APP Times' Op-Ed

The Times printed an op-ed this morning by a Lowell parent, Al Sanders, who thinks Lowell APP should be split up but proceeds to use the 7 stages of grief to pick apart arguments against splitting and moving Lowell. Mr. Sanders' student has been at Lowell 3 months. Unfortunately, he doesn't really give his reasoning why it's a good idea and what APP students are getting out of it. He says:

"I would rather work toward the goal that if it can work at Lowell, with the right conditions, it can work at Thurgood, Hawthorne or any other Seattle school. I think that maybe, just maybe instead of focusing on trying to prevent the inevitable, that people would start accepting it and begin working on trying to make it successful at the next school our community is going to be part of."

I note that phrase "with the right conditions". Just like Thorton Creek is worried, I think Lowell is justifiably worried. These are three huges moves (one for Thorton Creek and two for APP) that really need a lot of attention and care. At last night's Board meeting, Carla Santorno outlined the role of these program design teams that sounded broad and vague.

My problem with the moves at both schools is that (1) what do the existing students get out of these moves and (2) has the district ever done anything like this scope of work well before?


Ben said…
I am troubled by the piece in the Times today. You don't need to agree with my objections to the split, but they are rational and principled. They are not the result of my being "selfish" or "insular" and they don't deserve mockery.

I believe a robust APP cohort is necessary. I have heard nothing from SPS about how the split will avoid turning into another Madrona. I am skeptical that the mysterious design teams will have the time, authority, budget, or vision to work out the problems. I still don't understand how the split is going to improve diversity within APP.

The author of the piece is (of course) entitled to his opinion, but by having his opinion published in the paper, his voice is necessarily given more weight, or at least the appearance of authority.

Many Lowell parents share my views about the split.
another mom said…
Ben- if APP parents have not yet read the numerous reports submitted by the old APP Task Force to the District regarding a split APP, they should. These documents date to the very early 1990's, when the district first proposed splitting the program in a facilities master plan. There are useful in terms of framing the reasons why APP should remain intact. And it is worth asking the question, just how a split APP will increase the diversity of the program.In particular the so-called "north APP."
Ruthie said…
Sanders' piece creates the mistaken impression that Lowell parents would rather run around with "pitchforks and torches" (his words) than work to improve equity and access to APP. That is untrue and I suspect Sanders knows it, but it's much easier to rant at other parents than to try to hold the district accountable.

How does the district propose to ensure equity between two APP sites? How does the district propose to make co-location a success, when it's failed in the past? How can Marshall become the fantastic and growing program envisoned by Bob Vaughn when the school will be full to capacity the moment APP students walk through the doors?

Don't talk to us about design teams. Give us the answers. Lowell parents whose kids will be assigned to Marshall - like mine -are ready and willing to roll up our sleeves. What we object to is being set up to fail.
Charlie Mas said…
I, personally, don't oppose the split of APP at either the elementary or the middle school level, although I would like to see some backup inserted into the District's vision of how the program will work at all four of the revised locations.

Some of the folks who are working to oppose the split at Lowell asked me for their support and I sent them some ideas for how to oppose the split or - if that proves futile - how to make the best of it.

Here's what I sent them:

I think it would be good to acknowledge the elements of the plan that are workable. For example, I think that cohorts of 250 are, unquestionably, of sufficient size to form viable and sustainable learning communities. We see strong Spectrum programs that are less than half that size.

However, we need clarity about how classes will be formed. Will there be a first grade class at each location? Will the schools mix grades when the enrollment brings awkward numbers such as 15 first graders and 35 second graders? That's an issue that needs to be resolved in advance. It speaks directly to academic effectiveness.

The Board Policy (D12.00) calls for APP students to interact with other students, an experience that we have valued at Washington and Garfield and missed at Lowell. It will be good for the kids to spend school time with typically developing peers.

However, the Policy also prohibits any increase in the number of self-contained program sites. While the number of sites can be increased (subject to Board review) that can only occur in the event of substantial District wide enrollment growth. The District wide enrollment has been declining for years, so the prohibition remains in place. The Board can pretend that the Policy doesn't say what it says, but it is inherently dishonest and detracts from the District's fragile credibility. Change the Policy if you don't like it, but don't violate it.

The Policy (D12.00) clearly requires any additional program sites to be distributed geographically and among clusters. This part is not ambiguous in any way. In the current proposal both of the sites are in the same cluster and not distributed geographically at all. The site for the north-end students needs to be in the north-end. If not at B.F. Day then elsewhere. McDonald, listed in the Facilities Master Plan as an interim site, is an option. There are others: Wilson-Pacific, Pinehurst, Sand Point, John Marshall, and more. If the District cannot find a north-end location, then the District will simply have to defer this action until such time as they can. There is a lot of talk about moving the program closer to the students' homes to improve access and according to Board Policy C56.00. This needs to be true in all parts of the district. The Lowell location is unquestionably inappropriate for a north-end program.

The District could meet the capacity management goals, save more money, and cause significantly less disruption by simply closing Hawthorne and expanding the Central cluster school reference areas to the south with the coming assignment plan. Thanks to its size, Lowell is one of the most cost effective schools in the District. Closing Hawthorne would save all of the same money that the District would have saved from closing Lowell in the preliminary proposal and would save all of the money that the District would save from closing Montlake in the current proposal. It would only relocate about 230 students instead of nearly 500.

There's no telling how the neighborhood reference areas will be redrawn when the Board finally gets around to writing the new student assignment plan that was originally due last spring.

However, it is very unlikely that the new Lowell reference area will encompass much of the Montlake reference area in 2010, and probably not the eastern part, the blocks immediately around the school, where most of the Montlake students live. A critical element of the new assignment plan will be the District's assurance - if not guarantee - that families will be able to enroll their children at their neighborhood reference school. If Montlake is closed, a lot of the Montlake reference area - particularly the eastern part - will be in the new redrawn reference area for Stevens. Will the District be able to assure those current Montlake students who are moved to Lowell in 2009 and find themselves in the new Stevens reference area with the new assignment plan, that they can enroll at Stevens in 2010 if they so choose? Stevens is already full. It is unlikely that many Stevens students will elect to leave in 2010. Will there be room for about 100 Montlake-Lowell-Stevens students at Stevens? Will they be able to enroll at their neighborhood reference area school? I don't think so. Closing Montlake will force the District to renege on their promise of access to your reference school - this failure to fulfill a commitment will come in one of the communities that really needs that guarantee. This predictable failure will significantly detract from the new assignment plan's success, the District's credibility as an institution and the credibility of the Board and the Superintendent as individuals.

The goal of capacity management is to right size the District. That's a laudable goal. Towards this goal the District has counted the capacity of its facilities and counted the number of students. The latest iteration of the plan (close TT Minor, close Montlake, move Montlake students to Lowell, move half of Lowell APP students to Thurgood Marshall) does reduce the capacity of the Central Cluster to about where it should be.

However, the District should do a deeper analysis than simply considering the Central Cluster as a whole. The excess capacity is in the south end of the cluster. There is, in fact, a shortage of capacity in the north end of the cluster. A shortage that drives families into private schools. The District could increase capacity in this part of the District and, with the assurance of access to the neighborhood school, fill that new capacity with students now in private schools. Just as it makes little sense to close a school in the north-end of the district where we need more capacity, it makes little sense to close a school in the north-end of the central cluster, where we need more capacity.

Why is it that the District feels it is necessary to relocate the Montlake students to Lowell instead of the T T Minor students? How are these two populations different that one set should get a preferred assignment to a specific location and the opportunity to remain intact while the other community is not granted a preferred assignment and is dispersed? Why aren't the two communities treated the same with the same preferences and opportunities? TT Minor and the TT Minor reference area are closer to Lowell than Montlake and the Montlake reference area. Why doesn't the District say that they are moving the TT Minor students into Lowell?

Capacity Management is part of the Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan relies heavily on the data gathered in outside reviews. The APP Review gave specific warning to the District that if they were to reconfigure APP and co-house it with a general education program to avoid divisive situations caused by disparities - academic, cultural, and socio-economic - between the APP population and the general education population. The Review did not suggest that the District could do it if they took steps to minimize divisiveness; they said not to do it. The selection of Thurgood Marshall as an APP site appears to run contrary to that advice. Why is the District not following that advice?

It's wonderful that the District is going to assign a Design Team to help create a new culture at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall in nine months. There has been absolutely no explanation of how these super-heroes are going to accomplish this feat. We need a lot more explanation about Design Teams before we can accept the claim that the Design Team will fix everything that went wrong at Madrona. Who are on the Design Teams? How much time and other resources will they be given to complete their work? What is the scope of their charge? What is the extent of their authority? How long will they be around? Please don't tell us that the District will make every effort to assure a smooth integration and the creation of a single community; surely the District was making every effort at Madrona. We expect our children to study history and learn from it; shouldn't we do the same?
Kirsten Wild said…
I was hoping to speak at the Lowell hearing tonight as a waitlist person, but that's seeming more & more unlikely as the snow continues to fall. Here's what I would say:

I should preface this by stating that my family and I live in the SE Cluster at the far south end of Rainier Beach, and I will be speaking from that perspective.

I have been frustrated by the lack of clear goals in the closure/consolidation process. It makes any rational decision-making difficult if not impossible, and leaves school communities feeling targeted at the expense of others.

If your goal is saving money, don’t split and move the elementary APP program. Lowell is currently working well, with efficient teachers and staff and happy students. It is a successful program. The school recently had facility upgrades. Transportation costs have been minimized by coordinating with TOPs and the District actually makes money through the Special Needs transportation funding.

If your goal is the best academic environment possible for elementary APP students, don’t split and move the elementary APP program. It flies in the face of numerous academic studies and the District’s own evaluation report of the gifted program. It’s a super program in which kids can simply go to school without being labeled as “smart kids.”

If your goal is to increase enrollment diversity in the APP program, which I think is a worthwhile goal, than please – slow down, identify the real issues, and ask yourself if the current proposal will actually achieve that goal. How many low income and minority students test into APP and chose not to attend? What are the reasons for this? I do not think that physical access is the stumbling block – my daughter rides a bus from the far south end of Rainier Beach and the ride is a very reasonable 45 minutes. I believe there is a high likelihood that the current proposal to co-locate half of the elementary APP program at Thurgood Marshall will increase resentment of the APP program among minority families by magnifying the perceived disparities between programs. Sharing resources only goes so far when the goals of the programs are so disparate. It doesn’t help that the APP program will dislocate students from the general education program.

A more transparent and less disruptive approach to increasing diversity would be to locate a “South End” elementary APP program in an empty school building and grow a Spectrum/ALO program alongside it, with active recruitment of minority and low income students. Active recruitment would require funds for testing all students and teacher training to recognize students who would be good candidates for advanced learning programs. As an aside, my daughter’s New School Kindergarten teacher was not aware of the APP program or the testing program. I believe some form of parent outreach is necessary to make minority families whose children test into an advanced learning program feel welcome and comfortable. Some form of sensitivity training may be required of current APP families and students.

In conclusion, I think the current APP/Thurgood Marshall co-location proposal could result in a clash of cultures and ensuing resentments that will exacerbate the same stereotypes that make minority families feel uncomfortable with the APP community. There are ways to increase diversity in the APP program, but they are not cheap or easy or quick and they do not involve co-locating two very different programs in one building and hoping for the best.

My response to Al's piece is, firstly, "fury" is a poor choice of words - numerous parents at Lowell have been carefully working up respectful and rational responses to the District. Secondly, the reason "it" works at Lowell is because, as Al notes, the students have very similar academic needs and thus there's no competition for resources. I wish I could believe that rolling up our sleeves will make it work, but I'm becoming more cynical by the day.
Kirsten, the fact that your child's kindergarten teacher didn't know about APP speaks volumes.

First, Bob Vaughn (and Colleen Stump before him)and his office have done a lot of outreach. They have tried just about everything they can to get the word out and reach families (he, at one point, was calling families, based on their child's WASL score, and some got mad at him).

But second, there has been a loooong history of pushback from schools (principals and teachers) on the whole Advanced Learning programs (not so much ALOs but Spectrum and APP). This happened a lot at schools in the south end where applications would mysteriously disappear from main office counters, posters were gone from bulletin boards and announcements not made by principals.

Some of it was because of the existence of belief within some in the education community that these programs are exclusionary and wrong. (You also have this from some parents.) Of course, the difference between parents and teachers/administrators is that parents can make decisions for their children and teachers and administrators should not. Meaning, to hide information or refuse to give it out doesn't allow parents to make decisions on their own. Now parents could seek out such information elsewhere but if you were a parent with little ability to go elsewhere or you depend on your school for information and guidance, you might just go with what your school tells you.

And, since the advent of WASL testing 3-8, then you REALLY have some schools that don't want to tell parents/students about these programs because they simply don't want their high achievers to leave and take their scores with them.

I have asked over and over, for years, for the district to make sure that information is getting out to parents (even by making spot checks at schools to make sure the information is out in public view). I have no idea if teachers are getting or giving this information.
Ruthie said…
At our child's south cluster elementary, no one at the school ever mentioned APP testing to us. It's a great school with a vibrant community, but it has no ALO or Spectrum. The vibe definitely was that any sort of gifted ed is exclusionary.

However much we loved that school, our child's academic needs weren't being met there. He wasn't comfortable being the teacher's helper, and after a while being sent to the library isn't fun anymore. After a friend raved about how great Lowell had been for her child (who is multiracial), we had our child tested through the school district. I downloaded the form from the district's website, filled it out, and made sure the teacher filled out her piece.

When our child qualified, I spoke at length to the teachers, principal, and other parents at the school, all of whom discouraged us from choosing APP. The implication was that if we were really concerned about equity in education, we wouldn't do it. I will not repeat some of the comments that were made to me.

We agonized for well over a month about what to do. My husband and I are both public school educated. We've both spent big chunks of our lives involved in social justice movements. We spent a lot of time very hung up about whether we could choose APP and remain committed to our ideals.

In the end, we got over ourselves and chose APP. Lowell has been terrific for our child. The thing that kills me is that it would be terrific for a bunch of the kids who were in his class at the old school too, and probably for many kids in the south end. It kills me that we don't have universal testing, or some other proactive way of identifying kids who could benefit.

Does splitting the cohort really move us in the direction of equity? If there is APP at Thurgood Marshall, will the principal and teachers at my child's old school suddenly start to embrace the program? I honestly don't think so.
Beth Bakeman said…
Ruthie, There was a principal named Ed James who told me that when he worked at a south end elementary school he had all kids tested for APP. He said it used to annoy the district because of the added cost. But he did it from a social justice perspective.

I loved the story and just wanted to share it with APP parents.
Free said…
Good on Ed James!

Years ago, we asked our son's kindergarten teacher and principal if we should test him. They did not encourage it, because he did not "fit the profile" -- being both well-rounded and social.

We tested him anyway. He was off the charts.

I tell this story because all of us -- parents and experienced educators alike -- are vulnerable to stereotyping.

Universal testing obviates that bias.

(The kind of test is another question. The math achievement test, for example, seems more a measure of a child's exposure to concepts than the potential to learn them, and thus is slanted toward younger kids and those from rigorous schools.)
anonymous said…
Perhaps the district should mail APP testing forms to parents directly? Or, if that's too expensive, email to everyone with an email address and snail mail to the rest. It seems like of all the money the district carelessly spends this would be a worthwhile expenditure.
Tosca said…
Regarding universal testing, I heard recently that part of the discrepancy for who is eligible for APP indeed has to do with how schools handle testing. Schools in the NE Cluster indeed test many, many children, while schools in the SE will only text a few.

The tests themselves are fraught with problems, but at least leveling the playing field by testing/screening across the boards would be a step in the right direction.
Maureen said…
Didn't they test all first graders about six years ago (current 7th graders all were tested)? Did that result in a more representative cohort? Is that data available?
another mom said…
Universal screening was done about five or six years ago. All first graders were tested. Parents were given the opportunity to opt out. This particular universal screening did not increase diversity in Spectrum and APP.It may have had the opposite effect. There is no perfect test or screening device that will identify all students for advanced programs. Multiple measures are the very best. It used to be that cognitive testing, academic testing, and teacher recommendations were all considered. I believe that is still the case.
anonymous said…
I don't like the idea of universal testing. Our kids already spend so much time on the WASL, I can't imagine adding another 3 or 4 hour test.

And many families simply do not want to take their children out of their neighborhoods and away from the schools they are happy with, where their friends are, even if they do qualify for APP or Spectrum. Then there are the families in alt schools who choose these schools for their pedagogy, and wouldn't even consider moving their kids to APP - even if they qualify. And for the thousands of kids who will be manditoily tested who don't qualify, what a time sink for them, and again what a huge expense on the district.

Advanced learning whether it be ALO, Spectrum or APP is a choice. We can not and should not force families to test their children.

What we can do is make sure that teachers are educated about advanced learning and have them encourage families who they think may qualify to test their kids. We can require principals to post testing information in visible locations throughout the school, not just in the office (where parents don't usually go). We have to make sure that everyone is aware that this is an option, and make sure that every family has access to the application and information. As I mentioned in an earlier post the district could mail applications to every family, or email all with email, and snail mail the rest.
Anonymous said…
Since principals and teachers have such strong career incentives to keep high-achieving kids in their buildings, why don't we balance those incentives by offering small cash bonuses to teachers and principals every time one of their free- or reduced-price lunch or racial minority students test into and enroll in APP (and perhaps Spectrum)?
anonymous said…
amsiegel the idea of some type of incentive to a school based on kids testing into APP or Spectrum is a great idea!

A child leaving their current school for an APP or Spectrum school is punitive to their original school in several ways.

1- That school loses a student that in all likelihood raised their test scores.

2- When a student moves to an APP or Spectrum school their current school loses the dollars that went with that student. They now go to the new school.

3- The current school loses enrollment. While a popular school may be able to fill the vacant space at an upper grade, less popular schools have a much harder time.

So why would any school encourage testing with this punitive system? And, this does not only affect minority or low income schools. This is the case for every school in the district, though low income schools probably feel it more.
SPS Family said…
What do they accomplish by splitting APP?

Face facts: Any APP split based on north-south residence address is DELIBERATE & PLANNED, DE FACTO SEGREGATION.


White kids in APP North who would "test in" during elementary school risk permanent assignment for their entire school career to segregated classes with only white kids. This in a so-called "public" school.

Having all APP kids from the entire city kept together increases the opportunity for contact between kids from different economic and racial backgrounds.

How much could it really help with the budget shortfall. Kids will still need to be bused to the two sites. Have they provided actual cost savings data?

APP Split doesn't improve academics for anyone. It actually puts at risk the quality of instruction for qualifying southend kids by reducing the size of the APP group in their school.

Do parents really believe the schools will offer separate accelerated classrooms in APP South even if it isn't full for some grades? Of course not, they will insist spaces in every classroom are filled.

Then isn't "increasing access" codespeak for "blended" watered-down APP? Especially in the South End which has greater risk of not filling all classrooms for all grades?

Does Superintendent envision some utopian "blended APP" classrooms whenever South APP can't fill a grade? Rainbow classrooms full of first graders reading Harry Potter alongside kids who can't read and kids with little English, all happily receiving differentiated instruction? Has she even observed a classroom at Lowell to see what those kids are doing in school?

"APP North" will probably regularly have enough kids to fill every grade. They will have a higher percentage of families that are able to provide resources and support to classroom and PTA.

First they tell us Lowell must close because it's in terrible shape. Now the building's good enough for Montlake. What gives?

Stop the APP split!
Free said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Free said…
Adhoc, universal testing does not mean mandatory testing. Parents can opt out. (My own parents rejected all attempts to place me in gifted ed, to my grief and detriment!).

As for the test being onerous, according to both my APP and non-APP kids, it was "no big deal" and took less than 3 hours. Unlike the WASL, there is no prep and no pressure.

I agree the district should, at minimum, snail- or e-mail the test info to homes. It would be great if it was accompanied by research findings about the profoundly gifted, provided in the same tone and tenor as info about special education is delivered.

Just a word about Al Sander's labeling of Lowell parents who question the split as insular. I reject that.

It ignores the fact that many of us mainstream our APP kids every single day, at home with their gen ed (and/or spec ed) siblings, in our neighborhoods, sports fields, etc.

We have upfront and personal experience with the academic and psychosocial needs of our APP kids as well as our nonAPP kids.

That experience makes many of us prefer standalone gifted programs.

And thus far, we don't have any evidence that the proposed cohousing will work -- in fact, gifted ed reseearch, SDS history and the U of V recommendations indicate otherwise.

If Al is saying "insular" as code for racist, I reject that also. Lowell parents and Bob Vaughan have been working hard at attracting minorities.

We northenders will be LOSING diversity if the split goes through as planned.

How can that fulfill the district's goals?!
anonymous said…
"Face facts: Any APP split based on north-south residence address is DELIBERATE & PLANNED, DE FACTO SEGREGATION. "


How can having two locations, one in each part of our city, so kids can go to school close (or closer) to their homes, be manipulated to look like deliberate racism?

We have neighborhood schools in south Seattle and in north Seattle. Why isn't this considered deliberate racism?

What else looks like racism to you?

There is a mall at Southcenter and a mall at Northgate. Is this another example of intentional segregation?

There is a drivers license bureau on Rainier Ave. in South Seattle and one in Greenwood in north Seattle. Segregation? Racism??

There is a Swedish hospital in Capitol Hill and another in Ballard. More racism?? I mean really can't we just have one centrally located hospital for the entire city?

Should I go on??
Anonymous said…

It isn't the simple fact of having two APP sites that looks like "deliberate and planned de facto segregation," it is kicking the kids from the more racially diverse half of the city out of the established program and sending them off to an as-yet-undesigned program with no commitment of resources to build an equivalent program and a less wealthy parent base to fall back on.
SPS Family said…

Parents still have some degree of choice in their school assignment in neighborhood schools or spectrum that is not based on their residence address being north or south of the ship canal.

Splitting APP based on North-South residence address GUARANTEES that kids in APP will be the only ones assigned without choice based on their address, to separate classrooms restricted to APP kids from their end of town.

Are you sure that's what you want, adhoc?

A single central location is the only way to guarantee equal access for all Seattle's kids.

What does anyone gain by splitting APP.

(Oh, and you forgot to add Northwest Hospital and Children's are also both in North Seattle. And no, we have no hospitals AT ALL in South or West Seattle. But what does that have to do with mandatory assignment to public schools based on address?)
CS said…
There is a centrally located hospital for the whole city. It's called Harborview.
Tosca said…
I know this has been mentioned here before, but I continue to be bothered by the Lowell/Montlake/TT Minor proposals.

As an APP parent, I am happy to argue against the split happening right now (although I think it will happen one day soon.) But assuming that the district and board are intent on making this happen this year, I am disturbed at how Montlake and Minor are being treated in all of this and, to a lesser degree, what the implications are for the APP co-housed programs.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the parent of a 2nd grade APP student, who would be part of the move to Marshall, and therefore we are not directly impacted by who moves where in the Central Cluster. And I still believe that if APP must be split, then the "APP North" site should be in the north (such as BF Day). While I am not in favor of the split this year, I am pleased to see the revised recommendation that keeps Lowell open and allows the Special Ed students to stay more or less as a cohort in classrooms that were designed for them.

That said: Why does the latest proposal move Montlake as a whole into Lowell but disperse TT Minor into 2 different schools? Where is the equity in that?

- T.T. Minor has 206 students, Montlake 237 - so roughly the same size. If anything, moving the Minor population en masse offers more room to grow APP, ALO and Montessori programs at Lowell.

- Lowell is the roughly the same distance from T.T. Minor (.9 mi) as the proposed receiver schools of Madrona (.9 mi) and Leschi (1.2 mi). Montlake is actually further from Lowell at 1.9 mi.

- Moving the Montessori program from Minor to Leschi, while helping with capacity at Leschi, only makes the program less geographically accessible to Central cluster families.

- Shouldn't the focus at Leschi be on growing the underenrolled Spectrum program (isn't improving Spectrum offerings throughout the city part of the larger picture for Advanced Learning? How does moving Montessori in at Leschi help achieve that goal?

- By bringing at least some of the TT Minor students into Lowell, wouldn't the overall demographics (ethnicity, FRE, etc.) of the new Lowell and the new Marshall be much more in line? Part of the argument for splitting APP is to make it more accessible and attractive to underreppresented students & families. By cutting APP in two, much of the diversity and less economically advantaged students that exist in the program now will move south to Marshall. How does moving a highly white and well-off Montlake population create balance between the new Lowell and new Marshall? Also, wouldn't this help to allay some of the concerns about the powerful PTA fundraising capabilty of a joint APP North/Montlake community?

I would suggest this instead:

If closures must happen, and if APP must be split, do close both Montlake & TT Minor in order to right size capacity in the Central Cluster.

With the c. 250 general ed seats at Lowell open them up in the following order:

1. Move the Montessori program into Lowell. It's the only piece that is actually a unified program. I can't find the enrollment data, but it looks like there are two classrooms at Minor, so I assume that would be 50-60 students.

2. Give priority to the students from Montlake and Minor who actually live in their home reference areas. According to district data, this is 60 Minor students and 117 Montlake students. I don't know how many of these are fifth graders (so fewer students), or what the incoming siblings would be (more students), so those could be factors.

3. Send the remaining students from Minor and Montlake back to their home reference school or the school of their choice depending on the regular enrollment guidelines.

Because Montlake and Minor reference areas are the closest to Lowell (besides Stevens), this ought to help reduce the cost of transportation as well.

Finally, in regards to both the "new" Marshall and Lowell, how does this relate to the new Student Assignment Plan. What is the vision is for the general education portion of these schools? Will these be neighborhood schools with a reference area? Or as ALO programs, will these sites become more like magnet schools without a specific reference area, drawing students looking for more of a challenge from acroos the Cluster?

Apologies to Charlie and Melissa and anyone else who has made this point already, but it just continues to bother me.

anonymous said…
Let me be clear I am not advocating for an APP split. I do not know enough about the program to advocate for or against the split.

I am willing to hear any reasonable argument pro or con.

However, manipulating the proposal to insinuate that there is some racist agenda or..."DELIBERATE & PLANNED, DE FACTO SEGREGATION" is simply ridiculous.

And just whose racist agenda would this be? Not the APP community, they don't seem to want the split. So who then? MGJ? Hardly seems rational.
anonymous said…
In reference to APP, SPS family said "A single central location is the only way to guarantee equal access for all Seattle's kids"

Can you explain this statement further sps family? I thought that every single student who qualifies for APP is guaranteed a seat in the APP program. That guarantee holds whether there is one central location or two locations.

Either way every single student is still guaranteed a seat in the APP program, and wouldn't that be, well........"equal access for all Seattle kids"?
Ben said…
I still don't understand how the split—which I oppose—will increase racial diversity within APP.

The assumption (I guess) is that there are many African American families who 1) choose not to have their kids tested because they wouldn't want them going to the "elitist," too homogenous Lowell, or 2) choose not to send their kids to Lowell after they score high enough on the test (presumably for the same reasons).

How does moving APP to Thurgood Marshall address this? Most of the APP kids who will be attending Marshall are not African American. As it stands now, APP is 68% white, 23% Asian, and 3% African American. (Seattle as a whole is 70%, 13%, 8%.)

(Marshall is about 3 miles from Lowell. I find it hard to believe that those 3 miles account for African American families' reluctance to enroll in APP.)

So on the first day of school, Marshall's APP will appear just as "elitist" and un-diverse as Lowell does now. Why will non-white families be any more inclined to have their kids take the test, or if they score high enough, attend APP?

I don't get it.
SPS Family said…

There is none so blind as he who will not see.

Look at the map and try to understand that minority and low-income neighborhoods are predominately clustered in Central and South Seattle.

So an APP split based on whether kids live north or south of the ship canal DOES INEVITABLY CREATE MORE RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC IMBALANCE IN APP CLASSROOMS, regardless of stated intention.

It WILL BE the obvious result, so it's not an unforseen consequence but a PLANNED one, if an APP split based on north-south residence address is approved. Seattle has an unfortunate history of legalized housing segregation through the 1970s which has persisted to this day.

North APP kids will be in separate accelerated classrooms which will be predominately white under the new plan, with the SAME white friends, through 5th or perhaps 8th grade.

Meanwhile the regular ed kids in that building may be more racially balanced, but what does that teach EVERY child in that school building?

That "bright kids are almost always White?"

Of course we know that's not true but isn't that what the kids will see EVERY DAY at school?

I don't want my child in a school like that.

I also wouldn't want my child in a South APP. The district has never offered the same quality of education in Central Area or Southend schools so why would I believe they will suddenly start. In fact I'd be worried they could use an excuse that the APP South accelerated classrooms make do with whatever their peers in the building do, so as not to show favoritism. And the teachers may very likely dumb-down the curriculum, however unconsciously, if they see kids in APP who talk loud or have worn clothes or free lunches. They will slow it down even more if the district forces "blended" classrooms shared by APP and non-APP kids whenever they don't have 32 testing in for a grade level to fill a class. And what if they have 40? Do you want your kid to be one of the eight APP kids in the blended regular ed classroom?

Having a single, central location ensures equity of access to families for afterschool functions, picking up kids for appointments, volunteering at school using metro bus, etc., regardless of address. It ensures the district won't start up an APP in northend only to CANCEL TRANSPORTATION TO CENTRAL AND SOUTHEND FAMILIES IN A FEW YEARS CLAIMING THEY CAN'T AFFORD TO BUS ANYMORE.

I'm concerned minority families may shun a split South APP even more than they do with Lowell now, knowing the academics will likely not be as rigorous as North APP and their kids will have to navigate school torn between their tiny contingent of APP friends and the neighborhood regular ed kids who might taunt or bully them on playground, lunchroom, or bus.

I'm aware current APP is not as diverse as it should be. So why is District not being held accountable for this? for making sure every gifted child in every school is identified and offered the opportunity for accelerated instruction? Is this not the DIVERSITY OFFICER'S JOB? Why is it left to the whim of building staff whether or not to announce testing? Why isn't the District out there talking to parents of APP-qualified children who don't elect to move them to see how they could tailor the program to meet their kids needs?
Free said…
Keep asking, Ben and SPS Family and everyone else who fails to see how the split will increase diversity. We deserve answers.
Charlie Mas said…
The split will not increase the diversity in APP. Anyone who suggests such a thing is, at best, ill-informed and, at worst, deceptive.

Nor will the split spell disaster for any of the students in the program. It will not lead to an accelerated program for White students from the north-end and a "dumbed-down" or "blended" program for minority students in the south-end. Such talk is, at best, groundless conjecture, and at worst, chicken-little panic. Either way it's talking smack.

It simply will not be allowed to occur, in part because people will be diligently protecting against it but primarily because NO ONE WANTS THAT TO HAPPEN.

Get a grip, okay? Talk to Bob Vaughan. Listen to the man. Talk to Carla Santorno and, if you can, Maria Goodloe-Johnson. When their names are announced, talk to the principals at the APP schools. This fear is groundless and irrational. Please stop spending panic.
Anonymous said…

I'm not saying that time won't prove you right, but how can you be so certain that there will be equity between the two sites?

In an era of budget crunch, why do you think the district will come up with the money to do TM justice? In a district with a history of allowing wide disparities between schools in different parts of the city, why are so sure this time will be different just because some of the kids are APP? In a state that pathetically relies on parents to fund many essential educational program, why are you confident that the $ disparities between North/Montlake and South/TM won't create disparate programs?

Bob Vaughn's good faith is a nice start but it isn't enough to convince me that you are right.
Free said…
Charlie, I'm both confounded and amused by your dismissal of the fears of inequities between Lowell and Marshall as "chicken little" "smack" and "irrational." Breezy writing, but its coming from both sides of your pie hole.

Put down the eggnog.

It was you who recently (and deftly) schooled us on the history of undelivered promises by the district.

Many of us heretics would like to have faith in Bob Vaughan, et al, but we're just not that into faith-based campaigns.

We need some some facts to pin our hopes on.
SPS Family said…
I too hope it doesn't happen but honestly concerned that it likely would.

South APP will have fewer kids in younger grades. Do you believe they will have separate accelerated class of a dozen APP first graders and also a regular ed of 32 down the hall and a wait-list at the school? With their new "no choice" assignment plan on the way? Of course not, South APP kids will be in "blended" classrooms with relaxed academic standards so as to be "more inclusive" and to equalize the number of kids each teacher has after regular ed parents clamor for fair class sizes and the waste of resources having a teacher for just a dozen kids.

North APP will be smaller too, with kids in class with the same peers year after year, and LESS diversity in North (as no thinking minority parent wants their kid to be "The Black Kid" in mostly-white North APP classroom but ineligible for choosing South APP if they live north of ship canal).

Charlie, just who will be "protecting against it but primarily because NO ONE WANTS THAT TO HAPPEN"? The parents with power, money, and influence (doctor and lawyer Moms are especially strong advocates) will be concentrated in North APP because by residence address nobody will have any choice.

How much control can South APP parents have if the building principal refuses to support their changes (remember Madrona?) or if a new principal comes in who "doesn't believe in" APP because differentiated instruction is good enough?

There is variation already between teachers at Lowell in terms of quality and how closely they follow curriculum. At least now it's fair because kids are mixed by address. How much closer to impossible will it be to correct variation in program quality when APP is split between two sites?

How long will Bob Vaughn and Carol Santorno be around? Look back at the turnover central office has had the past several years in Academic department.

A quick visit to any Central- or South- located "spectrum" program should clear up your doubts, Charlie. How many parents with kids at Leschi "spectrum" or High Point "spectrum" WANT their kids spectrum to be weaker than Lafayette's? They have no choice, they are outnumbered. REMEMBER, SPECTRUM WAS MANDATED TO HAVE SEPARATE CLASSROOMS TOO BUT WHAT IS THE REALITY NOW, CHARLIE.

Did America not learn from Brown in 1954 that only way to be sure gifted minority kids have access to the same quality curriculum is to have them in the same classroom as the non-minority kids. Or is that irrelevant to Seattle now? Hear me out...

Is it far-fetched to anticipate district wants to make APP go away? By choosing to ignore the facts and a North-South split is challenged in court and deemed a violation of federal anti-segregation laws? Can't we all just see district gleefully losing such a lawsuit, then claiming to have "no space" for APP to re-combine? so SORRY, NO MORE APP! FOR ANYONE.

Before you post reply that I am imagining a conspiracy theory, please do yourself the favor of 30 seconds thinking this through as it might be a possibility. Haven't they been wanting to sweep APP under the rug for some time? Is this their easy way out, divide and conquer.

SPS Parents must DEMAND PLAN SPECIFICS on how a split will be implemented! Stop blandly accepting empty district promises. Until then, NO APP SPLIT!
SPS Family said…
Hypothetical question. Why would a Beacon Hill family choose Spectrum at Lafayette for their kids, all the way in West Seattle, when they have the "same" program at John Muir that's also called "spectrum", in their own cluster complete with convenient yellow bus transportation?

I'd guess because Lafayette Spectrum is bigger and stronger and better, due to the family resources available from that community that are harder to find in SOUTH SEATTLE "spectrum".

If that's why then I don't blame that certain family who made the best choice that's available for their kids. But it does show that my argument above is not at all "groundless" or "irrational". It is reality.

If the district would just do it's job to ensure diversity in advanced learning, which is something they have TOTALLY dropped the ball on, then it would not matter where your child attends Spectrum (or split APP if that happens) but the fact is, THEY DON'T so IT DOES.
another mom said…
"If the district would just do it's job to ensure diversity in advanced learning, which is something they have TOTALLY dropped the ball on..."

Why do you think the ball has been dropped? And what would you have them do in addition to the current outreach? Universal screening did not increase diversity. It made the problem worse. Lowering the benchmarks (achievement scores for APP and Spectrum and cognitive scores for Spectrum) have not increased diversity. In a different thread it was reported that the program manager has made personal phone calls to parents of students of underrepresented groups encouraging participation. And still the programs more closely mirror the demographics of the city of Seattle rather than the district. What would you suggest?

The Superintendent has stated a couple of reasons to split the program. One being that splitting the program will increase access. What does that mean?
anonymous said…
Sps family said "If the district would just do it's job to ensure diversity in advanced learning, which is something they have TOTALLY dropped the ball on..."

Another mom asked a great question in response to this quote ...."Why do you think the ball has been dropped? And what would you have them do in addition to the current outreach?"

sps family what is the answer to this question? What should the district have done, or not done? How exactly have they dropped the ball?

My family is bi-racial (black/Italian American) but since the district did not have a "bi-racial" box on the enrollment form 9 years ago when my son started school we checked the African American box. When my son was in elementary school he tested very high on the WASL and on the ITBS. We received a personal letter from the district advising us that he was a strong candidate for APP and they encouraged us to have him tested. They listed a phone number and a contact and asked that we call for more information.

I thought this showed a genuine desire on the district part, to promote and encourage diversity.
SPS Family said…
Glad that blog posts addressed your previous concerns so well that now you are coming up with even more questions.

Did you somehow miss reading directly above, in this very thread, that parents had trouble getting information about Spectrum/APP testing from their child's school? I encourage you to scroll back up if you missed it, it may help you understand. So happy to read that your family is bi-racial, and that you got a letter!

Following are a few ways district could and should be improving access to advanced learning for under-served communities, that don't require an APP split:

(apologies to cpps readers that most of this has been posted elsewhere on this blog before, but here we go again)

Offer Spectrum in every cluster. Start it as blended classrooms if needed, but with tutoring and rigor as is being done successfully in regular ed at Van Asselt. Add Spectrum to South East and West Seattle South clusters who have none at present. Make a bona fide effort to support each new Spectrum program until it is up and running, unlike the tiny neglected Leschi and High Point "spectrum" (sorry that's west seattle elementary now isn't it). They will need classroom support that's often provided by parent volunteers in the middle class areas. Making every Spectrum program equally successful would demonstrate commitment to advanced learning access in every area including low-income areas. It would also lend credibility to district claim that the newly split South APP would be "just as good!" as the original, because right now parents can see Spectrum at Leschi withering away with no district support and nobody wants South APP to be the next example.

Once parents can see their local Spectrum is thriving and that they can count on it surviving, many parents might stop moving some kids to APP and keep them closer to home at Spectrum, thereby reducing the APP overcrowding that is one of the excuses we've been given for the APP split.

Add Americorps tutoring after school in each cluster's Spectrum building, to help kids who qualify for Spectrum to get up to speed if they are challenged in other subjects such as reading or math, with tutoring open to all students if space is available after Spectrum kids get priority access. Require student and parent to sign brief contract with academic goals and behavior requirements before they can attend tutoring so tutoring does not become a hang out place to visit with friends nor free afterschool day care.

Study current successful academic programs, such as at Maple and Van Asselt, that are working in lower-income areas to learn how to replicate them elsewhere. Explore creative ideas such as teachers from other buildings working one week there teaming with a teacher to see how it's done, then both go to the other school together for a week to apply these methods there, with feedback.

Salary cap per building so upper class neighborhoods with "easier" kids are not able to attract and concentrate dozens of the more highly paid and experienced teachers. Each building now has unlimited pay to offer teachers but that could be made more equal. Explore incentives to spread those valuable experienced teachers around the district equitably, particularly moving them to the new Spectrum programs the district will have started to support in previously under-served areas.

Direct mail announcements of Spectrum testing to all homes, along with the lunch applications and nurse paperwork mailings that we already get before school starts.

Stop requiring a teacher recommendation before a student can apply for the Spectrum/APP test. That puts a lot of parents off because it's awkward to approach a teacher if school culture doesn't celebrate APP or Spectrum. Clearly advertise that parents may nominate the child privately. If the child tests in to advanced learning with a borderline score, then follow up with a teacher recommendation.

Consider removing descriptive language in the advanced learning pretest questionnaire about how precocious your child's behavior is, because that puts people off especially in conservative or traditional cultures where showing off behavior is not condoned. How many kids we do know at Lowell who don't act like those stereotyped descriptions of gifted kids being difficult.

Require every high school to offer a few AP courses.

Go ahead and add a second APP or and ALO's to the south end, but don't assign kids there based on home address, make it a choice school.

There are so many ways the district could do the right thing NOW if they truly cared about increasing diversity in advanced learning.

None involves splitting APP!

Now here's my question: How does splitting APP by residence address north or south of ship canal benefit ANYONE? Anothermom, I don't know the answer to your question, because how would a split increase access, unless the next step is they plan to have APP no longer self contained? And have the classrooms blended with regular ed? Or will they relax testing further and try to fill those buildings with a watered down APP?

If anyone hears from the district how their bogus claim that APP split can increase diversity or access to the program, please let us all know.
Josh Hayes said…
I'd like to throw one more fish into the pot. (Isn't that the catchphrase?)

As a parent with kids at a school that may be closed this year, I was concerned about my kids' options for next year, and I found that when my school's closure status was announced, the testing date for APP and Spectrum had already passed. This is a de facto denial of those programs to kids at closed schools.

I contacted some people at the SPS APP/Spectrum program about this and they said that the deadline had passed and that was that; they seemed almost smug about it.

My suggestion is that kids enrolled in schools which are then closed should be treated as "transfers" for the purpose of testing -- there is a testing session in the summer for such students. This seems an equitable solution, but of course, it's completely unworkable -- if you throw 700 kids out of their schools and 200 of them, in JULY, test into APP/Spectrum, then your assignment plan goes kablooey.

The really truly obvious solution is to offer a round of testing after the closure decisions have been made. I suggest that the Board mandate that. After that, we'll have to figure out where to put all the kids who test in, but if APP etc is to be offered to all, then, by jing, it should be offered to all in a meaningful sense. The absurdly early deadline for testing is unfair on its face.
another mom said…
SPS Family, you have made some great suggestions. If you have not already done so, send them to Dr. Vaughan, Ms Santorno, and Dr. G-J. I don't agree with all of them, but I am only one person. For the record, I think that there are some wonderful teachers in all of our schools, and some mediocre to bad in all of our schools. I don't believe that one part of town or one socioeconmic group has claim to all of the good teachers.Even APP has a few teachers that are not the greatest. In terms of getting the information out to parents...the district mails a calendar to every family with a student in Seattle Public Schools. Advanced Learning nomination deadlines are listed on that calendar. No,it is not the same as a letter notice, but the information is there. Maybe a short note could go home in the first day packets? And remember that Advanced Learning is funded by a small state grant. Unless there has been a change, the office receives no other dollars. I do agree that Spectrum Programs could and should be strenghtened. they should be of equal quality throughout the district. The district needs to demonstrate the ability to operate multi-site gifted programs, which to date they have not. This is key. The APP community is now expected to accept a split program in spite of the district's poor track record of managing other multi-site gifted programs. I have an idea, let's put some design teams together and work on Spectrum first. When it is shown that Spectrum works in every cluster, maybe APP could be replicated...not split but replicated.
anonymous said…
I agree with another mom, sps family made some great suggestions, and I thank him/her for sharing them. Though I don't agree with all of them, the majority make sense, and I think they warrant being sent to Dr. Vaughan, Carla Santorno, and Dr. MGJ. Many of them would show a true interest on the part of the district to increase access to advanced learning.

As much as I would like to hear more from sps family about these ideas, he/she is so nasty, sarcastic and patronizing that I don't think I will be corresponding any more with him/her, at least on this thread. If you really want to share what you believe in and influence people then you might try being polite, respecting other views, and practice basic courtesy.
anonymous said…
And, yes, Josh Hayes, I agree with you completely. Children from closing schools should be able to test for APP/Spectrum this the summer, or earlier if need be for planning purposes.

If a family thought their school would be open, and that school was their first choice placement for their child, they may not have sought testing for APP/Spectrum, however Spectrum/APP might be their second choice placement. If they find their school closing there should definately be an option for late testing for them.

You too, should send this to Dr. Vaughan, Carla Santorno, and MGJ
Rudy D said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said…
I acknowledge the legitimate concerns about a split APP. Those are real and present and can be addressed.

The "chicken little" talk are things like jumping to the conclusion that Thurgood Marshall will have blended classrooms instead of a self-contained program. There are no grounds for that assumption.

If that is a concern, then let's address that concern in advance, and in writing with all of the parties. Let's get some sort of written assurance - from the Board if necessary.

I think a more likely outcome than a class with a mix of APP 1st graders and general education 1st graders is a class with a mix of APP 1st and 2nd graders. That could occur at either APP location - north or south. Let's get some rules laid down about that as well.

"In an era of budget crunch, why do you think the district will come up with the money to do TM justice?"

Doing Thurgood Marshall right will not require money so much as wise leadership - which is rare, but no more costly than foolish leadership and therefore a great bargain. There will be some costs associated with professional development for ALL of the staff and teachers at Thurgood Marshall. There will also likely be need for some personnel changes. Not everyone will want to get onboard with the new structure. The principal selection will determine almost everything; the community should take a strong role in this.

"In a district with a history of allowing wide disparities between schools in different parts of the city, why are so sure this time will be different just because some of the kids are APP?"
The source of my confidence lies in the promise of a written, taught, and tested curriculum. I actually think that we will have less disparate curriculum than elementary APP has now. I fully acknowledge the wide diversity of curriculum at various Spectrum programs across the district. Beyond that is an even broader range of curricula in ALOs and an immensely broader range still in the general education programs. It is my expectation that the APP teachers at Thurgood Marshall will be, for the most part, the same people now teaching APP at Lowell. That doesn't have to be the case and it will not be 100% true, but it is what the District expects and there is good cause to expect it. Now think of this: every teacher at Lowell is teaching something different. Some are stronger with math than others. Some are stronger in other areas. There is no single APP curriculum being taught now. With a written curriculum and some real oversight to assure compliance with that curriculum, I think we have reason to expect LESS disperate curricula from classroom to classroom than we have now.

"In a state that pathetically relies on parents to fund many essential educational program, why are you confident that the $ disparities between North/Montlake and South/TM won't create disparate programs?"

I don't know that the money difference between north end and south end families in APP is as dire as we might assume. There are people of means living south of the Ship Canal. When people list the best supported schools in Seattle, the top of the list are often schools south of the Ship Canal. The south APP schools will have an active PTA that will be able to fundraise as well or better than most schools. There will be money for library books, music, field trips, and all of the usual PTA stuff. There may not be anything ostentatious, but I don't know if that's such a good idea anyway.

"Do you believe they will have separate accelerated class of a dozen APP first graders and also a regular ed of 32 down the hall and a wait-list at the school?"

I do not believe that they would blend APP with general education. I would be more concerned that they would cobble together an APP 1/2 class. I think that is a legitimate concern that we should address.

"regular ed parents clamor for fair class sizes and the waste of resources having a teacher for just a dozen kids.
This was one of the problems at Madrona. The solution lies in the selection of the principal and the staff and the creation of a culture at the school that acknowledges and accepts this as a potential outcome. I'm not saying that it is a good idea; but it is something that will require strong leadership.

"The parents with power, money, and influence (doctor and lawyer Moms are especially strong advocates) will be concentrated in North APP because by residence address nobody will have any choice."

I remember once I was in a meeting about Spectrum with some of the District staff. We were advocating for self-contained Spectrum classrooms in EVERY Spectrum school. And, if there were not enough students to at least half-fill a class with District-identified Spectrum-eligible students, to have a single Spectrum site for two or more clusters. One of the District staff then said that someone should be speaking for the families south of the Ship Canal. Every single advocate for Spectrum in the room - all four of us - DID live south of the Ship Canal.

Let's not fall into believing stereotypes that suggest that everyone north of the Ship Canal is a power-broker millionaire and everyone south of it is illiterate and on the dole.

"How much control can South APP parents have if the building principal refuses to support their changes (remember Madrona?) or if a new principal comes in who "doesn't believe in" APP because differentiated instruction is good enough?"

Surely the same could be said for the north elementary APP, or for Lowell or for Washington. How many of the past principals at Washington or Garfield would you characterize as APP supporters? None that I can think of. This is the risk we have always run. I can't offer you any assurances, but I strongly suggest that we get some assurances written into the revised Board Policy D12.00.

"SPS Parents must DEMAND PLAN SPECIFICS on how a split will be implemented! Stop blandly accepting empty district promises. "
I totally agree. We must demand specifics. Moreover, we must demand written and enforceable assurances for our concerns. But we can do all of these things without becoming shrill, without the hyperbole, and without spinning tales of horror to cause undue panic. Let's not assume the best - I own no rose-colored glasses - but let's not assume the worst either.

Let's actually take these people at their word. Right now the Superintendent, the Chief Academic Officer, and the Program Manager are all on the record as claiming to support APP, Spectrum, ALOs and advanced learning in general. Let's use this moment to solidify and codify the sort of program our children need to be adequately supported - academically, socially, and emotionally. Let's use this opportunity to get a favorable re-write of Board Policy D12.00. Let's use this opportunity to get legitimate Spectrum programs in every cluster of the district. Let's use this opportunity to get consistent written, taught, and tested curricula for APP, Spectrum, and ALOs. Let's use this opportunity to define and enforce "self-contained" as it applies to APP and Spectrum.

There are legitimate concerns. That's unquestionably true. Let's address them, but let's not fly off the handle and spread fear about extremely unlikely worst-case scenarios that lie beyond the range of legitimate concerns.

The District committed, years ago, to certification of new programs and the annual re-certification of existing programs. Each year the certification process grew weaker and in no year was any school denied their APP, Spectrum, or ALO designation despite failing to meet the certification requirements. That sort of failure of accountability should be a thing of the past. These processes are still the District's stated processes. Under Bob Vaughan's leadership, we are starting to see some schools fulfill their certification and re-certification requirements. This process is consistent with the District's current mania for "accountability" and should be codified and enforced. When we get this then we will have the best assurances we can get.

Director Martin-Morris, on his blog, acknowledged a truth: that there is no rule that says that Seattle Public Schools cannot expand APP from the top 2% to the top 5%. The District determines all of the aspects of the program. The District can, if they choose, make it a "blended" program. The District can, if they choose, merge APP with Spectrum and make them into a single program with locations all across the city. The current program design was not handed down at Sinai. It exists exclusively at the whim of the Superintendent.

So, no, I cannot give any assurances that the program will continue to function as it has in the past. But the risks are not much greater than they always have been. Consequently, our work to support and protect the students and the program should stay pretty much in the same range where we have always worked. Let's work to codify the curriculum and the model. Let's work to get supportive leadership. Let's work to strengthen the program where and how we can. But let's not waste energy over low probability fears that can be addressed through the usual course of advocacy.
another mom said…
The Madrona experience is but a legend for most of you. Many of you here have no clue. Contrary to what some believe and have been told, a talented principal burned-out pretty quickly trying to keep both programs happy. Perhaps I misunderstood Charlie, but APP classrooms at Madrona were at and over the contract size. The neighborhood program always had very small class sizes. Splits were common and existed at several grades in APP. 1/2 split classes and perhaps blending will happen in the event that the numbers cannot support a classroom teacher.

Supporting a split APP is fine if you choose to do that. Folks say don't be a naysayer, be a part of the solution. Hold them accountable. That is easy to say, but not so easy to do. As some of you know, board policy is meaningless when violated by staff at will and whim. By all means codify how the split will happen with all of the accountability details built-in. But keep in mind that the district does not make guarantees ever. And what about the selection of a principal? Interview committees do not have the power to hire. They can only make recommendations. All of the questions are prescripted. The same questions are asked of each person. No follow-up questions allowed. You follow the script. Right now four APP "friendly" principals need to be found. Two at the elementary level and two at the middle school level. Charlie, indeed there is a written curriculum for APP in fact there are two that have been written.
That no one seems to locate,use, or help new teachers adapt to it is the fault of ???? A common curriculum needs to be used by APP teachers at both the elementary and middle schools, but will be very difficult with staff in four buildings. It will also cost money.

People with legitimate concerns are told to trust that Dr. Vaughan, Ms. Santorno, and Dr.G-J have it handled. The ubiquitous design teams will figure it all out. Don't worry so much.Parents are being told that they are the problem if they don't embrace a major change in the program. I have noted veiled threats made by board members and others. But where is the money going to be found to support the necessary expenditures of curriculum writing or purchase, and teacher training? Teacher training not just between neighborhood programs and APP but training to teach the new curriculum. And what if the new curriculum requires purchase of books and other supplies. which budget will pay for this?

There is no plan just promises. Once APP is split there is NO chance of it ever being whole again. Call me chicken little if you like, but there are far too many questions which are answered by saying we will make this work. It is a leap of faith.
Charlie Mas said…

I'm not saying that we should just trust the people in charge. Don't trust them - get every promise in writing on the most enforceable document available.

I'm not saying that there are not challenges. Everyone is going to have to work very hard to make this happen well and even then there will be mistakes and gaps. They are not going to do this right on the first try - maybe not even on the second. We, too, will have to work hard and diligently, and keep the District and school people at it hard and diligently.

I'm not saying that there are not grave concerns that need to be addressed. We should be concerned about how the program structure will change to adapt to multiple locations. We should be concerned about equity between the sites. We should be concerned about being co-housed with a disparate population.

What I am saying is that staying focused on these fundamentals and working to get these real concerns addressed is productive and necessary, but it is not productive to become overwrought and fearful about the end of the program as we know it.

Yes, advocate. Yes, work for accountability. Yes, work to get legitimate concerns addressed. But let's not dissipate our energy fighting decisions, such as blended classrooms, that no one has even suggested.
another mom said…
"...but it is not productive to become overwrought and fearful about the end of the program as we know it."

I am certainly not overwrought, but simply facing the real rather than the let's dream it approach. The reality is that there was no reason to dismantle APP at the elementary school. Lowell is full; no capacity problem there. The fact that this arose in a plan to reduce capacity should raise everyone's eyebrows. The middle school is a different issue altogether. Sorry, but I have watched this district for too long. Just call me skeptical of the motives. As I am skeptical of what is happening to Summit, Thornton Creek, and Pinehurst to a lesser extent. You can add the SBOC to that too, they were promised(codified I believe)money in BEX. So you can tag me a distrusting malcontent if you like. Hysterical though not a chance.
uxolo said…
Charlie writes, "This was one of the problems at Madrona. The solution lies in the selection of the principal and the staff and the creation of a culture at the school that acknowledges and accepts this as a potential outcome."

Mr. Kimball, the strongest advocate in Seattle administration, was the principal at Madrona.

For those who do not receive the mail from the APP group, Dr. Vaughan circulated a letter that requests the buy-in and not the protest. For the sake of the students and teachers, I believe that families who want good solid programs throughout the city are better off protesting the proposed splits for the 09-10 year. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the current administration minus $5 million of staff will be able to pull it off. Write to the Board and cc supt.
Unknown said…
"I don't know that the money difference between north end and south end families in APP is as dire as we might assume."


PTAs in the south end routinely make in the thousands of dollars for their fund raising efforts for elementary schools. PTAs in the north end schools routinely make in the tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands for successful/popular schools. This adds up to a lot of art, music, science, math, and other programs as well as funding extra teachers for some grade levels.

It is true that there are middle class families and even wealthy families south of downtown. A lot of those families go to private school. My 13 year old attended preschool with a group we are still in touch with. Of the 17 families in his class, 5 attend public school. Most of the children on his soccer team attend private school or attend a north end public school. More than 1/2 of the parents I meet in our kids age groups go to private school.

You may well be right that APP families are more equal in income and wealth, but paired with another program - TM v Montlake the differences are going to be significant.
another mom said…
"For those who do not receive the mail from the APP group, Dr. Vaughan circulated a letter that requests the buy-in and not the protest."

How can one buy-in to something when the details are not yet worked out? Too many promises and not enough substance. Too many unanswered questions. Families are being asked to buy something sight unseen from a district that has a terrible record of keeping promises.
Charlie Mas said…
another mom wrote:
"The reality is that there was no reason to dismantle APP at the elementary school. Lowell is full; no capacity problem there. The fact that this arose in a plan to reduce capacity should raise everyone's eyebrows."

Ah! Here's one I think I can answer!

The capacity management problem was NOT at Lowell. The excess seats were at Thurgood Marshall and at Hawthorne. These two buildings, however, are in very good condition, so rather than closing them, the District looked for a population they could move into them.

Again, this is why the proposal relies so heavily on alternative schools - because the District perceives them to be more portable than neighborhood programs. They moved APP into these schools to fill them up - not to benefit APP in any way and not as part of any "Vision" for APP.

Same sort of thing at the middle school level. The District counted butts and seats and saw that Washington has enough room for every Central Region student, so they closed Meany. They had to move at least half of the APP students out of Washington to make room for the Central Region students coming from Meany. That's why the split at the middle school level - again, not to benefit APP in any way. Certainly not as part of any "Vision" for APP.

By all means, be skeptical. By all means, demand answers and details. Go ahead and be distrustful - be a malcontent even. All of that is good.

Demand an M.O.U., demand a written curriculum, demand a Vision, demand details about class sizes and eligibility criteria, demand annual re-certification (and possible de-certification) of Spectrum and ALO programs, demand a testing opportunity (for enrollment in the coming fall) for students in closed schools, demand answers about how the District will manage the school cultures, demand answers about access to Integrated III (or Algebra II), demand answers about music programs. Demand answers to anything that is on the table.

All I'm asking - and it's a pretty modest request - is that we not demand answers and details about things that are not in evidence, such as "blended" classrooms or the dissolution of the program. Let's not cry "racism" or "segregation". Let's not presume that the south-end school will be left with a weak PTA incapable of fundraising while the north-end program rakes in millions. Let's not presume that the south-end APP community will become politically voiceless without the strong advocates in the north-end to speak for it.

Please remember that Montlake, McGilvra and Stevens are all in the south-end. So are the vast majority of TOPS families. The majority of APP's leading advocates over the past several years have lived in the south-end.

Let's stay focused on the real and not lose any energy, credibility, confidence, or solidarity fighting these phantoms of our active imaginations. There are plenty of real demons for us to fight without conjuring additional ones.
Charlie Mas said…
When I used to rally the community to fight for Spectrum - which really WAS at risk when Olchefske and Rimmer were in charge (and they had said as much) - I used to understand how union organizers must feel. You have to use some pretty inflammatory language, dire predictions, and staunch demands to motivate people to action. Announcements of disaster and cries of "No Comprises!" were needed to build support so we could get to the table - where we could negotiate comprimises. Then the leadership had to come back to the (now) activated community and sell the compromises.

That's now seen as Old School adversarial negotiating. I don't know many trade unions that do it that way anymore. Now everyone sits down at the table together and negotiates without the preamble distribution of torches and pitchforks to the villagers.

But that's not quite how APP does it these days. The APP Advisory Committee is an advisory body - advocacy is not their role. The APP Review made the distinction and it has been holding. The APPAC always gives very cautious statements that aren't nearly as strident (and satisfying) as the community would like. Where the community wants to say "Hell NO!", the APPAC says "we have concerns".

Consequently, there is no organized advocacy group for APP anymore. That's what is missing; that's what is needed. There is no recognized leadership of an advocacy group for APP (or Spectrum or ALOs or Advanced Learning in general) and so there is no one with the voice of the community to make these demands. Each of us must speak as individuals. We feel how small our voices are and we become shrill in our effort to be heard.

Here is what I recommend instead:

The District has organized a different body to provide advice to the program manager and Superintendent on advanced learning. There are representatives from the APP Advisory Committee on that new
Advisory Committee. Doesn't this free up the current APP Advisory Committee to become an advocacy group instead? They have been replaced in their advisory role, haven't they? They never were consulted for advice anyway, were they? So that committee should just drop all pretense of advisory and adopt the full-time duty of advocacy. Then they would be free to come right out and say "Hell No!" and to make demands.

Let's not forget: the APP AC owns the email list - not the District. The District has no email list of APP or advanced learning families. The District can only communicate via printed messages sent by post or kid mail which they hate to do because it is so expensive. The APP AC has much better communications abilities than the District.

Perhaps, if the community had an advocacy group that spoke clearly and loudly for the community and advocated for the students and the program, that organization would help us to stay focused on the issues that we can influence and would really work to influence them.
another mom said…
Charlie said,
"The capacity management problem was NOT at Lowell. The excess seats were at Thurgood Marshall and at Hawthorne."

Of course the capacity problem was not at Lowell. I understand that completely. So the answer is to disrupt 500+ students and their families at Lowell because it is perceived to be portable? Take a well functioning, full, stable school -Lowell APP is a school not just a program- and carve it up? Where and when has the district said that alternative schools are portable? Maybe I missed this. And the logic of breaking up successful programs escapes me.

Parents can make all kinds of requests to have things in writing. So what- written promises are pretty meaningless in this district. By all means get things in writing but good luck with the enforcement piece. And yes, I do believe that blended classrooms will result. Parents should anticipate all of the scenarios. Not just the ones the district lays out. The truth is that tight budgets will dictate what happens in individual school buildings. APP is no exception here.

"Now everyone sits down at the table together and negotiates without the preamble distribution of torches and pitchforks to the villagers."

Really? I was unaware that APP had a seat at the table with regards to this. Unfortunately, the manager of the program is put into a terrible position of begging the parent group to please accept this and don't protest. Since the decision is made to split the program, do you really believe that APP will have a seat at the table to negotiate anything? Sorry for the glass half empty approach here, but it is a little late on this issue to restart an advocacy group. In the past there were two groups. Read the history. Also, both the Boeing machinists and Bellevue teachers negotiated new contracts in the midst strikes. I'd say that was adversarial.

There is no conspiracy here. The district has been quite open about wanting to break up APP since the early 90's. Read the history.
uxolo said…
"You have to use some pretty inflammatory language, dire predictions, and staunch demands to motivate people to action."

Like threatening to opt out of the WASL en masse?

Better to write your individual, thoughtful emails to the Board and supt. than to wait for that Advisory committee to fight this battle. Use you Lowell and WMS school directories to circulate a mass email.
anonymous said…
I agree wholeheartedly that programs that are at capacity and performing well, should not be disrupted whether they are alternative or not. The only exception to this rule, in my opinion, would be programs that are housed in buildings that are not safe, and in those cases the programs should be moved in their entirety and as one cohort to a new building.

It seems to me that APP, NOVA, and Montlake meet the criteria of strong programs that are at capacity. I don't think either of these three programs should be disrupted.

I understand the rationale that an alternative school, because it's not neighborhood based, is more portable. That makes sense, and I understand that an under enrolled, or low performing alternative school would be the most likely candidate for closure/consolidation or a move, and considered before a neighborhood school with the same statistics. That makes sense.

I also understand that at some point in the future it may be prudent to split APP. Perhaps the program will need to expand, or perhaps a north and south location makes better sense, but if and when that decision is made it should be done with careful consideration to the integrity and sustainability of the program.

Disrupting entire communities to save other communities or fill buildings is just not responsible. In fact it's downright wrong.

Better to leave NOVA at Mann, keep Meany alive (and perhaps co-house Summit there), keep Montlake at Montlake, keep APP at Lowell and Washington, and find another under enrolled elementary school to combine with least for now, and at least until the moves can be considered with all schools best interest and outcome in mind.

Personally, I think a north/south split for APP would be a good thing, if done right, and with the supports necessary. It would make sense if it allowed the program to grow. It makes sense if it would lower transportation costs, and it would make sense if it was more convenient to students and families (shorter bus rides, more parent involvement).
Josh Hayes said…
well put, adhoc, and I agree entirely. It's disquieting to see the SPS people so obviously viewing schools and people as simply entries in a spreadsheet. They seem honestly surprised when people object to having their "program" moved. There is a schism in perceptions: managers see schools as widgets to be managed, and parents and students see schools as nearly outgrowths of their homes. It's no wonder we sometimes seem to talk past each other.
Charlie Mas said…
Y'know what? Y'all have done it. You have won me over. I am convinced. You're right. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for us to believe or accept any of the District's promises. There is absolutely no reason for us to believe that the District won't completely dismantle every advanced learning program they have - or replace them all with totally ineffective and unaccountable models that they prefer because they are more inclusive or perceived as more equitable.

There is no statement they can make and no guarantee they can offer that will satisfy because they don't keep their word and they cannot be trusted to fulfill their promises no matter how tightly bound they may appear to be. They will neglect and violate their own decision-making criteria, they will neglect and violate Board Policy, they will neglect and violate Board Resolutions, they will neglect and violate M.O.U.'s.

We are lost. The future of APP - and Spectrum and ALOs - dangles from their careless fingers. they wish to rid themselves of these programs which have worked so well for our children. They wish only to retain the names, but to gut them of everything that made them effective.

I know that they claim otherwise, but they are such inveterate liars that their claims of support for the programs serves only as further evidence of their intention to destroy them.
Charlie Mas said…
So where does that leave us?

What can we do now?

No negotiation is possible - or worthwhile.

No complaints or protests will be effective.

The District has all of the authority here. Should we just start scouting other districts and private schools? But wouldn't that put us in exactly the situation that we are trying to avoid?

It has always been my policy that the futility of my efforts does not excuse me from the obligation to make those efforts.

I guess I really am an activist, because I'm looking to take action.

So what can we do?

I continue to advocate for smarter solutions - using B.F. Day as the north-end elementary APP site and re-opening Old Hay for Queen Anne/Magnolia cluster students, making the general education program at Thurgood Marshall an all-ALO choice school instead of a reference area school, leaving Lowell as it is and achieving the District's ends through less disruptive means, etc.

I continue to advocate for a more equitable assignment of general education students at Lowell so the T T Minor students are on an equal footing with the Montlake students.

I have written to the Board and asked them to codify their promises. I have written to Bob Vaughan and asked him to do the same.

I am asking for answers to critical questions about the District's Vision for APP, the District's response to the APP Review, about a written, taught, and tested curriculum for APP, Spectrum and ALOs, about program certification, re-certification, and potential de-certification, about the need for a Spectrum program in West Seattle-South (I submitted a Program Placement Proposal for this), about the need for elementary ALOs south of downtown (there are only two), and about any number of other issues.

I am looking for ways to be actively involved in the creation of the new schools - Thurgood Marshall, Lowell, Hamilton, and Washington.

What is the alternative? I know that the District doesn't have to listen to us. I know that we can't rely on any of their assurances. I know that we cannot trust them at all. None of those facts are valid excuses for despair or inaction.

Yes, we are going to lose, but we must fight. And when we fight, we need to fight smart. We don't have their brute strength of authority, so we cannot beat them that way. We must be more nimble, more creative, and more flexible. We need to stay focused on the core principles that we must preserve and let go of lower priorities. We need to be strategic. The toreador does not meet the bull's charge with one of his own.

What is our alternative? To quit? I cannot accept that. To draw some line in the sand and get steamrolled? I will not accept that.

Okay - I get it - all of our efforts are futile. They hold all of the cards. But that is how it has always been and we have managed to keep the programs together and (largely) functioning until now. We cannot quit, but neither can we meet them with threats and demands. Threats and demands are not effective. The way to beat a bureaucracy is to know their rules better than they do, to take them at their word and make them fulfill it, and to fill out your paperwork correctly, completely, and on time.

We do not capitulate, but we must accept the situation as it really is. The District is deeply committed to splitting APP at the elementary and middle school levels. Accept that. We cannot change that. It will happen. Now, given that reality, how can we make it work as well as it possibly can?

We need effective, high quality programs at every school. That will require:
1) written, taught, and tested curricula
2) a supportive culture at every school
3) trained staff, administration and teachers at every school
4) a cohort of sufficient size to form a viable learning community at every school
5) access to academically challenging and appropriate learning opportunities outside of the four basic disciplines (reading, writing, math, and science)

What else will it require?

I'm no Pollyanna. I own no rose-colored glasses. These things will only happen with work. So let's get to work. Want to know what is futile? Fighting these splits.

I was able to work successfully to delay the middle school split last time. Then I had the data on my side and a more responsive and independent Board. With the closure of Meany, the data demands the split and the current Board is in the thrall of the superintendent. The split is coming and we cannot stop it. The best we can hope for now is to make it work. How can we NOT work for that?
anonymous said…
Charlie, you are doing exactly what you should be doing, what we all should be doing, which is to continue to advocate and work (and fight if necessary) for what we believe is in the best interest of the students of this district. We all share in that responsibility.

Sure, the district and board hold all of the cards, and ultimately make all of the decision. But we can and should try with vigor to influence those decisions.

Personally, I believe the current administration headed by MGJ has been far and away more responsive to the public than any before. That alone is hope. And that alone is worth out continued advocacy.

Unfortunately, it is the board this time around (with the exception of Harium) that seem much less responsive to their constituents concerns. So what does that mean? It means that we work double time to reach, lobby and influence them. We don't relent.

I heard a joke on the comedy channel the other night and it reminded me of SPS in an odd kind of way.

A mate on a pirate ship ran up to the captain and said "Captain we are being attacked by another pirate ship", and to that the captain said to the mate " hurry, go and get me my red shirt. They fought vigorously and won the battle. Afterward the mate asked the captain "why did you want to wear your red shirt?" The captain replied "so if I was wounded and bleeding my men wouldn't know it and they would continue to fight".

A few days later the mate again came running up to the captain and said "Captain there are 20 enemy pirate ships coming straight toward us", and to that the captain replied "quick mate, go and get my brown pants".

So .....lets all put on our red shirts or brown pants if need be, and lets not give up. Lets not waiver. Our kids futures are at stake, and they are worth the effort and the fight.

We parents may not all agree on everything, but we all, every one of agree on one thing. That we want whats best for the children of this district. Lets use that unity and get to work.
Free said…
I get it, Charlie: let's fight, but let's fight smart. You have been in the trenches for a long time, and I have a lot of respect for your ninja instincts (and persuasive skills), but I'm still confused about where exactly we should focus our energies as a community. Writing individual appeals to the board?

We can't really negotiate. We can only beg, and that's an uncomfortable (and humiliating) position to be in. That said, do you think there is any value in begging for a one-year delay so the APP split can be planned and executed properly?
anonymous said…
We, the families of SPS, have never had any authority. We have never had any decision making power. Nothing has changed. We do, however, have a voice. We can speak out, protest, strike, organize, rally, lobby, elect responsive school board directors, get media attention, bring law suits, and put the pressure on. That's not exactly begging.

Hey, the pressure caused Olschefski to resign.

We do have a voice.
AdHoc is right; united we stand, divided we fall. When this district hears one loud voice, they get it.

And do you know who else you should write to (and in a LOUD) voice? The Mayor and the City Council and your state rep. "But Melissa, the Mayor and the City Council have no part in district governance so what good is that?" Well, the Mayor and the City Council have a big bully pulpit and they CAN put pressure on the district if they hear from enough constituents. Ditto even more with your state legislator (those are the folks who can put real pressure on the Board).

Here's who is on the City Council Education committee:

Tim Burgess - Chair
Bruce Harrell - Vice-Chair
Nick Licata, Tom Rasmussen

(To receive committee information, email Betsy Graef (
or call (206) 684-8806.)

Is it fun writing all these e-mails/letters/phone calls? Nope but they really get the message and I guarantee if they got more than 15 phone calls, they'd ring up the Board and/or Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Remember, some of this closure business is being driven by the Board/Dr.-G-J's desire to look like they are heeding the warnings by the State Auditor. If it looks like they are doing things that alienate parents (i.e voters), then the district looks bad.

If the APP parents got a phone bank going to call and call, you'd get the attention you want.

Also, I don't know who mentioned it previously but yes, one HUGE stick that the APP parents have is the WASL. You want a guarantee? The way to get is via the WASL because if the district had 90% of its APP students not take the WASL (as is their legal right and for pete's sake, it's one year), the district would notice. (And forget that,"you're hurting your school nonsense" - who's hurting your school more at this point, you or the district?)

And, of course, you would wait until your APP group had been separated and sent to two different schools to step out from the WASL; you wouldn't do it this year.

Harsh? What could be more harsh than splitting your community with no real understanding of how it will work out? Uncomfortable to do? Not really. "Oh that's going too far?" So what would you do to save your community if you believe it to be threatened? Let the district tell us we have no power and then sit back and do nothing. Then you really DO have no power.

You use the tools you've got. Go big or go home.
another mom said…
Melissa, you are so right! The district has employed a classic divide and conquer strategy. Note Dr. Vaughan's note to families requesting no protest, just go along. By attempting to isolate the naysayers, and by threatening or bullying the district appears to have the upper hand. But then again, they might not. I believe that a united push back by APP would send an enormous message. Carving up a successful program makes no sense. Who benefits? The district has not yet demonstrated that it can administer consistent multi-site gifted programs. What has changed that anyone would believe that a split APP will be consistent from site to site. Yes, write Hiz Honor, and the Council's eductaion committee, and individual school board members. Go big!
another mom said…
Want to know what is futile? Fighting these splits."

I profoundly disagree. Why do you think fighting this is futile? Because people are tired and its the holidays and too many threats have been made? No one has the energy anymore? It's too hard?

Do you really think, that by giving the go ahead for the district to rip apart a successful program, you will have standing to negotiate anything? APP will have given up it's power. When this was being contemplated, APP should have had a seat at the table. I mean parents and teachers not only the current manager. Real negotiations would have happened before the split was proposed. Now parents are put into the position of being marginalized if they do not go along?

There were good reasons to separate APP from Madrona. Those reasons remain valid. I would argue that APP at Lowell is a school rather than a program. What board member can truthfully vote to split up what is -by all measures-a successful school?
Charlie Mas said…
I think that fighting the middle school split is futile because the District is committed to closing Meany. When they do, they will need 200 seats at Washington for the Central Region students now at Meany. The only way to reduce the enrollment at Washington by over 200 seats is to remove all or part of APP.

They could relocate all of it to Hamilton, but that would only work for about three years. Then the north-end middle school population would grow to a point that the District would have to split the program then. So, to keep from moving the south-end students north for just three years and then moving them again, they have chosen to leave them at Washington and only put the north-end APP students at Hamilton.

If you're going to fight the middle school split, then you're going to have to find space for either the Central Region students from Meany or for all of APP at Hamilton.

Of course, there is a third way: all of middle school APP at John Marshall with a 300-student general education program.

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