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Monday, October 15, 2007

New Program Placement Policy

This week the Board will, almost certainly, enact a Program Placement Policy. This Policy will have two major impacts.

The first will be a new Program Placement Process. The current process does not reflect the District's values regarding openness, honesty, transparency, engagement or accountability. The Superintendent and her team will develop a new process which will reflect the District's stated commitment to those values. Of course, she will need some time to create this process and to implement it. Then, after the first roll-out there will probably need to be some adjustments made. We'll have to be patient as we await a new process that works well.

We won't have to wait for the other impact, though. That will be a change of principle. In the new Policy, anyone can propose a Program Placement and all program placement proposals are to be treated equally. Anyone means anyone. You or I could propose a program placement and it has to be treated with the same regard, put through the same process, and judged by the same Standards as any other proposal regardless of source.

Of course, the new process isn't in effect yet, so all of these proposals will have to go through the current process. And fast, because program placement decisions for next year have to be done by December.

I don't know about you, but I've got about eight program placement proposals lined up and ready to go. I can't wait for Thursday when I'll send them in.

First on my list will be an elementary Spectrum program for the West Seattle-South cluster. There isn't one there now, despite promises from the former Superintendent - in writing - that there would be a Spectrum program in every cluster and region. At last count, there were 82 District-identified Spectrum-eligible elementary students in the West Seattle-South cluster - enough to form a viable learning community - but there is no designated Spectrum site in the cluster. The District says that West Seattle Elementary (formerly High Point) is the Spectrum site for West Seattle-South, but there are so many reasons that isn't true: never met the certification requirements, never met any annual re-certification requirements, no trained teachers, only three students, no Spectrum classrooms, clearly rejected by the community, clearly not supported by the administration or staff, and, of course, the fact that it isn't in West Seattle-South.

After that, I have proposals for other elementary Spectrum programs - Leschi isn't proving an effective choice for the Central Cluster, Lawton isn't proving an effective choice for the Queen Anne / Magnolia Cluster, Wing Luke isn't proving an effective choice for the Southeast Cluster, etc. Then there are proposals for middle school Spectrum programs: the small cohort in the Southeast Region shouldn't be split between two schools, the West Seattle Region program belongs at Madison instead of Denny to be close to the students' homes and for feeder patterns out of Lafayette, Meany should have the Central Region program instead of Washington to relieve overcrowding at Washington and to be closer to the students' homes. Like that.

Program Placement has been driven by operational expediency - they put programs where they have room for them - and by political preferences - Principals trade programs like baseball cards and they - wrongly - have veto power over what should be a District level decision. When Program Placement is driven by a set of clear and rational rules, it will quickly become clear that a number of them make no sense at all and need to be changed immediately.

None of the program placement proposals listed above are my idea. In all of these cases the District committed to make those changes years ago, but they are hoping that no one remembers those commitments or has any means to hold them to them. They are going to be sorely disappointed. I remember the commitments, I have them in writing, and I will hold on like a bulldog. These people will keep their word and do what is best for the students.

Weird, isn't it? I expect to meet a lot of resistance. Wouldn't it be something if I showed up, reminded them of their promises, and they responded "Oh yes, that's right. Okay, we'll do it just like we said that we would." Why doesn't anyone think that will happen? Why do we presume that they will writhe like rats in a trap and try to get out of keeping their commitments? These are commitments that they made of their own volition. No one held a gun to their heads; they set these deadlines and Standards for themselves. Yet now, they will pretend like they didn't make these commitments or they didn't mean what they obviously mean or the promises are stale and no longer enforceable. That's were accountability is necessary. If everyone were honorable, we wouldn't be so tweaked up about accountability. If everyone were honorable, we could accept their promises to hold themselves accountable as effective. Alas...

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Lawton isn't proving an effective choice for the Queen Anne / Magnolia Cluster"

Based on what? Data or Opinion?
And your plan is to suggest what for this school/community?

Charlie Mas said...

It is based on four items, all from the District.

1) A statement from the District staff that says that it takes 60 students in an elementary Spectrum program to form the critical mass necessary to support a viable learning community.

2) The most recent enrollment figures show 44 Spectrum students enrolled at Lawton. Below the number set in the statement above.

3) Data from 2004 (most recent available) that indicates that that there are about 114 Spectrum-eligible students in the Queen Anne-Magnolia Cluster, but only 18 enrolled in the program at Lawton. In 2004 there were 31 identified students in the Lawton reference area. The program couldn't even attract much more than half of the local eligible students.

4) Program descriptions from Lawton which indicate that Spectrum students are placed in classrooms one grade level ahead.

This statement is the program description on the Lawton web site: "Currently, we have what is referred to as a 'blended' Spectrum model, where Spectrum students are generally placed in classrooms with students one grade level higher. They receive differentiated instruction from a teacher who is well qualified to teach in a multi-age classroom." That ain't Spectrum.

Now, it may be that some or all of this may not be true, but I don't know what's true. I only know what people tell me.

My plan - if you can call it that - is to ask the Program Placement Committee to determine a more effective program placement. A more effective one would be one that will:

A) Attract a higher percentage of the eligible students in the Cluster to the program

B) Provide the students with a real Spectrum program consisting of self-contained (or nearly self-contained) classes.

C) Gather enough students to form the critical mass necessary to sustain a legitimate program.

It's not my role to tell them how to do their job. They have a few options. They could relocate the program to another school within the Cluster. Maybe the program would be more popular at Blaine or Coe or Hay. They could consolidate the program for this cluster with the program for another cluster. Maybe if the Central Cluster program was also at Lawton they would attract enough students. They could both move and consolidate the program. Maybe they could designate Hay as the Spectrum school for two clusters.

As Joseph Olchefske used to say, we can be loose on the how but we have to be tight on the what. It doesn't matter HOW they provide the students with access to a legitimate program, only that they DO.

Of course, they also have the option of re-defining the program to the point that what is now at Lawton meets that definition.

Anonymous said...

"Now, it may be that some or all of this may not be true, but I don't know what's true. I only know what people tell me."


May I suggest that before you make suggestions on how you think Lawton should run its programs that you meet with the BLT committee so they may explain to you why the program is currently set up to be "inclusion" based and not self-contained.

Also, I would ask that you call the principal, Mr. Noh and get accurate Spectrum numbers.

Also, have you considered why many QA parents leave Spectrum qualified students at Hay and Coe, they are GREAT schools allowing children to stay close to home. Maybe you should consider talking to those communities also.

In otherwords, please do not make recommendations about how a school should run its program, based on what other people tell you and 2004 data. Rather, make recommenedations based on input from the school community, knowing that some schools do modify programs based on the community needs.

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, so here's the thing. Spectrum is a self-contained program. If a school is running an "inclusion model" that's great, but it isn't Spectrum. Schools don't own the Spectrum "brand name", as it were, and do not have license to re-define Spectrum as they please. Spectrum is a District program and it is defined by the District. It is not open to redefinition by the schools.

Spectrum is defined on the District web site and it is specifically NOT an inclusion model.

I'm delighted that families at Hay and Coe are choosing their neighborhood school for their Spectrum-eligible children. Hey, if the choice is an inclusion model at my neighborhood school or an inclusion model at some other school, then I too might choose my neighborhood school.

I am not delighted, however, that families in the Queen Anne/Magnolia Cluster do not have equitable access to a self-contained Spectrum program as they should.

I'm not suggesting that Lawton do anything different. They can have whatever kind of program they want, but if it isn't Spectrum, then they can't call it Spectrum. And the District needs to make Spectrum - real Spectrum - available to the families in that cluster.

If this were not Queen Anne/Magnolia, if it were the Southeast Cluster, and the District was not making true Spectrum available to the students in that cluster, would your perspective be any different?

Charlie Mas said...

You will notice that I make no recommendations about how a school runs their program. In fact, despite your accusation, I clearly and explicitly avoided doing exactly that.

Nor will I accept your well-meaning invitation to make recommenedations based on input from the school community. It's not my place to make recommendations to the community or the school.

Anonymous said...

I think you may be incorrect when you say Spectrum must be a self-contained program.

The only text I can find on the SPS website about Spectrum class rosters was "Cluster district-identified (Spectrum)students to form classroom rosters."

Here under the Spectrum description:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/advlearning/program_spectrum.htm


All elementary schools with the Spectrum designation make up classroom rosters with all Spectrum qualified students, then fill the remaining seats with students with diverse backgrounds.

But maybe I am not looking deep enough? Let me know if there is text on the SPS web site that says that Spectrum must be self-contained classrooms. Because if that is true, then most of the Spectrum schools, except Whittier, are not in compliance.

Finally, in regards to this comment:

"...if District was not making true Spectrum available to the students in that cluster, would your perspective be any different?"

I believe that at least one or more schools in each cluster should have a Spectrum program. But what you believe is a "true Spectrum" program may not be what SPS requires of a school. So, would I be upset if schools in the southeast cluster offered Spectrum, but not on a self-contained basis? No, I would not.

Anonymous said...

How can Spectrum work well as an inclusion program? How can a teacher teach Spectrum level work to non Sectrum inclusion children? Do they have to teach two different curriculum's in the same classroom? Wouldn't that tax the teacher and everyone benefit less? My kid goes to Shoreline where they have self contained honors classes, and they work way above the gen. ed. classes. I would hate to see them slowed down to accommodate non honors students. And likewise for my younger child who is not an honors student, I don't think I would like him in an honors inclusion program where the class might move way to fast for him. I like self contained classrooms. I know it's not PC, but it works.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I know that many parents who do have Spectrum-eligible students do choose to have them attend a non-Spectrum school in their neighborhood. That said, I also know that some of those non-Spectrum schools quietly supplement the curriculum with higher math so that those Spectrum-eligible students can move further on than they would in a regular-ed classroom.

Spectrum was designed to be self-contained. You can ask Bob Vaughn who used to head the department. But, as Charlie has pointed out, schools went in their own directions. Unfortunately, for parents AND district administrators that makes it very difficult to figure out each program and if it truly works for eligible students.

This whole issue is very difficult because you have some parents saying "Why can't all kids get Spectrum treatment" and people like Anonymous saying well, not all kids can keep up. (I've heard this from a friend who has a student in the IB program at Ingraham; he grumbles that the non-IB classes are very slow-moving compared to the IB classes.)

I just want a uniform program that is recognizable from school to school with measurable results. Currently, Spectrum is not that way.

Charlie Mas said...

From the Lawton school web site:

"Spectrum's primary goal, according to the Advanced Learning Department, is to: Use a self-contained delivery model with differentiated instruction at an accelerated pace, with rigorous standards-based curriculum that presents learning at a pace, depth and intensity that meets students' intellectual needs and motivational levels."


Also from the Lawton web site:

"In the future, with the number of Advanced Learning student nominations on the rise, we anticipate more Spectrum students per grade level, which will mean that we will have self-contained Spectrum classrooms."


So Lawton knows that Spectrum is supposed to be self-contained. Let's not pretend otherwise.

From the District's web site, the third of four core principles of the Spectrum program:

"Cluster district-identified students to form classroom rosters. District-identified students are students found eligible for the program through the District's testing process. Teacher-identified students are nominated by their teachers as having the skill readiness and motivation to participation in the Spectrum curriculum. Typically, teacher-identified students are selected for participation based on WASL, ITBS, and/or DRA (Direct Reading Assessment) scores as well as performance indicated on curriculum-based assessments. In those classes attended by district-identified and teacher-identified students, curriculum presented is the Spectrum curriculum (i.e., a curriculum that is accelerated and rigorous to reflect the learning needs of students who are academically gifted). As needed, teachers differentiate to meet the learning needs of students in the classroom to ensure all students are gaining academic skills.
"

Spectrum is intended to be a self-contained program. When there are not enough district-identified Spectrum-eligible students in the school to form a self-contained class, the school is supposed to thoughtfully select students for inclusion in the class. The techer-identified students are suppose to have the skill readiness and motivation to participate in the Spectrum curriculum.

Teacher-identified students are only supposed to be in the class if there are not enough District-identified students to fill it. The teacher-identified students are NOT supposed to be students of all skill levels - they are supposed to be students who, in the teachers' estimation, are ready and able to succeed with the Spectrum curriculum. The teacher is expected to deliver the Spectrum curriculum to the class.

Lawton, of course, claims to teach all grade 1-5 classes to the Spectrum Standards, so maybe they truly do believe that every student in those classes IS ready and able to succeed with the Spectrum curriculum.

Anonymous said...

As one of the potential Lawton Spectrum parents who has chosen otherwise, I think there is a bit of a chicken/egg problem here. If the Spectrum program were self-contained, it would be more popular in the cluster.

Anonymous said...

Here is how Lawton’s Spectrum is run. All Spectrum students are put into one class each year, and then the remaining seats are filled. Students are separated for Math and Reading by ability. All Spectrum students stay in a group and then teacher identified students join the Spectrum class. Instruction for these two subjects is one grade above. So for example, 5th Spectrum students at Lawton are doing the 6th grade CMP2 books. All teachers are Spectrum certified.

Classes are "co-mingled" for science, social studies, PE, Art, Music and Technology.

Does this work?
Lawton has some fairly high WASL scores: The three year average for Reading is 94%, Math 81% and Writing 78%

Does the program need to be changed to become a "true" Spectrum? I guess we will let the district decide.

Charlie Mas said...

Now we have some very interesting statements here.

Here's one:
"All teachers are Spectrum certified."

Interesting. Certified by whom? Not by the State of Washington, which does not offer a gifted education endorsement, and not by Seattle Public Schools, which does not offer a Spectrum teacher certification. I don't know who "certified" the teachers as Spectrum, but the title is bogus.

Here's another telling statement:
"All Spectrum students are put into one class each year, and then the remaining seats are filled."

Filled by whom? Are they filled indescriminately or are they filled with students whom the teachers believe are ready and able to succeed with the Spectrum curriculum? It appears that they are filled indescriminately because the teacher-identified students are brought into the classroom for reading and math only. That's not Spectrum.

Apparently, the only Spectrum topics are reading and math. What? The Spectrum students stop being gifted when the topic changes to science, social studies or technology?

Does this work? Maybe, but that doesn't make it Spectrum. ALOs are great. I'm a big supporter of them. It sounds like Lawton has a really great ALO based on flexible grouping by skill level. I congratulate them.

The WASL scores of the school's total population are not indicative in any way of the efficacy of the Spectrum program. I can't imagine why they were mentioned. The rate at which Lawton's Spectrum students get a level 4 score on the WASL would be a much better measure.

The one true statement is that the District decides what is and is not Spectrum.

Finally, if that is how Lawton operates their Spectrum program, then why do they tell such a different story on their web site?

Anonymous said...

As a parent who has had children in an "inclusion" Spectrum class and also in a self-contained Spectrum class, I found that the inclusion model provided the best classroom experience. However, the teachers in the inclusion model were well-versed in differentiation and did a great job at it.

It's not impossible in elementary to set up assignments that challenge kids at their own level, in an open-ended fashion. For example, leveled readers: teacher can walk through the class helping kids individually during this segment-- one second grader might be reading a fifth grade novel and writing an essay about it, and another might be reading Dr. Seuss and answering a few questions. Strangely, the kids never seemed to care. I like having lots of different kinds of intelligences in the same classroom. The kid with high spatial intelligence but who scores low on reading has a lot to add, even to the Spectrum student's day. Never did I feel like one of my kids was being held back- instead, they liked working independently- because everyone else, no matter the level, was also working independently on "just right" work!

I'd second the comments that urge Charlie to first talk to the Lawton BLT before deciding how they should run their school.

And it's completely true that nothing in the District's definition of Spectrum prohibits the inclusion model. Charlie, I'd urge you to get your facts right and get parent and community buy-in before making sweeping pronouncements about The Right Way vs. The Wrong Way. Otherwise you offer nothing positive- only more invective.

Charlie Mas said...

Apparently I haven't been clear.

I'm not interested in telling Lawton how to do anything. I haven't suggested that Lawton choose to do one thing or another. Lawton can go ahead and do whatever Lawton thinks best.

What I have been saying, however, is that Spectrum is a specific delivery model defined by the District. If a school is going to claim to offer Spectrum, then they must conform to that defined model.

I'm not saying that Lawton's model doesn't work; I'm sure it works quite well. I'm not saying that Lawton's model isn't good; I'm sure it is very good. I'm saying that Lawton's current delivery model does not conform with the District's definition of Spectrum.

In recent years the District has not enforced the definition of Spectrum. That was a decision made by the former program manager. She is no longer the program manager. The spirit in the District has changed from laissez faire, site-based decision-making to more accountability and centralized decision-making. In this new administrative environment, I would like the District to enforce the definition of Spectrum.

That doesn't mean that Lawton has to change what they are doing. They could keep what they are doing; they just couldn't call it Spectrum. This has happened before. A few years ago the District determined that Lawton wasn't actually offering Spectrum and the school's program was not described as Spectrum in the Enrollment Guide.

I hope this has brought some clarity to the conversation.

I'll say it again, just in case it didn't get through:

I am not trying to dictate anything to Lawton. I am not deciding how they should run their school. I am not even suggesting that they change their model.

I don't know who anonymous at 10:04pm is, but unless they are someone who has been as deeply involved in these issues as I have been for as long as I have been, then pardon me if I don't just accept them as an authority on the District's definition of Spectrum. I'm been up to my eyeballs in Advanced Learning for six years.

I don't need parent and community buy-in if I'm not advocating any change in the program at Lawton - and, to repeat, I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Because I have been around for ages and am old, I think that a brief history lesson is needed. A Task Force was convened in the early 1990's by Superintendent William Kendrick. This task force spent long hours researching gifted education and presented their findings and proposed changes to the district and school board.One of those changes was to apply the word Spectrum to describe an array of services for gifted students that the Task Force challenged the district to offer. There was Spectrum APP, Spectrum Self-Contained, Spectrum Flexible Groups, and Spectrum Enrichment. Since then Spectrum has come to mean self-contained only. A replacement term for what was known as the Horizon program - a self contained program with set aside seats in designated elementary schools. Most middle schools had Horizon program.

One could argue that programs such as Spectrum at Lawton are exactly what the 1990'scommittee had in mind. Serve the kids who are in the building. Coe and Hay are ALO's they do the same. They serve the kids who are in their buildings. Charlie, while you are proposing to strike the Spectrum name from the schools you mentioned, you ought to propose rethinking the entire program. Do we really need self-contained programs in designated elementary schools which have the potential to displace neighborhood students?

Anonymous said...

Of course we must have self-contained Spectrum programs. Great minds think alike don't they? How else would we keep the dummies out?

Anonymous said...

Do you want your dummy in class with students moving at a much higher level and at a much faster pace than he/she could keep up with? That must be great for your little dummies self confidence and self esteem. Would you like your little dummy to go to Lowell too? How about honors classes?

Is there no standard anymore. Have we become so PC that we can not even offer advanced classes anymore for fear of excluding the dummies?

And why don't we have remedial inclusion classrooms? Why not put our Spectrum students in remedial classrooms? Doesn't a diverse classroom work best?

Seattle has become way to PC for their own good. I am a step away from moving to a city that has not veered so far to the left that they are about to fall of the edge.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 9:30

This is a good point, that the above poster mentions.

What would you do if a school suggested having an inclusive remedial classroom? Or an inclusive behaviorally challenged special ed classroom? Would you still advocate for inclusion?

I am of the camp that whenever possible, kids should be grouped together with kids of similar skills. I like self contained classrooms. I have experienced both, and the self contained classes were much more rigorous.

Anonymous said...

We do actually have pretty good luck in schools where Spectrum-qualified students are included with special education students, many of whom have behavioral issues. John Hay is such a school and it works very well.

Anonymous said...

Schools with inclusion programs for "remedial" students are among our highest performers: Montlake, John Hay, North Beach, Lawton (maybe this is why Charlie doesn't like it), Greenlake, Graham Hill, Ecstein, Salmon Bay 6-8, Blaine 6-8. It doesn't seem to a problem for these schools and they manage to be high performing for everyone by most accounts.

Anonymous said...

Charlie:

Are you really going to waste staff time with 8 proposals? I would hope that you don't was everyone's time without say, getting the Advanced Learning Manager to agree to sponsor your suggestions. The problem with this policy is that "anyone" will result in nothing being done, as staff will be wasting time explaining to you why Hale to Summit, Summit to wherever, and wherever to wherever is not a fiscally responsible or logistically feasible option.

I hope that "anyone" means that any person requesting a program change is required to first to all of the homework that a principal or program manager would have to do, not just create staff busy work responding to ideas that sound good in theory but have no application in practice.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 11:17 I think you misunderstood my question.

I said would you like your typically developing student to be placed in a remedial class? An autistic classroom? A behaviorally challenged spec ed classroom? An ESL classroom?

The programs you mentioned like Salmon Bay have classrooms designed for typically developing kids, and they include a very limited amount of spec ed students to be mixed in.

What if it was the other way around? What if the program were designed as a remedial program and they let a limited number of typically developing kids in the program? Would you want your kid to be one of these kids?

I would think your answer would be yes, since you think inclusion works. It should work both ways don't you think?

To anonymous at 12:01, I didn't understand what you wrote. You made several accusations, but they didn't seem to follow anything Charlie posted, at least in this thread, and they were incoherent. Can you please clarity?

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 11:17, you confound me.

I write it again and again and people still don't read and comprehend what I write. I didn't think I would have to make it any plainer or write it yet again, but apparently I do.

Where in the world did you get the idea that I don't like what they are doing at Lawton? How many times do I have to say that I'm confident that the Lawton model is effective? How many nice things do I have to say about it to pierce your pre-determined belief that I don't like it?

I am a great fan of Lawton and most other ALOs. I have nothing but compliments for them. All I'm saying is that they do not conform with the delivery model which the District has defined as Spectrum and therefore they should not be designated as Spectrum.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The quality and effectiveness of the work and the model at Lawton will not be altered if it is not called Spectrum. Lawton should decide for themselves if they want to continue with their model or if they want to offer Spectrum. I would not dictate to them.

Let me offer a parallel.

If I make a soft drink in my kitchen and sell it, can I call it Coca-Cola? Of course not. I can go on and on about how good my drink is and how it is even better than Coca-Cola, but that doesn't make it Coca-Cola. So the Coca-Cola company can come and tell me to stop calling my drink Coca-Cola. Nothing about my drink has to change except the name. I can continue to make and sell my drink; I just can't call it Coke.

Lawton can offer an inclusion model with breakouts by skill level for reading and math, and that's wonderful. But it isn't Spectrum and they can't call it Spectrum.

The District has allowed them to get away with it for the past four years, but that doesn't make it right. Just because the police didn't arrest you doesn't mean that you didn't break the law.

Anonymous said...

"Are you really going to waste staff time with 8 proposals?"

That was my thought also. Why bog an already weighed down school board with your APP related issues. How bout thinking about all students needs, not just the "gifted ones" who by the way have access to a highschool! Us parents of the average folks are getting ready to spend our winter evenings touring tons of schools and then waiting to see "what the envelope" brings in the mail.

Charlie Mas said...

Jim,

I understand your concern. You will be pleased to learn that every one of the eight program placement proposals that I intend to submit was not only reviewed by District staff but was agreed to by District staff. Every single one of them was a move that the staff said they would make. They just haven't made them yet. I have no intention of wasting their time. On the contrary, this is unfinished work that they set out for themselves.

In addition, you will be pleased to learn that that with each request, I have included information that explains how the proposal meets the guidelines for a program placement as listed by the new Policy. I've done a lot of homework and found a lot of data to support every proposal.

So rest easy. None of my proposals were from my own ideas. There is nothing in there about moving Summit to a more central location or creating an APP 1-8.

It may surprise you to learn, however, that there is no homework required for a principal or program manager make a proposal. There is no set process currently in place and no standard for acceptability.

Program placement has been completely ad hoc. Some proposals are required to meet impossibly high Standards for acceptance while others are accepted without data or discussion. Some are rejected without explanation. Some are determined to be the right choice for the District but are vetoed without explanation by principals. The Board felt the need for a Policy because there was no defined process, standards, planning, or guidelines for program placement. It has been done entirely by the seat of the pants on a catch as catch can basis with the rules made up and changed from case to case.

Anonymous said...

To those who question the viability of inclusion model advanced learning (not you Charlie).

My children have been in a school with inclusion classrooms. My daughter tested into APP as a first grader. We kept her in the local school.

Typically her classroom had 3-4 APP qualified students and 8-12 spectrum qualified students as well as students performing above, at & below standard. There were also usually 2-5 ESL students. This was successful because of the focus on differentiation at the school. Some teachers were better than others with this, but our experience was basically good. Teachers offered different spelling lists, different writing rubrics, choices of assignments for research projects. Math might have tutors, pull out groups, and review or challenge options. There were also challenge opportunities to write for state competitions or join the math championship team or train for the speech festivals or read for the global reading challenge. More, frankly than we could do.

I learned 2 things.

Children with serious behavior issues were not limited to the lower academic achievers.

I also learned that there are many more variations in achievement than can be addressed by the APP & Spectrum qualifications. It was not necessarily the APP/spectrum qualified students who won the math competition or did the best science fair project or read the most advanced books. It was really brought home to me one year when my daughter made a friend of a new ESL student in her class. This child was way below standard in reading. She was 3-4 years ahead in math. The teacher (& other staff) worked very hard to give her what she needed academically. But her needs could not be addressed in a self-contained advanced learning model as it currently is applied.

I do support self contained programs. But I also see value in inclusion programs. And I believe that every teacher in every program has to differentiate to meet the needs of every child in that classroom.

Anonymous said...

I've said this before, but I love the way Shoreline handles their advanced learning, at least in MS. They offer self elected honors classes in 4 core subjects (science, LA, Math, Social Studies). These classes are MUCH more rigorous than the general ed classes. Any child can sign up for honors classes. Any child! They can sign up for one honors class or all four. It's completely up to them and their families. The only requirement is that you maintain a grade of 75 or higher. If you fall below, you have three weeks to pull your grade up, otherwise you are transferred to a reg ed class.

No testing in. If a kid is motivated they can give it a try. Most kids who elect to take honors classes are successful. It beats the heck out of Seattle's all or nothing Spectrum program by far.

I truly wish Seattle could offer something so civilized. BTW, there are also no wait lists for honors classes. They try to accommodate everyone. Sometimes this means slightly larger class size, such as my child's science class which has 33 students. While not ideal, it is a small trade off for what you get.

Anonymous said...

"Typically her classroom had 3-4 APP qualified students and 8-12 spectrum qualified students as well as students performing above, at & below standard."

How did you know who was qualified for what? I was under the impression that the *teachers* weren't even given that data.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

To speak to a couple of points:

1) to the person who said the highly capable kids have their high school -not true. The only students who have a guaranteed in to Garfield are APP students, not Spectrum or ALO kids (which are the largest numbers of gifted kids). Even then, not all APP kids even go to Garfield.

2) Studies show (and if I have to go look up the source I will but I don't have it in front of me) that in an "inclusion" classroom that kids at the bottom do better, kids in the middle do better and kids at the top? They just tread water. Teachers love to have highly capable kids in their classes to spur discussion and keep interest up. But, those kids are not there to help teachers or other kids (and yes, every kid has something to learn from every other kid). They are there to learn as well.

3) Differentiation. First, it takes training to do it well. Second, it is harder to do the bigger the class (that's why dividing by ability works in a bigger class - ask any Spectrum teacher). Third, it is harder as you go up grade levels. You can do it more easily in elementary school but it is trickier in middle/high and teachers with many more students than elementary teachers are less willing to do it.

4)To Anonymous who said behavior problems are not limited to any one group, amen. I have no idea why anyone would believe that bright kids can't have behavior problems. Or ADD.

5) I'd love to look into what Shoreline does. It would likely take the vast testing (and money spent on it) and put it into teaching. I absolutely agree that any kid who wants the challenge and can keep up should have access to more accelerated/higher level classes.

Anonymous said...

"It may surprise you to learn, however, that there is no homework required for a principal or program manager make a proposal. There is no set process currently in place and no standard for acceptability."

Try again. YOU posted the requirements before when you got them from the Program Placement person. There are a whole bunch of requirements, including transportation, facilities, and union buy in.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you mention research on high-ability kids just "treading water" --perhapes that's the case in classrooms where the teacher is untrained in differentiation, but it is not true in many District Spectrum inclusion classrooms I've had the privilege of observing. I'm interested in citations to any of that research, if you can provide.

Charlie, I am baffled, despite all you've said, about why you believe the District's Sprectrum umbrella cannot include both self-contained and inclusion Spectrum models. There is no reason for one-size-fits-all when successful inclusion programs are valued by parents and teachers alike across the District.

Another comment to Charlie-- you quite craftily suggest you're not attacking Lawton's program by urging a uniform Spectrum. Of course you are! You know as well as anyone that schools use Spectrum to market to parents, and that if Lawton can't call their program Spectrum, they face losing parents who are drawn to the District-endorsed program title. Again, I'd echo others who ask that you please refrain from pronouncing on the entirety of the District when your understanding and agenda constitute a narrow slice of the pie. Contrary to the needs of many families, you advocate, as far as I'm able to determine from your take-no-prisoners postings, an APP program limited to one elementary, a Spectrum program set to one definition, and a take on almost everything SPS that is negative. Some folks tear down and some build up. I have rarely seen any "building up" from you, unless it's a campaign endorsement. I'm leaning toward putting you in the Dan basket and declining to read your postings. So I'll throw out to everyone reading this blog, what can you do personally to make things better for our schools, rather than just criticize?

Charlie Mas said...

anonymous at 5:37pm -

I'll say it again. There is no set process for program placement. The Program Placement committee has discussed having guidelines, many of which are referenced in the new Policy, but the Committee has not adhered to those guidelines and has not applied them in any systematic or consistent way.

I have read the minutes from the Program Placement Committee meetings for the past several years, and I can absolutely assure you that there is no set process and no set criteria.

If you think that I posted any requirements, I suggest that you go back and read again. If you're still convinced, then I suggest you provide a link so we can all see it.

Charlie Mas said...

thinkup -

There is a name for inclusion models. They are called ALOs. I think they are wonderful. I'm a big fan of them. I wish there were more. Although they are very popular in north-end schools, there aren't very many south of downtown.

Spectrum is the name for self-contained programs.

So there is plenty of room for both self-contained programs and inclusion programs. In fact, there is a whole lot more room for inclusion programs because any school that wants to start an ALO is free to do so.

It's not a question of one-size-fits-all. It's odd that you would characterize it that way. In fact, it's just the other way around. Both Hay and Coe already offer inclusion programs in the Queen Anne/Magnolia Cluster. Without a self-contained option, then the one size for everyone will be inclusion with no self-contained option available. The only one-size that is available now is inclusion - not self-contained. There would have to be a self-contained option available to AVOID one-size-fits-all. To argue in favor of inclusion as Spectrum in Queen Anne/Magnolia is to argue in FAVOR of one-size-fits-all.

I think I've been pretty tactful not to suggest, as you did, that Lawton needs to deceive families into thinking that they are enrolling their children in a real Spectrum program in order to compete with the other inclusion programs in the cluster.

You wrote: "if Lawton can't call their program Spectrum, they face losing parents who are drawn to the District-endorsed program title"

I guess I have more confidence in the Lawton program than you. I think the school can tell people the truth about their program and still attract families that want it for their children.

What it does show is you recognition that families want the District-endorsed Spectrum program - the self-contained delivery model. So you acknowledge that people want it, but you feel it is somehow important to deny them that option. Hmmm.

I'm sorry if I can't participate in a deception, let alone promote it. For Lawton to advertise Spectrum but not deliver it is false.

I don't know that I have pronounced anything, for the entirety of the District or otherwise. I don't even think I have any authority for making any pronouncements. If you disagree with anything that I've written, you're free to dispute it. You're free to provide data or documents to support your perspective. I'd rather you supported your perspective with some sort of fact, but you're certainly under no obligation to do so.

If I've written on topics outside my expertise, as you suggest, then I will be happy to be informed. Do you have any information to share?

Do I have a take-no-prisoners prose style? Is that a bad thing? How would you characterize your prose style?

I advocate for students and families. I advocate for all students. I have spoken out for those at Marshall, those in south-end schools, those with special needs, those in alternative schools, those who cannot gain entry to their neighborhood schools.

As for tearing down vs. building up, I'm more positive than you give me credit for. For example, I think I've been pretty positive about the work done at Lawton. When I complain about a problem, I usually will suggest a solution. That may not be boosterism, but is is building up. I certainly don't "just criticize". I'm surprised to read that criticism.

Which reminds me, what building up have you done? Or have you only criticized as viciously as you could?

I suggest that you DO put it out to the people who read this blog. Because if they ARE reading this blog then they are reading a lot of what I write. If they didn't want to read it, then they wouldn't. I'm not holding a gun to anyone's head.

Anonymous said...

So let's just quit the ranting and raving and change the definitition of "Spectrum". Duh. Some places do it differently. Big deal. There's no guarantee that some program will look exactly the way YOU think it should or even the way any document said it would. This big long proposal should get right in line after the "My kid needs high school credit for middle school accomplishments.. or why not kindergarten."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1:14, you have missed every single point that Charlie made. They flew over your head like a 747.

I think Charlie is the one who should be saying, Duh, not you.

Charlie Mas said...

Change the definition of Spectrum? Certainly a viable option. In fact, it is an option that I mentioned at the end of my first comment on this posting.

The key here is honesty. If the District is going to define Spectrum as self-contained, which they have, and say that Lawton has Spectrum, which they have, then either:

A) Lawton should offer a self-contained delivery model

B) The District needs to change the label on the program

or C) The District needs to re-define the program.

The current situation, however, is dishonest.

It troubles me that so many people are so passionate about continuing the deception and denying these students access to a self-contained delivery model. It troubles me that they feel it is necessary to attack my character and intent when I advocate for honesty, for students, and for more options for families.

The school can do what they want. The District can do what they want. I'm not dictating to anyone - I don't have that kind of authority. I'm just pointing out the problem and asking for a solution. There are a number of solutions available - including a redefinition of Spectrum. I haven't written with acrimony; I haven't denigrated the work done at Lawton or any other school. I really don't understand the vitriol. In fact, I don't really understand the opposition.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One reason to have a definition for a program that is at multiple schools is so that parents don't have to wonder "which" Spectrum they will get and why one school does it differently than another. It leads to unease for parents wondering if Whittier's model is better than Lawton's or Lafayette's is better than Wedgwood's.

Anonymous said...

It's called consistency and predictability. It's what parents keep asking for.

I, like Charlie, think that if the district defines a program as being self contained, and then they advertise that a school offers that program, the school should offer it as it was defined. At this time, that would mean self contained. To do otherwise is deceitful, and causes mistrust in the district.

People are not dumb, they do figure it out, and then distrust the district with the education of their students.

Anonymous said...

1964 and others advocating for self-contained Spectrum constituting the sole Spectrum option: You are wrong to assume 1) that the current definition of Spectrum is limited to self-contained, and 2) that parents want only self-contained as an option.

The Advanced Learning website says the following:

The program is guided by four core principles:

Provide a rigorous curriculum.
Provide an accelerated curriculum that focuses on student proficiency in grade level expectations at grade level and one grade level beyond or more in reading and mathematics
Cluster district-identified students to form classroom rosters. District-identified students are students found eligible for the program through the District's testing process. Teacher-identified students are nominated by their teachers as having the skill readiness and motivation to participation in the Spectrum curriculum. Typically, teacher-identified students are selected for participation based on WASL, ITBS, and/or DRA (Direct Reading Assessment) scores as well as performance indicated on curriculum-based assessments. In those classes attended by district-identified and teacher-identified students, curriculum presented is the Spectrum curriculum (i.e., a curriculum that is accelerated and rigorous to reflect the learning needs of students who are academically gifted). As needed, teachers differentiate to meet the learning needs of students in the classroom to ensure all students are gaining academic skills.
Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of students who are academically gifted.

At no point do these core principles (or does the Advanced Learning website in general) state that Spectrum cannot occur in a "blended-style" classroom. In fact, the core principles even discuss differentiation to meet the needs of all students, a common element of blended classrooms.

Many, many parents prefer a "blended" model. Of the nine intelligences identified by Howard Gardner, the District testing addresses a narrow band. Education research consistently demonstrates that the higher the expectations and belief in students, the better they perform. This is why many parents appreciate a classroom with both Spectrum and non-Spectrum students.

Finally, Schools with a "blended" model don't hide it; they tout it--on school tours, in publications, to the District central office, and to the Advanced Learning office. There's no "deception," to use Charlie's phrasing. People choose these programs because they want them. If you don't like it, don't send your child to one, but don't advocate reducing others' choices simply becasue you like the idea of self-contained.

There's no reason under District policy or common sense to narrow the Spectrum definition to omit these academically rigorous inclusion classrooms from the paradigm we call Spectrum. And no, "blended" classrooms are not ALO. Many who have advocated in this area in the past know that ALO is a catch-all that really doesn't mean much, and doesn't attract a lot of parent respect. "Blended" Spectrum classrooms can be and in my experience have been extremely academically rigorous; they are Spectrum.

Charlie says, and perhaps rightly, put your money where your mouth is and say what I've done to support positive action in the District rather than simply stop at asking him to build up rather than tear down. I've been a schools activist since my first kid went to kindergarten, I'm employed at a school, I volunteer in classrooms, I have advocated with Council members and Legislators on children/family/school issues, and I have been involved in DV victim advocacy.

But to me it's not the "credentials" that are important it's the approach. We have an opportunity to move forward positively with a new Superintendent and act as a team. If we continue the "Seattle process" of cutting down everything that's not perfect, we all lose. Charlie, you may have many years of schools activism under your belt, but frankly how much can you show for it? I can't answer that, only you can. But since on many occasions I've read your posts describing how you have gone head to head with District staff, I wouldn't be surprised if you hadn't accomplished as much as you'd like. In my experience, if District staff dismiss you as obnoxious or aggressive, you will be consistently shut out, even when you have a fabulous idea, and I have seen good ideas from you. What I'm suggesting is a shift in approach. Hope it sounds like an idea worth your while.

Charlie Mas said...

thinkup accuses me of advocating a reduction in choice, but it is thinkup who wants to take an option off the table. There already are two excellent inclusion models in the Queen Anne/Magnolia cluster - Hay and Coe. The option they don't have in that cluster is self-contained. I want to add an option, not take one away. thinkup wants to take it away.

It is thinkup who is advocating reducing others' choices simply because thinkup doesn't like the idea of self-contained.

As for the legitimacy of "blended" programs, and doubts around the expectation that Spectrum is a self-contained delivery model, allow me to quote from the District web site. From the document, "Advanced Learning Increasing Understanding":

"Advanced Learning Opportunities (ALOs) are distinct from APP and Spectrum programs.

"ALOs are similar to APP and Spectrum programs in that they provide a rigorous curriculum and mastery of grade-level and beyond benchmarks as appropriate based on student learning needs. ALOs differ from APP and Spectrum in service delivery. ALOs are NOT required to serve students through self-contained/cohort service delivery models. ALOs deliver instruction within heterogeneous, inclusive learning environments supported through formalized plans for differentiated instruction and flexible grouping.

"ALOs exist because they provide staff a systematic and formalized way for identifying and addressing the learning needs of advanced learners that many times cannot be met without the differentiation of the general education curriculum.
"

thinkup is wrong about Spectrum not being intended as a self-contained program. Just plain wrong. Read the Lawton web site. It couldn't be more plain.

thinkup is wrong about Lawton not having an ALO; with the flexible grouping by skill level, it is a textbook ALO.

thinkup is also wrong to suggest that 1964 or I or anyone else who has posted here assumes that parents want only self-contained as an option. I have no idea where thinkup thought that up, but it is also just plain wrong. Please try to stick to actual statements that people actually made instead of the ones that you think up for them. No one has ever disputed the fact that inclusion programs are in demand. I have had only kind words for inclusion models. Which isn't true for thinkup.

thinkup is wrong to denigrate ALOs by saying "ALO is a catch-all that really doesn't mean much, and doesn't attract a lot of parent respect." It appears to me that thinkup is the one who is doing a lot of tearing down. Tearing down the reputations of ALOs, tearing down choice, tearing down self-contained. tak tak tak. Are you guilty of everything you have wrongly accused me of?

I would not suggest that thinkup doesn't recognize that some people - in fact a lot of people - like the self-contained delivery model. I would suggest, however, that thinkup would like to deny them that option in the Queen Anne Magnolia cluster and, no doubt, in a few others.

It's very funny to have the person who is trying to eliminate options accuse me of trying to eliminate options.

Of course some families prefer a blended model. They can get that at any school in the District. They have that option. Now, thinkup, tell us where QA/M families can they go for self-contained.

If thinkup had read the long quote that he or she posted above, thinkup would see that the teacher-identified students are supposed to be chosen carefully. They are supposed to be ones which the teachers believe are ready and able to succeed with the Spectrum curriculum. That isn't what they are doing at Lawton, is it? So by thinkup's own admission, Lawton isn't following the Spectrum service delivery model.

Lawton does not tout their inclusion model. They say, very clearly, that they hope to increase the enrollment in their program so they can have self-contained. That doesn't sound like they are touting it.

If Lawton were so proud of their inclusion model and it is in such demand, why is thinkup concerned that the program would collapse if it lost the Spectrum label?

What is thinkup afraid of? Would not the program at Lawton be just as good, just as rigorous, just as effective, and just as attractive to families without the Spectrum label? What would change about it?

thinkup you are wrong in your facts, you are wrong in your argument, you are wrong in your accusations, you are wrong in your fears, and you are wrong in your aims. If you weren't anonymous, I would have to beg you to please stop embarassing yourself this way. Fortunately, no one knows your name and you can slink away with your real life reputation intact.

I think we've all been very tolerant of your erroneous "facts", your straw man arguments, your vitriol, and your false accusations, but it needs to end now. I'm sorry to be so rough about this, but you didn't take the hints.

As for my record of effectiveness, I'm not disappointed. I think that I have had a role in a lot of change at the District. Most recently, my advocacy, in part, led to the new Program Placement Policy. There are people who think my work helped to save Spectrum a few years ago and APP last year. I have a Golden Acorn, if that means anything. I can talk to Board members or senior staff when I need to. I'm on good terms with nearly everyone. Regardless of the tone I take in print, in person I am a very friendly easy going guy who is ready to cut people a lot of slack. Folks who know me know that I will be honest with them and seriously consider the merit of their perspective. They know that if they ask me for my cooperation they will probably get it. I think I'm respected in some influential circles if only for my memory for details and analytical skills if nothing else.

To tell the truth, I never really think much about my effectiveness because even if all of my efforts were futile, that would not excuse me from the obligation to make them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And, Charlie signs his name to everything he writes.

Anonymous said...

"1964 and others advocating for self-contained Spectrum "

Thinkup you are thick headed.

I never, ever advocated for self contained classrooms. Ever.

I advocate for the district adhering to their own definition of a Spectrum classroom. It they define Spectrum as self contained, then it should be self contained. It is deceitful to define Spectrum as self contained, have a school advertise that they offer Spectrum, and then not provide self contained classrooms. It is a lie, and causes mistrust in the district.

So here it is AGAIN. I don't care how the district defines Spectrum, whether it is self contained, or not. What I care about is once they define it, and they have, as self contained, then they have an obligation to offer the program the way they define it.

They could say that Spectrum can be either self contained or offered as an ALO. But they don't. They say it is self contained. So, how can the Lawton program be Spectrum?? It isn't, by definition.

That doesn't mean it's not good. It means it isn't Spectrum, as Spectrum is defined. That is confusing to the public, and deceitful in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

"It may surprise you to learn, however, that there is no homework required for a principal or program manager make a proposal. There is no set process currently in place and no standard for acceptability."

I don't think so. Seems clear to me.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/progplace/index.dxml

Charlie Mas said...

anonymous at 9:02pm,
This is wonderful. Thanks for finding this and sharing it.

At the time of the original post there was no indication that the District was ready to formalize the process in time for this year.

We are all grateful to you.

Of course, this wasn't there when I wrote "There is no set process currently in place and no standard for acceptability." This Policy was adopted on 10/17 and the form was created on 10/18.

Anonymous said...

Same form with the words principal or program manager instead of requestor was used in prior years.

Anonymous said...

"thinkup accuses me of advocating a reduction in choice, but it is thinkup who wants to take an option off the table. There already are two excellent inclusion models in the Queen Anne/Magnolia cluster - Hay and Coe. The option they don't have in that cluster is self-contained. I want to add an option, not take one away. thinkup wants to take it away."

In your antagonism, Charlie, you have mis-stated. I think it would be great to have self-contained in the cluster as well. All I said, and I'll try to say it clearly again, was that the Spectrum definition should not omit inclusion programs. The more the merrier- bring them both on. That way parents can have choices.

"ALO's differ from APP and Spectrum in service delivery. ALOs are NOT required to serve students through self-contained/cohort service delivery models."

This statement just speaks to ALO's. Neither this statement nor any other on the District site operate to prohibit Spectrum inclusion models. With this question in mind, I called the Advanced Learning Office for clarity and was told that Spectrum classes are not required to be self-contained. I was referred to Consulting Teacher Roger Daniels, who's not in today so I wasn't able to speak with him. Anyone with further Q could give him a call- I was told he could explain in detail how Spectrum exists in both self-contained and non-self-contained classrooms.

And as to your other denigrations, I don't care to respond at that level. Instead, I'll simply say Thank You for your commitment to education in general, and I hope we can continue to see the whole district- parents, teacher, and administrators- move forward positively.

Charlie Mas said...

If we were to allow inclusion models to be recognized as Spectrum it would be the end of access to the self-contained model for a large number of students.

The QA/M Cluster provides an excellent example of how this would happen. If the District allows the inclusion model at Lawton to be regarded as Spectrum, then the families in that cluster will not have access to the self-contained model. It's that simple.

To allow inclusion models is to eliminate access to the self-contained model.

The former program manager of Advanced Learning went ahead and unilaterally re-defined a whole lot of things about the program. I don't know if she had that authority or not, but she wasn't doing the program or the students any favors. It was she who, all by herself, wrote that bit about the core priniciples. It was she who wrote all of that stuff about "teacher-identified" students. She made it all up herself. She completely surrendered the District's right to set and maintain standards for programs. She completely abdicated the District's authority to do so.

These changes that she made by herself - usually without even telling people that she had done it, let alone any sort of community engagement or collaboration - are totally bogus and will soon be set right again by the new program manager, who happens to be the old program manager.

When Joseph Olchefske and Raj Manhas were the Superintendent they didn't exercise any authority at all over schools. They allowed them to do whatever they wanted and, when the schools got into trouble, they left them there.

The current administration believes that the District has a role it regulating the schools. They have not, as Mssrs Olchefske and Manhas did, abdicated all responsibility and authority. The new administration will exercise that authority and put some appropriate limits on site-based decision-making.

Bob Vaughan is going to set some standards and he is going to make sure that the schools meet them.

One of those standards must be a self-contained model for Spectrum. Without it, there is no Spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

"Bob Vaughan is going to set some standards and he is going to make sure that the schools meet them."

Really? And how is it that you know this? What is the timeline, who is monitoring, and how will anyone know if this has been accomplished? Will he be fired if he does not do this?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie likely knows this (and boy, Anonymous, do you ask a lot of questions that you know he can't answer) because Bob Vaughn has been in this position before. Mr. Vaughn is a very smart, perceptive person who knows gifted education. I believe he left the district to try another area of gifted education (at UW under Nancy Robinson, one of the best minds on gifted education in the country)but also because he felt somewhat frustrated. I doubt he would have come back to the district without some firm promises about direction.

The timeline, etc. is up to the district. We'll know if this is happening if we spend less time and energy on testing and more on classroom needs. We'll know this is happening if teachers receive more professional development in differentiate teaching. And, in terms of what we have been discussing, we'll know if clear terms for each level of the gifted program are made crystal clear.

Again, the Superintendent seems headed towards a more uniform structure. Will that include the gifted program? I don't know but I don't know why she would do it in some areas and not others.

Anonymous said...

When Charlie and others make unequivocal statements, such as the one I quoted, they need to be able to answer the hard questions. Sorry.