mr. Moriarty,
Thank you for your continued advocacy for gifted students. It's a wonderful service that you provide.
My son blossomed in your class a few years ago. Your class provided rich content that his mind could soak up to his heart's content - and he talked about it constantly.


dan dempsey said...

Dr. Nancy Hertzog stated:
".... that instruction matters as well as teacher beliefs and student attitudes and that change had to come from parents and school boards as well as schools."

YES - Instruction Matters - it is the nuts and bolts of schooling and yet all kinds of other stuff is emphasized rather than instruction. --- Go figure.

Outsider said...

Just a note from reality, which has nothing to do with conferences. I have a son in a detracked elementary school classroom where ALOs exist on paper but mean almost nothing. Differentiated instruction for advanced learners in a detracked classroom is a fraud. Very little happens, and very little ever will. Neither the principal nor the teachers have any interest. The structure of the classroom and the daily routine make differentiation impossible. It's not simply that the teacher is ideologically opposed, or feels systemic pressure to not differentiate, or doesn't have time. It's structurally impossible. Anyone on the ground, with a student in the system, knows that. What a bunch of ideologues and academics say at a conference is just hot air.

Comments that parents of AL-capable students "give lip service to equity until those kids are competing with their kids" is simply a slander. It's false and insulting. The fact that anyone in the system says that is all the proof you need that the public schools offer no hope. There is a related truth that these ideologues refuse to acknowledge: the 5% private school economic elite don't want any public school students competing with their kids. They prevent it by promoting equity and detracking and universal 30th percentile education in public schools. That is why social mobility has declined recently in the USA. Equity ideologues in the public schools make it their life's mission to nullify the potential of the bright, eager, capable but ultimately helpless students in their charge. And yet they consider themselves to be paragons of correctness.

What we really need is a transition to a completely new system where what a bunch of bloviators say at an academic conference has no power over our families and our students.

Outsider said...

One other note: 95% of the meager amount of differentiation that does happen in SPS elementary schools takes one of the following two forms:

1) Books with different reading levels in readers-writers workshop
2) Screen time

It's ironic that detracking is the main force behind individualized, computer-based education. When you notice that your AL student spends half his day on a computer, you will begin to wonder even more what's the real purpose of public schools, or how they manage to spend all that money, or why you need them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outside, you hit the nail on the head. Is it all about equity or about having kids in front of computers doing "personalized learning?" I note that Green Dot charters does this and saves a lot of money on teachers because, during computer time, they have "facilitators" in the room, not teachers.

95 Theses said...

Oh, what I wouldn't give for someone to just provide my kindergartener with a book at his reading level!

It's March and they say they're leveling the kids' reading this week. The fall "leveling" that happened before the teacher conferences turned out to be a check on whether they knew the alphabet or not. So, for all of September, October, November, December, January, February and now the first week or two of March, the class hasn't had access to any readers. The students haven't been leveled yet to check what level they're reading at. And therefore no one has given them anything at the right level to read.

There are no bins of Fountas-and-Pinnell-leveled books in the classroom. The kids have not been sent home with any beginning readers. They go to the library once a week and for months were only allowed to pick from the books the librarian laid out for them, which are mostly books for other people to read to the children.

How many classrooms is this happening in? How is this appropriate? Who is allowing this to happen?

Level the *&$(#@^ students!!! Even if they're ahead of benchmark. All students should have access to books to read at their level.

An equity summit on gifted education should have covered this. Giving students access to just-right books is an equity issue. So many classrooms in so many schools are failing to do this and it takes a disproportionate toll on the students' whose parents don't have the time or money or wherewithal to do the leveling at home and pick the just-right books for their kids and acquire those books from a library or bookstore or other source and provide those books to their kids. This is a critical equity issue. Did it even get discussed?

Anonymous said...

But giving early readers access to books at their level allows them to keep learning more quickly than others, which only widens the gap, right? Imposing low ceilings on advanced student's seems to be our district's approach to narrowing the gap. After all, according to Dir Blanford, education is a zero-sum game, right?

leadership fail

Melissa Westbrook said...

95 Theses, no, your issue did not get discussed. That's what I found troubling - the very narrow focus of the Summit. I wish they had branched out more because again, students who can and want to do advanced level work, identified as highly capable or not, should get to do it.

Anonymous said...

Yes agree with other posters. Narrow focus of the Summit. Seems it was more about social justice but only for some kids. Not all kids given the lack of focus on poor kids of all groups including white and Asian backgrounds who are likely also not represented. No examples or solutions of what is working to increase diversity and success in gifted programs across the country. Too bad.

not mc t said...

grim. bs. sorry. this is just sickening. herzog should be working to educate educators on how to teach hc kids. no. too much time devoted to social engineering. al of the sps staff should be executing those great new herzog's methods and lessons. nope. they are lecturing the world on how hatefully racist sps is. great job. keep in mind robinsons helped develop ipp (soon to be app, then hcc and now nothing really). it was a tracked program. agad. what a shock. she must be a racist too!?!!?!

no caps

Anonymous said...

Well stated no caps,

The Robinson Center was a lifesaver to us, in terms of being able to access rigorous programs (for once). Really well-run with great curriculum and teaching. Their curriculum choices alone would be a great benefit to all SPS students whether accelerated or not. Too bad SPS is too fog-bound to see that.


Anonymous said...

Part 1:
The Equity Summit was one of the rare times when different WA school districts' board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, admin stuff, parents and even students could come together and talk about various issues related to Equity in Gifted Education. Big thanks for the Robinson Center and Dr. Nancy Hertzog for organizing this event. Of course, being the first event of this type, its short duration of 1.5 days made it impossible to cover all the topics. But I think it was a great start!

It is hard to summarize all the discussions.  I am very grateful to Melissa who wrote a detailed and really outstanding summary, thank you.

My thoughts related to SPS (not in any particular order):

Some of you may remember Dr. Vaughan, who was the previous SPS AL Director. He was there at the Summit and I am happy to report that he is back to the AL Office as a retired volunteer Tester (as he can "help the long-standing district inequity in this way"). We talked about different issues and he stated that he is saddened by the fact that the district couldn't copy the IBX program from Interlake as he proposed. I feel we should still really appreciate and applaud his ongoing efforts because he brings in invaluable expertise and really long experience with the AL Program.

I didn't feel that this Summit was just "another forum for animosity toward gifted students". Actually, I felt the opposite: a perfect (and peaceful) place to get the "two sides" (the AL supporters and the "non believers") to the same table to discuss various long-standing issues. 

For me, as a parent of gifted students, who are now happy and well-rounded RC students, the highlight of the Summit was the students' roundtable. We could see how outstanding these students are; they articulated very impressively how they all think that every student should receive the education/challenge in school that they need in order to learn and become an adult fulfilling their dream/potential. What I was missing is that in the break after the talks, I rarely saw anyone taking advantage of the Robinson Center's students who were present in a good number and from different races, who could answer questions and give examples of their own experiences. It would have been really nice to have some meaningful discussions between the educators and students around the chocolate fountain (I feel that a fantastic opportunity was missed here especially for the "non-believers").

-ex SPSmom

Anonymous said...

Part 2:
As for the most upsetting point? This dubious award would go Matt Okun's presentation for all the things Melissa listed under his remarks. I would add that Mr. Okun seemed out of touch with the current reality of the AL programs in SPS as he was taking about the Spectrum program like it is existing in all schools. He also did not show much interest in the gifted education at all, as he mostly talked about the identification process and the social justice part of the program (not even mentioning the SES differences). He stated that the number of appeals with private testing are too high in SPS and consequently if we get rid of them, the HCC demographic will be different (even without showing the SPS data for this). Actually, his presentation and graphs were confusing. I also overheard him saying that because SPS did recently a survey about the HCC program at Cascadia and the survey showed great results, there is really one thing that SPS needs to focus: the Equity of the AL programs. As a long-time member of the SPS community with students who were promised a HCC curriculum years (a decade?) ago, and were moved to different locations many times (because it seemed that the APP/HCC program is the best tool for managing capacity in the district), and since I read a thread about this quite skewed "survey and its results" on the APP blog, I was (and still am) very disturbed by his statements. I believe that there is a way to reach the equity with changing some of the enrollment rules. But I don't see a valuable program after the enrollment. And the fact, that noone talks about this (there is no "there" there any more), I find really problematic.

About showcasing the missing national best practices? There were presenters from Texas and they just showed that because of the different population/size/culture/location/goal of the different school districts and because of the differences of the "what" and "how" the districts deliver programs/services to the AL students (if any at all?), there is no real "one way" of the best practice. This question actually could be really good focus for the next Summit (hopefully there will be one).

Finally, I came home with only one question on my mind: when we reach the goal of equity, what will be the administrators/teachers/principals, etc. next excuse to not support a gifted education in Seattle? Will they find something else to blame to dismantle the existing (and very weak) opportunities to educate students who are well above the "average"?

-ex SPSmom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Mr. Okun seemed very disinterested in gifted education.

Anonymous said...

"Where are all the brown and black kids in Seattle's gifted education?" That is a good question but I'm surprised that she didn't ask that question of all the area's gifted programs. (There's a project - find out if other districts' gifted progress reflect the make-up of their district and if students of color are under-represented."

Regrading Ms. Tuan's comment, yes it would be interesting to find out how Bellevue and other districts compare.

Lynn said...

Highly Capable demographic data by district was available on the OSPI website for awhile.

Here are the percentages of students in Bellevue (Edmonds) Seattle and (WA State) in each group identified as highly capable in 2015-16.

American Indian/Alaskan Native 0% (2%) 1.7% (3%)
Asian 20% (9%) 7% (11%)
Black/African American .75% (2%) .7% (2%)
Hispanic/Latino 1.3% (1%) 2% (2%)
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 2% (0%) .8% (2%)
Two or More Races 8% (5%) 9% (6%)
White 4% (4%) 13% (7%)

Total identified students in local districts:
18% of Mercer Island students
11% of Bainbridge
10% of Bellevue
8% of Seattle

To be clear, in Bellevue 20% of Asian students and .75% of Black students have been identified as highly capable.

not mc-t said...

Mr. Okun gets his paycheck to be the leader on al. this needs change. this needs to be changed now. i read through the ppt. without the advantage of hearing the rhetoric behind it. bs. lies. not even close to what the data really says.

how hard is it to teach gifted kids. i can appreciate the sped challenge. 1:1 education is expensive. not all sped kids need that type of intervention.

but 1:30, which is the high end of what we experience k-8, is a far lot more economical.

keep gnashing your teeth. i am sick and tired of paying for admin staff that aren't helping their departments. tolley needs to go now. not next year. now.


kids need to learn, right. no more learning to make things seem equal is like saying you don't need an umbrella because the rain won't hit them.

tolley gone. nyland gone. we will figure it out from there.

no caps

Anonymous said...

Jill Geary said she thinks it would be better if 2% of our students were in HCC. I would like to know how many she would like to have identified as HC qualified and how the percentage beyond 2% should be served. Then, let's have a conversation.

Reminder: Here are the total identified students in local districts:
18% of Mercer Island students
11% of Bainbridge
10% of Bellevue
8% of Seattle

Fix AL

Anonymous said...

Can someone mail those statistics to the Seattle School Board? They all really need to see that information, especially Blanford and Geary. Very interesting. 18% of Mercer Island's students! Does anyone need more evidence that income may be a bigger factor than race in who qualifies?

4% White versus 20% Asian in Bellevue, 8% two or more races, given population looks like whites are also likely very underrepresented in gifted programs in Bellevue.
-Big picture

Anonymous said...

Fix AL-- My question would also be who is likely to make up the 2%? Does this really change advanced learning for the better, increase equity or cut out vulnerable students who are gifted and should be served? Would the 2% be likely to be students among most affluent in Seattle (ex Laurelhurst, Madison Park etc)? Looking at Mercer Island's stats versus Seattle, I am guessing likely to be the case.
- Big Picture

Anonymous said...

The tests we use for eligibility decisions likely can't distinguish between who's in the top 2% here vs the top 8% or whatever.

Say we have 10% of middle schoolers qualifying for HCC, meaning they have CogAT scores at or above the 98th percentile. Say it's 3% at the 99th percentile range and 7% at the 98th percentile range. If we raise the cutoff to 99th percentile, we might still have "too many" kids, plus we'll surely have "too few" of the kids we want, those who are already underrepresented.

Say we take a different approach instead and let in only those at the 99th percentile for their racial/ethic group instead. That would get us the racial diversity we want, although it wouldn't really reflect need for the services. That top percentile for some groups might be operating at about grade level, whereas for other groups they'd likely be working several years above grade level. Even more challenging would be how to determine which of the 99th percentile scorers from a certain group get in. For example, if 4% of Asians score at the 99th percentile but we arbitrarily will only let 2% in, how do you determine which to include/exclude?

On top of that, the test-retest reliability of the CogAT probably isn't that high. At the extreme upper end, the test probably doesn't have very good ability to distinguish between someone at the 98th percentile and someone at the 99th.

I'd love to hear how, exactly, Dir Geary thinks we should determine who needs access to HCC services...


Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear. We need to stop using tests that are known to favor some racial groups. The AL department should find and use an instrument for measuring cognitive discrepancy (eg. above average discrepancy from the norm) that gives results based on national norms which does not have racially skewed results. If we continue to use measurements which are Anglo-normed, then we will continue to have an over-representation of white people. The CogAT and many similar assessments are tools that tests, measures, and assesses the values of white European heritaged people. No amount of fiddling with the HCC cutoffs will change this. In fact, increasing the percentage cutoff will yield even more white overrepresentation as we all have seen since the standard has been lowered. Until we stop using Anglo-norming tests - we will have Anglo normed HCC program.


Anonymous said...

@ reader, any suggestions as to what instrument that may be? I haven't heard of a good one that meets your criteria.

Even if there is one, it likely won't produce the intended results. Removing all Anglo bias from the instrument is not likely to generate results reflective of the racial distribution, because poverty and all its associated good/bad exposures also impact child brain development.


not mc-t said...

sheesh reader, no cogat 7 is the state of the art and was selected to decrease the equity gap as it is low verbal. this is great for ell and ses disadvantaged families and should be no factor for multi generation black families.

tell me that by saying non-anglo you aren't saying that multi generation black americans are non-anglo? after decades of military service and schooling in anglo america and speaking english at home from birth that these families are less anglo because of their skin color? that is out an out racist. even blandford would call you out on that one.

fact is that those not performing well at sps are those that are ell and ses disadvantaged and sps knows this but they won't share that data. tolley knows this but he skirts the truth. you perpetuate the lie... because you always have hated hcc.

no caps

Anonymous said...

Right. If we just want to have an "income" test, we wouldn't need the costly CogAt or anything similar, we could just ask parents to submit their W2 forms. Using W2's would save a bundle. No need for test administration, school psych's or the like. A lot of families might feel that somehow that wouldn't be sufficient, and an unseemly way to prove their giftedness, but basically the instruments we have now test exactly that. Changing the threshold won't fix the basic problem. Verbal skills aren't the only Anglo-bias in CogAt, the whole underlying assumptions of skills, eg what's important, what's not, etc reflect a purposeful Anglo bias. We are not serving low ses and disadvantaged well because the advantaged parents cling to segregation as the predominant form of education whose goal is to perpetuate the hierarchy of wealth and power. And years and years of research has proven that income and racial segregation is self perpetuating and serves only high ses students. The problem of equity is not in "identifying" the rich kids(or, as you would prefer, "the best and brightest and most deserving". The problem is providing a separate and unequal opportunity for advancement. Your idea of the purpose of education - is to maintain your unearned advantage. How can you possibly be surprised when school staff prefer to rectify this problem, albeit weakly and slowly, as is their mode of operation.


Adjua said...

Each additional $10,000 in annual parental income throughout early childhood has been found to give kids the equivalent of slightly more than one extra month of learning. There is also a link between maternal learning and student achievement: an additional year of a mother’s schooling was equivalent to about half month of additional learning, as gauged by test scores.

It has also been found that increasing parental education would have more permanent effects than supplemental income programs. Specifically, better educating mothers will lead to better outcomes for children.

But SPS is not tasked with serving as social workers, parent income evaluators, or parent educators. SPS needs to educate the kids. And some of them need advanced learning services. These must be provided.

At the same time, we should do universal testing so that no child who needs these services is neglected by the district.

At the same, same time, we should look at our stats and see which groups are being underserved. And attempt to improve.

But, as I continue to say, there are a lot of students SPS could be serving better, educating better, letting down less, who are NOT advanced learners. Should we only work to improve the academic fates of the top 2 to 8% of black kids in SPS? Bu||$#|+. Latinx, black and Native American kids have been harmed by the way our country has been and is being run. And SPS should stop continuing to do that. And should start improving on that. For all historically underserved students. Not just the academically gifted. We shouldn't overlook academically gifted kids, but we shouldn't care exclusively about them. We should care about outcomes for all SPS students.

Everett school district only has a 10% dropout rate. Let's have Seattle try to do that. Where's the fire in our belly for that? Because those students who drop out are at an increased risk for having another generation of kids who will drop out. Maternal education level matters. Let's educate the next generation of mothers for this city. Because that is one proven (and humane!) way to fix the actual multigenerational problem we've got going here.

not mc troll said...

wth reader. ok big of you to drop the anglo = white = privileged thing. because that is out right prejudice. you can't say that skin color dictates how someone is going to test on the cogat. great!

but now you are talking about 'perpetuate the hierarchy of wealth and power' so i trust you won't make the same mistake as often happens that assuming that black = poor = disadvantaged. but yeah national 25% black/hispanic families are in poverty vs 10% if white families. but that is poverty. those with power and privilege aren't dealing with sps. they are going to private schools.

you blather on about 'separate and unequal opportunity for advancement' where is your proof of that, right? that would be criminal and highly unlikely especially since the hcs program coordinates with the race and equity department for admissions into the program. where is the beef?

there is no division here other than by iq . unlike option schools that divide by zip code and ability to pay for assistants. i don't claim to know much about your experiences with sps and i assume based on your post dealing with sped issues. but you seem to share a lot of lies about hcs. why can't you let what is the best practices prevail for hcs? i would hope the same for gen ed, ell and sped as well as hcc.

no caps

Anonymous said...

C'mon, reader, that's BS and you know it. Using W-2s to determine eligibility? Income impacts IQ, but it's nowhere near a good proxy. Guess what? A parent with a high income can have a kid with any IQ level. Look at all the well-off areas of Seattle, for example, where the neighborhood schools are filled with local students who didn't qualify for HCC and are remaining at the neighborhood school. By the same token, a parent with low income can have a high-IQ child. It's not as common as it is for a parent of high income, though, because income is a factor. Not a determinant, but a factor.

You referred to verbal skills as one aspect of the Anglo-bias in CogAt. You do realize that they added nonverbal as a way to qualify, too, right? But I read an interesting article about the nonverbal vs verbal a while ago, testing the assumption that nonverbal would be less culturally biased against gifted ELLs. It didn't show that to be the case at all.

You said "the whole underlying assumptions of skills, eg what's important, what's not, etc reflect a purposeful Anglo bias." I'd love to hear more about this. What type of skills and what type of knowledge would be a better indication of intelligence for the groups underrepresented in Seattle's HCC program?

And then you make your true intent clear with a statement like "We are not serving low ses and disadvantaged well because the advantaged parents cling to segregation as the predominant form of education whose goal is to perpetuate the hierarchy of wealth and power." Aha, now I see. You don't actually want a real discussion, you just want to spew hate and prejudice. Nice job throwing out that "best and brightest and most deserving" thing. Really well done.

Maybe part of the problem is that you're conflating high income and giftedness. As I mentioned above, they aren't the same. When we're talking about gifted services, we're talking about a small subset of students. Providing appropriate services to academically gifted students does not mean high income and low income students are segregated. You're right that we aren't serving low SES and disadvantaged well, but it isn't because of gifted ed programs. And academically highly gifted students in classes with those low SES and disadvantaged students wouldn't do EITHER group a lot of good, according to the research. I think you're thinking of research on educational desegregation efforts in general, which doesn't address academically gifted students. Not the same thing.

You said "The problem is providing a separate and unequal opportunity for advancement." Can you explain how, exactly, one could provide equal opportunity for advancement if students enter school at different levels of ability? Or with different abilities to learn? For example, if half the entering kindergarten class can already read and the other half doesn't know its alphabet, is it "equal opportunity for advancement" if the teacher works on the alphabet all year, even if that means half the class doesn't advance their knowledge?

As for my" idea of the purpose of education," it's really quite simple. To learn. Your idea that it's "to maintain...unearned advantage," though, seems to say a lot about your thinking. Am I right to interpret this to mean that you think students who are more advanced than others don't deserve it, and thus don't deserve to learn until all the others catch up?


Cap hill said...

Finally, something to agree with Blanford on - the topic is highly politicized. It has, in addition to affordable housing, become the Seattle surrogate for equality issues in our society. The combination of SPS's extremely poor management and some uber-progressive teachers means that this has become an area where a small group of people can foist their personal hobby horse on the rest of us.

The extreme case on this is that we effectively sanction teaching white kids less or challenging them less as to not exacerbate longer term wealth distribution (after all - isn't that what this is really about) in society. Tragically short sighted and stupid.

For one, education is not a scarce resource. We'd have better doctors, teachers, scientists & etc if we can challenge kids more and provide them with better learning opportunities. Remove the whole testing in nonsense and provide the choice to families. Drain the politics out and focus on providing more choice and challenge for families.

Secondly, there is a shadow school system with almost 30% of the kids. Creating artificial shortages and driving ideology into the school system will simply increase private school attendance. It is, after all, a market. And we have a substantial alternative even without charters.

N. Lee said...

I find it disturbing that some of these uber-progressive teachers are rampaging around like renegade-untrained-social-workers without any background in social work. (They do have training in pedagogy, by the way, but tut tut). They're buying pizzas for hungry students who contact them in private outside of school hours (?!) and organizing charitable donations to be sent to their school addresses for non-school use. They're directing a shocking amount of vitriol at SPS students who don't even attend their school. I mean, inter-high-school rivalry is one thing (Go Vikings!), but who's ever heard of teachers (teachers, for Pete's sake!) attacking elementary school students who attend a different elementary school (e.g. HCC or Spectrum or those schools with the fancy auctions). That is kind of sick. Any adults disparaging any elementary school students is kind of sick. But these well-intentioned uber-progressive teachers who want to lift up the poor and downtrodden by buying them pizzas while refusing to teach the 30% or so of their own students who need access to more advanced material in order to learn anything. They're like bulls in a china shop. There are plenty of advanced learners going to title one schools. Kids don't pick where they live. Parents rent or own or stay with someone or have temporary housing or are homeless or stay in a dive motel until they make it through the wait list to get subsidized housing. Kids don't have any say in that. Kids don't pick the color of their skin. Kids very rarely get any say in who raises them. Academically precocious kids come in every demographic category--SPS is just abysmal at finding them all.

SPS teachers need to knock off the social engineering and teach. Let social workers and aid agencies do the social work. Teachers can participate in charitable organizations OUTSIDE their paid teaching hours. Teachers have private lives. But in the classroom, they need to be responsible for teaching all the kids. Not just the ones they consider worthy. And they for sure need to stop badmouthing elementary school students who don't even attend their schools. And their families. I mean, what the actual F? Buy a teenager a pizza and you've solved their hunger problem for 1/2 a day. TEACH a teenager and you've helped empower them for life. Teachers should be meeting students' academic needs and directing students who need social welfare help to the people, organizations, offices, etc. who can help them with their non-academic needs.

Anonymous said...

Agree with DisAPPointed and N.Lee points as well. Reader- yes income is one factor, it is not the only factor. There are alot of middle class kids in HCC, but there are even more middle class kids in neighborhood schools. Middle class kids are more likely to be doted on, get read to at an early age, go to a high quality pre-school and all sorts of environmental inputs. They are less likely to move multiple times, have parents who face enormous daily challenges of just putting food on the table etc. Of course all that impacts how well they do on tests. Poorer kids may have the same potential to develop a gift in academics, but they need solid and strong environmental inputs. Your reasoning about Anglo bias does not explain the high amount of Asian (Indian, Chinese etc) kids in various HCC programs in Bellevue, etc. It also does not explain kids with Jewish, Armenian or Lebanese/Greek etc. or a multitude of other ethnic backgrounds like my kid who is not Anglo. I also personally know several kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch who are also in HCC. However, those parents (two of which are college educated) provide many of the same environmental nurturing as middle class parents. I agree the district needs to do a much better job facilitating the nomination process and identifying all lower income kids.