Tuesday, April 11, 2017

More Thoughts on Gifted Education

Update:  there's a new movie out about a gifted child called...Gifted.

Also, thank you to reader NE Parent for this link to a NY Times article on finding more gifted students of color.  It makes for fascinating reading.

In 2005, in an effort to reduce that disparity, Broward County introduced a universal screening program, requiring that all second graders take a short nonverbal test, with high scorers referred for I.Q. testing. Under the previous system, the district had relied on teachers and parents to make those referrals.

The share of Hispanic children identified as gifted tripled, to 6 percent from 2 percent. The share of black children rose to 3 percent from 1 percent. For whites, the gain was more muted, to 8 percent from 6 percent.

Whatever the reason, the evidence indicates that relying on teachers and parents increases racial and ethnic disparities.

Since a school in Broward rarely had enough gifted children to fill a class, these classrooms were topped off with children from the same school who scored high on the district’s standardized test. These high achievers, especially black and Hispanics, showed large increases in math and reading when placed in a class for the gifted, and these effects persisted.

Despite these positive results, Broward County suspended its universal screening program in 2010 in a spate of budget cutting after the Great Recession.  

That’s why the research in Broward County is so important. It shows that there is a fairer way to identify gifted children, and that placing each school’s gifted and achieving students in advanced classes can shrink, rather than expand, racial and ethnic differences in achievement. Universal screening, with a standardized process that does not rely on teachers and parents, can reveal talented, disadvantaged children who would otherwise go undiscovered.

I personally believe this is the best and simplest method to follow.  I will note that Broward County did not follow the Brulles method of making sure there was a cluster of high achieving/gifted students in each class; they took the identified gifted students and filled out the class with high achievers (which was how some Spectrum classes used to be filled).

end of update

At last Wednesday's Board meeting, one person (whose name I missed) speaking on the need for Ethnic Studies said that there were five people working in the Race & Equity office while there were seven in Advanced Learning.  (It's unclear why she picked that example.)

Two comments.  One, I checked with the district and Advanced Learning has eight FTEs while Race & Equity/School & Family Partnerships has 7.0 FTEs.

Two, every single department in the district is supposed to be looking at their work thru the lens of equity.  So, in that way, everyone who works for the district is thinking about equity.  I don't think the district would disagree with that statement.

What I find baffling is this idea that Advanced Learning is a program for white children.  It's not.  I don't hear enough about people who want to find more children of color to be in the program, just that it's terribly wrong that the program is mostly white and Asian children.

Don't people want more kids of color in the program OR is it that they just don't want the program at all?  It would be a good idea to be honest about that point.
 The Times recently had a story about how Federal Way School District is reaching more black and Latino students with advanced learning.  It's a wide-ranging article and I would say the tone towards Seattle schools is less-than-friendly (and actually not totally accurate).

The biggest problem with this article is the casual use of "advanced coursework" and "gifted program" which are not necessarily the same thing.  Neither item is ever defined. 

Federal Way SD has a much larger percentage of black students taking advanced coursework than nine other districts.  Ditto on Latino students and Pacific Islanders (although Seattle and the other districts are very similar to each other for numbers of Latino students).   That may be true but are all those students in the gifted program or taking an AP class? It isn't clear.

But there's this:
The rate of black students doing advanced coursework has nearly doubled, to 34 percent, and Federal Way now has better participation among minority and low-income children in gifted programs than any other large, diverse district in the state.
Federal Way has about 22,500 students.  While that is much larger than most of the school districts in the state, it is nowhere near Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma or Lake Washington.

And this:
Overall, however, Washington tolerates a persistent caste system in its schools, with an upper strata characterized by creativity and exploration and a general-education track emphasizing little of that.
Hard to say what to make of that statement.  Does "Washington" mean OSPI?  Or does it mean Washington state parents?  Or  Washington state districts?

What is Federal Way doing?  

All middle and high school students- working at grade level - as well as second-graders are all screened for giftedness.  More high school students in Federal Way are taking AP courses but two-thirds of them fail the end of year exam.  (That said, research shows that even taking an AP course is of value, whether or not you even take the test.)  The Times reports that 90% of students in "accelerated" classes pass those classes.

The article quotes Pedro Noguera, an expert on education and equity who I heard speak earlier this year at UW, and he said the same thing to the Times as he did at UW:
"The kids we call 'gifted,' for many their only gift is their parents, who've had the time and money to invest in them."  We've confused being privileged with being gifted.  Just because you're an early reader does not mean you're going to be a brilliant scholar."
How many of them are not gifted? Does he really know? And that last comment is really something of a snide slam against children which I cannot condone. 

The Times also quotes an OSPI official who says that private testing is better than the free group testing.  That official, Jody Hess, goes on to say that "a built-in advantage only available to families of means."  She clearly doesn't know that Seattle SD pays for F/RL students to get private testing for free if they choose to appeal.  (The Times article does acknowledge this but says that none of the suggested evaluators on Seattle's list are in low-income areas.)

The Times goes on to cite a report from 2007 about Seattle's gifted program but the Times fails to mention that it only covered APP.  Many of us were very unhappy that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did not have the entire program was assessed.  And, all the things that were listed as problematic were never addressed.  (One of our district's fatal flaws is the inability to listen to either paid experts or taskforce reports.)

There's a really good short section on the Technology Access Foundation Academy but to note, it's not a gifted school.  It is a STEM school with high expectations.  What's interesting is that the program, co-located with a middle school in Federal Way, is going to move in with the middle school. It'll be fascinating to see if TAF is able to scale up their results.

Allow me to point out a few things that got left out by the Times' education reporters.

1) Seattle high schools - all the comprehensives - offer AP courses except for those that are IB schools.  Of Federal Way's four high school, two offer AP and one offers IB and one offers the Cambridge Prep program.
2) The story states how the expert who did the study on APP in Seattle in 2007 said that "the district's practice of identifying highly-capable children in kindergarten was 'anachronistic', largely because I.Q. scores at that age are malleable." Well, that may be true but Federal Way, like Seattle, tests in kindergarten.
3) Federal way does have some self-contained classes.
4) Seattle does screen all second-graders at schools with high rates of F/RL.Title One schools.  (Editor's note: As one reader pointed out, even at Thurgood Marshall which has HCC, they don't screen second graders.  I still can't seem to get an answer about whether or not the number of children of color in HCC at TM has gone up.)

Lastly, a great - if sad- story from Quartz via The Hechinger Report about gifted students who end up in prison.  
There is much indignation over the school to prison pipeline that funnels children into the criminal justice system, especially regarding the large number of special education students within this population. As many as 70% of those arrested possess some kind of disability. Lamentably overlooked, though, is the other at-risk population, gifted and talented students. In fact, the gifted may comprise as much as 20% of prisoners, according to Marylou Kelly Streznewski’s Gifted Grown Ups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential.

Furthermore, high ability students from low-income backgrounds, as compared to their more advantaged peers, are twice as likely to drop out of school. Dropping out triples the likelihood of incarceration later in life.

Many gifted students are impoverished, underperform due to distraction and boredom, or possess disabilities that most well-intentioned teachers are not trained to handle. The belief that gifted students can fend for themselves is misguided and inequitable.
Lastly, information about the largest scientific study of the profoundly gifted to date, a 30-year study conducted by researchers Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.

David Lubinski, professor of psychology and human development at Peabody, led the study, which tracked 300 gifted children from age 13 until age 38, logging their accomplishments in academia, business, culture, health care, science and technology. The results were recently published in a paper titled “Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators,” in Psychological Science.

Our study shows what kinds of measures you need to pinpoint the extraordinarily gifted among the gifted students,” he said.  Lubinski concludes that those with extraordinary talent in mathematical and verbal reasoning ultimately were motivated to achieve at higher levels if course material was presented at the advanced rates at which they learned. Ability, motivation and opportunity all play roles in developing exceptional human capacity and providing the support needed to cultivate it throughout life,” he said.


Jon said...

I don't see how it matters whether working a couple grades ahead is innate or learned. Either way, there's a child working a couple grades ahead that needs to be challenged and educated. You can't ignore that child or not educate that child. The mission of Seattle Public Schools is excellence in education for every student.

It's silly we keep having this discussion over and over again. Seattle Public Schools will not get better by booting out a bunch of children working ahead of grade level. There seems to be a fallacy that there's a big pot of money out there to be divided up, so there's some kind of zero sum fight to win. Even if it was ethical and possible to do, you think kicking other families out means more money for your children? That's not how it works.

Melissa Westbrook said...

To your point, I think the end game is MTSS and "personalized learning." You keep kids in one classroom at their neighborhood school and that's it.

Will it save money? Maybe. Is it equitable? Well, the verdict is out on whether personalize learning is good for all types of children but sure, if everyone has equal time at the computer, maybe. Is it the best thing for academic outcomes? Again, not sure.

It may work, it may be the way of public education but I think the district is fine with this kind of twisting in the wind for HCC and the sniping. It may come back to haunt them but they are rarely able to see down the road very far.

Anonymous said...

There was an interesting article in the NYT recently about gifted education.


NE parent

Anonymous said...

Why do all these recent newspaper articles assume that if you're not in gifted ed you're in a program that has low expectations--that gifted ed is the only path to success? Do we really only expect kids scoring in the 90-whatever-eth percentile to be challenged and to succeed in life? Aren't school systems typically designed for that large, GE population more than any other group? If we need higher expectations across the board, let's do it. (That means in gifted classes, too). But we should not expect gifted ed to be the norm, or the goal. It's for kids who are different. Seriously, if we just renamed it something that sounded negative, maybe there wouldn't be such a fuss. We'd at least be freed of news articles claiming that everyone who wasn't in the "HiCap Prison Prevention Program" or the "Oddball Academy" was getting a raw deal. Raw deals are relative--they depend on what you're getting and what you need. when did gifted ed become the ideal?


HCC parent said...

I don't even read these news articles anymore. My non-white non-Asian child is thriving in HCC. I don't care if she is gifted or not, but two years acceleration is the perfect pace for her.

not mc t said...

4) Seattle does screen all second-graders at schools with high rates of F/RL.

mw i think that if you don't live in the se and yet still go to a high frl school too bad. not all high frl schools. also tm is not high frl because of hcc. so all those kids in the next class room will not be universally screened. too bad.

and yes mtss is going to be the catch basin and return those hcc ptsa dollars back to neighborhood schools and to non diverse local schools. (see d. greary - sudden interest to get those kids back to wallingford).

thanks for all your efforts mw. you rock

no caps

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you, no caps. I did misphrase Seattle's policy on testing second graders and I'll correct that.

They should screen all second graders.

Anonymous said...

MELISSA: "...every single department in the district is supposed to be looking at their work thru the lens of equity. So, in that way, everyone who works for the district is thinking about equity."



ME: Ha, ha, ha, ha. That's one of the funniest jokes I've heard in a long time.

--- Tickled

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tickled, I should have said "So, in that way, everyone who works for the district SHOULD be thinking about equity."

Anonymous said...

Didn't SPS find that screening all second graders in those target schools didn't really help in terms of racial disparities in qualification? It's great that students who might not have otherwise been id'd were found, but the idea that this is going to undo the disparities in qualification rates would seem to be wishful thinking. Even in Broward County (the example in that NYT article), there were racial disparities that persisted even with universal screening (e.g., 3 percent of black students qualified, while 8 percent of whites did). Something else is going on, too. Does anyone have the results of SPS comprehensive screening effort, including breakdowns of tested and qualified by race?

data seeker

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

Gifted, the movie, just perpetuates stereotypes. I could barely watch the trailer. A math prodigy child, who has been homeschooled up to this point, goes to her first day of class and she can - gasp - do multi-digit multiplication in her head. Her uncle, who has been taking care of her after her mother's death, wants the child to be socialized (...because, homeschooling...). The teacher picks up on the child's talents and an uppity grandmother swoops in wanting to "push" the grandchild into a talent program. The uncle just wants her to have a happy, normal life...screen shots of being carefree and boating with uncle, then standing on stool at chalkboard doing problems with professor. Custody battle ensues.


Anonymous said...

Melissa is absolutely right when she says this: "To your point, I think the end game is MTSS and "personalized learning." You keep kids in one classroom at their neighborhood school and that's it."

That is precisely what is going on here. I don't trust the critics of HCC or "giftedness" I see here in Seattle because I don't see them having even the slightest bit of awareness that they are being played by SPS on this. SPS doesn't care about equity. They just want to impose personalized learning - meaning the teacher is replaced by an iPad - and to do that, they have to get rid of all specialized forms of instruction. So they encourage the attacks on HCC and gifted education for that purpose, and a bunch of do-gooder parents blindly go along because they don't have any clue what's actually going on.

If people want support in addressing advanced learning inequities, they need to first demonstrate they know how SPS is trying to use them - and show that they are not leading us all into a trap.


Anonymous said...

@JMS-the argument is that specialized instruction is segregated instruction of access is not equitable. Until that is solved or debunked, why would those who are frustrated care if SPS wants to hybrid the gen ed classroom with iPad instruction to attempt to meet the needs of all learners in the same classroom.


Anonymous said...

UnPlug, that's interesting to know. The idea that it's somehow inequitable for kids to to have their needs met is incredibly disturbing. There's no way that a single curriculum with iPads can meet children's individual needs, and it is a recipe for kids to have their needs go unmet on a truly massive scale. After all, isn't the idea of "equity" that all kids get their needs met and aren't treated exactly the same?


Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed with Claudia Rowe @ ST very poor job of investigating a bomb dropped in her story. Why does Federal Way School District have such shockingly dismal results for their AP exam results?

% 2016 WA State AP Exam Results by School District
Total Exams Taken/Passing Scores 3+:

59% Public School
85% Private School (# shown for '15, since '16 n/a)

27.0% Federal Way

75.3% Bellevue
71.5% Seattle
66.7% Kent
58.9% Renton
58.3% Everett
51.8% Edmonds

Although the Federal Way SD was widely praised for increasing AP course enrollment among underserved children, why did those children not gain the college level skills they needed to pass the course?



Cap hill said...

There are different ways to look at this issue.

Approach 1: "too many white (and hypothetically asian as well) kids in gifted programs"
Approach 2: "not enough african american, hispanic and other minorities".

The two approaches are not the same and are in fact fundamentally different.

Gifted and/or accelerated learning is not a scarce commodity. In Seattle, it does not cost more to provide.

Having more kids in gifted/accelerated would be a societal good. Please help me understand if I am missing something on that.

It would seem that the second approach would be the approach that would be the most productive. What is it about Seattle that keeps people coming back to approach #1?

Anonymous said...

Interesting... that

Whatever the reason, the evidence indicates that relying on teachers and parents increases racial and ethnic disparities.

We found some years ago that teacher recommendation for placement into an accelerated math class was not very accurate (as based on student success in the class).
Whereas placement by testing was far more reliable as based on student success in the class.

Since a school in Broward rarely had enough gifted children to fill a class, these classrooms were topped off with children from the same school who scored high on the district’s standardized test. These high achievers, especially black and Hispanics, showed large increases in math and reading when placed in a class for the gifted, and these effects persisted.

Note: In Broward these children were placed by test score and not by a preference for a more racially diverse class.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Since our district is decentralized and gifted services at gen-ed schools are left to the principal's interpretation or will, what's to stop any principal from declaring their title 1 school a talent development academy or spectrum and all students there qualify without testing in?

If you remember the comments in Emerson Elementary/Drake story in ST, one of the former staff members said teachers were not allowed to challenge children who needed above grade level material. How many principals don't allow advanced material to be taught to their children of color yet simultaneously complain about the lack of equity in advanced learning in our district?


Anonymous said...

@jaded--excellent point. How hard would it be to run a survey to find out why schools decide not to offer acceleration or enrichment to students ready to move ahead? Before we left our ALO school, I spent a year asking the teacher to offer some deeper learning and all we got in return was a stack of boring worksheets about a year ahead to work on at home...nothing was available in class. I'm guessing teachers only have time for one lesson plan, and I appreciate that. A simple walk to math would have kept us at that otherwise fine neighborhood school. They refused, we left, and learning began.

Fix AL

dan dempsey said...

I must say I find the following somewhat bizarre:

Two, every single department in the district is supposed to be looking at their work thru the lens of equity. So, in that way, everyone who works for the district is thinking about equity. I don't think the district would disagree with that statement.

Humm... If everyone in the SPS was looking to maximize opportunities for the learning of each individual student, then this "equity" business would be taken care of and require 0.0 FTE for an equity program.

Unfortunately the SPS fails to examine the results of the materials and instructional practices through the lens of maximizing the opportunity for each student's learning.

The quest for equity seems less than genuine when huge opportunity gaps exist and instead of being interested a critical analysis we receive proclamations that "the number of gap eliminating schools has increased".

You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all of the people all the time.

When the number of gap eliminating schools remains at zero, it is time to begin thinking about change in opportunity gaps and measuring those changes.

Vocabulary Quiz with essay for SPS Admin:
Is there a difference between the words "reduce" and "eliminate"? Please explain.

Please note: that given the large number of schools in the SPS an Opportunity Gap reduction in eight schools could be due to a normal statistical variation and indicate no progress in the district as a whole. Too bad we have no control over this SPS institution.

dan dempsey said...

Our Work to Eliminate Opportunity Gaps says the SPS.

The work should be to maximize learning opportunities for each individual student.

The opportunity gaps are calculated by subtracting the scores of lower performing groups from the higher performing group. The easiest way to reduce "Opportunity Gaps" is to lower the scoring of the high performing group. Is this an SPS strategy?

“Eliminating opportunity gaps and ensuring educational excellence for each and every student is the issue of our time.”

wrote ~ Superintendent Larry Nyland

Oh my.. there is that "Eliminating" word.

Now this is great => "ensuring educational excellence for each and every student"

So how is ensuring educational excellence accomplished and how is this "ensuring" monitored?

Anonymous said...

Dan-its not, and Nyland publicly mocks the HCC growth industry. He had no ambition or interest to succeed at improving educational outcomes for every student. I would sincerely like to see neighborhood schools improve their advanced learning as well as interventions for those needing extra support, but I see no organized plan to really accomplish this goal. We can only blame so much on budget woes. Leadership is needed. Look north, east, south. Other districts are at lest trying.
Fix AL

Melissa Westbrook said...

CapHIll, well, if you have a different end game, then you would focus on how the program is largely white/Asian. Again, as I asked in the thread, why are those people decrying this not asking how we find and enroll more kids of color? Why are they not going to schools with more kids of color and asking principals about this? The answer is, they don't want to.

Because that's not the end game. Plus, principals can do or not do whatever they want. Certainly having ALOs hasn't changed a thing at most schools.

You can have adaptive curriculum that works for each child but the issue is 1) is that really going to challenge every child in enough directions and 2) how much that all costs and 3) how much time in the day will this be happening in any given classroom?

FixAL I, too, have heard Nyland's words and I find them mocking at the least. He clearly either doesn't care or doesn't like HCC and Advanced Learning.

Anonymous said...

I hesitate to enter this discussion because I'm a reader but equity implies learning opportunities for kids. At my school recently the computer lab was dissolved and teachers were asked in a lengthy weekly bulletin to let the principal know who wanted them. Some teachers noticed the message on time and responded; some for whatever reason did not; and some misread it thinking their existing computers would suffice. The result is that a few teachers now have five or six computers in their rooms while others have none because the district removed all the existing room computers - even those working fine. Now, how is it that the children in those classrooms have an equitable opportunity to keyboard and research on computer? The small amount of computer lab time does not fulfill that need. If equity is so important, how could a principal who preaches equity all the time allow that kind of inequity to happen? Because it is just a word - a meme. It means nothing.


Anonymous said...

Would it be more "equitable" if only half the white or Asian students who qualified were allowed into HCC, and the other half were denied access to advanced learning because the program was already full of their kind?

Would if be more "equitable" if NONE of the students found to be eligible for and in need of advanced learning were provided it, and they were instead supposed to sit tight in lower level classes that were appropriate for students who weren't qualified for advanced learning services?

Assuming the answer to both is no, what WOULD be more equitable? Finding everyone who qualifies for and needs advanced learning services and supporting them in enrolling and succeeding. On top of that, we'd probably also need intensive services to help bolster the academic success of high-potential students from underrepresented groups--to help them qualify, to help them feel welcome, and to help them thrive within the program. But such efforts would require funding, resources, and political will--and SPS lacks al three. What SPS does have instead is a hefty dose of denial that those at the extreme upper end of the cognitive abilities curve actually need and deserve something different. Not better, just different. The optics are that it's better, and SPS apparently doesn't understand well enough to explain that's not the case.


not mc t said...

fwiw would want you to think that the way to "equal" is to deny services. so yeah there is a district wide and a weeds root attempt to change this so that white kids do not get in at the same rate as other races.

reminder black kids in seattle are immigrants (ell) and frl in a much higher rates than most kids across the country.

no caps

Anonymous said...

I saw a letter on Soup for Teachers about wanting more funding so schools like The Center School can continue to cater to the unique needs of "quirky artsy" students. Go through the letter and replace TCS with HCC and imagine the uproar. Instead, we have people coming out of the woodwork with empathetic support.


Anonymous said...

The Broward County article has a couple other interesting nuggets that I haven't seen mentioned here yet.

1. The success of their universal screening effort was NOT simply a result of the universality of their screening. The article makes it seem like racial bias on the part of parents and teachers was probably the primary cause of the initial disparities, and that when they used a more objective measure (IQ test scores) that bias was significantly reduced. However, I would think it's MUCH more likely that the key factor in increasing the eligibility rates for Black and Hispanic students was the little-mentioned lowering of the eligibility cutoff for such students. Whereas other students had to score 130 to qualify (2 SD's above mean, or approximately 98th percentile), ELL and FRL students only needed to hit the 115 mark. That's just a single standard deviation above the mean, representing about the 84th percentile. That's a huge difference. (Scores within 1 SD of the mean in either direction represent the middle 68% of scores.)

2. They suffer from the same lack of appropriate curriculum that we do. The article says:

The gifted program was not a panacea. The researchers found that the district’s specialized classes had little effect on the academic achievement of students who had been specifically identified as gifted, through I.Q. tests. They are not sure why. In Broward County, as in many other places, classes for the gifted use the same curriculum and textbook as other classes. Teachers in the classes for the gifted were required to have a special certification and were encouraged to supplement the curriculum. ... But the separate classes did produce enormous, positive effects for children who were high achievers but did not qualify based on the I.Q. test."

Wow. So their gifted classrooms use a gen ed curriculum (with maybe some teacher-driven supplementation), and they wonder why they don't see positive results for the gifted students in the class? Maybe, just maybe, the classes and materials are too easy, you think? The fact that these classes seem to work well for students who scored pretty high--but not in the gifted range--suggest these classes are more appropriate for students who are significantly above average, but not necessarily gifted. If you want to see increases for those identified as gifted, you'll need to make the classes more challenging. It seems pretty apparent. It also feels very similar to what's going on in SPS, where many complain about the lack of rigor in HCC middle and high school classes. The fact is, students need to be stretched--and what's a stretch for one student may not be a stretch for another.


Anonymous said...

Same conversation, different day.

@hopeless said it pretty well. Especially the part about SPS denial.

Going back to Federal Way and AP results, it is little surprise that students get A's in class yet fail the AP exams. Success on AP/IB exams may require a substantial amount of independent study, especially if AP/IB classes are not adequately covering the material. Advanced students are more likely to succeed despite an inadequate curriculum or teacher. They find the resources needed to fill the gaps. Those relying on class to prepare them for exams find out too late what they've been missing. Grades in class can be almost meaningless, with an "A" being given for simply showing up and completing work. My child is in an "honors" HCC class that does just that. They self grade. Gosh, no surprise that students are getting A's. They are getting little in the way of academic challenge. It's my child's least favorite class.


dan dempsey said...


Sometimes I wonder if Nyland and the gang are:
#1 acting out of arrogance
#2 acting out of ignorance
#3 undercover agents creating situations that will lead to greater school choice for charters, vouchers, etc.

Whatever.... hard to see this outfit getting any better - looking at past performance may be a good predictor of the future .. blah.

Anonymous said...

Correct norming of CoGAT would not "lower" the scores for some students but instead correct for statistical biases that currently allow for enhanced experiences and advantages to interfere with the isolation of the variable of ability.

And, hey, I was a liberal arts major and can figure that one out.

CoGAT measures the ability to use the types of reasoning and skills that predict success in school It is not an IQ test by any means.

It is also correlated to student age. It goes without saying that an advantaged student of highly educated parents should not be scored at the same norms as students of very different demographics.


Anonymous said...

CogAT correction again


Anonymous said...

@ FWIW, I'm not disagreeing with the idea that it's an attempt at "correction"--although, to be fair, it's still a guess as to how exactly to "correct" for ELL and FRL status. Does each really equate to a 1 SD difference in demonstrated score, whether it's an IQ test (as Broward Co. uses) or something like the CogAT? I doubt it, but maybe it's a good general estimate. What about students who live in poverty AND are ELL--should there be a multiplier for them? Hard to say. The "correct" size of the correction--in other words, the true impact of poverty and ELL on ability to accurately demonstrate one's cognitive ability--isn't really known. We can guess at it by determining what we want or expect the end result to be, but it's important to understand that that's what we're doing. In other words, we can say we want the percentage of students qualifying from each race to be equal, then we can manipulate the cutoffs to make that so. Or we can say we want them to be closer to equal but not quite there, recognizing that some perinatal exposures (e.g., lead) can have long term and persistent impacts on child brain development and that these are disproportionately impact certain groups, such that we wouldn't expect quite as many kids from that group to develop to the potential to which they might otherwise have been able). Or we could set other targets. In each case, though, we're making a decision based on the anticipated result. It's not like we can just calculate the "true" correction value.

My point in bringing that up in the first place, however, was not to suggest that these students don't deserve to be eligible. Not at all. I've been a proponent of adjusted cutoff scores for ELL and FRL students all along. Rather, my point was that this article, and many others like it, paint a picture that it was racism and bias--on the part of teachers, and even parents--that accounted for the original disparities, and that removing their control over the process and using test scores instead was the solution. That feeds the narrative that gifted ed programs are all about segregation and preserving white/Asian advantage. It wasn't just using test scores that solved the problem--it was adjusting the test-score cutoffs so they accounted for the disadvantages some kids faced.


Anonymous said...

Please do yourself and this blog a favor and stop using a superficial reading of brain research as a part of the conversation about HCC, especially since it leads to what has been deemed by those who study the type of argument you are making as a form of "nouveau eugenics".


Anonymous said...

FWIW, you're the only one here making an argument based in eugenics, in this case the idea that we should determine the educational opportunities given or denied to students by their skin color.

Those making an argument for gifted education are pointing out that race doesn't exist in biology, but neurological differences *do* exist and need to be taken into account when deciding what students get their needs met and which students get told they're privileged and thus can't get an education.

In other words, you're trying to deny the reality that children are not the same in order to promote race-based treatment of children in school. Wow. Who's the eugenicist now?


Anonymous said...


That was the best application of the logic from "1984" to a real-life scenario that I have read in a long time. Good job!

2 + 2 = 5

From Wikipedia:

"Doublethink is notable due to a lack of cognitive dissonance—thus the person is completely unaware of any conflict or contradiction."

Your use of motivated reasoning was also impressive, especially since the entire premise you ascribed to me was factually untrue and without any evidence whatsoever.


Anonymous said...

Same conversation, different day.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Nellie, DisAPPointed, you have now learned what most of us have already- ignore FWIW. Apparently, he/she is smarter than the rest of us and loves to point that out.

Moz B. said...

Superintendent Nyland recently told a room full of parents at a middle school PTA meeting that SPS is working hard to serve "8% of our students needing HCC services, when surrounding districts serve 1-2%." His numbers are completely wrong. Compared to many surrounding districts, we are actually underserving HiCap students in our district. The superintendent either has no idea what he's talking about or is intentionally misleading parents. Here are the percentages served by HCC in nearby school districts:
Bainbridge 11%
Bellevue 10%
Lake Washington 6%
Mercer Island 18%
North Kitsap 14%
Renton 7%
Seattle 8%
Shoreline 9%
Tukwila 8%

The superintendent implied that SPS overserves HiCap students, but Seattle's 8% served is actually on the low side among surrounding districts.

Another thing I find troubling, is this: why are we so sure that we know what the percentage of HiCap students is throughout the Seattle school district? We only test a fraction of students. And only those referred or attending a Title One school. That leaves a lot of students who might need the service unidentified.

This city is booming. And for years the population growth has overwhelmingly been made up of people moving to Seattle from outside the state as well as outside the country. Why are we so sure that we know how smart the folks moving here are?

The city is changing. 3.7% of Seattle’s inhabitants have a PhD (approx. 23,481 people). And parents' educational attainment correlates with students' HiCap status. In 1970 only 14.7% of Seattleites had a college degree. By 2010 it was 37%. This suggests that the percentage of students who could use HiCap services should be increasing dramatically. And based on what's happening with patterns of immigration to the city, seems likely to continue to increase.

Here's hoping our educators will stop misleading parents about the services the district provides and allowing all students to work to their full potential!

Anonymous said...

Who knows why some of those districts on the chart have such low proportions of or even zero hi-cap students?
It seems that districts set their own identifying criteria.


Anonymous said...

Nyland sounds a bit uninformed!

Also, I though 8 percent in SPS is those in HCC. Isn't the identified percentage higher?

Districts with higher percentages are likely combining those both identifed and receiving services. Since SPS doesn't follow state law, it only provides mandated HC "services" in designated places.

Districts can and do determine their own HC eligibility using the guidance documents provided by OSPI.


Anonymous said...

And many of those districts with negligible numbers have very small class sizes, with no interest, need or ability to create self contained classes or schools.

Small Towns

kellie said...

Thanks Moz B.

That is a great chart. I checked the link you provided and the chart data clearly states that the percentages are the identified HCC percentages, not those served, and the chart was prepared by OSPI, based on required reporting data.

The ranges between districts is huge with one small district, Mount Vernon at a whopping 43%.

I also concur with Moz B's theory that we should not be surprised that Seattle's percentages are "so high." Over the last decade, as SPS has grown by nearly 1,000 students per year, the FRL percentage as a district has also steadily dropped, every year. This makes it clear that the majority of the student growth has been non-poverty or middle class growth.

Many of the trends that Moz cited can be found of the City of Seattle Demographic information page. The city tracks demographic changes over decades and it is clear that the city has grown in median income as well as education level. All of these are indicators of students who are ready for more advanced work.

Anonymous said...

Be careful of the percentage used MozB.

Other school districts use different cutoffs and measures to define highly capable. Some local districts define the top 15% of students who take their metric test as highly capable.


Anonymous said...

As an aside, I appreciate FWIW's commentary most of the time. He/she seems to be nearly the only writer not speaking for her own child's unique advantage. The real point is exceptionalism. What is it, who is it? We can all live in Lake Woebegone but we aren't all exceptional. If our community is really so super exceptional, then the bar for the Exceptional programs needs to be raised accordingly. If we're really 10 times smarter as a city than the rest of the world, then our cutoff for our gifted programs should be 10 times higher as well. To say that 43% of a city is gifted, really just waters down services for exceptionality and creates a two tiered educational system. would say that 2 standard deviations above the norm would be a fine level, or even as low as 1.75 deviations above the norm. Around 5%. And that could be of the school district or of individual schools. When you have 20% identification rates in some schools, you are clearly identifying something that isn't really exceptional. You are identifying privilege, and we all really know it. It may be that you taught your 4 year old to read Harry Potter, but that might not be exceptional nor an entitlement. It may be true that there is less desirability in a regular school than a gifted one, why not advocate to improve that issue instead of constantly complaining about extras for the privileged.


Anonymous said...

That 43% was actually for Mount Pleasant, not Mount Vernon. That figure is a HUGE outlier, and not really worth including in this conversation since it's so far off everything else. Plus, they have a total district population of 47 students, so clearly it's not a typical district. Oh, and it's K-8 only. A quick search of their website shows that students scoring in the 7th or 8th stanines on the CogAT (i.e., 77th -95th percentile) may be considered eligible, while those in the 9th stanine (96th percentile and up) are automatic. So yes, very different criteria.

@ writer, nobody is saying we are all exceptional. In fact, I don't think that anyone is saying anyone is exceptional--not their kids, not other kids. They are just saying that kids need appropriate services, and that for some kids that means they need faster paced and more challenging work. Nobody is saying Seattle is 10 times smarter as a city, either. We may have a larger and growing percentage of highly educated and/or high income people and a smaller and shrinking population of less educated and/or lower income people, but the overall range likely isn't changing all that much. In other words, using your figure, you might end up with 10 times more "smart" people, but they aren't 10 times smarter--and the other end of your smartness scale doesn't shift upward, either. You still need to teach students who are at grade level, a little below grade level, and those a LOT below grade level.

Your comment about the gifted identification rate in individual schools raises a tricky issue--and it's not clear what exactly, if anything, you think should happen to serve advanced students in schools where there are a lot of them. Some people like to say that if a good chunk of the school is "gifted", then the school should figure out how to serve them. Yes, that sounds great in theory, and would be great, if it happened. But it rarely does. Schools are so focused on those who are not yet up to standard, that students who surpass standards are often ignored. It's more work for schools and teachers, and they just don't have the time to deal with it. Or the interest, in many cases. However, even if they did, a lot of other people would raise a stink. Why should they raise the overall level of challenge to accommodate "those" students, potentially leaving behind those who are already struggling? Or even if, amazingly, the entire school population was ready for more challenge, those at other schools would cry foul--how come their school gets to do more challenging work than ours? Do we really want a system where gen ed third grade at one school is different than gen ed third grade in another? What happens then when people have to move?

As for advocating to improve our schools for everyone--overall, not just our own kids--I think you'd be hard-pressed to find many groups that are more active in volunteerism, advocacy and donation than these parents of advanced students who you suggest are so selfish...

Oh, and I don't have any kids in SPS. But yes, I still care, and yes, I still fight.

GoneBaby Gone

P.S. - When did the opportunity to actually LEARN something in school become an "extra"?

Anonymous said...

Writer, raising the cut-off has zero impact on the fact that gen-ed teaches grade level standards. Raising the bar would result in more children staying in gen-Ed who have already mastered the grade level standards sitting idly in the gen-Ed classroom every day learning absolutely nothing academic.

You've also placed yourself in a conundrum - are those among us whose children have disabilities also privileged? How in the world did we simultaneously privilege and disadvantage our Twice Exceptional children if I take your view of world where it's all due to "nurture". Getting an IEP or 504 is no simple task, so don't take the school's reported numbers as facts.

Don't be so quick to praise FWIW. She could care less about disabled children. Explicitly omits them from all her advocacy efforts.

-eyes open

Anonymous said...

@ Gone Baby Gone "As for advocating to improve our schools for everyone--overall, not just our own kids--I think you'd be hard-pressed to find many groups that are more active in volunteerism, advocacy and donation than these parents of advanced students who you suggest are so selfish..."

Most parents advocate for their own kids, at their own kid's school. Parents of HCC kids may or may not be selfish, but you don't see a lot of them advocating for the needs of kids besides their own. Many of these parents have the means (time and money) that other parents lack. That's the reality I have seen. When was the last time you saw HCC parents at Rainier or Cleveland or really any place besides Garfield and some North end schools? - Cap Hill Parent

Anonymous said...

Cap Hill Parent, did you know the people staffing WA Paramount Duty? Obviously, they are fighting for us all and many are HCC parents doing pro bono professional work for all children. Care about the facts.

- eyes open

Anonymous said...

Have you met the parents who started Washington's Paramount Duty? They're advocating for every student in the state.

Not Selfish

Solomon said...

This "HCC = privilege" myth is so weird. There are privileged people in Seattle and some of them are also HCC, but the two things aren't equivalent.

There are so many HCC students in this district are HCC AND have an IEP or a 504 plan. If my privilege could "buy" away my child's very necessary 504 plan, don't you think I'd get rid of that for her?

If you look at OSPI's data, there are currently 7 American Indian/Alaskan Native HCC students, 471 Asian HCC students, 59 Black/African American HCC students, 120 Hispanic/Latino of any race HCC students, 1 Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander HCC students and 345 Two or More Races HCC students. So even if we disregard all the white HCC students and assume they're just in HCC because of privilege, what about the 1,003 students listed above? Is the HCC 1/2 of the student privileged and the non-white 1/2 of the student not privileged? Is it like Solomon in the Bible? Do we cut the children in half?

What about the HCC students who are GLBT? These young people belong to a minority within a minority. Being "twice different" increases the likelihood of depression and social isolation and these students often attempt to fit in better by denying either their intellectual ability or their sexual orientation. They are at greater risk of harassment, dropping out of school and running away. Our geozone school has rainbow posters saying "All families are welcome," but they certainly didn't welcome HCC families. Is it more acceptable in some Seattle Public Schools to be gay than gifted?

What about HCC students who are poor? Do we do the Solomon thing again? How do you separate out the poor half of the student from the privileged half? What about the HCC students in foster care? What about gifted students who have suffered trauma? Is just the rest of them privileged?

The "privilege" argument about HCC is bogus. HCC people are real people and the academically "highly capable" part of them is just a fraction of their identity. And an invisible fraction at that. It doesn't equate to money. It doesn't equate to whiteness. It equates to a need for academic acceleration, a way for students to meet intellectual peers so they can form friendships, and a school system that supports their learning instead of enforcing an artificial ceiling on what they can learn based on their age in years.

And the tragic underside of the "privilege" argument is that it implies that students who are not intellectually gifted somehow lack something, that to be your best you need to score in the top 2% on a cognitive abilities test. WTF, Seattle? The value of a human being doesn't come from his or her test scores.

Anonymous said...

@ Cap Hill Parent, So your argument is essentially "most parents are selfish, so I assume HCC parents are selfish, too, but they should be held to a different standard since they are so privileged"?

Advocating for district students does not have to mean volunteering to help a few at Cleveland. It might be serving on the PTA of one's school--even though most of the money and activities are geared toward disadvantaged or GE students. It might be working on statewide issues like Paramount Duty or trekking to Olympia to testify. It might mean attending 2e support meetings and advocating for better special ed services, better IEP/504 compliance, better teacher ed on learning disabilities, etc. it might mean speaking out about the district assignment plan, or putting pressure on the district to begin planning a new school in your community, whether or not your kids will go there. It might mean supporting teachers during a strike. It might mean meeting with board members to discuss issues. It might mean dinating a lot of money; chaperoning a grade level field trip (not your kid's); or reviewing and commenting on proposed curricula or task force recommendations. It might mean a whole host of things that you have no clue about, because HCC parents don't wear big HCC signs when they get involved. There are all sorts of issues in SPS that are bigger than HCC, and HCC parents often get involved in them, whether you see it or not, To expect that a parent has to get involved in an individual school outside their neighborhood in order to show they care for students beyond their own is nonsense.

GoneBabty Gone

not mc t said...

"It may be true that there is less desirability in a regular school than a gifted one, why not advocate to improve that issue instead of constantly complaining about extras for the privileged."

bleh bleh barf barf.

listen there is zero extras got it?!?!? nothing more than one teacher and a ton too many kids in a classroom and building. you are just making this stuff up. just like fwiw. then when called on it comes back regurgitating the same stuff, just incorporating some modest changes to tone the bs down.... until the next post and she is at it again. i suspect you are not an advocate for gen ed though and only in this in how it might serve your kids. how selfish. oh and why aren't you railing against option schools with all those district and parent funded extras. seems a real prize to argue against if you had any moral conviction about selfish seeming parents.

it is called hc because to no one can argue against these kids being capable to score 95% achievement tests and have an iq in the top 2%. let us not be shy with reminders to racial quotes above education (which is how it already is moving to) the only fair way to do that is universal testing; and not just the south east and not just t1 schools. all schools. it is expensive but that will take the parents out of the gatekeeper role. blacks and hispanics doubled in the story mw offered above. that is a solution and could be done with one ed's salary. got it nyland and got it geary, got it blandford? strange that two of the district's directors send their kids to high cost option schools and i don't think any send their kids to hcc...

no caps

not mc t said...

quotas not quotes.

Anonymous said...

Well, there's exceptional, then there's bored at school, and somebody already taught me something somewhere else. Eg privileged. Plenty of people question the difference between highly capable and highly privileged. Lots and lots of kids are bored at school. Lots and lots of kids have learned a bit of everything being taught. Lots of others are bored for a variety of reasons. But only one group expects the highest level of services as a sort of right... that they alone should never ever be bored, for a second. It's industrial public ed. It's not weird at all to equate HCC with privilege. One glance at demographics spells out why the equation is not weird. That's exactly the point. You figured it out. Why is one group of kids, predictably the privileged group by absolutely any measure, the only ones to be completely perfectly educated, to every whim? Don't all students deserve challenge? Don't all students deserve to not be bored? Why is that an entitlement for some but not others? More testing won't fix a thing. It will likely increase the disproportionate numbers. Does anybody really believe minorities are hiding in a gifted closet somewhere, waiting to be discovered? Gifted identification is finding exactly who it is designed to find. We need to decide the limits of exceptionalism. And to rejigger regular ed to provide challenge students that mainline. A smaller cohort would probably advantage those who are truly exceptional too. No doubt that's why the current scheme lovers steadfastly resist a more robust program. They wouldn't really want a program too rigorous for the top 10%, nor to ever be requalified.


Anonymous said...

Btw the term "exceptional" is an academic term used by educators to describe students who don't conform the expected learning profiles that regular ed addresses. Generally speaking, exceptional refers to special ed and gifted ed.


Anonymous said...


This is the bomb.


Anonymous said...

These people aren't playing:



Anonymous said...

There is no boom here FWIW.

Further use “local norms”, race and socioeconomic status as factors in admissions decisions, as allowed by 2190SP which states that the “MSC will give special consideration to and assess the impact of the following factors: cultural diversity, socio-economic status, linguistic background, and identified disability”

Where is race included in the 2190SP? There is no black in those entities. Keep banging the drum is dumb. I read the team's recommendations as no different than what No Caps and others have been calling for. Big nothing to be seen here and no surprise. What a waste of time.

Love life

Anonymous said...

@ writer, You clearly don't know what you're talking about. Privileged students get "...perfectly educated, to every whim"? And they expect that they should "never ever be bored." Yeah, right. For the record, none of my kids thrived in HCC. Actually, let me rephrase that--they were miserable in HCC, for different reasons. It's not the paradise you seem to think.


Anonymous said...

@ FWIW, thank you for sharing those links. I'm glad to see that the group is no longer pushing for de-tracking, and that the focus is on trying to identify highly capable minority students who are missed by the current procedures, for whatever reason. I think it's a reasonable approach, for the most part, although I have a couple concerns.

First, since efforts to get more underrepresented students into HCC will likely involve more generous eligibility cutoffs for some groups (e.g., use of local norms), the students who enter HCC as a result may have lower cognitive abilities and/or academic achievement levels. Regardless of whether the lower achievement is due to language issues, the challenges of poverty, the influence of parental education level, testing biases, school quality, or something else, this puts these newly admitted students at a disadvantage. I was surprised not to see any ongoing support to these students as part of the recommendations. (Rainier Scholars, as you know, provides intensive support.) is the goal just to get them in, or help them succeed?

And second, it's disheartening to know that SPS is working with this often-controversial group of advocates without having informed the HCC community. HCC families are generally not opposed to improving the program' diversity, and I'm sure HCC parents could make positive contributions and provide additional insights into these conversations. Under-the-radar meetings that exclude a key stakeholder group, on the other hand, only promote fear and distrust.


Anonymous said...

I just read the description for the hcc equity group and their "about us" is silly.

"Our goal is that the composition of the HCC (Highly Capable Cohort) program reflects the district’s racial and socioeconomic diversity."

They want HCC to reflect Seattle Schools. However, Seattle Schools don't reflect Seattle, because of the large private school enrollment. So in effect they want HCC to DISPROPORTIONATELY include minorities, students living in poverty and homeless students, but won't admit it

There is nothing stopping the district from creating ADDITIONAL gifted programs to accurately reflect demographics. They can make any type of program they want. They can make a program that is FRL only. They can make a program that is SE area only. They can make a Spectrum-like-program, with even wider and broader criteria, that is limited to only the schools with high poverty.

There is lots of extra capacity in the SE including an entire building, Old Van Assalt, that could be used for a new program.

In short, SPS can do anything they want to ADD SERVICES for poor and minority students. But once again it is so much easier to focus on too much privilege and completely ignore the fact that Seattle is 70% caucasian with a 15% poverty rate.

- madrona mom

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah. Bring out the old private school canard. Poor white kids! They are over represented in gifted SPS AND overrepresented in private schools. There just aren't enough gifted white opportunities for the all the gifted white kids. Poor us. Just give more tests to minorities, but leave the status quo alone. (We all know that testing favors white kids and adequate test prep will insure we get in and they stay out.)

Look. Private schools are overwhelmingly white and that is where gifted white students already are. If SPS was really wanting equity, it would reduce (not increase) white participation proportionately by the the numbers of white kids in private school. If anything, gifted white students are leaving SPS at the greatest numbers for any demographic. That makes the over representation of white kids in HCC much worse than it appears, not better. Local norming, including private school participation and their gifted skim rated, perhaps with private school entrance exams (SSAT) information , is the only thing likely to significantly change proportionality. I am glad Director Pinkham has weighed in on this issue.

another reader

Anonymous said...

@ another reader, you might like to believe that, but it just ain't true. Private schools are overwhelmingly white and that is where gifted white students already are. Nope, sorry. Very few of our private schools have gifted programs or curricula geared toward the needs of gifted students. I looked. The few schools that do focus more on gifted students--or are at least willing to try to accommodate their unique needs--also often draw students from outside of Seattle, so only a portion of those gifted students (who are themselves often also only a portion of the school), would otherwise have been in Seattle. The majority of white students in private schools are not gifted. There are probably a lot who would be considered privileged, but that doesn't make them gifted. That's why we have whole schools in Seattle that are filled with non-HCC but high-income families. Many HCC students might be considered privileged, but MOST privileged students are NOT considered gifted.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I turn my back for a day or so and come back to the same circular argument (with a few exceptions.

"Why should they raise the overall level of challenge to accommodate "those" students, potentially leaving behind those who are already struggling? Or even if, amazingly, the entire school population was ready for more challenge, those at other schools would cry foul--how come their school gets to do more challenging work than ours? Do we really want a system where gen ed third grade at one school is different than gen ed third grade in another? What happens then when people have to move?"

Yup. This is yet another case of the district's haphazard policies. When there is something that "has" to be the same at all schools, well, that's what happens. Otherwise, it seems like "principal's choice" and yes, what happens when you go to a different school.

That's why the district - long ago - should have enforced ALOs. Parents would know what was available, no matter what school they were at.

Yes, 2E kids; I have one of those.

Cap Hill parent, you really want to go to the "advocating for other children well?" You would be fine with a non-white parent advocating for just their child but when it's a white parent, that's privilege? It's not. And I bless every single parent who speaks up and works for their child's school. Because a rising tide does lift all boats.

Solomon has it right - to make hugely broad-based assumption about one group of students/parents is wrong. I think people of color have seen this happen to them, time and time again. It's not right for anyone.

I still wait for clear and convincing evidence that HCC are getting something "extra." Better teachers? Where's the proof? Better curriculum? Nope, they get the same as everyone else (unless their school has a waiver). More field trips? Nope. More arts? Not unless someone else is paying for it (as happens at many schools). Better science labs? Nope.

HCC tends to get the lesser buildings - Madrona before its rebuild, Lowell, Lincoln. And possibly the old Thorton Creek building which is old and crappy and that's why they rebuilt a new shiny one. So there's no advantage there.

As for the Racial Equity in HCC folks, good for them. I've met with one of their parents and I think they truly care. But the APP/HCC Advisory group has been around a heck of a lot longer. I had to remind the Board - some of who did not know about the Advisory group - of that fact and that no one group represents all HCC parents.

I read the Racial Equity in HCC website and did see a couple troubling things. I always have a problem with any group when there is no real person attached. Just "write to us and we'll answer back." (There's a Facebook group like that for Seattle Schools and racial equity and I asked who they are and there was silence. Courage of your convictions and all that.)

The other issue is this:

Student Support Services has drafted a plan to improve access and community outreach this spring. We just reviewed the first draft of this plan, due to begin this March, and at this point it is really “a plan to make a plan”.

I'll have to ask for this "plan" from SPS because I wasn't aware one had been made public.

As well, what this group wants will take a huge amount of planning,bodies and money. I like the idea of universal testing but yes, it takes money. And what comes after that testing by way of a program?

DisAPPointed, I wouldn't be so sure that the group isn't for de-tracking. They may have realized that some senior staff are leaning that way (and, in the case of Michael Tolley, working in that direction).

"Private schools are overwhelmingly white and that is where gifted white students already are."

And your data on the latter point is? I'll wait but I suspect that's the last we'll hear on that.

Mastadon Joe said...

I'm still confused about the fancy, Shangri-La claims about HCC. Huh? You clearly have no idea what it's like there.
Or the claim that kids aren't bored in HCC. Huh? They are less bored than they were, but still very bored.

Anyone saying these things clearly has no idea what they're talking about. HCC kids do well on tests. They did well on tests before they entered the program (that's how they got in). And they do well on tests after they enter the program. How well a kid does on a test is actually not a measure of much. Ask a first grader and a 7th grader and a 10th grader what two plus three is and they will all be able to tell you five. Bingo. 100% on the test. Many teachers have no idea that the kids can answer harder questions than are on the test. Only when you get an unidentified hicap kid into a split class and the young gifted kid visibly knows more than the students a year ahead of him/her do most teachers' eyebrows start to go up.

It's so ignorant to assume that an adult had intentionally placed knowledge into the heads of gifted kids through "privilege." So many of these kids are voracious autodidacts. Spontaneous preschool reading is common once you get above a certain IQ. Common! Gifted kids routinely skip phonics and other learn-to-read tools gen ed employs to teach reading. If a kindergartener is already reading at a 2nd grade level, there is no reason to teach them kindergarten or first grade reading. It is ALL wasted time. There are 53,000 students in SPS. How many of them enter kindergarten already reading? How many of them figured out how to do it on their own? Plenty. Enough to make it worth sticking them in a classroom with some 2nd-to-4th grade reading level books so they can actually learn something instead of wasting those years. Schools should be promoting learning for all students.

Gifted education is a whole field of education science. Duh!

Anonymous said...

The ACLU response suggests "a district should look at their student preparation."

Exactly! And I'm assuming they mean academic preparation, not test prep. What is SPS doing to provide the best grade level academic program possible, so students are prepared not just to access more accelerated classes, if needed, but also be successful in those classes? It takes work - hard work - from both the school and student. As with Federal Way, if students get A's in AP classes, but can't pass the exams, how is that success?

-pyrrhic victory

Lee said...

Seems like some more teachers and district higher-ups of color would help.

Also more recess time and play time. Kids learn way more effectively when schools allow them to be whole people, not just cadets in a learn-learn-learn-every-minute academy-of-low-expectations.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you don't need to wait for information, you can use math (or ask your highly capable gradeschooler) to determine the whiteness of private schools, or the white skim rate. Seattle is around 75% white, SPS is something like 45% white. Tons of white kids are missing in public school. It's very noticeable. Where did the white kids go? 1/3 to 1/2 are in private school. Clearly. This math works because whites are the plurality across seattle and in both public and private schools. Black students are something like 6% in Seattle but around 15% in SPS. Clearly they are not being skimmed off by private schools at anything close to the same rate or the number of black kids would be way less in SPS. This blog would have us believe that all of the gifted white kids remain in public school and therefore they are more deserving of gifted ed. Convenient view for white people to have. This group repeatedly claims (without private school demographics) that nearly all gifted black students are in private schools. You never see Melissa asking for supporting data even as the math is staring her straight in the face. This group would have us believe that Seattle Country Day, Evergreen, UCDS, Lakeside, Northwest, Bush, etc are chocked full of ungifted white and ungifted Asian students. And somehow the privates have beat the pants off the HCC crowd in NMSF and in selective college admissions. The HCC kids are great at tests, much better than national norms. When they get to high school, oops they're below national norms. Darn! And just when it counts. But the proponents of status quo has the answer here too. They just haven't gotten enough of the pie. Years and years of advantage isn't good enough, but they'll fight tooth and nails to keep that privilege.


Anonymous said...

@ ar, you still don't know what you're talking about. Your "math" on whiteness has nothing to do with giftedness. And those school you cite are not all gifted ed. Really. For example, what's the 8th grade math offering at those schools? Algebra. The same 8th grade offering at most gen ed SPS schools.

The reason some (but not all!) of those schools do better on the NMSF likely has more to do with the level of preparation kids get at those schools, not the inherent giftedness of the kids.

But hey, you've got your narrative and you're sticking to it. I applaud your commitment, if nothing else.


Melissa Westbrook said...

AR, whether or not there are a large number of white students in private schools in Seattle was not the question. Of course there are. But the point was made that they are gifted. There is no data that can support that but I asked for it anyway.

I have never said all gifted white kids are in Seattle Schools; show me where that was said, please.

And where is the data that all gifted black students are in private schools. You don't have it. Are there some found by Rainier Scholars and/or by private schools who offer them free/low tuition? I'm sure there are. But you are making a blanket statement that you cannot prove.

And I have to laugh - I want the "status quo?" You must be new here because I got in the activist business to try to change that.

Anonymous said...

The PSAT, the NMSF qualifier, tests concepts through Algebra 2/PreCalculus, requires a firm command of grammatical conventions, and favors those who are well read. These are all areas in which SPS falls short - CMP, Discovering Algebra, and Discovering Geometry? Poor preparation for SAT math. Grammatical conventions?? When does SPS even teach grammar? Readers and Writers Workshop, a K-5 program extended into middle school in SPS, offers little in the way of standard English writing conventions and skills. Poor preparation for SAT Language. Advanced reading material across the disciplines? Adopted science texts are outdated and watered down. SPS shuns LA/SS material with more advanced vocabulary and sentence structure. Poor preparation for SAT Reading.

What do you mean, "enough of the pie?" The pie, served to all, was made nutritionally deficient.


Anonymous said...


I think the poster meant you support the continuation of self-contained classrooms for the "gifted".


Anonymous said...

Hey GBG I'm just using your narrative: "Whahhh!!! We aren't getting anything more. We're just getting the same stuff sooner. We just get to sit with other kids just like us. My kid has already done all that stuff in regular school and boo hoo, they're bored." Uhh. If they're so gifted they should thrive with Discovery curricula. They're the best able to derive things on their own from first principles. The case against discovery is that it doesn't work well for students with extra challenges. The other claim: "We're both gifted and well prepared. Minorities are just not as well prepared so they'll never be gifted... but we should go ahead and look anyway." But then you complain when private schools do the same thing and compete for the same students.

Melissa. I'm not making any claim about gifted percentages. I don't know how many white kids are gifted in private schools nor how many gifted black students are in private schools. I do know that private schools are generally less diverse than public. Significantly so. That much is clear from the numbers. Why aren't you questioning Madrona Mom for numbers? She thinks there are 0 white gifted students in public schools. 0. It's perfectly fine that the huge disproportionality exists, and her ONLY assumption is that ALL the gifted white kids are in SPS therefore voila, it's not really inequitable. That's your story too so you don't need special data to believe. Faith is good enough. Nearly all the private schools have entrance tests that basically seek to identify giftedness and preparation, just like public HCC program. It's reasonable to assume that private schools in a highly educated city have lots of gifted kids just like HCC. Good end results support that. It's also likely that SOME scholarships are given for diversity. But let's get real here. Nobody wants to pay for other people's kids.


Anonymous said...

Writer-- A suggestion...replace the word "privileged" with "educational advantaged". That is really what you mean to state. I just heard a great piece on a women who wrote a book being interviewed on NPR challenging the current misuse of the word "privileged" which already carries a meaning.

The term closes people off. Many people who are not economically privileged don't get it. It becomes construed instead that " all kids in HCC are well off, spoiled affluent etc." Many people may carry around a variety of different "advantages", whether it be class, race, gender, sexual orientation, educational etc.
Link: https://www.wbez.org/shows/the-takeaway/check-your-privilege-rethinking-our-relationship-with-a-powerful-word/024f1250-a995-4381-bf3d-22f08e8a175d

Janet L. said...

Why aren't we, as a city, trying to get the private school students back into public school?????????????? I bet it wouldn't take that much to convince families they didn't need to spend $20,000/year tuition plus suggested donations and fees to educate their child. The poshest of our public schools are bringing in $1,000/year in PTSA donations and offer a pretty cushy education compared to the least cushy of our public schools. Note that the HCC schools are not able to bring in anywhere near that level of PTSA funding. HCC is not the poshest of our public schools by any means. And if you think it is, you need to get out more.

Why do gifted kids flood out of ALO schools? It would be ironic if they were leaving to access learning opportunities? A simple survey would tell us. Some of our schools are hemorrhaging children.

Why is our HS graduation rate so much lower than, where was it--Shoreline? Everett? Someone has a 90% graduation rate, right? Why aren't we trying to do that?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I am for self-contained classrooms unless the district can supply the level of learning to children in the program within a regular classroom. Can it be done? Of course. But the district has NEVER made any real moves to make this happen (and MTSS does not count). (But, to note, what the two commenters are saying is that most of the gifted white students in Seattle are in private schools and there is no data to support that.)

"The other claim: "We're both gifted and well prepared. Minorities are just not as well prepared so they'll never be gifted... but we should go ahead and look anyway."

Giftedness shows itself in many forms. I am tutoring in a class and I already see at least three kids of color who I believe are gifted. They were not tested because they came into the class with only a little English. They are now reading in English. That's not just a "bright" child;I think that's a gifted child.

There are also tests that are more nuanced to find these kinds of kids.

AR, I went back and reread Madrona Mom's comment. I don't see any of what you are saying. Maybe I missed something but please pull out the relevant quote to support your claim.

I do not make "faith" based claims; I rely on data. You should as well.

Janet L, good question and one I have asked for years. We've had parents with marketing skills who offered to work for free but the district never took them up on it. Now, the district doesn't have the space and would be very unhappy if large numbers of private school kids came back into the fold.

As for that 90% graduation rate, see Everett. I am hoping to do a case study on what they are doing right.

Anonymous said...

"It's disheartening to know that SPS is working with this often-controversial group of advocates without having informed the HCC community."

This quote about says it all.

The district staff could and should meet with whomever they deem to be stakeholders.
This group clearly has political clout and savviness, as well as the fact that some are parents.

Maybe Leslie Harris has had a "beer summit" with them. She has publicly offered one to Robert C. on this blog. APP blog regularly reminds readers to write to "Rick" and "Sue" with their "concerns".

Melissa, the progressive train left this blog at the station along time ago in terms of the issue of equity. Call it staus quo or protecting the powerful, take your pick.

Once HC became state law, it was just a matter of time for the blatant SPS violations to take a legal turn.


Anonymous said...

@Janet L, many people in private schools left SPS for a good reason. What exactly is there to lure them back? While many people would undoubtedly love to save that money, they may not be willing to subject their children to the problems they experienced in the past. Or are you suggesting things in SPS are so much better now?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Unclear, good point.

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

@ FWIW, HCC families ARE stakeholders when it comes to changes to the program. Naturally it's up to the district as to who they meet with, but that doesn't make the lack of transparency and engagement around the issue any less disturbing. We're not talking about someone having a beer with someone; we're talking about Student Support Services apparently drafting proposed changes. That's the sort of thing that should be public, and not one-sided--if for no other reason than to temper all the disparaging comments that are likely thrown around about a subset of current SPS students and their families in those meetings.


Anonymous said...

@at said, "Uhh. If they're so gifted they should thrive with Discovery curricula. They're the best able to derive things on their own from first principles."

Enough with the falsehoods. Discovery curricula was deemed instructionally deficient by state reviewers. That didn't stop SPS from adopting it, nor are they on a path to replace it any time soon. It's deficient. Period. Whether it's being used with Gen Ed or HC. I'd argue it disadvantages Gen Ed and ELL students the most because it is language intense and weak on skill reinforcement. Which leads to students not advancing in math, which leads to more disparities in those qualifying for advanced classes....

Then the idea that gifted students can just teach themselves (and aren't gifted if they can't). Plus, the Discovery curriculum is so weak on skills that it's laughable to think it helps them make the leap to derivations.


Anonymous said...

There are other HC stakeholders besides current HCC parents.

You have certainly had your voices at the table, and not just at beer and wine
summits with current board members.

HCC parents have met with the district for years and continue to have your voices heard loud and clear. Stephen Martin has been Exhibit A.

It's called sharing the wealth.

If the district is drafting anything, they must be very scared of an inevitable lawsuit if they don't make some major changes ASAP.


Anonymous said...

OK Melissa, I'll bite,

Madrona Mom says:

"They [The Equity in HCC Group] want HCC to reflect Seattle Schools. However, Seattle Schools don't reflect Seattle, because of the large private school enrollment. So in effect they want HCC to DISPROPORTIONATELY include minorities, students living in poverty and homeless students, but won't admit it"

OMG. Phone the neighbors! They want minorities in HCC. There's already 1% black students. That should be plenty. According to Madrona Mom. This implies that the gifted minorities are already served in private schools otherwise it wouldn't be disproportionate.

Then she says:
"There is nothing stopping the district from creating ADDITIONAL gifted programs to accurately reflect demographics. They can make any type of program they want. They can make a program that is FRL only. "

OMG. Not in our program. Let's have another segregated gifted program somewhere else for THEM only, to check off the equity box. According to Madrona Mom.

Then Madrona Mom spells it out:
"it is so much easier to focus on too much privilege and completely ignore the fact that Seattle is 70% caucasian with a 15% poverty rate."

So the status quo is hunky dory if the gifted program is 70% white, close to twice the district's representation. Not unfair at all. Clearly the Madrona Mom believes every single gifted white student is in SPS (and therefore NOT in private school.) and that is the basis of her equity stance. Where's the evidence?

Lots of other posters make the claim too, even as places like Lakeside often enroll HCC students. That is contrary evidence. At least some HCC qualified students you all know, have transferred to private school. And other posters claim that private schools have no special gifted curriculum and therefore can't possibly have gifted students. But then they all lament that HCCalso has no special curriculum. But we must, must, must not change the horrible thing we love. Absurd.


Anonymous said...

@ ar,

Wow, you read a lot of things that just are not what I wrote.

What I wrote is that the goal of this "equity group" to reflect SPS demographics is "silly" and that is what I meant. I meant it was silly because that goal defies basic logic and basic math and has the ironic implication of not creating any equity. The gap between The City of Seattle demographics and SPS demographics is just too huge for some idyllic and equitable proportionality to suddenly work based on SPS enrollment. That is just now how math works.

Moreover, as SPS demographics have been steadily shifting by a multiple percentage points over the last 10 years. If this magic goal of proportionatliy were suddenly met, then that group would find themselves in the extremely uncomfortable position of needing to advocate that racially diverse HCC enrollment target decrease year over year as SPS's overall percentage of minority enrollment have declined annually over the last 10 years.

The "implication" I was making is that a far better goal would be to improve identification and inclusion of gifted minority, ell and frl students, with multiple services. I was in no way implying that people should be excluded from current programming. I was suggesting that there is nothing standing in the way of the district creating MORE opportunities to create MORE equity. One size does NOT fit all, was my implication.

Perhaps a simpler way of stating this is that you can look at this two ways.

1) are there too few minorities in HCC
2) are there too many whites and asians in HCC

They are very different points of view and this equity groups seems to be taking approach #2 and IMHO, that is silly and does not help increase equity.

- madrona mom

Anonymous said...

I would like to know what the HCC haters are doing to help raise up those performing at the bottom besides trying to bring in a bunch of young HC-qualified tutors into the room.

Now seems to be a good time to start a gifted ed private or charter k-8.

Are these equity teams also trying to bring back bussing? That seems like one of the only ways to achieve their goal.

Seattle squabbles

Anonymous said...

The numbers that ar is pushing are a little crazy.

We know the demographics of Seattle.

Here are the SPS demographics.

We do NOT know the demographics of students in private school. If this information has been reported somewhere, that would be interesting but I have no idea what the composition of private school is.

But there are some pretty big gaps between the two numbers. As such I think it is silly to argue for a percentage that changes quickly over time. I think it is more "equitable" to argue for targeted inclusion and an expansion of services.

- madrona mom

Eyes Open said...


Swapping "privileged" out with "educationally advantaged" still doesn't make it make sense. HCC students are not all straight white males with wealthy but coddling parents. HCC are blatantly "educationally disadvantaged." These kids all have to change schools multiple times. They spend long hours on a school bus schlepping from Magnolia to Wallingford or Olympic Hills to Wallingford and Rainier View to Thurgood Marshall. No neighborhood school is set up to educate them. They are overlooked and unappreciated. Teachers and principles are mean and spiteful to them. They are **clearly** educationally disadvantaged. Soup for Teachers hates on them. Other kids' parents blame them for all socioecomonic and racial disequity in the district, probably in the country. How a 6-year-old kid can oppress a whole socioeconomic stratum of society or entire races of people, Lord only knows, but they sure get blamed for it.

What the HCC kids are is intellectually advantaged. Learning comes easy to them. They learn fast, they pick things up on their own, they scaffold over entire steps, they synthesize, they coalesce. Intellectually advantaged, educationally disadvantaged and privilege-neutral (some are privileged, some aren't. Some have some kinds of privilege and not others. Some are pretty shockingly devoid of privilege.)

Anonymous said...

I don't care if my child is in a self contained school like Cascadia or a neighborhood school that offers walk to math or differentiated learning with support staff helping those needing to be brought up to speed AND those ready to learn more. Cascadia has been our only option, since our neighborhood school is Bryant and they refuse to offer acceleration. I think it is good news if there is a group trying to come up with ideas to make access to advanced learning more equitable. I hope they are trying to make neighborhood schools better so fewer people feel compelled to leave. I don't know why this has to be so divisive. Are the parents and students in gifted programs in shoreline, northshore, lake Washington, Bellevue and Mercer island school district treated like they're jerks for moving their kid if they're ready for more challenge? Families move their kid to option schools for access to alternative curricula and I don't see them being called out for making the wrong choice. I am asking because I truly don't understand the problem and why people are so upset. If all HCC kids went back to their neighborhood schools, would these same people then start a new campaign against high achievers? I guess they could then start going after their PTA funds in the name of equity...yeah, that's probably what would happen next. Good luck with that. And btw-hcc families are not rolling in cash and the schools are not better off, especially not with all of the behavioral issues.

Put your money, Advocacy and energy into pre-k programs for low income families and towards improving our curriculum. Then we will see...

Meaningful Results

Private Numbers said...

Private School Review says private schools in Seattle are 32% minority.

And according to the little box on the right that says Private School Ethnicity on OSPI's page, for 2016-17 in the Seattle Public School district there were the following numbers in private schools within the district:
American Indian male => 45
American Indian female => 41
Hispanic male => 396
Hispanic female => 472
Black male => 699
Black female => 868

Anonymous said...

@FWIW, I don't know why you're so convinced people are afraid of changes to HCC, that we all love things how they are. Many HCC parents would like to see a whole lot of improvements, and there's room for cooperation and collaboration on this. But somehow you seem to love to make things adversarial, disparage parents and students, threaten lawsuits, and behave with a lot of general unpleasantness and self-righteousness. I think there are (or were?) some opportunities to try to work things out so that most were on the same page, but instead this group of advocates approached the issue with a "let's destroy HCC!" attitude. Not exactly helpful. Despite that, most HCC parents are still reasonable. Efforts to increase the program's diversity while preserving--or better yet, increasing--the level of challenge available would probably be welcomed by most. If you gave them the chance and stopped calling them selfish, racist, privileged elitists, that is.

Personally, I hope the district DOES make some changes.

I hope they make the application and testing processes easier--no more of this "hey, your kid is scheduled for an 8am test tomorrow, Saturday, morning at some random school across town" BS.

I hope they account for the fact that FRL and ELL status might somewhat "mask" a student's giftedness--and while we're at it, they need to throw learning differences and disability status into that mix, too. In making adjustments to cutoff scores, however, I hope they rely on good data and good science--and don't just set eligibility rates to arbitrarily match the racial demographics of the city or district, since child brain development isn't race-based...

I hope they do a better job of convincing families from groups that might not feel like HCC is for them to go ahead and enroll their qualifying kids and give it a chance.

I hope they then also add some additional support services--to get those kids up to speed if they haven't been achieving at the expected levels thus far, and to provide any additional assistance needed along the way (e.g., if they don't have a parent available to help with homework, don't have easy access to a computer, haven't mastered English, etc.)

I hope they find/develop appropriate curricula for use in HCC classrooms, and require teachers to be experienced/trained in working with gifted kids, since they are different.

I hope they find a way to change the culture of SPS so that giftedness is acknowledged and equally valued. It's not something a kid should be made to feel bad about.

I hope they increase flexibility, so that students working even above HCC levels had opportunities to learn, too.

That's a short list. I'm sure there's more. The point is, I'm not afraid of change. I AM afraid of people who want to destroy opportunities for gifted students to thrive, though. Gifted kids, even if they're white or Asian or from a middle/upper class family deserve an appropriate education just as much as a poor, struggling student.


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

That all sounds good until one does a blog search and sees multiple comments (including yours) blaming the lack of diversity in HCC on lead paint, etc.

If people sound "adversarial" and unpleasant to you, then maybe the history of
comments and willingness to protect the status quo at all costs (except in words when it's PC) has something to do with it.

Action can feel adversarial when your interests are threatened.
Kellyanne also calls people "haters" when this happens


Anonymous said...

Well, FWIW, I'm not sure what more I can say. I've never argued that it's one thing or another, but have rather always maintained it's complex. It's not a simple black-and-white issue of "the racial breakdown in HCC should perfectly match the racial breakdown of SPS or Seattle" because there are other factors at play, such as poverty. Deprive a child of adequate nutrition for many years and they're less likely to grow up big and tall, right? A similar thing can happen with brains. When we're talking about reaching the extreme upper end of the cognitive abilities curve--something that is, by definition, not common--I'm not sure why it's so hard to believe that growing up in suboptimal conditions might make it a little harder to end up there. I thought at one point not too long ago you actually acknowledged that, but maybe I'm misremembering.

In my list of "hopes" above, the second one acknowledges this complexity. Poverty will make it harder for a cognitively gifted FRL student to demonstrate his/her gifts, so some level of "correction" makes sense. But poverty will also make it harder for an FRL student to be a cognitively gifted student in need of identification in the first place, too. Are we missing some students? Probably so, and we need to fix that. If we catch them all should the percentages be equal to the population? Probably not, and the way we fix that is by fixing poverty first.


Looked Over said...

SPS is definitely missing students. By relying on referrals and only testing students at some schools, there are plenty of students who would qualify who go unrecognized. Even though HCC doesn't get students anything special or different from general education students, aside from two years of acceleration, this is a tragic loss.

• a loss to the unidentified gifted child because one thing a cohort does bring is a greatly enhanced opportunity of making friends. Because although teachers have a hard time identifying gifted kids from among a classroom of children, the other children do not. Gifted kids are generally out of sync with their age peers, consuming different media, having different concerns, enjoying different pastimes. If SPS just automatically tested all loners for advanced learning, they could rescue many socially isolated, lonely kids. It would save lives.

• a loss to the unidentified gifted child because they remain stuck in the curriculum that is too easy for them, that they have already mastered. They do not learn how to study. They are not challenged. They do not learn at school. They are at risk of becoming disengaged for want of new material to learn. Underachievement among gifted kids is a major issue.

• a loss to the unidentified gifted child because there is a much greater probability that the kids who go unidentified will not be "stereotypical" gifted kids (white or Asian upper middle class task committed, motivated teachers' helpers). Why is it so much harder for white teachers to recognize giftedness in "unexpected packages"? It would help if teachers had any idea what to look for (this is one place where HCC parents have a leg up). It would help even more if they accepted the pedagogical science about this underserved invisible minority and stopped just believing random ideas that they blindly and fervently hope will further social justice ends even though they're just being taken in by equity proselytizers who don't really have the answers, can't really show the results. It's already harder for groups underidentified for HCC to get a good, fair education and job and shake in life. It's extra unfair that they also can't get this fundamental educational need met either.

• a loss to the identified gifted child because the gifted children who never get identified are more likely to be children from certain underrepresented groups (who are stereotyped by teachers as probably not gifted--whole schools at SPS don't send a single child to HCC--they just don't believe their students could be gifted) and the kids who are in HCC are deprived of learning from them and with them, of swapping ideas, of seeing a bigger picture.

Particularly in the early years of schooling, parents are considerably more effective in identifying gifted children than are teachers (Ciha et al., 1974; Scott et al., 1992). And yet so many SPS teachers lack the professional training to know this or to have any idea what giftedness is or looks like. So many SPS teachers fight "pushy" HCC parents, always reading to their children and trying to get them a decent education. Not all. God bless the teachers who get it or are willing to listen. Or know first hand and despite multipotentiality chose to serve the youth of this city as mentors and educators. Bless you.

Cap hill said...

On behalf of pushy white HCC parents all across Seattle: we want more kids in advanced learning classes. We want more kids being challenged and really growing in the arts, the sciences and humanities. We agree that the selection process in general favors families with resources, and we want SPS (INCLUDING TEACHERS) to do more to find kids, nurture their talents and help them excel. Frankly if there was an opportunity to give more money to a program that was focused on doing that, I would contribute, as would many, many other families. There are obviously not enough african american and hispanic kids in these programs.

But at the same time, we absolutely demand that SPS offer high quality advanced education, and are adamant that race SHOULD NOT be a criteria in keeping kids out, either because they are black, brown, white or any other color. The idea that eliminating these programs or creating racial quotas makes sense is just counter-productive. Let's focus on what we can build together.

Anonymous said...

@cap hill parent: please run for Blanford's seat.


Many Names said...

@Cap hill,
I second that. Please run for Blanford's seat. Seattle needs you.

Anonymous said...

I predict that walk to math becomes mandatory, cluster-grouping also whilst the self-contained group gets whittled down to a very small group, say 1% of elementary and middle school kids.

This segregated arrangement has got to go. It's unfair and illegal.

Parents can make a lot of noise about the "needs" of their kids, etc., but bottom line is our program is a farce, an excuse to exclude and pathway for private school experiences on the public dime.

News Flash: we're all in SPS together, if you hate it go private or home-school or move, but no more "separate but equal", because just like Jim Crow, it's a sham and a scam.

Phil Connor

BTW I have a HC kid whose been in self-contained classrooms in the past. I know all about the program and the parents. Self-serving in extremus.

Phil Istine said...

If all elementary schools allowed walk to math based on ability not age and all students had access to reading materials at their level, that would be HUGE. A lot of kids need this and they need it NOW. This district needs an education revolution where all students are allowed to advance based on ability without their parent/guardian having to jump through 4+ hoops.

If SPS wants to cut back on self-contained gifted classes, that's easy: the district just needs to require every school to allow walk-to-math-like single subject acceleration and, when necessary, grade skipping. Just accelerate the students as many years as they need. Stop holding them back based on age. Promote learning. Encourage students to pursue excellence.

There's no private school experience. It's all SPS kids getting an SPS education. HCC is just two years accelerated. That's the only "special" thing about it. There's nothing about it that's like a private school experience. Same public dime. Same public school experience.

The geozone schools give the HCC kids a soft expulsion, making it clear that they're not wanted there. They harass them for being different. The kids do, sure. But I'm talking about the teachers and the principals. Newsflash: you can't punish giftedness out of a kid.

The current arrangement isn't segregated. 72% of Seattle's HiCap students [2610 out of 3613 students] are white. In the 2010 census, Seattle's population was 69.5% white. I don't think you know what segregation means. There are students of every race tracked by OSPI in HCC. So: it's not segregated.

It is so twisted to accuse the families of only those 3,613 hicap students of being self-serving, Phil. There are self-serving families at every school. And there are generous, charitable families at every school. But what the families are like doesn't matter. SPS has to educate the kids, not their families.

Lynn said...

Ha! "Private school experiences on the public dime." What do private schools provide? Access to a classroom full of well-prepared, well-behaved children who are capable of working at grade level or one grade above, who don't have ADHD, who aren't on the autism spectrum and don't have dyslexia or dysgraphia or dyscalculia and who don't suffer from anxiety. This is the private school experience and it is lovely if your kid meets those requirements. It is definitely not available in HCC.

Self-contained gifted programs are neither unfair nor illegal. Wishing doesn't make it so.

Anonymous said...

The illegality is the demographics, Lynn. And the
ACLU letter spelled it out. State and federal
law prohibit discrimination based on very specific
categories, which is why the state law is crafted
to include accurate norming, representation of
demographics of the area served, etc.

Also, lest we all forget, HCC is not a gifted program.
It has some gifted kids in it but the the eligibility
requirements do not fit the rubric for gifted. In fact,
many gifted children would simply never make it in.

Even if the district has the word gifted in some of its
documents, make no mistake: SPS HC is for advanced
students both in identification and delivery. Teaching
two years ahead is the design of the program.

Let's not kid ourselves any more than we are already
doing about this "program".


The Numbers said...

Below is some analysis of the actual numbers:

To qualify for HCC, students must score in the 95th percentile on the Math and Reading Achievement Tests. The achievements tests are taken by ALL SPS kids during NORMAL school hours at their EVERYDAY school.

While the state doesn’t publish statistics on the number of students scoring in the 95th percentile on the achievement tests, it does publish the % of student receiving a “Level 4”. For example, to receive a “Level 4” math score in 6th grade, students must have an absolute score greater than 2548, which is the 85th percentile. To qualify for HCC also requires taking the CogAT and scoring a 98. But unless a student scores at least a Level 4 on the SBAC, the CogAT is irrelevant.

Here are the percentile’s for SPS students in 6th grade scoring a Level 4 (85 percentile) on the SBAC:

* % of SPS White 6th Grade Students Scoring Level 4 on SBAC Math: 51.5%
* % of SPS Hispanic 6th Grade Students Scoring Level 4 on SBAC Math: 20.5%
* % of SPS Back / African American 6th Grade Students Scoring Level 4 on SBAC Math: 9.2%
* % of SPS American Indian / 6th Grade Students Scoring Level 4 on SBAC Math: 12.1%
* % of SPS Low Income 6th Grade Students Scoring Level 4 on SBAC Math: 16.7%

Data Analysis

* Whites: What we can see is that 51.5% of 6th grade white students in Seattle score in the 85th percentile (the top 15 percent) on math. We can extrapolate from this number and expect that about 17% (1/3 of 51.5%) of white SPS 6th graders score in the top 5% on math. In other words, there are more than 3 times the normal number of white students in top 5% as compared to the SBAC multi-state norms. On average, 16% of white students that are referred become eligible. On average 33% of whites are admitted on appeal.

*Blacks: 9.5% of black 6th graders score in the 85th percentile (the top 15 percent) on the SBAC. We can extrapolate to assume that about 3.2% of SPS black 6th grade students score in the top 5%, so blacks underperform compared to the cross-race norms. What we also see that percentage wise more than 5.3 TIMES as many white 6th grade students score a Level 4 than black students. Since there are about 2.9 times as many white students as black students in the district there should be about 15.4 times as many white students as black students eligible for the program. In 2015-2016, there were about 30 times more, so the ratio is off by a factor of 2. The ratio of white referred to blacks referred averaged 13 to 1 over the last six year versus the expected 15.4 to 1 ratio based on test results. So white are being referred about 20% more frequently than blacks for similar math scores. On average, 16% of white students that are referred become eligible, whereas only 6.1% of blacks become eligible after taking a the CogAT, for a ratio of 2.6 to 1 where as we would expect a ratio of 1 to 1. On average over the last 6 years, 33% of whites, and 39% of blacks have been admitted on appeals, so these numbers as similar, although sometime happened between the 2012-2013 school year and the 2013-2014 school year, because the average admission on appeal for blacks went down from 62% to 7%. Finally, the total number of 6th grade black students expected to score in the top 5% on the SBAC is only 17 across SPS.

The Numbers said...

* Hispanics: For Hispanics, the percent scoring a Level 4 on the 6th grade math is 20.5%, or about 6.8% scoring in the top 5% on the test in 15-16. So Hispanics in Seattle actually are scoring better than the overall cross-race SBAC norms which would be 5% scoring in the top 5%. There are about 3.8 times as many whites as Hispanics in the district, and the whites score in the top 5% about 2.6 times as frequently as Hispanics. So we would expect 3.8 x 2.6 = 9.8 or about 10 times as many whites as Hispanics to be HCC eligible for a ratio of 10 to 1. Over the last 3 years, the ratio of whites to Hispanics obtaining HCC eligibility for the program was 15.6 to 1. So it seems to be off by about a factor of 1.6 from the expected or 60%. In 14-15 the ratio was 12.6 to 1, so it was actually about as expected. The ratio of white referred to Hispanic referred averaged 12 to 1 over the last six year where as we would expect based on test scores a ratio of 10 to 1. So whites are referred about 20% more frequently than Hispanics based on similar math achievement scores. On average over the last 6 years, 30% of Hispanics have been admitted on appeal as compared to 33% of whites, although sometime happened between the 2012-2013 school year and the 2013-2014 school year, because the average admission on appeal for Hispanics went down from 50% to 19% and there was a similar precipitous drop for the black appeal success rate. On average, 16% of white students that are referred become eligible, whereas only 10.8% of Hispanics become eligible after taking the CogAT, for a ratio of 1.48 to 1, where as we would expect a ratio of 1 to 1.

What can we conclude?

* First is that the biggest reason there are a disproportionate number of whites as compared to blacks and Hispanics in HCC is because whites score far above average on the math achievement test (and ELA test), blacks score below average, and Hispanics score just above average on the achievement tests. 5.3 times as many whites as a percentage of student population score in the top 5th percentile as blacks and 2.6 times as many whites as Hispanics on the 6th grade math test. That’s an SPS problem that has nothing to do with HCC. Getting rid of HCC won’t fix that problem at all.

*Second is that the whites are referred more frequently than blacks and Hispanics than would be expected based on 6th grade math scores by about 20% in both cases. While this is an issue, fixing it is clearly not going to have much of an impact. This seems like an Advanced Learning outreach issue.

The Numbers said...

* Third is that the percentage of referred blacks and Hispanics that become eligible after referral is significantly smaller than the number of whites. So either the black and Hispanic students are not following through and taking the CogAT, or they are not passing it with the required 98th percentile. 16% of referred whites become eligible as compared to 6.1% of referred blacks and 10.8% of Hispanics. If the problem is that blacks and Hispanics are not showing up for the test, then that’s a relatively easy fix for SPS as they could just go back to testing kids during the school day at their schools through pullouts. But if the problem is that blacks and Hispanics are passing the CogAT at a comparable rate to whites given comparable math and ELA scores, then perhaps it’s because whites are prepping and the district needs to level the playing field through targeted prepping of Hispanics and blacks.

* Fourth is that proportionately the number of whites and Hispanics and blacks obtaining HCC eligibly based on appeals has been about the same over the last 6 years at around 30%, although in the last three years the successful appeal rate for both blacks and Hispanics has dropped precipitously for some unknown reason.
In summary, if SPS gets rid of appeals, and fixes the 20% outreach issue, and make it’s easy to take the CogAT, there will still be a disproportionate number of whites (and Asians) as compared to blacks and Hispanics (and American Indians) because white and Asians perform better on the in-school academic tests that are used to determine who qualified for HCC.


Anonymous said...


Did you read the ACLU letter about achievement tests and, specifically, CogAT?

Did you read the section about norming?

That was kind of the whole point of the letter...to show that the analysis you
just did proves what you just did, which is why a poster named Phil says SPS HC
keeps finding what its looking for.


Anonymous said...

Hey there Melissa,

There it is again, another HCC poster spouting an assumption that every single gifted white kid stayed in public school. And its corollary, every single private school white student is ungifted. And it's logical conclusions: SPS isn't disprortionate, (jeez you gotta live in a bubble not to see that) status quo is great for us, white people are really just deserving of the best but it's not even good enough. But where's your demand for data? Why aren't you discrediting these assumptions? Clearly at least some white gifted students are in private school? I bet you might even know a few.

Phil Istine:
"The current arrangement isn't segregated. 72% of Seattle's HiCap students [2610 out of 3613 students] are white. In the 2010 census, Seattle's population was 69.5% white. I don't think you know what segregation means. [ ] So: it's not segregated. "

There are so many similar posts, it would be impossible to point them all out.


Anonymous said...

@ ar,

That is not what I assume, that is never what I assume and anyone that understands statistics would never assume that.

I will repeat this again. The GAP between SPS demographics and Seattle demographics creates a challenge when analyzing a ratio to "reflect" something.

And because math has rules of all kinds, reflecting would create a statistical range, not a precise reflecting. And once again 1% for AA is way outside that range. But 72% for caucasian is not. It is very possible for BOTH to be true.

Saying 72% of current enrollment is caucasian and that seattle is 70% caucasian, neither means, nor implies that there are ZERO gifted students in private. Because there is NO assumption that 70% is a magic number.

This why I said the goal of the equity group was silly. I say it is silly because their goal can not be achieved with the laws of mathematics and statistics.

But a goal of increasing equity and increasing access, that would be a better goal.

It is clear you have made up your mind, but in general if you want to know if someone is assuming something ask.

- madrona mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

"This segregated arrangement has got to go. It's unfair and illegal."

It may be unfair but it's not illegal. If it were, I think we would have seen a court case in all these years (especially if a group like the NAACP decided to help as a friend to a family).

".."pathway for private school experiences on the public dime."

What do you base that on?

"I know all about the program and the parents."

Really? How did you manage to meet every single HCC parent and "know all about" them?

Phil Istine is right; the district could very easily change all that people don't like about HCC AND provide more services to more kids.

Be mad all you want but point that anger in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that. HCC for all. Let's make public ed challenging and unboring and full of extras and extracurriculars and choice, for everyone, not just a few kids in HCC even if the few is now many kids. I think we could all get behind that. Isn't it already being tried at Garfield? And people are choosing it in droves. Must be working.

As for angry. Who is mad? THe HCC bloggers are the angriest of all. Literally 1000s of posts angry righteous teeth gnashing. HCC just doesn't have the umpf they want. Can't keep ahead of the Joneses.

As to assumptions Phil and Madrona. If you think that 45% of the students (the white ones) receiving 70% of the advanced learning entitlements is equitable means you think one of the following is true:

The ONLY reasons to say it's equitable that 45% of white kids getting 72% of AL perks:
1) Black students just aren't as gifted as white students.

2) White students are more gifted because the ungifted white kids have been removed from private schools at very high rates. Eg. They're in private schools at a higher rate than the gifted white kids. (where's the data here?) Private schools have less academically accomplished and less gifted white kids.

3) You just want the status quo continued because you just deserve it regardless.

That's simple math.


Anonymous said...

"Let's make public ed challenging and unboring and full of extras and extracurriculars and choice, for everyone..."

Yeah, we'd love that, in HCC as well.

Moving to Garfield in droves? If you look at HCC enrollment data over the past few years, I'd bet you'd see more and more HC students opting out of the pathway HCC assignment to Garfield. Ingraham has a waitlist for HCC students. HCC students are increasingly choosing Ballard and Roosevelt. Students living closer to Garfield, from neighboring schools? Yes, many are choosing Garfield.


Anonymous said...

@ Phil Connor, it's not "separate but equal." The whole point of HCC is that it's different. Not better, not worse, but different--something different for students who have different educational needs. One size doesn't fit all, nor should that be the goal.

different strokes

Anonymous said...

@ ar, actually, that's "simplistic" math.

1) Black students just aren't as gifted as white students.

It's not black and white. If you look at poverty as well--and you can't legitimately look at giftedness without considering the impact of poverty. The fact is, Seattle's black students have much higher rates of poverty. We've never seen data that look at eligibility rates by race that control for poverty status, so we honestly have no clue to what extent the disparities are race-based or other. It's possible that income is the key factor in HCC qualification. SPS REALLY needs to make those data available...

2) White students are more gifted because the ungifted white kids have been removed from private schools at very high rates. Eg. They're in private schools at a higher rate than the gifted white kids. (where's the data here?) Private schools have less academically accomplished and less gifted white kids.

It's not at all far-fetched that private schools skew toward "ungifted white kids" and "gifted" minority students. Private schools are expensive, and incomes for white families tend to be higher. If white families are able to pay full tuition, kids are more likely to get in even if they are more average students. Lower income minority families, however, are more likely to need scholarships, so the schools will want to get something in return, such as athletic or academic prowess. It's not so surprising. And if you look at most of the private schools around, they do NOT offer gifted programming or accelerated curricula. They are not "schools for the gifted."

3) You just want the status quo continued because you just deserve it regardless.

That's not math, that's just you spewing hate. In reality, I don't think there are ANY, or at least not many, HCC families who don't want to see the program improved to be more diverse. Arguing for an evidence-based, well-informed, and transparent approach to any changes is not equivalent to fighting to preserve the status quo.

It's Complicated.

Anonymous said...

@ FWIW, the ACLU letter also includes this:

When a program has a statistically significant disparate impact, the court then analyzes whether the school district has a substantial legitimate justification for its admission criteria.... If a school district can establish sufficient justification for the HCC admission criteria, the challenging party must show that equally or comparably effective alternative HCC admission criteria exist that have a lesser disparate impact.”

Now, as I've said before, I support using local norms to identify more students from underrepresented groups, but only if this is done in conjunction with programs that provide the additional support these students need to succeed. After all, if their race or poverty or ELL status or whatnot impacts their ability to meet the current cut-offs for cognitive and achievement scores, wouldn't those same factors likely to continue to impact their performance, especially when jumping into an accelerated program? The best practices guide put out by OSPI notes the effectiveness of things like talent development programs, as well as the importance of providing a good match between talents and specific services, and the need for targeted support structures and scaffolding.

I bring this up again now because the ACLU section quoted above includes a reference to "comparable effectiveness." The OSPI report suggests that for the use of local norms to be effective, other things will be needed. Other reading I've done also supports this idea, including work by the author of the CogAT. Lohman says:

Is the goal to identify and serve those students who demonstrate unusually high levels of academic ability and accomplishment? If so, then traditional procedures of identifying and serving academically "gifted" students can be used. Poor and minority students will be included in this group, although not at a level that approaches their representation in the population.

On the other hand, if the goal is to identify the most academically talented students in underrepresented populations regardless of current levels of academic attainment, then procedures like [using local norms] will be more successful. However, options for educational placement and programming will need to be much more diverse than is currently the case.

Which is the goal in our case? It’s unclear to me. Under Washington law, a “highly capable” student performs or shows potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments.” The use of “performs” suggests the first, while “potential” suggests the latter. Is it really both? If so, we probably need multiple programs, with different criteria. Maybe an accelerated program for high performers, and a talent development program for high potential students (who would likely transition to the accelerated program at some point.)


Phil Istine said...


"The current arrangement isn't segregated. 72% of Seattle's HiCap students [2610 out of 3613 students] are white. In the 2010 census, Seattle's population was 69.5% white. I don't think you know what segregation means. [ ] So: it's not segregated. "

These are facts. Easy to check. For the 72% number:
1. Go to OSPI's page on data about the Highly Capable Program
2. Under student enrollment data about halfway down the page click on "2015-16 District Demographic info for Race/Ethnicity of Highly Capable students"--this will download an Excel spreadsheet that will tell you that
in Seattle Public Schools in 2015-16, there were a total of 3613 hicap students and that 2610 of them are white.

2610 out of 3613 students is 72% of the students. 72% of Seattle Public Schools HiCap students are white. Boom.

In the 2010 census data, 69.5% of Seattle residents were white.

Melissa doesn't need to do anything about these facts because they are easily confirmable, publicly accessible facts.

Anonymous said...

Enrollment data trends (see Table 6-C):


The data used to include HCC in "To Garfield," but the table now reflects only choice assignments. "To Ingraham" includes both HCC and non-HCC.

Gr 9-12 Choice assignments To Ingraham From
Ballard 129
Nathan Hale 79
Roosevelt 151
(382 total)

To Garfield From
(only 26 total, Gr9-12, from other AA schools), excluding HCC

Table 2-B of next linked report shows historical first choices in Gr 9 (so more than above, which only shows actual choice assignments):

From 2012 to 2016, Garfield's averaged 78, while Ingraham's went from 105 to 151.



Four Percent? said...

I just don't understand how people can be so angry at ONLY the 2610 white hicap students and their parents out of all of Seattle's 53,876 public school students. There is so much inequity to go around. Just start visiting elementary schools in this city. I mean, seriously. Just look at the school libraries.

Those white hicap students are 4.8% all the students in our public schools. How can they be to blame for institutional racism and the insidious, lingering effects of slavery and colonialism and Jim Crow? They can't. Does HCC reflect the ripples of an egregiously unfair system and an abominable history of the treatment of whole groups of human beings? Yes. Does HCC reflect it more than other programs within SPS? No.

But if all 2610 of these kids moved to Mercer Island tomorrow, would Seattle's remaining 51,266 public school students live in a fair, just and equitable world? Would their educational needs be met? Would racism and misogyny and class judgmentalism in all its insidious forms evaporate? No.

And there would still be unidentified gifted kids in the remaining population of 51,266 public school students. Gifted students at an increased risk of dropping out or going to jail. Gifted students who need acceleration at a bare minimum in order to thrive. And next year, there will be a fresh crop of kindergarteners, some of them gifted, some of them needing more advanced learning opportunities than our schools are willing to give them.

Anonymous said...

@ ar,

Wow! Thank you for laying out the inferences you have taken, so that I have a chance to comment. I never thought any of those three things. I simply think in terms of statistics and math and use that to then ask better questions.

It is beyond simplest and violates all the rules of mathematics and statistics to state that SPS demographic enrollment should match HCC's enrollment. This is because ALL enrollment pulls from a data set and the total data set is critical. You need to compare and contrast multiple data sets to find what the ACLU called "statistically significant disparate impact."

To determine this you need to do STATISTICS. A few of the things a statistical analysis would do would be to

* determine the demographic impact of poverty - You need to multiple the poverty rate per demographic group. If you were to pull NON-FRL demographic data and then compare hcc enrollment in those two groups.

* determine geographic impact - As there are now multiple locations, each location would need to be assessed separately and independently to the demographics of the area that the program draws.

Those are just two reasons why the 45% district wide enrollment to 72% district wide served is .... SILLY.

It's complicated has it correct. The math is pretty darn textbook, but it is a statistics text book, not an arithmetic textbook.

- madrona mom

Anonymous said...

@ ar,

In case you actually want to know what I think ...

1) I don't think HCC as currently designed and implemented is equitable. AA enrollment is clearly UNDER-represented, especially when you compare to surrounding districts that somehow manage 2 or 3%. There is clearly "some issue" here. But I am not convinced that caucasians AND asians are OVER represented.

2) I don't think HCC gets any "perks." In fact, every school that is funded at less than the district average, in theory returns money to other schools, but in reality is stolen by downtown for pet projects.

3) I don't think skin color has anything to do with giftedness. That is the silliest part of this thread so far.

4) I don't have any opinion on the composition of private school enrollment because I don't have any data on private school enrollment. My opinion is strictly limited to the simple fact that a significant portion of the data set is in private school and this causes variance in expected numbers. In other words without hard data, you have to make some big guesses.

5) I don't think the status quo should be maintained. I simply think that OVER representation and UNDER representation are two completely different problems and that this group is attacking a problem that won't create the outcome they are seeking ... Hence, once again, SILLY.

- madrona mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

I do want to point out when people use words like "never" and "always" and I challenge them on these facts, they never answer. Use hyperbole all you want but it doesn't help your argument.

And so as the discussion has been its usual circular self, we'll end it here.