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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Radical Changes to Spectrum

The District has made radical changes to Spectrum and, because I don't remember anyone talking about these changes, I think they may have made them without any report to the Board or the public and without any community engagement.

For years the eligibility criteria for Spectrum were pretty set. Students had to demonstrate both strong verbal and quantitative cognitive ability and strong academic achievement in both reading and math. The criteria were the same for grades K-7. The students first took the CogAT, assessments of verbal and quantitative cognitive ability, and then, if they had qualifying scores on both of them, they took academic achievement tests. For the past several years WASL scores were used as the academic achievement test, when they were available, despite the fact that it was just flat out wrong to do so.

Then, starting with the 2006-2007 school year, the District tried to address under-representation by liberalizing the criteria. First by offering a non-verbal cognitive ability test and second by changing the eligibility criteria by grade level.

For middle school students could qualify for LA Spectrum and math Spectrum separately so that students could be in one, the other, or both. This was a move to expand access.

For the primary grades, first and second, the District created "Spectrum Young Scholars". The eligibility criteria for this program was based entirely on cognitive ability without regard to academic achievement. This was a move to expand access to students who were less privileged and, despite native talent, did not have exposure to educational opportunities. This was also an effort to expand access.

This year the District has returned to the traditional qualifying criteria: both quantitative and verbal cognitive ability and both reading and math academic achievement for all grades K-7. Access has been restricted compared to previous years. Furthermore, the District is using the results from MAP tests as the assessment of academic achievement (a dubious practice) and only offering the CogAT to those students who meet the performance standard on the MAP. A further restriction of access.

Here is a web page that describes how the District will determine eligibility and a web page that describes the eligibility process.

I have seen no presentation to the Board or the public about these changes in the eligibility criteria, the process, or the assessments. Did I miss them? Did I forget them? Or were these changes made without notice to the public or the Board and without any community engagement?

Is there an advisory committee for Spectrum? I know that there is an advisory committee for APP. I also know that no one listens to their advice. I'm pretty sure that there is no advisory committee for ALOs.

For all of the attention that has been paid to advanced learning programs in the Strategic Plan, way more than historically when they were practically kept a secret, there is very little Board attention paid to the programs and, of course, no Board oversight.

78 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Board Policy D12.00 says that:

"Selection procedures for participation in state funded highly capable programs shall be consistent with state law. Selection procedures for all highly capable programs shall consider test scores, performance outcomes, and the diversity in ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and learning styles of District students."

Does the new procedure for admittance to Spectrum or APP include "test scores, performance outcomes, test scores, performance outcomes, and the diversity in ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and learning styles of District students"?

Or is it just the MAP test?

seattle citizen said...

oops, doubled a quote there when I was fixing it...only ONE "test scores" and "preformance outcomes" is intended!

seattle citizen said...

Then we must also consider the District's Instructional Philosophy policy, A01.00, adopted March, 2010, and wonder whether this new procedure for entrance to Spectrum and APP follows this policy:

"The Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools believes that every student can and must learn at grade level and beyond, and that all students will be afforded the opportunity to reach their potential and graduate from high school ready for college, career, and life. We recognize that in today’s global economy, college ready and career ready standards are the same and are appropriate for all students. It is the responsibility of the School Board and the Superintendent to ensure that all students receive an education that meets these goals.
Achievement of this goal will be reached through the following:
 Maintenance of high academic standards for all students, and high expectations by all staff;
 A rigorous curriculum aligned to college and career readiness standards at all schools and in all programs;
 Effective teaching, measurable outcomes, ongoing assessment, professional development and continuous improvement at the student, school, and district levels;
 Programs designed to promote the full development of each student’s capabilities, including social/emotional capabilities, to ensure that all students can meet or exceed college ready standards in addition to state and district performance standards, regardless of the student’s skills upon entering school;
 Programs designed to provide a broad based education in areas not measured by standardized tests, such as music and visual and performing arts;
 An expectation that all students will demonstrate critical thinking skills, will communicate effectively with words, numbers, visuals, sounds and symbols, will use technology effectively, and will achieve at levels that meet or exceed college readiness and state performance standards, thus eliminating any achievement gap.
Student success will come through a concerted effort towards these goals by district professionals, school board members, students, families, community partners, and elected leadership.
In addition to community collaboration and family commitment, quality leadership, effective academic support structures, and efficient operations are key enablers of student success.

Charlie Mas said...

Policy D12.00 refers only to the Acellerated Progress Program. APP is the District's one and only Highly Capable Students program.

Nothing in the law regarding programs for Highly Capable Students and nothing in the Policy regarding Highly Capable Students program govern Spectrum at all.

Charlie Mas said...

As for Policy D12.00, the Board voted to suspend it on January 29, 2009. Also on that day they voted to direct the superintendent to review and recommend revisions to the policy. She just blew them off.

Don McAdams says that's a firing offense.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, the beginning of the end for Spectrum. C'mon, this makes it a lot harder for parents not in the know. And, as Charlie said, where is the community engagement?

I'm with Mr. McAdams.

seattle citizen said...

Sooo....what am I missing? Highly Capable Policy D12.00 is sitting right there on the Board Policies page...at the bottom, next to the word "repealed" there is nothing, no date...there is nothing on that document to say it was "suspended" (can one suspend policy? Maybe so, sounds strange...what, in case of national emergency or martial law or something?)

IF it is suspended, WHY is still on the Board Policy page with no such indication? Board Policy tell the Board's bosses, US, what policies they have. As far as I'm concerned, as far as any parent/guardian or staff member is concerned, D12.00 is still in full force and the district should be accountable to it. I mean, it's right there under Board policy.

Hmm, what OTHER policies are "suspended"?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, Can you explain your comment, I don't know enough about eligibility criteria for gifted students to know why this change marks the beginning of the end of spectrum. Thanks!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous,next time, pick a name.

What I mean, just from my point of view and not that I have any inside knowledge, is that my perception is that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson doesn't really have any appreciable interest in gifted education.

She did a "review" of Advanced Learning and yet somehow it was only a review of APP, not Spectrum nor Advanced Learning. She took the review and did what it said not to do, namely, divide APP. So she divided elementary and middle. Gee, what could be next?

Now we find out that applying for Spectrum has become a lot more tricky to do. It looks like it changed without any input from parents despite it being a popular program.

It has NEVER felt that gifted programming has had a champion in either the CAO, Superintendent or Board members. Never, in all the time I've been active. Dr. Vaughn, the head of Advanced Learning, is a bright guy who cares but he has no power.

So do I think that Spectrum is going to be curtailed in some way? I do.

I would put some time and effort into this but I've tried and tried and if you have NO one up the food chain who cares, you might as well be whistling in the wind.

Tosca said...

It has always struck me as strange that Spectrum seems to have no real advocacy group. A quick search on the SPS website shows a Spectrum Parent Advisory Council, but its membership list was last updated over two years ago: list here. (As opposed to the APP Advisory Council list which was updated last week.)

Say what you like about the APP Advisory Council and their efficacy, but at least they provide a forum for regular contact between parents and the administration. And they do a good job of keeping the APP parent population information through their minutes and emails.

Are Spectrum parents not interested in such a group? Does it still exist, but there is simply no trace on the SPS website? Do Spectrum families feel that they have a voice, just through some other means?

uxolo said...

Here we go again:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SpectrumAPP/

This listserv exists and shows the history of a group who tried to bring many issues to the public, various Superintendents, and the School Board. Monthly meetings were held. An effort was made to have Spectrum included in the Highly Capable grant. Spectrum historically fell under what was called "the Highly Capable program" not too long ago. Because Spectrum families are spread throughout the city and Olchefske was deeply opposed to even the term Highly Capable, only APP survived.

Tosca said...

uxolo,

Is there a history that the public can see on the Yahoo groups site? Or did the link you provided simply morph into the APP-AC group that we have now?

I'm not seeing any history on the link, but perhaps you need to be logged in to see it?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is our second year in Spectrum. I'm not aware of any collective district voice for the program and only feel a part of the school with a strong PTA & parents who network with each other. It's not news to me that the administration seems to not care about Spectrum.

The inclusion of MAP scores as a possibility was mentioned last year (09-10) on the website but my student's results are ITBS.

It is news to me that K-7 now all have the same Spectrum criteria & Young Scholars is history. Our test results letter from Dr. Vaughan dated Feb 1, 2010 includes the old eligibility criteria rubric and the Young Scholars program. Did YS suddenly vanish? Will current 1st grade YS need to reapply/rescreen with Fall MAP when normally they don't retest until 2nd grade?

My student is in the regular Spectrum program but Fall MAP tests as the only screening criteria is alarming to think of for K-1 who are brand new not only to a school setting but also to standardized group computer testing.

MAP tests went *down* from Winter to Spring for my student and several others. I asked the principal about this and was told "not to worry about it."

- Worried Anyway

uxolo said...

Tosca,
Re: yahoo group. Not sure if you need to join, but there's no moderator. Join, then click on Messages (left hand side), then click on Oldest (right hand side) and you'll see Messages from the year 2000. There's stuff in the Files menu, too.Lots of history there.

No, it is not the APP-AC group. Very different.

Tosca said...

uxolo,

Yes, you do need to be a member to access the files on the left. I tried joining since I am curious to see the history. It told me that my membership is "pending approval." If there is no moderator, I may be out of luck. But thanks for the help!

Anonymous said...

To add insult to diversity, none of the 9 other languages of Information Packet/Parent Permission Forms have been updated for the current school year. Only the English PDF includes the current MAP screening information.

-Worried Anyway

anne said...

I was a member of the Spectrum Advisory group while my son attended WMS. He just left WMS this year to go to HS.

Spectrum is much harder to advocate for because it is not a single program with all the families attending the same school. Each program is run differently and has different issues. I live in the Central Area and the issues there are not the same issues as in the North or South end. The first year there were a few meetings and issues were presented to the district, but as time went on the APP review, and then the APP split took all the attention of Bob Vaghan (sp?) and the Spectrum Advisory group just stopped meeting.


Anne Chinn

GreyWatch said...

I believe there are parents at Hamilton who were trying to form a group to address the limited number of seats for Spectrum eligible kids. Assuming this is a schools specific issue/focus.

Charlie Mas said...

Is there a cap on the size of the Hamilton Spectrum program?

Is there still a cap on the size of the Spectrum program at Washington?

I will be looking to see if there are waitlists for either of these.

Charlie Mas said...

Take a look at this Board Action Report from January 7, 2009 for information on both the suspension of Policy D12.00 and the Board direction to the Superintendent to review and recommend revisions.

Mercermom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mercermom said...

I haven't heard of anyone on a Spectrum waitlist at WMS who is attending the school; but I've always understood it was a set number of seats (two sections of 35). I've always wondered what the District would say if you stood two kids up at a meeting and said, "These kids both tested showing they could do work one grade level ahead, but this one doesn't get to because we've decided to only have a set number of spots." I had heard that the District used to say there were enough Spectrum spots in the District for all, so presumably if you wanted to go to a m.s. across town where you know no one to be part of their 5-person Spectrum program, you could. Under the NSAP, you'd have no transport....

Charlie Mas said...

To the District's credit, there are elementary Spectrum seats available in all of the middle school service areas.

Middle school Spectrum-eligible students who live in the Eckstein attendance area but can't get into the program at Eckstein can find a seat in their area at Jane Addams.

Middle school Spectrum-eligible students who live in the Whitman attendance area but can't get into the program at Whitman can find a seat in their area at Broadview-Thomson.

But there is no local alternative for middle school Spectrum-eligible students who live in the Washington or Hamilton attendance areas. If the District is going to cap the enrollment of these programs and there is a waitlist of area students, then the District owes them an acceptable alternative.

For the Washington students, the District should make Madrona K-8 the designated Spectrum school for the attendance area. It is MUCH more central to the area than Muir - which is way at the southern edge of the service area - and it would allow for any overflow at the middle school level.

For Hamilton students, the District should provide transportation to McClure if the Hamilton program fills.

A bigger issue is the siting of Spectrum programs in the south-end where there are too many and they should be consolidated to create the critical mass necessary to support a program.

Are there any Spectrum students at all at Aki Kurose? There were only two last year - and they were both 8th graders, so they are gone now. I understand that only two have enrolled at Hawthorne. Perhaps the elementary students in the Mercer and Aki Kurose service areas should all be enrolled at Wing Luke and the middle school students all enrolled at Mercer - with transportation provided.

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote to the Board to ask them if they were aware of the changes to Spectrum eligibility, if they oversaw the decision in any way, if they thought the decision was consistent with the Board's direction and Vision, and if they thought the community engagement was adequate.

I'm not expecting a response.

Will anyone else be writing to them about this?

Dorothy Neville said...

I just watched most of the 9/1/10 board meeting and the annual HC grant came up. So Bob V got to answer questions. It's actually kinda worth watching yourselves if you are interested in the whole curriculum thing.

Anyway, Kay tried to grill him on stuff, like the D12 thing. Was told that wasn't really pertinent to this grant thing, but she sort of seemed like she planning to bring up D12 whenever she could. Not positive, I was really tired of school board blather by then.

Anonymous said...

McClure spectrum is full and has a waitlists. Students have actually been rejected to the school who were trying to get into spectrum. There is no room for Hamilton overflow.

Charlie Mas said...

Is the McClure Spectrum program filled with Spectrum-eligible students who live in the McClure attendance area or does it include students from outside the area?

If it is filled with students living in the area, then there is a problem. It means that those Spectrum-eligible students can enroll at McClure, but aren't admitted to the program. Which means that the program enrollment is artificially capped at a size too small to meet the demand. That's bad capacity management, isn't it?

Who sets the size of the program? Is it the District or the school? If it is the District, then they need to have a way to adjust it. If it is the school then we have a real problem. What's to keep the school from capping the program at 90? or at 60? or at 30? What, in fact, is keeping the school from capping the program enrollment at 3? And if there is something that prohibits the school from capping the program too small, why isn't it working?

Anonymous said...

It surprised me that Spectrum Young Scholars wasn't based more on academics. I know children who were rejected for the program at our elementary school who were clearly advanced academically, but were perhaps "shy" or not terribly talkative. Our school also has a wait-list, so even if you make the program for next year, it's unlikely that you'll get in.

Lori said...

I'm still concerned about using MAP scores as a hurdle to the district's fall round of testing.

I've already recycled the letter that came home last week about MAP, but I believe it said fall results would be available to parents at the November parent:teacher conferences. So, a parent could find out that their child met criteria for testing at that point, after the testing deadline has passed. If I were new to the system and didn't know much about options for advanced learners, this would make me mad.

I hope that I am wrong and that the district or individual schools plan to send letters home to all children whose MAP scores meet the threshold so that the parents are alerted to the opportunity for testing prior to the deadline. That's a short window, since MAP testing is late September and the deadline is early October, but it is certainly doable.

I'm not saying that I think MAP should be a screening tool, but since they've already made that decision, then at least do it in a logical sequence: Screen all kids with MAP, notify families if scores exceed the threshold, families or teachers then nominate those children, etc.

The way this reads (nominate first, then look at MAP scores) has it backwards. If the problem has historically been lack of access for certain populations, then the screening tool really needs to screen to identify, not to restrict.

Anyone know if they plan to release MAP scores ASAP to assist with the nomination process?

Charlie Mas said...

I'm glad that Director Smith-Blum was asking about D12.00.

I don't know if I can say this often enough or strongly enough: On January 29, 2009 the Board voted to direct the superintendent to review the policy and recommend revisions. This is the only time that the Board ever voted to direct the superintendent to take a specific action. The superintendent didn't do it. She just blew it off completely.

The District's governance simply does not work if the superintendent does not act when the Board votes to direct her to act. This is a firing offense.

So I am VERY happy to have members of the Board remember what they directed the superintendent to do. And I am VERY happy to have members of the Board remind the superintendent and staff of what they directed the superintendent to do.

Anonymous said...

Then, of course, is the issue of what "spectrum" means at each school. Our 1st grader is number 11 on the View Ridge Spectrum waitlist. View Ridge is our assignment school. We looked into Spectrum at Jane Addams. We were told that our son would be sent to a second grade class for math and that was it. (Not regrouped with other Spectrum first graders, but actually joining a second grade class.) Spectrum at Jane Addams for 1st grade had only a few kids (less than 5 when I checked several months ago.)

hschinske said...

While getting sent up a grade in math isn't a sufficient program, and isn't the intervention a lot of people might want, I'm thankful to hear of a school that's willing to do it at all. In contrast, I once had a child in 4th grade in a 4/5 split class who was not allowed to work from the 5th-grade math books that were SITTING RIGHT THERE IN THE ROOM.

Helen Schinske

Lori said...

Catherine, that makes me crazy. Is the school doing anything at all to accommodate and challenge the 11 (or more) children who qualify for Spectrum but are on the "wait list" for a seat? What is the likelihood that the wait list will move at all this year?

Since this is first grade, that means all who got a Spectrum seat were new to the program too - so who decided and how did they decide to enroll some children but wait list others? Did they flip a coin?

What if all 11 families transferred to Jane Addams? Would that create a critical mass that warrant hiring a teacher or creating a self-contained Spectrum 1st grade there?

Anonymous said...

What cracks me up the most is that he is at View Ridge as a Regular Ed student sitting right next to the Spectrum students, but can't be Spectrum.

Maureen said...

Has he been given an official "Advanced Learning Opportunity?" (I actually have no idea if official ALOs actually exist, but aren't all K-5s supposed to have them available now? Not K-8s from what I hear--no idea why not.)

Anonymous said...

I should say View Ridge has been great. His teacher is aware of the situation and on top of his learning.

Diane said...

catherine, as far we've been able to tell, at VR there is no difference between spectrum and regular ed at 1-2 grades (except the "spectrum" report card). the waiting list game becomes importantat at 3rd grade, when there is a chance at a self-contained "spectrum class" (and depending on numbers, this can be a split spectrum/general ed class)
1-2nd grade, kids are split into math and reading groups by ability, reading just within your child's classroom. for math, kids are split up between the teachers, and either 1st or 2nd grade curriculum is taught, by a 1st grade teacher. last year this broke out into 2 classes 2nd grade/2 classes 1st grade. all spectrum kids default to the 2nd grade curriculum (and some spectrum kids really struggle, but cannot be moved to a more appropriate 1st grade level due to their spectrum determination) and at the same time, there are general ed kids in the 2nd grade curriculum class due to teacher input/assessment scores. this tells me the entire specturm game is pretty flawed, the eligibilty criteria is not mapping to academic ability, at least at this age.

Anonymous said...

Helen, Wow what a story. The thing about JA is that they are supposed to have Spectrum, but sending a child up to the next grade for math (and only math) without peers doesn't seem like much of a "program." VR at least has pro, and my son can participate in at least some of the spectrum activities even though he is waitlisted. I don't know how it will be in future years as he gets older.

Anonymous said...

VR at least has a program, I meant...

Yes, that is how they are doing it this year at VR with math, but placement in the math groups for those without a spectrum spot will be determined by the MAP tests.

Bird said...

What cracks me up the most is that he is at View Ridge as a Regular Ed student sitting right next to the Spectrum students, but can't be Spectrum.

So the Spectrum and the regular ed kids are mixed in a single class?

What on earth is the justification for restricting access to the Spectrum "program" then?

mirmac1 said...

Speaking as a parent of a student with mild developmental delay in Special Education:

What kills me is the concern that a child with "Spectrum" potential is a lost opportunity while many children with unique but manageable special education needs are relegated to minimal services or self-contained, non-inclusive environments. I was a high-achiever (whatever that means) and could find my own way (with my immigrant parents wonderful help) to advance my skills and knowledge. Many ICS kids in K-2 must struggle without support to at least keep up with grade-level. Sorry, but there's alot of work to be done to help ALL children who need differentiated instruction!

Anonymous said...

Ok. First of all this is a Spectrum discussion. Second, my son receives OT services. He has to do this with a private therapist because the school will not serve him in this area either. While his achievement test scores are at the upper end, his motor skills lag far behind. He has also done vision therapy. He has received services since toddlerhood. But does the district provide any of this? No. So, don't worry, his needs aren't being met at either end of his skill levels.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kids, this is the very reason I got active in this district: I wanted Spectrum to be better.

Fifteen years later, not so much.

Understand, EVERY single Spectrum school does Spectrum their way. View Ridge is different from Whittier, etc. Why is this? Because each school seems to think it knows best for its population. Some of that is a compromise with parents who don't believe in "tracking" or teachers/principals.

What is means is there is no way this district knows what is effective and what works because they pretty much do their own thing. How is that a program? And, unlike APP, they don't have to/want to provide enough seats even if there are children eligible.

This is NOT how other districts, in our region or throughout the country, do it. But see, our district seems to be embarrassed about advanced learners. Why? I can't say but it has felt that way since forever.

Spectrum parents could have power in their numbers and really should ban together.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, you write that "What [variety of Spectrum programs] means is there is no way this district knows what is effective and what works because they pretty much do their own thing."

Two separate things: Spectrum programs varied; District not knowing what is effective. There could be variety and the district could know what is effective. The district could support variety, while still looking in and seeing what is effective, and making adjustments where necessary.

I agree that there has to be SOME sort of programmatic structure, but I suggest that there can be variety and that the variety is not the thing stopping the district from seeing what various programs do and holding up examples of effectiveness. Like with Alt programs - good progress was made in "defining alternativeness" in the Alt Coalition, the SPS Alt Committee, and the Alt Policy C54.00 and its corllary document, the Alt Report. This document (which is supposed to be the very tool we might want for Spectrum: a district lens with which to view "how "spectrum" is, say, View Ridge's Spectrum) serves as a stalled mid-point: It was to be a living thing, am active tool that alt schools and district could sit over and say, "how are we doing as an alt program given these loose parameters and the district's needs?"

We need such a document for Spectrum...We need C54.00 and the Alkt Report to be also re-engaged. John Minor might be taking on some of this work; If Mr. Vaughan is mainly APP, who will be the deignated go-to for Spectrum?

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a good question for Catherine to pose to the principal at View Ridge:

Who capped the Spectrum program at a size 11 students smaller than the obvious demand? Was it a District-level decision or a school-level decision?

I'll bet the decision was made at the school level.

If the Terri Skjei will acknowledge that it was a school level decision, then ask her why the program was capped as it was. If a spectrum-eligible child is in a classroom with Spectrum students, then what is limiting the school's ability to include that child in the program?

The View Ridge web site says that the school has "blended Spectrum". What is that?

According to the District web site, Spectrum is guided by four core principles:

1) Provide a rigorous curriculum.

2) Provide an accelerated curriculum that focuses on student proficiency in grade level expectations and one grade level beyond or more in reading and mathematics

3) Cluster district-identified students to form classroom rosters. District-identified students are students found eligible for the program through the district's testing process. As needed, teachers differentiate to meet the learning needs of students in the classroom to ensure all students are gaining academic skills.

4) Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of students who are academically gifted.

So what is "blended Spectrum"?

Please refer Ms Skjei to this page on the District web site that makes it clear that there is no such thing as "blended Spectrum".

Then contact Dr. Vaughan in Advanced Learning and ask him to clarify the difference between Spectrum and an ALO. Get him to explain why the View Ridge program has capped enrollment where it has. Get him to explain why your child cannot be regarded as a participant in the program when he is already sitting right there in the classroom. Get him to explain it all to you and for him and Ms Skjei to explain all to you and Director Maier.

That would be totally worthwhile.

Then file a complaint. Go to the Customer Service department of the District and tell them that you have spoken with the principal without getting satisfaction and that you insist that someone fix this situation because THAT AIN'T SPECTRUM.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a good question for Catherine to pose to the principal at View Ridge:

Who capped the Spectrum program at a size 11 students smaller than the obvious demand? Was it a District-level decision or a school-level decision?

I'll bet the decision was made at the school level.

If the Terri Skjei will acknowledge that it was a school level decision, then ask her why the program was capped as it was. If a spectrum-eligible child is in a classroom with Spectrum students, then what is limiting the school's ability to include that child in the program?

The View Ridge web site says that the school has "blended Spectrum". What is that?

According to the District web site, Spectrum is guided by four core principles:

1) Provide a rigorous curriculum.

2) Provide an accelerated curriculum that focuses on student proficiency in grade level expectations and one grade level beyond or more in reading and mathematics

3) Cluster district-identified students to form classroom rosters. District-identified students are students found eligible for the program through the district's testing process. As needed, teachers differentiate to meet the learning needs of students in the classroom to ensure all students are gaining academic skills.

4) Provide instruction by teachers familiar with the needs of students who are academically gifted.

So what is "blended Spectrum"?

Please refer Ms Skjei to this page on the District web site that makes it clear that there is no such thing as "blended Spectrum".

Then contact Dr. Vaughan in Advanced Learning and ask him to clarify the difference between Spectrum and an ALO. Get him to explain why the View Ridge program has capped enrollment where it has. Get him to explain why your child cannot be regarded as a participant in the program when he is already sitting right there in the classroom. Get him to explain it all to you and for him and Ms Skjei to explain all to you and Director Maier.

That would be totally worthwhile.

Then file a complaint. Go to the Customer Service department of the District and tell them that you have spoken with the principal without getting satisfaction and that you insist that someone fix this situation because THAT AIN'T SPECTRUM.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SC, I disagree.

Spectrum is program while alternatives are school models. I want(ed) to see structure around Spectrum so it isn't all over the place. I'm sorry if they only have Spectrum math at one school and a whole Spectrum day at another, you can't judge effectiveness of a program as a whole.

Moose said...

Charlie, thank you for providing Catherine and the rest of us with a script to use when discussing Spectrum seats with the school and District. When I enrolled my daughter for middle school (and had to request a Spectrum seat in middle school, even though she had a Spectrum designation), I was told by the folks in the enrollment center that I didn't have a guarantee that she would get a seat. How do they even determine who gets a seat -- lottery? Anyway, I kvetched to my spouse but didn't have such a handy set of facts/questions as those provided in this blog post.

Charlie Mas said...

The story with Spectrum isn't much different from similar stories all across the District.

In the time of site-based decision-making, the District abdicated its authority to define Spectrum and to enforce that definition. Consequently, Spectrum lost definition - it did used to have it.

As the District continued to fail to enforce any definition of Spectrum the District lost the will to enforce any definition of Spectrum. To evade conflict with families demanding authentic Spectrum the District unilaterally re-defined Spectrum and re-defined it VERY loosely, to the point that the definition could be stretched to fit almost anything happening - or not happening - in a school.

Now comes Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and her rhetoric about centralized decision-making. Now the District needs to re-assert its authority to define Spectrum and to enforce that definition.

This could be good. The District needs to assure families of the quality and efficacy of Spectrum programs. The District needs to assure families that Spectrum programs all across the city are of comparable quality. For that to happen, the District needs to enforce the Spectrum delivery model and the District needs measure the quality and efficacy of the programs and the District needs to hold schools accountable for that quality.

This is important. This is the District's work. If the District isn't going to do this then we don't have a District; we just have a hundred schools sharing a revenue stream.

Anonymous said...

Here is an irony for people in Catherine's son's position: at least last year, schools were either ALO or Spectrum - so a child at a Spectrum school who was waitlisted would not receive an ALO report card - and would lose eligibility for Spectrum if not admitted to the program by the next year. And waitlists are redone by lottery yearly - you don't get preference just because you've been waitlisted for a whole year. It is ridiculous, and hopefully will change.

Spectrum has pros and cons - locally accessible, and it does help provide an academically advanced cohort, but even at View Ridge which has a very popular program, in the younger grades it primarily seems to consist of providing math one year above, no further enrichment/differentiation for kids working well beyond that. The reading program is more differentiated, probably because there is so much variability in kids' reading levels at that age.

View Ridge has had access issues for years. At least in the lower grades they do serve all the kids doing advanced work equally - one of the pros of the blended program. I have always been told that the number of Spectrum seats is determined by the district but it would be interesting to find that out for sure.

VR parent

GreyWatch said...

Part of me agrees with Charlie's statement that asserting central control could be a good thing for spectrum (well, the optimistic trusting side of me thinks so). It seems very wishy washy, varies by school in what you get from the program, and in how you get in. Would be nice to define it, but then again, what if I hate the new definition!

Last year during the first few weeks of school, my son was identified as spectrum eligible by his teacher, and would have been moved into a spectrum class but they didn't have space. He was not the only one. In years past, it was common practice (so I was told) to move kids who hadn't tested (at all, or who tested but didn't pass the threshold required), but whose teachers felt they could handle it (and whose parents asked).

Could you find that in writing anywhere? Probably not, but I like that it seemed to have some flexibility in meeting kids where they are at, when they need it. The other part of me didn't like that this seemed to be a rule to be used by only those who knew about it.

Another complaint, the fall testing cycle is too early. It's too far off from the next year's enrollment and too early to give teachers enough time to get to know the kids, and parents enough time to assess how their child is doing and advocate for their needs.

And finally, I know there are a number of people who think we have too many tests, but I think to be fair, all kids should be tested, and standardize the testing environment.

My daughter and son had widely different experiences. One took it on a Saturday at school they'd never been to, with a proctor who seemed like they really didn't want to be there. The other took it her own school during the school day and knew the proctor. Kids asked questions in one setting, and were afraid to move in the other. If you can pay for private testing, you'll have one on one proctoring. Some kids take the test every year. Does that give them an edge? If so, is this the wrong test?

Anonymous said...

Elementary Spectrum seats were assigned for the 2010-11 school year based on the following tiebreakers.
1. Sibling
2. Service Area
3. Lottery

This is from the NSAP Transition plan dated January 20, 2010.

It is my understanding from reading the document that for the 2011-12 school year and going forward the Sibling tiebreaker will disappear.

This is an issue for families. It does not guarantee them a seat at the same Spectrum school for families that live in the Eckstein Service Area where there are multiple Spectrum schools. If more than one child in the family qualifies for Spectrum.

A NE Parent

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I see your point: Spectrum is (or should be) a more "formulaic" program (beginning with students working a grade level above), and as such should be more aligned around the district (NOT standardized, tho'!) as opposed to the Alts.

Part of my point was, tho', that the district COULD be seeing what's effective, even without alignment, they COULD be playing an active observational role to determine effectiveness, they COULD be monitoring, implementing, ensuring more than adequate Spectrum services....Even without an alignment (which I agree is probably a good thing, at least to a higher degree than alts)

This is why I compared it to the alt work - alts had a coalition (a real one, I might add) that brought forward the policy, which brought forward a collaborative Alt Committee in the district, which brought forward the Alt Report....which is waiting for more collaboration between district and the alts to see what is best for everybody.

Spectrum might benefit from such collaboration, with the district having a structure it would like to see and working with each school to see that some version (some STRONG version) of it is available to all Spectrum students.

Charlie Mas said...

Seattle Citizen, I think you've described what the District should be doing with the ALOs. Each school is free to design their ALO as they see fit. The Spectrum delivery model, however, is dictated by the District: Self-contained (or as near to self-contained as the school can manage). The only rule about ALO delivery models is that they cannot be self-contained.

This is the line between Spectrum and ALOs. There is no other.

The ALOs provide the District with opportunity for experimentation in the delivery model - not Spectrum.

justamom said...

Having read this blog for a few years now I have often wondered what to think. After this discussion I can now say that much is said here where the writer thinks they know all tht is happening. I have finally found the answer to my question.......alot of this blog is belief rather than fact. This is based off of Charlie's last comment.

Charlie Mas said...

justamom, what are the facts - as you see them?

CougarKatie said...
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Anonymous said...

In case anyone else is concerned about the increased stakes of MAP testing (AL gateway) -- you might want to check out the NWEA website. They have lots of articles about the test. I plan to use those to prep my child so that externalities of taking an unfamiliar test do not affect her score. I guess teachers will be doing that in the classroom, but I'd rather be sure. Things like that the questions may get harder, so don't freak out -- not knowing an answer could actually mean you are doing well. Use scratch paper for the math problems. That sort of thing. My daughter tends to worry about "breaking the rules" and won't take what I consider common sense steps if she is unsure what is allowed. I know some kindergarten parents at our school are worried about their children seeming below level just because they have rarely used a computer mouse before -- another thing to think about with the younger kids.

StepJ said...

If you do want your child to take the CogAT - don't opt. out of MAP.

Per an e-mail from the office of Brad Bernatek, MAP will be required for any currently enrolled student to be eligible for AL testing.

One suggestion was to appeal to take the CogAT if your younger child for some reason did not meet the threshold. For example K kids that don't know how to use a mouse yet.

The e-mail was viewed vs. sent to me so I do not have it to forward.

Maureen said...

Does anyone know how to report suspected weirdness in a MAP exam? I will tell the teacher, but I don't really want them to waste their time pursuing it to the upper levels. My 7th grader says that she saw the exact same reading sample repeatedly (about 3 or 4 times) during her one hour exam. She says it was a piece about Philosophy and Art. She was asked different questions about it each time, but still that seems like a bug. She also was given repeated pieces from Shakespeare (an excerpt from MacBeth and about three sonnets) but they weren't repeated. Has anyone else heard anything similar from their kid?

Nobody said...

When I needed copies of MAP scores for my children I was put in touch with a data coach (that was his title, though the name escapes me) and he was quite helpful. If I had concerns about test anomalies, that's probably who I would contact first.

ttln said...

each site has a test coordinator. teachers can report weirdness to this person who then can troubleshoot (=retest). it sounds like the kid is a high reader. she? will see similar questions w/each test.

A parent said...

This brings up the earlier issue of kids hitting the ceiling of the test. Those testing in the 99% range will show little to no measurable growth at some point, making the test of litle meaning. The variation in scores becomes more like noise.

My child reported a similar series of questions (repeatedly being asked questions on the same topic, kind of like a barrier to getting different questions).

Charlie Mas said...

It's a funny thing, but by measuring reading ability by grade levels we create a ceiling at the highest grade level.

Once the assessment determines that a group of students read as well as college students are expected to read, how do we express gradients among this group? Do we create reading levels of undergrad, Bachelor's, Master's, PhD, and post-doctorate? How goofy is that? And where's the value in it?

Maureen said...

Thanks ttln, I'll find out who that is at our school.

My main concern is that if she doesn't show growth over the course of the year, her teacher will be called on it. I don't think that is at all fair since the kid is 12 and if she is in a funk on the day the spring test is given she could easily let herself drop down to the point where the excerpts are from Junie B Jones! In any event, the fact that she had three or four shots at that one excerpt must have inflated her score over that of a kid who had four separate pieces to interpret.

It's too bad in a way, I thought that the MAP would be a huge improvement over the WASL in that it could better differentiate for kids on the high end of the curve. It doesn't seem to have added enough value for my kid given that it takes up at least six hours of her year (not to mention all of the hours the computer lab, librarian, and assistant principal are tied up). I suppose it is more useful for younger kids.

ttln said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ttln said...

Maybe. I got to thinking about using the MAP break down by strand to see if I can effect changes to specific achievement areas like "Knowledge of Text Components" and "Think Critically and Analyze." I saw a lot of growth in my students across the board in these two areas- even in high (95%+) readers whose overall RIT either changed by a negligible amount or even dropped, in some cases. This year, I think I am going to pay attention to the connection between what I am doing in my room and the results in these areas of the test.

Perhaps looking at the strand data on your high-end kid will provide information on areas of her growth as well as potential information on teacher performance.

My first grader takes the test soon. I am nervous for her even though she seems nonplussed about the whole thing. Being a teacher who was part of the MAPs pilot schools, I find myself wanting to get her results in the 24 hrs that are available to teachers and not wait until Thanksgiving. I haven't emailed her teacher yet, but I am ooooooh so tempted. This is her school's first year. I don't want to overwhelm the teacher by asking her generate reports she most likely hasn't been taught to run yet. I could ask my daughter to get her number for me, but I don't really trust the kid since she can't find shoes or remember her backpack routinely. She reads, loves math. I am not worried only a data geek who wants to see her data. I almost want to volunteer to "help" in the lab that day. Meddling mom...

Who cares is she get's qualified for Spectrum? Schmitz Park doesn't have Spectrum and look at their results. Now, my kid isn’t at SP. I would love for her school to get on that math wagon. However, Spectrum is a group of kids, not content or curriculum. Until it means something more than ability grouped cohort, I just cannot get myself worked up about it.

Anonymous said...

So, after this discussion here, the VR Spectrum waitlist was aggressively moved, and number 11 is in. The SPS website does not yet reflect the change, so I have some paranoia there, but supposedly it's set.

When I talked to the VR front office in the spring, I was told the union sets the Spectrum numbers. Make of that what you will.

ttln said...

sure at 32 kids/ teacher? Just like any other class in middle school?

Seats/class is not the same as seats/school/grade. Come on. What a lame finger pointing is that? Open up seats in another class period, create a new class, etc. Master schedule should respond to needs of students in the building, not in spite of the needs of kids in the building.

Anonymous said...

ttln says: "Until it [Spectrum] means something more than ability grouped cohort, I just cannot get myself worked up about it."

Ttln, your daughter is in first grade. Mine is in 5th and transitioning to middle school next year. She has an older brother who is a smart guy but didn't quite test into Spectrum -- it was a disaster, because at that particular Seattle middle school there was a huge difference between Spectrum and regular classes. And regular was totally unchallenging for him -- below grade level based on what he did in an SPS elementary. It was a year of repeating the math he learned in 5th grade and doing dioramas instead of writing reports. The Spectrum kids did challenging work; I saw it hung up in the classrooms and hallways. I guess it was the same curriculum; the topics were the same. They were just explored with more depth and rigor by the Spectrum classes.

Now I feel very anxious that my daughter MUST qualify for Spectrum to continue getting a decent education past 5th grade. She will not go to that same middle school, so maybe it will all work out differently anyhow. But you can see why I am worked up about it, and I bet I am not the only one.

frustrated said...

A Parent,

It sounds like you're confusing the MAP with WASL/MSP.

Students testing in "the 99% range" (I think you mean percentile) will not be hitting a MAP ceiling. At least not in elementary/middle school. A redeeming feature of the MAP is that the kids can be operating much higher than that and still have room to grow. At least in math the ceiling is very high, and even for kids above 99.9%ile there is plenty room to demonstrate growth. Of course the higher your score, the less likely any growth will be due to a classroom teacher, but that's another story.

There is always going to be noise in any assessment, whether computerized or paper, whether district administered or made up by the teacher. But the MAP is actually a big improvement in this regard for high achievers.

Remember, the MAP is designed to determine where a student is at on an open scale. (actually, multiple scales blended together for a single number at the end). It's not designed to test whether or not a student has mastered a particularly grade level expectation like the WASL/MSP. The latter give you terrible problems with noise at the top end because high-achievers are artificially clumped tightly at the top. Missing just one or two questions, which is perfectly reasonable, can make a big difference. Plus, to your point, there is no way to show measurable growth. These tests are virtually worthless for high-achievers, and I'm surprised more APP families don't opt out. But these are not characteristics of the MAP.

-------------------
This brings up the earlier issue of kids hitting the ceiling of the test. Those testing in the 99% range will show little to no measurable growth at some point, making the test of litle meaning. The variation in scores becomes more like noise.

hschinske said...

Students testing in "the 99% range" (I think you mean percentile) will not be hitting a MAP ceiling. At least not in elementary/middle school.

Oh, I think some probably are. After all, that's why it's worthwhile doing talent search testing on the SAT and ACT (full-length 11th-grade-level tests, which the MAP obviously is not) by seventh grade. I don't think the much smaller quantity of 11th-grade material on the MAP is enough to rank highly gifted middle school students accurately.

Helen Schinske

Alan said...

Can someone tell me why it is so "important" to begin labeling kids in elementary school..."spectrum," "non-spectrum," etc? I don't get it. My daughter "qualifies" for spectrum on math, but not reading and is therefore, not in the program. She is in the one and only general ed class in third grade at her school - the rest of the classes are spectrum. Is this "equal" education...can someone guarantee me she will receive the same challenge and rigor other students do in the "spectrum" classes? Is she losing out on a quality education because she attends a school where the "high" kids and "grade level" kids are separated? I struggle with this question as do many parents, both spectrum and gen ed, at our school. Why do we feel the need to make this division so early? Can someone explain that to me?

Bird said...

Alan,

Are you worred that your daughter is not getting material up to her ability by being in general ed? Or are you only worried that others are working at a higher level?

Does your daughter have access to sufficiently challenging material in math?

Did your school offer her access to ALO to accomodate her?

I don't have that much familiarity with Spectrum. I don't have a kid in Spectrum or a kid in a school where Spectrum is offered, so I can't say whether that program is harmful or not. I expect the devil is in the details.

In the abstract, however, I don't have a problem with kids being offered different levels of rigor depending on their interest and ability.

I have two kids. One is very academically oriented and very academically advanced. The other is, I think, a pretty regular kid academically. I don't really have a problem offering them different things academically.

One really thrives on a high level of challenge and the other gets very nervous when put out of their level. They are different people, and I think that's fine.

As long as they both are getting their needs met and getting a good education, I don't worry about one "losing" out more than the other.

Your situation may differ. I don't know the details.

ArchStanton said...

Students testing in "the 99% range" (I think you mean percentile) will not be hitting a MAP ceiling. At least not in elementary/middle school.

I know of one 2nd grader that hit the ceiling in one subject last year and I am fairly certain that my child would hit the ceiling in another subject before she left elementary school.

frustrated said...

Regarding elementary/middle hitting MAP ceiling

Oh, I think some probably are. After all, that's why it's worthwhile doing talent search testing on the SAT and ACT (full-length 11th-grade-level tests, which the MAP obviously is not) by seventh grade. I don't think the much smaller quantity of 11th-grade material on the MAP is enough to rank highly gifted middle school students accurately.

They're really not, trust me. Okay, maybe there is one kid somewhere in the district who is hiding out, but there isn't anyone in middle school APP (let alone elementary) who doesn't still have some headroom on the MAP. I know all these kids, and they talk. Again, this is on the math section, I couldn't say for sure in the reading section.

This is not to say that your concerns are invalid, and I agree that SAT and ACT tests are likely to do a better job discriminating at the top end, but do you know with certainty how much 11th grade material the MAP has access to? I don't. But I do know that at least right now the kids are not running into a ceiling with the MAP prior to high school. Not yet anyway, we'll see what next year brings.

I know of one 2nd grader that hit the ceiling in one subject last year and I am fairly certain that my child would hit the ceiling in another subject before she left elementary school.

Arch, just to be sure, we're talking about the MAP, not MSP. There are definitely Lowell kids hitting the top in MSP, but not MAP - at least not in math. No way. If the 2nd grader you're referring to is in math, I know who you're talking about. While this kid is truly amazing, and I think may one day be the lone exception, it's not even close right now. Let's talk again in a couple years!

I certainly believe the MAP could, and ideally would, have more headroom. But the main point of my initial post was to point out that it does a much, much better job assessing the high-achievers than the crappy grade-level assessments. For that I am thankful.

hschinske said...

There is a separate MAP for primary grades, which I would hope APP isn't using, but hitting the ceiling on that would definitely not mean the same thing as hitting the ceiling on the upper-level MAP.

That said, you don't have to be getting the absolute top score in order to be getting well into ceiling territory. I know the year Garfield had ninth-graders taking the PSAT (maybe there were two years, I forget, but it didn't last long) I heard of more than one kid scoring in the National Merit range two years early. Just in five minutes' gossip I heard about two ninth-graders getting perfect scores on the math section, and there were probably more in that ballpark (given that I do NOT know all these kids). One of my own daughters missed only two questions each on the verbal and writing sections (her math was pretty good, too). There must have been many more in the 95th+ percentile range.

The test was given early in the ninth-grade year. I have a really hard time believing (a) that there aren't similar kids coming through middle school now, and (b) if there are, that they would not be hitting the ceiling range on the MAP pretty hard by eighth grade, and some of them by sixth.

Here's a chart of the 95th percentile scores for each level: link. I have a hard time thinking that there aren't any middle-schoolers hitting 267 on the math.

My youngest kid hit what would have been 89th percentile for an 11th grader on the MAP math section in sixth grade, and while he likes math and is pretty good at it, he's very far from a prodigy.

Helen Schinske

frustrated said...

There is a separate MAP for primary grades, which I would hope APP isn't using, but hitting the ceiling on that would definitely not mean the same thing as hitting the ceiling on the upper-level MAP.

Good point, and I'd forgotten about the separate primary version, but I thought they were supposed to be taking the same one. The RIT scores are comparable. If that's not the case, apologies to Arch! I'll try to find out more info on this.

Gotta run, but will address other stuff later today.