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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lowell Meeting Redux

Okay, let me just state that when I took a head count at 7:00 pm at the meeting, it was about 75 people.  Imagine my surprise when I got up to speak and saw many more people had come in.  So yes, the crowd was larger than my 75 count.

I'm just going to go thru some highlights, review what I was hearing from the first thread and let's see if we can find some ideas to put forth.  (Also, please do not hijack this thread on another topic.  I'm asking nicely.)

Staff Highlights:
  • First and foremost, I absolutely concur with what I believe I heard from the previous thread.  I believe for the amount of staff there, they came in unprepared.  No real data, no real ideas.  You don't come to a meeting with a lot of smart parents and think that just saying "we want to listen to you."  Parents did NOT come to that meeting to vent.  They came for answers and solutions.  It is hard to know how to go forward if you don't have the data to explain how we got where we are.  Was this by design or just clumsiness?  Probably a little of both.
  • Dr. Vaughn's silence was very telling.  Look, I like Bob Vaughn and I know he knows his stuff on gifted education.  But he has no power and frankly, unless it's totally behind the scenes, I rarely see him truly advocating for these students and for the program.  It is mystifying to me.  If he isn't the champion for the program, who will be?  
  • The PowerPoint title was "Short-Term Capacity Managment Planning for Lowell Elementary School."  That told me a lot from the start.
  • Principal King came up to me with a couple of parents who had recognized me and said he liked to meet people who talk about him.  Okay.  I told him that I hadn't called him because I know from past experience that principals will not talk about personnel issues and he agreed.  (But I probably should have asked him about the BLT.)  He did say that he had only been in Seattle three years and didn't know the district well beyond Lowell.  (That is not a slam on him; to be a principal in this district AND know the district well is a tall order. )
  • Nancy Coogan, the Ex Director for the region, stated that she guaranteed that the district is not dismantling the APP program or closing Lowell.  She said that, putting on her parent hat, that several parents had told her that their child would be facing their third or fourth school for elementary and she said that was not acceptable to her.  She said she was the voice for "your children."  She also stated that Dr. Enfield had a previous commitment but all comments would be forwarded to her.
  • According to Pegi McEvoy, short-term planning is for next year, immediate planning is for 3-5 years and long-term planning is 5+ years.
  • The planning considerations are these: education and size of cohort needed; operational (safety and space);logistical (transportation and ease of getting done by start of school year); financial and parent satisfaction.
Q&A Highlights
  • How many buses currently go to Lowell?  Pegi didn't know the answer to that.
  • Why can't the ALO program be relocated for the year?  This speaker pointed out with APP and Special Ed, it was the right number of students for the building.  (I think the point was that it was APP students tipping the balance but the ALO program.)  This question did not seem to be addressed and certainly was not on the staff options at all.  (But one reader pointed out that moving APP  would fall in the Superintendent's authority as a program move while moving the ALO population would be a Board decision and would need a vote.)
  • Another parent asked why in-bound APP students could not be denied access because of the capacity issues.   (I guess this one is sort of a la Spectrum; you test in but don't get a seat.)  No feedback on this one either.)
  • Another parent said if APP elementary splits into 3, why not move west or up north?  Do the split now and make that cohort by region.
  • An ALO parent put forth a petition signed by 54 parents and asked if this was an APP or Lowell meeting.  They said they want a vibrant local school and it would disrupt the school if APP left.  They want it fully funded and staffed.
  • One parent asked if the district would do this to any other school and why is APP a moveable feast (that's my phrasing).  He said he wanted an apology from the district for this mess.
  • Another mom, Elizabeth Wong, stated that she has a background in educational planning.  She spoke to the issues of split families, professional development and collaboration by teachers and social issues for children.  
  • I mentioned that Ms. McEvoy's explanation of how there are more APP students because of MAP testing didn't go deep enough.   First, she had mentioned how it brought more diversity to the program.  Has it?  She offered no data on that issue.  Second, it may be true that MAP testing has brought more students to the district's attention (a good thing) but, in the growing absence of Spectrum seats AND a real Spectrum program, I have to believe that more parents look to APP because there is no real alternative.  I also pointed out that there is supposed to be an ALO-type offering at every school and there isn't and there is no consistency to what is offered.  
  • Another parent worried about moving a group of kids to Lincoln and then they have to move again.  He also asked about teachers being able to give input and give it via the union so they feel okay to speak freely.  
  • Another parent, Scott, a professor of education at Seattle Pacific, stated that there was research at OSPI about schools performing better with high levels of collaboration and communication between teachers and staff.  He said it pays big dividends and said it believed there was no research to support a split.
  • One parent pointed out that a 4/5th split would divide families who would have one child in a school in one neighborhood, one in Lowell (another neighborhood) and may live in a third neighborhood.  
  • There was some note of what is a "small" school in SPS.  I'd have to go back and look at numbers but I feel sure that there are at least 8+ schools that are under 300.  I have to smile because when we did the first closure and consolidation, many parents advocated for these small schools saying it was better for children.  
  • One parent worried that the district is not "seeing APP for the community it is."
  • One parent asked for newly enrolled students to have the opportunity to go back to their neighborhood school because they based their Lowell decision on what was presented at the time.
  • One parent asked why the School Board didn't supervise the staff better.  The School Board members sat by mutely.
  • One parent said she just wanted predictability after so many changes to bus schedules and day care schedules.  
  • Another parent asked why Thurgood Marshall families were not invited to this meeting as possible solutions may affect their school.
  • One sweet child asked if she would still be able to be in a music program and ask "who would we perform to?'  
  • Another person asked if the Special Ed parents in the building had been notified of this meeting.  
  • The last person I heard speak was Brent, a teacher at Lowell.  I was glad I stuck around for his comments because he was being blunt and to the point.  He said this district "needs to get its house in order."  Amen, brother but go on.  He said it was one crisis after another and these decisions have wide-ranging impacts.  He said the problem is not the schools but the management.  He said poor decision-making damages SPS' reputation and it could affect the levies someday.  
What I think I'm hearing from the previous thread:
  • no to the 4/5th split (and is this a diversionary tactic from what the district really wants which seems to be the 3rd school split)
  • there is no way to keep everyone at Lowell and portables would not solve the problem so that's out
  • there is some advocacy for moving the complete APP cohort to another school (like Addams).  I completely disagree and that's for historical reasons.  The late Superintendent John Stanford had ended the APP at Madrona (when it was a K-5) experiment and said that APP should never co-house with another school.  I believe Kellie LaRue has stated the capacity issues in doing so and I think that should do it for that idea.  
  • I think that parents who are new to Lowell next year should advocate to be allowed to move to their neighborhood schools if they do not like what the final decision is.  This change is a totally different idea than what was presented to them (although the program would largely be the same).  That said, if it were me, if they move the entire cohort together, I'd stay with my assignment.
  • Yes, I believe the district always writes its leases with the option of taking back the school for educational purposes.  That said, I don't know a lot about the size and condition of TT Minor.  And, it couldn't happen in time for the new school year.  
  • McDonald has its own thing going now with foreign language immersion.  McDonald has another year at Lincoln before going back to their own building in 2012-2013.
  • Lincoln is the workhorse interim building.   SBOC will move in there in 2012-2013.   I don't know if what I'm hearing from APP parents is to move the entire Lowell APP cohort to Lincoln for a year or two until a permanent decision is made but if SBOC comes in, I don't think this is practical.  And with all due respect, SBOC has been waiting its turn for a long, long time.  They should be first in any considerations about Lincoln.   Could SBOC and the entire Lowell APP cohort co-house for a year or two at Lincoln?  I don't think so given the age groups (1-5 versus 6-12) and the space needs for each.  
  • It feels like the district wants the 3rd split but I hear APP parents saying that it is too soon from the last split and will be one more blow for students, parents and staff to absorb.  
  • Another worry on the horizon - will there be enough capacity at Hamilton and Washington for all these students?  Hamilton has already been renovated and is maxed out.  Washington could be on BEX IV but I don't know how much bigger it could be built.  
  • I personally think those costs estimates for the various options to be so vague and flimsy as to be useless.  Look, they had money for raises, they can find money to address the emergency needs of a program.
I see one of two things to advocate for going forward.  I am not an APP parent and never was.  But I offer this from what I have heard from this meeting and the previous thread comments (now near 200).

I would reject the 4/5th split, outright, no way.  The district would not do this to any other community and no community would accept it.

I would reject the 3rd expansion.  If the district wants another split, great, take your time and do it right.  Deciding by July 8th is not enough time.

What is left is to move the entire APP cohort.  (I know this leaves the remaining Lowell community worried but honestly, there are other small schools and it is possible to do well as a small school.  I don't think you will stay small for long.) 

Move the cohort for one year while the district intensively studies the best long-term option.  Not intermediate - long-term.  You could go to Lincoln for a year or maybe Jane Addams (it's a better building for that purpose).  

Then whatever the split, the next APP school should just house APP.  I say that because this co-housing of neighborhood and APP has been tried now, twice, and has not worked.  (Maybe Thurgood Marshall is an exception but the capacity issues make it even harder.)  There are a few buildings to consider but that's the district's job.

I urge you not to be divided.  That is what the district likes to do and it will further weaken APP as a group.   You should urge the PTA to go to SEA now and find out what Lowell teachers are thinking and find common ground and stand it. 

In the end, there is no answer that will make everyone happy.  There never is. 

171 comments:

Local Option said...

I would propose combining Spectrum and APP at the cluster level. APP kids should be able to stay closer to home and still get 2 grade levels above(or more) in core subjects. Each cluster should offer programs for the entire range of student needs, except very particular circumstances that can only be addressed by a special site.

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

Thank you once again Melissa for your detailed and informative work.

This mess at Lowell certainly raises at least a few important questions to me. What was the purpose of the meeting at Lowell; who called the meeting and what was the agenda? What does the district expect to be the outcome of the meeting? What is the timeline for resolving this problem?

Finally, what is being done to authentically engage ALL members of the Lowell community in addressing these problems?

Terrence

dj said...

Local Option, APP students are not evenly distributed by cluster, or even close. What you propose would end up with some clusters with a handful of APP students, period, and some with a classroom per grade or more. It's not practical (and would be really unfair for the students in clusters that have few APP kids).

Melissa, I want to agree with you, and really I do agree with you, but how likely is it that the district is going to give APP a whole building of its own?

Anonymous said...
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Equal Opportunity for Different Abilities said...

Regarding Bob Vaughan's behavior: mystifying is the operative word. As a witness to the dismembering of Spectrum at Lawton this year, I remember Bob and his Robin, Roger Daniels, being in favor of self-contained at the beginning of the process. But at the meeting where the verdict was delivered they professed excitement at the new cluster-grouping model as an innovative approach that had the potential to not only allow Spectrum kids to excel but to do deal with the problem of wait-listed Spectrum at other schools.
I, too, think Bob is a fine man and Roger a passionate believer in gifted education, but we need people who can endure the slings and arrows of the anti- gifted ed crowd and try to explain what is really at stake and how everyone is a winner when kids get to stretch their wings academically. If Bob can't do it, maybe we need someone else in charge at AL.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, repost with a name.

I said put Lowell APP at Addams for ONE year. Not permanently. The cohort would have to go someplace.

The first paragraph is saying co-housing has been tried and hasn't worked. Under the NSAP, it will be even worse so ditch the idea of co-housing.

DJ, I know. It scares the district to think of giving APP its own building (although Lowell was almost there save the Special Ed students). Guess what? Does Susan Enfield want to be a change agent or not? Does she want to listen to Superintendent Stanford or not? What other school could co-house with Lowell APP for long-term?

Because there has to be a one-year gig and then a permanent home.

It is time for the district to make tough decisions that stick and get to a place where their job one is academics and not management.

Bird said...

What you propose would end up with some clusters with a handful of APP students, period, and some with a classroom per grade or more. It's not practical (and would be really unfair for the students in clusters that have few APP kids).

Even if the kids were evenly distributed by cluster the numbers wouldn't be sufficient to make a working APP program.

I don't know the numbers for this year, but with last year's numbers, I think you'd only end up with about 50 APP kids per cluster, if distribution were absolutely even.

I'd really advocate for keeping the APP cohort as large as possible for the kids involved. For many of APP kids a smaller cohort wouldn't matter, but for the really high outliers the smaller cohort just means that they will be as much an odd man out as the average APP kid was in general ed. (cf. the dismantalling of more advanced math followin the middle school split)

Local Option said...

dj,
While I realize that APP numbers are not the same in each cluster, where is the unfairness? Say you had a cohort of 5 APP 4th graders in a cluster and you put then together with 11 Spectrum kids and fill the class with non-tested high ability kids and high performers. That classroom would not only be able to meet the needs of the APP kids, but would keep those kids in the community where they can do what kids in gifted programs tend to do; increase the academic level of the whole school. Busing kids who have high ability out of a lower performing or even a top performing cluster gives people the wrong message, i.e. high ability kids don't belong here.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just on combining Spectrum and APP, I would say great except for a couple of issues.

1) the district seems to be losing interest in Spectrum altogether so I don't think this would interest them

2) if you think some teachers and principals don't like Spectrum in their schools, do you think they'll like APP better?

I would really support this idea as it would allow more students to be closer to home (and then join together as a bigger cohort at middle school) but there is NO way the district would do it. It would water down APP to the point of wondering, why have it at all?

ArchStanton said...

Then whatever the split, the next APP school should just house APP.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I mean, it would be great for the split group to get it's own building, but it begs the question: "What about the other two APPs?" Are you suggesting that SPS would eventually have three APPs in their own buildings?

Because, if that isn't coming, I can't imagine that Lowell and T.Marshal communities would be enthusiastic about an arrangement that leaves them co-housed while a (presumably) new north school has it's own building. Likewise, I have a hard time imagining that even with a new Superintendent and four new board members, there would be enough of a sea change that APP elementary would find itself housed alone in three (or two or one) separate schools.

That would amount to the district admitting it was wrong. Though, I guess they did reopen schools...

Can you clarify your thinking around this?

dj said...

ArchStanton, I think Melissa's suggestion is that all of APP north goes north, as opposed to that there is a TM, Lowell, and North program. I share your concern about having a lopsided program, but I think if there is long-term planning it is possible that you could have a whole-school APP site for central/south eventually (there is more capacity down here, and we are less crunched), and, again, with long-term planning, that site could be relatively equal in size (I do not know how you would draw the lines, but depending on where the north site is and what the transit lines are like, it might make sense to draw some of the immediately-north-of-the-shipping-canal areas on the east side, or QA/Magnolia on the west).

Local Option said...

Melissa,
You only too clearly illustrate the divide and conquer approach of gifted ed opponents. Spectrum dismantling caused the Lowell over capacity problem to some extent. Spectrum parents leave schools like Lawton if their kids can get into Lowell not because they like Lowell, but because they hate Lawton. Most APP level kids can be served well in a self-contained Spectrum program. Maybe not the Lowell kid who was going to UW for math this year, but most.

Anonymous said...

local option - as a parent of an app-tested, but not enrolled child, i totally support this. i don't think even the most amazing app program would get me to bus my child and miss out on the neighborhood friends, after school playground time, and overall community we'd otherwise miss. every kid deserves to be challenged, and deserves the best teahcers/administrators, at their neighborhood school, whether they are 99, 92, or 35 percentile.

-Diane

Anonymous said...

Local Option, though I agree that in theory clustering *might* work, what is currently being calling clustering at Lawton and Wedgwood is a complete bastardization of the concept. The kids are not being clustered into 1 or 2 classrooms, they are being evenly distributed among all the classrooms, making equal heterogeneous classes, not truly clustered ones.

Every teacher will have the full range of students in their classroom now, and every teacher will be expected to provide a wider range of differentiated instruction than before, except for math. That will be a pullout program (though the homeroom teacher gets "credit" for the MAP scores), with little to no thought given to over-, or under-, crowding in the math class. And cohesion among Spectrum students?

This plan was put into place to deliberately break up the cohesion. I heard one principal say this publicly - that what was needed was "inclusivity" not "tracking", and that the kids needed to be mixed up so these groups did not form in the first place. It is a royal mess.

This is completely the opposite of principles behind SCGM (Schoolwide Gifted Cluster Model), and is 180 degrees different from what Susan Winebrenner has been advocating for two decades. The AL kids will not even be remotely served by this heterogeneous classroom approach.

The problem with AL in Seattle sadly lies at the top. I have no idea what has happened to Bob Vaughan, but he is being steamrollered. He has completely stopped advocating for, or caring about what happens to, the kids in our district that need advanced learning services. He'll agree to anything right now. It is appalling how quickly all the advanced learning programs have fallen into crisis mode in Seattle.

But back to APP - I would continue to push for keeping the APP program self contained. Otherwise, it will disappear, like Spectrum currently is.

- frustrated

Terrence J. Menage, Ed.D. said...

Out of genuine concern, has the district provided any semblance of a timeline for addressing this issue? Is anything being done to authentically engage ALL members of the Lowell community in work to address this issue?

Am I the only person that believes these are key questions regarding this mess and work to resolve the issue?

Bird said...

Most APP level kids can be served well in a self-contained Spectrum program.

I suspect that if most parents of APP enrolled kids thought this they would be keeping their kids in the local Spectrum program already.

Sorry, but I think your idea will be a complete non-starter for the APP community.

Local Option said...

Bird,
I think you would be surprised at the number of APP eligible kids who are in Spectrum(self-contained or "clustered") and even ALO programs. Community means a lot to some parents and some kids don't travel well. Would parents want their kids closer to home if the same level of instruction was offered? My guess is they would.

Anonymous said...

Bird - thank you. You said it very well.

We ran from our great ALO (we meet every child at their level) kindergarten that our child was in. I would have LOVED to keep my kid there as I liked running into school friends around the neighborhood and getting your child playdates is so much easier. It didn't work and my child felt like a freak. The neighborhood school was impossible for us.

Do you think parents would really volunteer for the stress the district has been putting us through for the last few years if our kids didn't really need it?

If APP is not self-contained, we are leaving the district all-together. It is the only thing keeping us in Seattle public schools.

APP must be self-contained

Anonymous said...

Local Option-

Is your child actually in the APP program?

I think your ideas are 100% wrong, and I don't think the vast majority of parents would want that. APP parents tend to believe the cohort is a huge benefit. When you talk about messing with the cohort, you have lost.

APP parent

Bird said...
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Anonymous said...
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Bird said...

I think you would be surprised at the number of APP eligible kids who are in Spectrum(self-contained or "clustered") and even ALO programs. Community means a lot to some parents and some kids don't travel well. Would parents want their kids closer to home if the same level of instruction was offered? My guess is they would.

Hey, I totally get that some people prefer the local community. My kid is qualified for APP and we stayed in the neighborhood school for exactly those reasons.

All I'm saying is that clearly the families enrolled in APP are getting value out of the larger cohort.

I'm not interested in breaking up something that people value enough to ship their kids across town for. I suspect they have good reasons for choosing that.

And regardless of what you or I think, I don't think the existing enrolled community would go for this. They've already voted with their feet.

Local Option said...

APP parent,
I think it's obvious my kids don't go to Lowell or TM. This thread was to explore ideas for the APP problem and from my personal experience it is related to the Spectrum problem and the Assignment plan and ALO and overall feelings about Advanced Learning. Maybe I don't have any kids, does is matter? I pay taxes and am concerned about our school system or I wouldn't be reading this blog. I went to school and I happen to know well the trials and tribulations of the gifted and I feel my input is as valid as anyone else's thank you.

Anonymous said...

i'm struck by how defensive some APP parents are in regards to keeping the cohort together - i mean no insult, but if you are talking about "meeting the needs of APP kids" and there is an entire subset that will NOT bus to Lowell or any other centralized school, and support great neighborhood schools for all, but just happen to test APP, perhaps this is also the time to address those "APP needs" as well?

-Diane

Anonymous said...

We chose Spectrum over APP for the neighborhood, but are having serious second thoughts. I do think that Local Option is correct, in that there are families like ours who do chose to stay local. However (and that is a big however), this solution does not work for every child or every family, and is highly dependent on their being local options for advanced learning.

The point of a true cluster model is to provide an alternative whenever a self-contained model is not available (go read Winebrenner's books and papers on this very concept). The fundamental idea is to provide at least some cohesion and group identity among the off-the-charts kids by grouping them together, self-contained when possible, 1 or 2 clusters per school when not. But we can't even get this basic concept implemented properly, so we are not even approaching the real clustering model right now.

We HAVE a wonderful self-contained model with APP in Seattle now (Winebrenner's first choice), with what was once a viable second option for those who wanted to stay in the neighborhood but who also wanted at least some partial cohort cohesion. But given how things stand today, and where they seem to be going in the future, this second option will no longer be available.

We are rapidly moving towards only two choices: self-contained APP, and neighborhood schools with some random ALO programs peppered in, determined school by school. Under the current realities, APP MUST stay self contained.

-frustrated

ArchStanton said...

@ dj: I'd love to believe that SPS would get behind a roadmap that would put APP back into it's own school(s) - especially given the outcomes of the NSAP. Can we really hope that they might finally see the wisdom in this?

Bird said...

i'm struck by how defensive some APP parents are in regards to keeping the cohort together

I'm sure you realize that some of this is due to the fact that some of these kids have already had a couple of disruptions in their social situation at school, both in moving to APP and then in having the APP group split. What parent under those circumstances would not be defensive about another disruption?

Also, for many of the enrolled APP families, the cohort is extremely important. They chose the program as much as to find a working social situation for their child as to get the APP curriculum.

...perhaps this is also the time to address those "APP needs" as well?

Can you outline with a little more clarity what APP needs are not being met for these students currently?

Perhaps there is a solution that doesn't involve dismantling a program that works for the families in it.

Anonymous said...

Diane, I don't understand your point. Parents of any child with non mainstream needs can, and do, decide what program is a best-fit for their child. The fact that some choose an alternative option does not reflect on the programs as a whole, generally. It just means that children are not widgets, and have individual needs.

-frustrated

ArchStanton said...

@ -Diane: A really strong, consistent Spectrum program might be able to meet the needs of APP kids at local schools, but SPS is consistently dismantling the few Spectrum programs that do exist. Meeting the needs of APP kids at their local schools is pretty unlikely, except in specific situations. Even if a teacher can differentiate enough to meet a child's academic needs, it still doesn't address the social-emotional needs that the cohort addresses.

Not sure what you specifically want to see...

Anonymous said...

Local option - I don't even know where to begin...We tried Spectrum and it wasn't enough for our child. We would have prefered to stay at the neighborhood school, but it wasn't meeting our child's needs academically. Even APP doesn't provide as much challenge as we were expecting, yet we are grateful to have it as an option.

We have yet to meet the mythical teacher that can adequately differentiate to meet such a broad range of abilities. The problems are confounded by the District's push for standardization and one-size-fits all curriculum - EDM, CMP, Readers/Writers Workshop, but I digress.

The self-contained model allows for a cohort of kids that are taught at their level most of the time, rather than just some of the time. It's not about exclusion so much as meeting their academic needs in the most efficient way.

I agree that some APP qualified students could be well served in a strong Spectrum or ALO, but the inconsistencies in ALO and the lack of a guaranteed spot in Spectrum make APP the default option for many.

Parents are left to work with what the District has to offer. If the district offered true honors level classes beginning in middle school, and students could opt-in based on grades and teacher recommendations, there would probably be fewer families choosing APP.

-don't have the answers

Local Option said...

frustrated,
I too have read Winebrenner's books and find it ironic that even though she prefers self-contained as the model to "keep gifted kids gifted" her book was used to dismantle self-contained Spectrum. I also agree with you that having the option of APP delivery locations for parents would be ideal. There are students who will do better in an all APP environment and that should and will always be available. A viable cluster-based alternative that could serve APP eligible students and Spectrum students at their full potential is what I and many others want to see.

Anonymous said...

Arch, we are one of those families that feel a strong local Spectrum program, where some cohort cohesion plus advanced academics are available, would be best suited for our elementary child at this time. This would NOT have worked if my child were one more standard deviation off the norm, I think.

Unfortunately, this option is being removed. It is too late to transfer this year, but we will likely go APP next year, or if things continue to look dire, move out of the district or mortgage the house and go private. We do not have the luxury of time for the district to get its act together.

-frustrated

Anonymous said...

LocalOption, I think we can all agree on that. Too bad Bob Vaughan has appeared to check out, and allow others to dismantle the AL program, rather than strengthen it.

- frustrated

ArchStanton said...

@ frustrated: Believe me when I say that I understand how you feel. I want to believe that this ship might eventually get turned around, but we didn't have the fortitude to wait and see...

Anonymous said...

frustrated and local option --
ironic indeed. but based from an unwillingness to stand up and advocate for Spectrum.

per Lawton's minutes
"the district feels the cluster-grouping plan is a compromise to address the objections that Lawton staff made regarding self-contained classrooms. Dr. Vaughan offered this as an option to help schools create new ALO and new Spectrum programs where there have previously been none."

APP I hope you can keep your cohort together !

-more frustration

Summer said...

Maybe Bob is some sort of Zen master teaching us awareness of reality and promoting enlightenment for all the world through loss of attachment.
I hope it's that and not just incompetence.

You never Know

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii said...

As a Lawton parent who was very disheartened with what went down this year regarding Spectrum, I plan to spend a lot of time at school next year seeing how the kids perform after two years of self-contained. There are predictions of mayhem as the Spectrum kids show off their previously contained behavior and the teachers are struggling to teach across the various abilities. Bob Vaughan promised to track performance of Spectrum students and he and the principal can expect to present MAP scores to prove the kids are not suffering academically. It would also be great to find out how much better the non spectrum program kids do by getting the "contact learning effect" that rubs off of high testing students.
I think parents were sold a bill of goods promising benefits from destroying self-contained that will never arrive. They should have instead demanded more rigor in General Ed and more ability grouping- not less. Every kid should be pushed and lowering the bar for some just isn't the way to bring up others.

Ticked Off and Planning to be an Irritating Tick

Patrick said...

Melissa, Jane Addams is not big enough to hold its already=enrolled students for fall plus the entire 450 APP students from Lowell. I don't have the figures in front of me and they take ages to find on SPS web site, but what I remember is that JA capacity is about 850. There are about 550 students accepted for fall already. JA might be a better choice than Lincoln if the District decides to split off grades 4-5 (I am not advocating such a split!), but if the cohort is kept together it looks to me like it has to be Lincoln.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Patrick. I was going off what a parent had stated but if your figures are correct, then there isn't space at Jane Addams. I only mentioned as because it would be a much better temporary space for a 1-5 than Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

Ticked Off,

Wedgwood too was told that it was staff who wanted the self-contained model dismantled. Though I do not doubt that there are teachers out there who dislike it, I don't really think the majority of teachers wanted what they are being given, which is more differentiation in the classroom. Or maybe they do want the high testers in their classroom (to bring up their own numbers), but either have no idea of the additional workload that true differentiation brings, or do not plan to seriously do it. Or, they are just so damn afraid of losing their jobs that they will agree to anything. Or all of the above. It must be very hard to be a teacher in today's climate as well.

- frustrated

Anonymous said...

As to the number of buses going to Lowell - I believe it's around 15 for non-Spec Ed and another 5 or 6 for Spec. Ed students.

--a reader --

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Formerly known as Cali said...

Just for the record:
I believed my child might be *just* over the borderline between Spectrum and APP. He qualified for APP but is young and I vigorously preferred a neighborhood school (or at least one not across a bridge) that could serve his needs. However, his current (now "past") school, albeit beloved, couldn't (as much as due to cohort/fitting in as curriculum), and when we toured the local Spectrum school, our group of thirty parents of first-graders were told that they "MAY have one or two spots that are opening up" for second-grade." Essentially: don't bother.

So, I am one who might have gone Spectrum if I had thought it could be an accessible and enduring model for us. That said, I am happy to be APP (I think I was intimidated on behalf of my kid before), and am planning on putting a ton of sweat equity into getting whatever building our kids will be in, and volunteering as much as possible to keep it all moving forward.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 5:33
blog policy is to sign your posts -- (see above the comment box) either by having a registered moniker or even w/ a pseudonym...

if you still have your post, you can paste it in again anonymously w/ a name (napoleon bonaparte, i like fruit leather, SPS has gone stark raving mad.... whatever you like)

-katy

Quite silly said...

"blog policy is to sign your posts -- (see above the comment box) either by having a registered moniker or even w/ a pseudonym..."

I guessed that was the case. but ... it begs two questions. Why was no other 'anonymous' post deleted? And, what's the point in signing posts if it's a pseudonym. There is no rationale that I can fathom.

Of course I don't have the post saved. But, I was just wondering what was meant in the paragraph
"there is some advocacy for moving the complete APP cohort to another school (like Addams). I completely disagree and that's for historical reasons. The late Superintendent John Stanford had ended the APP at Madrona (when it was a K-5) experiment and said that APP should never co-house with another school."

Without context, it's impossible to dissect the meaning. I just requested clarification, which, I must stress, was provided almost immediately.

But, this raises another point. Many of us are new to Seattle Schools and new to APP. But, clearly we have an interest and are trying to figure things out. If one uses an acronym, define it somewhere. If there's a backstory, provide some sort of an outline. It not only helps the newbies, it will help the writer with organizing her thoughts. Clearly one doesn't want a full re-telling of all of the Seattle Schools various and sordid dramas. But, the clarifying statements would have taken exactly the same space as the original post and been a clearer statement of the point being made.

So, just to get some more clarification, if you don't mind, what are
BLT
SBOC
EDM
CMP
MGJ

Thanks

Just testing said...

Just testing

Ben said...

1. Please don't throw TM APP under the bus. (Again?) I was against co-housing before the split, and I remain against it. I will be angry if the North-end gets an all-APP school, and we don't. And if I get angry about that... Um... Nothing happens, but still.

2. The teachers can barely differentiate within an APP classroom, and there are people who think they could provide suitable instruction to all kids in a mixed APP/Spectrum/ALO classroom? No way.

Jan said...

Bravo Melissa! I totally agree. APP needs to push to stay together for next year (and the year after) and then push to get a school that is either all-APP, or all APP plus some other program similar to the SPED program they had at Lowell -- and nothing else.

Since it presumably will be north of the Ship Canal, it raises the question of what to do with the South APP kids at TM. I guess the best I can suggest is to leave them where they are, if there is room and the co-housing situation works (no idea if it is working, though I hear vaguely positive things). And it may be working now, but may not work in the future if the neighborhood program becomes more popular and begins to crowd it out (or create classroom disparities that cause more hostility).

I don't know the status of available spaces as well as you and Charlie and others -- so I will suggest Wilson Pacific, only because I don't know of another alternative. It is probably not the best location, but no location will be -- and it certainly can't be worse than Lowell (except maybe for the Lowell walk zone APP kids, who I think should either have the choice to go to Lincoln or TM for the interim years, and then go to whichever schools makes the most sense, based on space and middle school paths.

And I truly hope that those APP families who have found acceptable solutions in local Spectrum/ALO classes will not lobby to take away a self-contained option for the hundreds of families for whom Spectrum/ALO solutions have not worked. It would be so sad, and so wrong. It would be GREAT, on the other hand, if this whole situation could be used to somehow expand and strengthen Spectrum/ALO so that those who like it for their APP kids (not to mention those who have Spectrum and ALO kids with no APP options) can continue to find more local AL options that work for them. This CAN be a win-win solution, but only if those who have one solution they like (Spectrum/ALO -- whether self contained, clustered or whatever) don't try to impose it on the hundreds of families for whom it was not a workable solution.

Jan said...

Ben: you are the first person I have heard of from TM who seems to want back into a "one APP school" system. Are there others? Is TM NOT working for APP kids, or for its AA kids? Now that they have essentially evicted APP from Lowell (by splitting it once and proposing another split two years later), where would you want to house it? Many north end APP parents have long decried the transportation issues of getting to Lowell (and some have voted with their feet, by keeping their kids local). Would south APP kids be willing to commute to a north end location like Wilson Pacific?

(And I agree with you on the differentiation issues). As the tail gets to its long skinny end -- it becomes harder and harder to teach to everyone's level.

Floor Pie said...

Personally, I would love to see APP and autism inclusion under the same roof. But *that's* obviously never going to happen! Oh well. Good luck, Lowell parents. I hope it works out without too much disruption for the kids.

Ben said...

Oh, I don't think too many TM APP parents would want to move (more) North, but an all-APP school might be nice. I don't think the co-housing is great. It's not a very comfortable fit. Two very different populations, which is precisely what those ignored recommendations warned against.

Anonymous said...

Floor Pie! There was exactly a program placement request to have an "autism inclusion" program placed at Lowell. Of course, Lowell has always been dead set against it as they don't believe in "differentiation", (can't you see that from the comments on the blog?), not even a little bit, even if there is a smart autistic kid. Inclusion isn't the point of APP, the point is exclusion. According to them, other schools should have to do the inclusion, or not... definitely not APP's job. (I know a non-verbal autistic kid with an IQ of 148. What would SPS do with him? ) I know there has been at least one due process hearing on this very issue. Yet, there it was, the program placement request. Of course this request for an "autism inclusion" program at Lowell, along with all other program placement requests was denied. Something like: "We don't need this because we don't need this." Don't you know they're killing autism programs in favor of ICS (AKA no service at all)?

--sped parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Arch, I don't know what creating one sole APP school would mean to any others. If it is working well at TM, great. It was working at Lowell but no room so what to do? Move APP to yet another co-housing and have that run out of room? It would be great to move it in with an alt school so they aren't affected by neighborhood assignments but where would that be?

I am trying to look at next year and then long-term. No program deserves to be kicked around so the district needs to find a placement for the next school year and then a home.

I still go with the idea that it would be better to allow APP to be free-standing (but of course if there is another smaller group, great).

Did APP really fight bringing in autism inclusion? I have to believe there are some Asperger's kids in APP. There is such a thing as twice gifted. But I don't know the details of that claim so maybe someone else can clarify.

David said...

Amazing how the district has us all fighting over scraps.

Popular alternative programs like APP are not the problem. They work well, attract parents to our public schools, and don't cost the district any additional money than other schools.

The problem is a central administration that, in the name of standardization, centralization, and control, destroys anything that is successful in Seattle.

We need to stop fighting each other. We need to fight for the education of our children. The district has one job and only one job, educating the children of Seattle. They need to do it.

Anonymous said...

No, sped the point is not exclusion at all. And yes, there is some differentiation that happens at Lowell, but it is at a different range than is available in a Gen Ed population.

I do not know the specifics of your non-verbal autistic high IQ kid. I do know that the autistic spectrum is present in the APP program, but more towards the verbal/asperger's end of the range. I wish you luck in finding the right place for your child, and I am truly sorry to hear about your difficulties.

As we all know here, the district seems to clueless as to how to manage ANY child that is not mainstream. Please remember that APP is not your enemy. You problems are being caused by the district administration.

- no name given

Anonymous said...

SKIP SEA.
take the emails of the staff off of the whichever website, and use survey monkey.
Whatever SEA does will take 4 or 8 times as long, and, their definition of open is always an embarrassment.
Sadly, "leadership" in the WEA / SEA consists of going to endless training on "leadership", where the work spent wasting everyone's time is defined as important work, instead of waste of time work.

SurveyMonkey Trumps SEA

Anonymous said...

There is the Peace Academy at Thurgood Marshall. It serves autistic kids. Not sure how much inclusion there is, but it is co-housed and they do have a representative on the PTA Board.

-FYI

Ben said...

I guess it's off-topic, but I am interested in hearing other TM APP patents weigh in: do you think things ARE going great guns for TM APP? I am seeing that impression turn into received wisdom, and I can't believe I'm the only one who's less ghan thrilled.

Anonymous said...

I do not have a non-verbal autistic student. Just pointing out that there are students who are substantially different, way, way different, even non-verbal, and disabled who are also gifted, and unwanted by APP. Also pointing out that parents used the program placement process to request autism inclusion programs that could have provided access to APP, no dice. And yes, APP is indeed dedicated to exclusion. That is its appeal. Sure, there's an aspie or 2 that squeeks in, and that has been a huge problem. 2E is not recognized by the district or the program. Some apies are now in due process.

Yes, we all know that TM has a bunch of autism programs. No TM doesn't do inclusion. It too is dedicated to segregation for all the same reasons as Lowell, which is why they call it some dorky-assed thing: Peace Academy. (barf) Why isn't it just part of the school? Why aren't these kids included in anything meaningful or substantial? Because it is separate and unequal, by design. They hope a dignified sounding name will suffice. And yes, many many parents have wanted inclusion at both TM and Lowell, and it has always been a huge stonewalling from every corner.

--sped parent

Fish said...

I don't know where everyone gets the idea that TM is all hunky dory. Julie B is great, and we have many great teachers, and they're trying really hard... here's where we gamely break out the pompoms, cause TM needs all the cheerleaders it can get. We're juggling as fast as we can -- we have PEACE, APP, ALO, and a preschool. APP families are leaned on for money, PTA infrastructure, volunteers... and I don't know about you, but I'm broke.

Also, I'm not confident that Nancy Coogan takes APP seriously. When I heard her speak (at TM), she suggested that many students in Central (her area, yes?) have far more pressing needs than APP -- just making it to graduation, for example. This is true! But it also means that all APP students (who are all rich and well adjusted, doncha know) are going to be just fine. No matter what.

Sometimes I feel like the more we advocate, the easier it is for them to dismiss us. But maybe it's just my MGJ PTSD talking.

Anonymous said...

sped parent: The 2E issues have been on the front burner all year in APP, and the APP/AC has held several meetings where the topic of discussion was Advanced Learning for Twice Exceptional students. So I don't know where you are getting your facts, but they are completely erroneous.

The APP community doesn't exclude anybody and will bend over backwards to expand the diversity of the program for kids who truly need it. Having 2E kids in the program would be a badge of honor for APP, so I have no idea where your hostility comes from. If its with a particular teacher, principal, or administrator, fine. But enough broad-brushing and derogatory remarks already. The APP community cares very deeply about special needs kids, being that APP is itself a special needs program.

I don't know a single parent or teacher in the program who harbors the attitudes you describe, and I can't imagine a principal would either.

Who exactly are you blaming for this supposed "exclusion" anyways? And what are your facts? My entire experience in APP, especially over the past year, runs counter to your allegations. WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

This is Floor Pie again:

Melissa, my son is “twice exceptional” and I suspect it’s much more common than people realize. That quirky, high-strung temperament and social skills issues that sometimes come with giftedness could actually be very high-functioning Aspergers. You never know.

I have no idea what Lowell’s attitude toward autism inclusion is, but their principal encouraged us not to enroll. He said we ought to send our son where he’ll get the most support, and I appreciate his frankness (especially now that I’m reading about this whole overcrowding mess).

I agree with whoever said the district has trouble serving *anyone* who doesn't fit the mold. APP and Special Ed parents probably have a lot more in common than we realize.

Sped parent, I really appreciate your voice here and I *get* the frustration, even if I'm new to the game and maybe too naive to entirely share it just yet. Is there an online community for autism or twice exceptional parents in the Seattle school district?

-- Floor Pie

Calling all Enfields said...

This thread is petty narrowly focused and it is still contentious, complicated and not a little depressing. Why can't our Superintendent be an inspiration and funnel all this energy to making our district better for the whole community?

none1111 said...

Floor Pie, you're in the right place, asking the right questions:

Is there an online community for autism or twice exceptional parents in the Seattle school district?

There is a 2e parent support group that Stephanie Bower (co-chair of APP-AC) got rolling not long ago. Here's a post with some info and contact for her:

APP AC ; 2e parent support group Hope that helps.

Just the fact that this group exists, and is promoted by an APP AC chair should make it pretty clear that the APP community is NOT uncaring or exclusionary toward kids that are different. I won't speak to autism, because I don't know nearly as much as others here on the blog, but there are a LOT of kids in APP with varying degrees of Asperger's and other social disorders. Sometimes it feels like a majority!

When sped parent says: APP is indeed dedicated to exclusion. That is its appeal. Sure, there's an aspie or 2 that squeeks in, and that has been a huge problem. 2E is not recognized by the district or the program.

I can't sit by and ignore an inflammatory comment like this. It's total bullshit; and no one writes something like that without an axe to grind.

APP is not for every child. Duh. It's a special-needs program itself. There are criteria for entering the program because without that there would be chaos. If a kid meets those marks, they will gain entry, even if they have other significant difficulties. Lowell has its share of kids that have difficulties or are difficult to work with for various reasons, and they've almost always been able to find ways to make things work.

What it sounds like is that you and/or someone you know felt a student should have been given a seat in the program, but was denied. Guess what, hundreds of kids are denied every year, and their parents yell, argue, threaten, even write nasty words on a blog. But it doesn't change the fact that like any special-needs program, APP is designed to serve a given population, and that's what it does. The staff and kids are incredibly welcoming to ALL, but it doesn't make sense for a kid to have an actual seat in an APP classroom unless they are up to the task.

Please don't come in here spouting hate when we're trying to figure out how to save our program from being dismantled. If you really feel the need to vent, save it for another time.

none1111 said...

Melissa/Charlie, blogger ate another post (posted 2x, and eaten both times). Could you restore it please?

Jan said...

Floor Pie: if you get a site name for twice exceptional issues, could you post it. I would love to join.

none1111 said...

At a recent APP AC meeting, Kay SB floated the idea of re-opening John Marshall as an APP 1-8. She said the key to making it work was to use a mushroom model for 6-8, allowing neighborhood kids to join in middle school.

If this plan used a (real) Spectrum program to fill in 6-8, not only could those kids potentially draw some benefit (access to APP math), but it could be designated as an option school to avoid a repeat of the disaster we're in right now. It's a model that solves a lot of problems.

- APP north is actually north
- The site is central for north, very close to I-5 (great for transportation)
- Inclusive of other kids in 6-8
- Relieves pressure from Hamilton (which is going to burst in 2012-13)
- Relieves pressure on Eckstein, especially if the option portion is designated Spectrum.
- Allows greater access to advanced math for Spectrum kids
- Not prone to another Lowell disaster due to guaranteed seats for 2 potentially growing programs.

In a side conversation at Monday's meeting, Peggy McEvoy acknowledged that this plan is one that is being considered for the following year. We need to push to find out ASAP what other plans are under consideration.

I haven't heard any other plan that comes even close, especially because of the last point above. If you like this plan, make sure to let those in power (senior staff and board members) know!

none1111 said...

Jan, I posted info about 2e parent group above, but it was eaten twice. Hopefully it will reappear soon. If not, I'll try again tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I'm a TM Parent and transitioned my child to APP the fall after the split, so I never experienced an APP only school like the former program at Lowell.

TM has been fine for my child - socially he is happy and certainly the school was in a better place this year than last. But note my choice of words - it's been "fine", not "amazing".

For my child, the APP program is not perfect - he is on the "high end of the curve" of kids admitted to APP and there are not resources to allow him to go "above and beyond" in topics where he excels (Math). There was a math tutor last year for APP, but that position got cut due to budget consraints. Secondly, as a school comprised of 3 smaller programs, the limited resources the school has are spread pretty thin. The annual fund raised at TM pales in comparison to that raised at Lowell.

That said, I advocate that TM in its current state NOT be touched by any of the changes going on at Lowell:


I am opposed to the idea of creating a mega APP-only school in the north (assuming they would leave the south 'as is'), as I believe it will create vast inequities between the North and South APP programs.


I am also opposed to the idea of splitting elementary into 3 sites, as I believe that will shrink the size of TM APP even further.

I believe the district needs to do embark on strategic planning for Advanced LEarning & APP: what is the vision for Advanced Learning and APP specifically, what is the model for the schools (co housed or not at each level), what do the facts/data say about where schools should be located in the long term, what resources (shared curriculum!) are required to execute this model properly? And they should - as they did with Ingraham changes this year - engage the community.

Is this too much to ask?

Signed,
Georgia

Anonymous said...

Just read the APP AC letter sent to the superintendent. I agree with the conclusions of the letter, but boy, sure could have done without the ending:

"As we have seen at Ingraham, we know that you, Dr. Enfield, are ushering in a new culture in
the District--you listen, and we are grateful that you do."

Really?

P.U.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"As we have seen at Ingraham, we know that you, Dr. Enfield, are ushering in a new culture in
the District--you listen, and we are grateful that you do."

I with PU - really? This sounds a lot like appeasement when APP doesn't need to grovel to the Superintendent.

Anonymous said...

New Petition to keep Lowell APP together for now until the District comes up with a long term plan.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/keep-lowell-app-together-in-2011-2012/

Parent

Chris S. said...

No horse in this race, but from my detached-high horse, if I was Bob Vaughn or Susan Enfield, I would be TRYING to project the APP population after [possibly] better identification by MAP, and what the numbers would be IF all APP-qualified families left their neighborhood schools for APP. He's got to have some numbers on this, right??? (This might also help some really over-crowded schools, and the range of differentiation teachers at neighborhood schools are asked to provide.) I would be asking if a long term plan where an APP program in each of the 5 sectors of the city. Of course, I would grow it one school at a time very gradually. I know, I know, it requires real estate we don't have, and the plan would have to be implemented over myriad superintendents and boards. Oh well, a girl can always dream...

Dorothy Neville said...

A little history about 2E and APP. I do not know any of the story of the autism inclusion program placement issues. But it would not surprise me. They'd probably claim something else though, such as lack of space, which might be true.

Perhaps APP is becoming more systematically embracing of 2E. But historically it was absolutely not. Not at all. I have had many conversations over the years with parents about this. Your kid has some writing issue? Well, APP is all about writing, you should move somewhere else. Your kid's getting bullied due to his "social problems"? Well, the best thing to do is transfer him somewhere else. Your child has an auditory processing disorder and would need a few accommodations? Sorry. One parent, a long timer at that point (I was still new) pointed out to me, did you ever see a hearing aid, a blind student, a physically handicapped APP student? Now who knows, maybe we missed them. But that did start meshing with stories I kept hearing.

So some teachers were better at accommodating than others. I found that especially the newer teachers, they were more used to dealing with special ed issues in gen ed classroom, I suspect it's the norm in education schools these IDEA days. So those wonderful veteran teachers many miss, some of them were awfully exclusionary (not all) and could get away with it with the "benign" neglect of the district and principal. Things have changed, besides a few retirements and new teachers, Julie B coming in seemed to improve things with IEPs and accommodations. But for more serious 2E issues, I really do not know.

Yes, I am sure that a some high functioning Aspergers kids are there, and probably a lot who are on the continuum but probably not clinical. But before Lowell got a counselor in 2004 there was no one looking out for social development, friendship training, etc. There was an autistic boy in the special ed program. He stayed there even as he aged up because he was gifted. It was considered wonderful that he could be there because he needed the APP curriculum, so that the APP teachers could provide it to his special ed teacher. So he got the "APP curriculum" in his special ed class, delivered by the special ed teacher, who was also teaching a handful of other younger students with different needs. Wasn't that wonderful! Some people really thought that.

So, yes, the bitterness and frustration that some special ed advocates might have for APP is grounded in fact. Moving forward, perhaps the situation will significantly change. It looks like people are trying to move in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

@ PU & Melissa, It sounds like common courtesy to me, not grovelling. What's wrong with a bit of goodwill accompanying a clear message? Also, it's an apt reference to a situation when the superintendent acted based at least in part on parent concerns, which we are asking for again.

--still believe civility matters

Anonymous said...

Civility matters -- absolutely. Couldn't agree with you more on that. But if it walks like a grovelling duck and quacks like a grovelling duck, then it's probably a grovelling duck. Civility notwithstanding.

PU

joanna said...

I believe that the APP parent group is asking that the Lowell APP group move to Lincoln temporarily for 2 years in order to make time for future planning. That does make sense for them although it may throw Lowell into a odd situation. Personally I am disturbed by all the potential need for change that was not built into the original NSAP. The reason for this model is to give families and communities predictability, stability, and hopefully would lead to deeper communitysupport for their schools.

Mercermom said...

I'm also a TM parent. We were at Lowell for one year, now TM for two. Is it "amazing"? Our child has had good teachers for the past two years, he is being challenged, and he is overall happy to go off to school. We are confident he would not have been as challenged at our neighborhood school, which would have resulted in a lot more work by us to give him that challenge, encourage him to work to his abilities, etc.

dj said...

I am a TM parent and we went through the Lowell/TM split. I have big issues with the ways in which the district curricular materials operate, APP classroom or not, and my kid's experiences with APP teachers and the supposed APP curriculum have been uneven. I see a lot of room for improvement. Of course, it is hard to focus on improving things when we are constantly fighting against getting moved around like chess pieces, building programs in new places, and then defending the existance of the program at all. So I would not say that the TM experience is awesome; that it is in any sense an improvement over the experience we were having pre-split at Lowell (it is not); and the cohousing of APP with general education at TM doesn't seem to me to be doing much for either group.

I guess from my perspective, however, the TM solution is better than a lot of the alternatives we could be facing, because the general education program there is small and isn't growing; the TM site is large; and the neighboring schools are not full. So I see it as more sustainable than Lowell's current situation (obviously) but also more sustainable than most of the options the "north" folks are going to face, unless they really do get a building of their own. I don't see any reason why south/central can't ask as part of the planning process that we look into getting an APP K-8 building down here in the long range as well; it's a lot easier to find a building candidate down here than up there.

Josh Hayes said...

I think I agree with "civility matters" - there's no harm in commending listening skills, and it also helps make the logical argument.

"You listened to parents and reversed a bad decision once already - here's a chance to listen to parents again and do the right thing."

Whatever that is. I have no insights into this particular flap, except to note that district administrators seem to really loathe the idea of any school, or even piece of a school, that's not like all the other schools. They hate option schools of all stripes, and APP represents an option, so: Crush! Kill! Destroy!

Maureen said...

none1111, do we know what the capacity is at JMarshall? I know it has been posted here, but I'm too lazy to look! (I have a vague memory that it is something like 760.)

I believe North end 1-8 APP would require something on the order of 700 seats. (probably more since it would draw new north end kids because of proximity.)

I really like the idea of cohousing 6-8 MS with a Spectrum Option program (even better if it is opt-in Spectrum). I know there is space around the building, but I'm not sure it's enough to build out to increase capacity. (Does anyone have live links to those really detailed capacity/builing condition reports from when they were doing closures? (The ones with site photos) I lost so much data when the new web site came in :( )

Want To Know More said...

Dorothy Neville,
Your comments about special ed at Lowell are so at odds with noe1111 that I would like you to clarify. I don't know what 2E means and think many folks don't either. Special ed at my school, which is an inclusion school, has been very bad from what I have heard from parents. We have 5th graders who cannot read, dyslexic kids who get no service and bizarre groupings of kids such as very below average kids put in a spectrum class to "balance" it. These kids end up on the computer as they need one on one help and only receive a brief pull-out during the day. We have PTA money running out our ears, yet our school can't seem to help the 40 or so kids who really need it. It sounds like APP also has trouble with their twice exceptional population from what you report. I am curious why others say everything is fine and it's just a few axe-grinders making noise. It seems hard to believe APP is run any better than the rest of the district or that kids with special needs(in addition to needing academic rigor) are given what they need.

Please explain 2E and how it meshes with APP and AL in general.

Bird said...

At a recent APP AC meeting, Kay SB floated the idea of re-opening John Marshall as an APP 1-8. She said the key to making it work was to use a mushroom model for 6-8, allowing neighborhood kids to join in middle school.

Perhaps this is too personal a perspective, but I thought I'd throw this in nonetheless.

I've kept my APP qualified kid local because the APP middle school is at Hamilton which is our local middle school. I figured our kid could join the program at Hamilton and still get the benefit of moving to middle school with friends from elementary.

If APP were at a K-8 and the Ingraham program remained something a student couldn't join unless they attended the K-8, I'd have to re-evaluate whether I want to keep my kid local for elementary.

I'd like my kid to be able to join the high school program, but I wouldn't want to send them to a school where they know no other students at middle school, as the middle school transtion is hard enough.

I can imagine there are other parents making this same calculation.

Put APP in a K-8 and you might find an unexpected bump in APP students coming at the elementary level.

There are a lot of moving parts to any decisions that the district might make on this.

Changes will affect attendance.

None of these changes should be made blindly. They should attempt to gather the data on what will happen next whatever change they make.

Maureen said...

Bird I agree with you and I also think that ANY north end location and configuration for APP will cause a significant increase in enrollment. The Ship Canal is a big boundary, physical and psychological.

Anonymous said...

from earlier threads...
I THINK the acronyms stand for:

BLT - Building Leadership Team
SBOC - Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (school serving students newly immigrated to US)
EDM - Everyday Math (elementary math curriculum)
CMP - Conneted Math project (middle school math curriculum)
MGJ - Maria Gooodloe Johnson
2E - twice exceptional (ie gifted and autistic)

-sps parent

Dorothy Neville said...

Sorry for the acronym. 2E stands for twice exceptional. That means kids who are highly gifted and also have a learning challenge. This could be something such as hearing loss or learning disability or ADHD or autism spectrum or dyslexia or other such issue. These children have a right to be taught appropriately for their IQ and academic capability, but for many reasons they can be underserved. They may not be identified or they may be identified and not accommodated.

None11 linked to a 2E parent support group. I suggest anyone with known or suspected 2E issues join and learn more. An important thing to note is that this is a pretty new group for Seattle. We are slow in ensuring 2E kids get appropriate academics and support. Those who know me from my comments here know that my son was at Lowell from 2000 to 2005, so my information is most detailed from that time period, but I still have friends with kids at Lowell now and have been paying attention second hand.

Maureen said...

Some more:

AAA -- African American Academy (Alt school closed in 2009)
APP -- Accelerated Progress Program (Approximately top 2%, test in)
AP -- Advanced Placement -- college level classes offered to High School Students
ICS -- Integrated Comprehensive Services -- newish (2009) model to provide (or not?) Special Ed services in Gen Ed classrooms.
DHH -- Deaf/Hard of Hearing
NSAP -- New Student Assignment Plan -- neighborhood based, applied in fall 2010.

Anonymous said...

An APP 1-8 would require more than 700 seats. Elementary APP is 450 for next year, and this is when it was expected to stay at Lowell. I can only imagine a north location would be even bigger, especially if the district continues to live in fantasy land in regard to Spectrum.

Case in point, Hamilton APP 6th grade this fall will be large with 45% of the students new to APP. This is the biggest influx of new APP students ever for middle school (from what I have been told).

APP can't be moved to another school that it will have to vacate in two years. It needs to be put in a building where it has room to grow. This district has not been good with their population predictions, so they need to be careful about this.

APP parent

none1111 said...

I should qualify my statements a little, because my response was aimed at an inflammatory comment and I was angry.

I'm not claiming Lowell/APP is a panacea for 2e kids (is anywhere?), but I have not seen the same things others have brought up. At least not at those extremes.

Dorothy brings up some points: Your kid has some writing issue? Well, APP is all about writing, you should move somewhere else.

Since Julie's time I have known multiple kids with serious dysgraphia, and they were accommodated, not excluded or pushed away.

Your kid's getting bullied due to his "social problems"? Well, the best thing to do is transfer him somewhere else.

Again, I've seen the exact opposite in person. There are kids with very odd social problems, but I haven't seen or heard of any of them being counseled out. Prior to Julie, in the Hal days, teachers held a lot more sway, so that may be part of it. The addition of a counselor, as you mentioned, probably helped as well.

Granted, I don't know what would happen with extreme cases where a kid puts themselves or others in physical danger. Perhaps they're counseled out, I have no idea. But let's be honest, APP is a pretty select slice of kids. It's very uncommon to have significant other issues (besides Asperger's!) and still be operating at the cognitive levels required for APP qualification and success. I have no doubt that there have been individual cases of unfortunate decisions, but I don't believe it's systematic or typical. I'm more inclined to believe that those who feel slighted will speak loudly and disparagingly, while we never hear from those who are reasonably accommodated. That doesn't mean things are perfect.

Oh, and I will say without qualification that the kids at Lowell are among the most tolerant and respectful of others who are different, than any other school I've spent time in (a few). That goes for the kids with severe physical impairments (wheelchairs, lack of language), social impairments, severe eating disorder, and their own classmates with, uh, significant oddities of their own. Every other school I've spent time in, I hear kids making fun of others or teasing in ways that is not acceptable. That's been virtually non-existent at Lowell (although I haven't had my ears to the ground as much since the splits, I'm sure someone will correct me if this has gotten worse lately).

none1111 said...

Maureen,

Good question about JMarshall's capacity. I had in my head an 800-something number, but I'm not super confident about that. And you're right about the updated web site, I took a quick look around and can't find a thing about capacities (or a lot of other stuff, for that matter).

Couple things to consider:

- Functional capacity vs. planning capacity vs. real capacity. Ugh. But basically it all depends on usage. i.e. a school comprised entirely of SpEd classrooms for medically fragile kids will have far less capacity than the exact same building with 100% gen ed.

The point being, I don't know how JMarshall is configured right now. It might be that it could easily be re-analyzed or re-engineered to fit more kids, and it might make a difference that many would be elementary. Or not. Just stuff to think about. Remember, there are buildings operating at far greater than their on-paper capacity right now.

- APP is "growing" because of poor district decisions, not because more smart kids are magically appearing out of the woodwork. If Spectrum was supported around the district, and if the entrance criteria for APP was tweaked back up to where it should be for a truly special-needs program, a 1-8 would absolutely fit at JMarshall with room for a Spectrum option program.

As it stands, people are running away from their local buildings when they would be just as well-served in a strong Spectrum program. This isn't hearsay, many parents candidly acknowledge this, and it's getting worse with the crap that's happening at Lawton and Wedgwood.

This, above all else, should be in the long-term Advanced Learning strategy discussions.

none1111 said...

APP Parent said:
Case in point, Hamilton APP 6th grade this fall will be large with 45% of the students new to APP. This is the biggest influx of new APP students ever for middle school (from what I have been told).


Yes, it's crazy. And the district really needs to understand why this is happening. But have they asked those families? Any survey or questionnaire? Nope.

Perhaps this is something the APP AC can do. Create and manage some surveys and publish the data. Why the APP AC? They have a huge mailing list. If it works well, maybe other groups will be motivated to do something as well. Thoughts?

APP can't be moved to another school that it will have to vacate in two years. It needs to be put in a building where it has room to grow. This district has not been good with their population predictions, so they need to be careful about this.

So what happens when there's no building for APP north where there's room to grow? The district can alter and constrain the situation in many ways to suit their own desires, to force another split. That seems like the overall strategy.

The best, most feasible solution is without question a self-contained building, at least for elementary. Otherwise we are guaranteed to run into the same problem that Lowell is having right now.

Bird said...

This isn't hearsay, many parents candidly acknowledge this, and it's getting worse with the crap that's happening at Lawton and Wedgwood.

Yet another reason the teachers at individual schools shouldn't be allowed to dictate the strucutre of the advanced learning programs.

Not only do changes affect any kids coming into those schools, they affect the entire district, as the dominoes set in motion by their decisions fall around the district.

Anonymous said...

Bird, right on.
FWIW, I can say that many Spectrum parents included that EXACT point out during their advocacy for the program.

Spectrum is a DISTRICT program and program placement needs to be managed at a DISTRICT level in order for the big picture (and appropriate placement) to be realized.

-head banging against a wall

seattle citizen said...

None1111 - Building capacity is notoriously hard to find, but I located John Marshalls: There is a PDF on Facilities website that shows "edcuational adequancy" of each building. Some seem to have capacity numbers, others don't, strangely...J. Marshall's does, it's 786, according to district, but the report says this would be tight, due to other limitations. (It also notes that the building is well configured for its past use as an alternative BEFORE IT WAS CLOSED BY THE DISTRICT....alas.)
To find this report, and others, go to Building Condition Reports 2006-2009

Then scroll to Site Educational Adequacy (it’s a PDF, and for some reason I can’t copy/paste these.)
From the section on John Marshall:
Capacity: District capacity (786) based on teaching stations would be a significant problem for this school due to it's lack of adequate support space for this number of students.
Configuration: The current configuration of this school works very well for the prior use as an alternative school. If student class sizes were ever at capacity this could significantly affect implementation as it relates to configuration. (classroom proportions vs. hallway walls). Code upgrade, seismic, hazmat, energy, ADA, etc. may present significant challenges in both design and construction. There is no elevator in the facility."

Jan said...

Bird and headbanging: Spot on! So how do we get the attention of the "decision makers" (Dr. E, and -- I guess Bob Vaughn, though lately he seems to be only a decision communicator, not a decision maker, and the Board) to drive this point home?

Anonymous said...

We are very likely going to be one of those "runner" families, given how botched everything is right now. And it is NOT because of any perceived weakening of the academic part of the Spectrum or APP program (though it is being weakened).

We are seriously considering leaving because of the newly unwelcome environment. Who wants their child in a school where the teachers and adminstrators do not want them? I barely know what to think these days, and I am very, very worried about my child fitting in with this crazy new upheaval.

- looking around

Anonymous said...

Looking Around-

I don't understand what you're saying. Who doesn't want your kid? You think teachers don't? You think the principals don't? School district officials? I don't think school district staff dislike APP now more than they did before. The principals and teachers in APP have always been very pleasant with my kid.

I think you'll get more help/advice here if your concerns are clear.

APP Parent

Anonymous said...

Looking around,

You should not leave because of the teachers and admin. Most work really hard in the program. It is the District that is creating this unknown. But no matter how the adults try to mess things up, the kids are the ones that drive each other and the teachers. If you feel that your child does amazing things, image hundreds like him/her in the same school and 25 to 28 in the same class. This is what you get when you have a strong cohort. I think the energy will be amazing if they move all APP to Lincoln since we all will have to work hard to make the school strong for our kids.

Future Lincoln APP parent

Anonymous said...

If a kid meets those marks, they will gain entry, even if they have other significant difficulties.

None111, you are simply ignorant. Students with autism are routinely denied admission to APP when they meet the criteria. There are a hierarchy in the school assignment process. So, they do sped assignments first, and then deny students access to all other programs for which they qualify. (Same for ELL, btw). Special ed is supposed to be service available at ALL programs, not a program itself.

When you say, APP is not for every child. Duh. It's a special-needs program itself.

The problem here is: That's what ALL programs say when it comes to serving students with disabilities. TOPS isn't for everyone. Foreign Language immersion isn't for everyone. Montessori isn't for everyone, and the list goes on. Even, neighborhoods school pick up that song. "We really don't do that here." And parents are denied admission everywhere... with everyone making the same claim. "Not here" Where is the school for students with disabilities? Oh yeah. School isn't for everyone. That's why they had to come up with IDEA. Those programs need to move over, and admit students with disabilities. Sorry they're part of life too.


"We don't do that here" has always been the quotes from principals at Lowell, and it continues. The staff has been notoriously hostile to this including special needs in anything meaningful. Wasn't this used as reason for the initial Lowell split? (Of course, everybody knew it was not really the reason, because special ed students have no more access to general ed now than they ever did.). Furthermore, that hostitility has extended to the ALO staff at Lowell, and towards the special needs programs there (and at TM). Let's not kid ourselves. APP has always viewed the special ed program in its building as exactly that. Some sort of petting pen, where their students could "learn compassion". Compassion is a great thing for sure. But lots of sped families don't want that type of pity party, especially as their child's only access to the real world. They want access to general education, they want meaningful membership. One teacher at Lowell even said she didn't "want that wheelchair" in her room.

If I sound angry, I'm not really. I'm just responding to Floor Pie who was hoping for both APP and inclusion. That indeed has already been requested and denied. That is simply factual information. I suggest he/she get involved with sped_ptsa and/or SEAAC.

--sped parent

Anonymous said...

Our school has dismantled Spectrum, and there are new-to-me reports that some of the teachers really disliked the program and the "special treatment" for the kids. I have no idea if this just means they resent the needs of the kids in the program (or don't think they have any needs beyond an extra assignment or two), or they resent the other teachers who have them in their classroom, or whatever. But the message was clear - some teachers wanted to get rid of the program, and now it is gone. I did recently hear some unsettling things directly from a couple of teachers, mostly about how advanced learners were not really all that advanced, and how change happens and just get used to it. Not reassuring.

I now have a kid with a label, at a school that really doesn't want kids with labels. Since any teacher can be assigned any kid now, there is a better than average chance my kid will get a teacher that wanted to get rid of Spectrum. Though I hope this means my kid would be wanted in the classroom, no one is even talking about this. It is all about breaking up the kids, because now, putting too many of them together is perceived as a bad thing. This cannot be a good sign.

And to make matters worse, we only chose Spectrum because it seemed a long term, district supported program that fit our kid. Otherwise, we would have gone APP or stayed Gen Ed (we are on the fence about what is best for our kid). But the current feeling at the school is somewhat hostile at this very minute. I am hoping, if we end up staying, that it will get better once school starts, and that no one will take it out on the kids. But no one is talking about this at all.

Sorry if this is so rambly. But this last minute changeup has been wildly unsettling. It has strains of when I was a kid myself, and how very unwelcome it was to be labeled the smart kid in the class, both from some of the teachers and from the other kids. I thought we were getting away from that with the advanced learning programs, but given the chaos, I am not sure what we'll be encountering in the fall.

What I want most of all is some stability, and some assurances that my child will not be singled out for having a district label. Right now, I do not have that assurance at our school, and I have very few options to switch out. Apparently the school can make last minute, unannounced program changes and not directly address concerns, but the parents still remain locked into their school assignment for a year.

I really want to be wrong here. But if my instincts prove correct, it is going to be a very long and rough year for my kid. If I had known any of this was going to happen, we would have never gone Spectrum - either straight to APP, or kept our mouths shut and our labels hidden and stayed Gen Ed. Either solution would have been fine, compared to the signals I am getting now.

I guess I am not so much looking for advice, but just letting folks know exactly how unsettling this month has been for us. I do appreciate all the comments and advice here, but right now, we are one very lonely family, looking yet again for a workable solution for our not-that-unusual, but-now-outed kid.

-looking around

Anonymous said...

APP parent: In case I wasn't clear, we are not headed to APP this year. We chose Spectrum instead, because we thought the local option was stable and met our needs (stupid us). Now that opinion is completely shot, given the recent program changeups and how they've been presented. I have no doubt the APP community is very welcoming, even though you are also going through some huge changes as well. Not sure if it would have been a better fit for us, but what we have now is definitely not what we thought we were getting into.

- looking around

Anonymous said...

Looking Around-

You are just highlighting again that the district needs to decide what it wants to do with advanced learning all around the district. It allows principals and teachers to actively dislike advanced learning in whatever form and it allows them to get rid of it. Either they want it or they don't, but they need to choose. As it is they are choosing by doing nothing and causing a chain reaction all over the place.

I have heard from APP parents at Hamilton (we are still in the Lowell mess) that the principal is less than welcoming when it comes to APP. He did send out a memo raving about how much the test scores went up in the building after APP started there, though he didn't seem interested in stating what changed to cause the scores to go up.

APP parent

2e parent said...

I'm not really sure how you can be denied admission to APP if you qualify. We had the opposite experience with our son, who has significant past medical issues. Because of these issues, he has been followed by the neuropsychology department at Children's Hospital and we had cognitive testing results for him. We submitted these along with his application to test for APP, hoping that this might allow him to bypass the regular testing process. Instead, they provided one-on-one testing for him at the John Stanford Center with the accomodations that they decided he would need. As far as I could tell, if you can achieve the appropriate scores on the test, you are admitted. If you have a different experience, contact the ombudsman or Stephanie Bower, who runs the 2E group.

--2E Parent

seattle citizen said...

In reading these and other comments, and after reading somewhat similar comments over the years I've participated in this blog, I have to restate something that always bears remembering:
"Divide and Conquer" ain't just a river in Egypt.
Every year, we have programs in flux, situations changing, students suffering the consequences...
Every year, parent/guardians, rightfully arguing for their student's program or defending it against attacks, seem to disintegrate into factions, pointing fingers at that OTHER program, those OTHER educators, THOSE parent/guardians...
While understandable, this factionalism plays right into a bureaucratic monolith's desire to keep trundling along: If the people the monolith serves aren't united and looking up at it, wondering when it will serve them, then it can go its merry way. There IS strength in numbers, and weakness in divisiveness. Yes, Special Ed gets short-changed some places and some times; Yes, APP gets short shrift; Yes, gen ed students are often wrongly assumed to be "just fine." But really, energy spent unifed for common goals is way, way more productive.
The intentions of all are admirable: Suuport individual students. But if support is given to ALL students by ALL parent/guardian stakeholders, and these intentions are made clear to District in a united, forceful way, things will change.

Please be clear said...

I wish people would stop mentioning north as north of the ship canal. That is not a done deal. We are in Queen Anne and have been at Lowell for three years. We consider ourselves to be properly in the north. If there is a third split, it makes absolutely no sense to split north, central and south. That would create two very small cohorts and one huge cohort. If we stay in two cohorts, are people suggesting QA/Magnolia should be separated to the south? I am a little confused about this new designation of north. Language is getting a little sloppy here.

dj said...

Please be clear, I don't think anyone (APP? Non-APP?) has suggested anything about what is "north." When people are talking about OMG LOWELL OVERCROWDED WHAT NEXT FRIDAY, I think people are assuming that a Lowell "solution" involves the APP students at Lowell right now.

As for what to do in the long term, however (like, say, we were to actually plan for what is best for the APP program for long-term sustainability), at least personally I don't think that "who is at Lowell vs. TM right this very second" is somehow determinative of what an appropriate program split or splits would look like. If you were to create two K-8 schools for APP kids, eg, I don't know that it would make sense that one would have 2/3 of the kids and the other would have 1/3.

Anonymous said...

looking around - if your child is APP qualified, you still can waitlist for APP for the coming year. Enrollment is open through the first few weeks of the school year and even with the unknowns, it may be a better option. Give it a week and see what the District comes up with.

Anonymous said...

According to my notes, "North of the ship canal" was something thrown out at the meeting by the District. If someone recalls differently, please post.

-another parent

Shannon said...

Please excuse me if I missed reference to this District email and survey sent today to Lowell families:

Dear Lowell families,

Due to the enrollment growth of the APP program at Lowell, we are in need of a short-term solution for capacity issues.

At a community meeting on Monday, June 27, we heard overwhelming support for moving APP students in 1st-5th grade together from Lowell to Lincoln for the 2011-12 school year. This appears to be the best option for our APP families while we look for long-term solutions for our growing APP program.

We recognize not everyone could attend Monday's meeting and as a result, we would like you to have the opportunity to provide input by inviting you to take a short survey.

Click here to take the Lowell Capacity Survey.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Public Affairs at (206) 252-0200.

Thank you.

Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Looking Around, please write to Bob Vaughn (and cc the Board) what you wrote here. It is vital that they hear these stories. This is not about whether your child will receive the academic supports he/she needs; this is about the atmosphere and community life at your school.

ArchStanton said...

Inspired to do another photoshop:

http://tinyurl.com/3z8dvbd

Jan said...

Looking Around -- I can't speak to exactly what you will experience at a school undergoing a change from Spectrum self contained to ALO masquerading as Spectrum -- but from my recollections at Wedgwood years ago, the friction (such as it was -- at the time, the then-principal kept everything running pretty smoothly) from teachers was that they WANTED those Spectrum kids (and their volunteering and involved parents) in THEIR classes. My child's 2nd grade teacher had 28 out of 28 sets of parents volunteer for stuff. She actually pulled some parents (whom she knew from older siblings) aside and asked if they would be willing to volunteer in other childrens' classes instead (and she sent them off to sign up for volunteer duties in those other classrooms), since the "help" imbalance was so large. So, If MY experience proves true -- your child will be welcomed with open arms by the staff when they blend/cluster the kids into all the rooms in each grade. The issues (if there are any) will be whether your child gets the same quality of education, whether he or she finds like-minded peers who "get" him or her and who want to be friends, whether their enthusiasm for learning is the same, etc.

So, if I were you, I wouldn't feel like I had a child "outed" as AL. if they have tested into APP, they would have outed themselves in short order anyway. The question will be -- are they happy, engaged, and learning at an appropriate pace. Are their learning needs being met.

Stephanie Bower said...

I co-chair the APP AC, was chair for many years.

In my spare time (HA!), I also recently started a 2e parent support group because of my family's problematic experiences in school with one of our children. This is not just for APP parents, but for parents of any kid in ALO, Spectrum, or APP who also has a 504 plan or an IEP/Special Ed or thinks they might need one.

Dorothy, thanks for providing some info. 2e also includes medical conditions, such as my son's problem. Decent descriptions are on line, including at:

http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=973

Some schools deal with these issues for students fairly well, some do not. It is my hope that by getting parents together, we can share information and push to improve our schools and how they help their students. A 504 plan is overseen by the Office of Civil Rights, this is all about equity.

It is hard to get much from the schools in the way of services these days given the terrible budget cuts and large class sizes, so information is key.

If you are interested in the parent support group, please contact me
at stbower@comcast.net.

Stephanie

Stephanie Bower said...

And wearing my APP AC hat, I didn't see this letter posted, so for the folks who do not receive our emails, here is the letter we sent regarding Lowell. We are up to 1377 on our email list. If you follow APP issues, might be good to sign up. Yes, that's our 107th email of the year.
http://groups.google.com/group/app-ac-seattle
----------------------------

Stephanie Bower said...

APP Advisory Committee
Email 107: APP Advisory Committee, Lowell Recommendations
June 29, 2011

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Below is a letter sent to the Superintendent and School Board members with the
APP AC's recommendations regarding Lowell (and TM). APP AC representatives from
all 5 of our current schools have worked together on this.

It has been very difficult to come to this decision, as we understand the impacts of this
and the other options on the entire Lowell community and also on APP. We know not
everyone will support this, but there is no perfect solution. We also realized we needed
to advocate ASAP for what we feel is the best solution at this time.

More will follow on Friday, but we wanted to provide this information now.
SB

Stephanie Bower said...

Email 107 continued:

Hello Dr. Enfield and School Board Directors,
As you might know, the APP Advisory Committee is a district-sanctioned group of volunteer parents and
school staff from each of the soon to be six APP schools. We listen to our community, work with the schools and Advanced Learning, and work hard to address APP issues in a positive and constructive way.

This afternoon our committee met to discuss the Lowell overcrowding issue. After listening carefully to many families, assessing data, and weighing our own long-term experiences with APP and our schools, we now feel compelled to advocate for all of Lowell APP grades 1-5 to move out of Lowell to Lincoln for 2 years.
We oppose sending only Lowell 4th and 5th graders to Lincoln, and we also oppose splitting to 3 sites for this fall.

We do support using next year to plan for what follows--we don't know yet what that will need to look like.
In order to plan carefully, this process should not be rushed. We hope that this will be an opportunity for much needed, long-term strategic planning for the growth of all of APP, and we hope our advisory committee will have seats at the table for those discussions.

Out of all the many considerations, the primary reasons we have chosen to support moving all the Lowell APP cohort are:

1--Keep the program teacher cohort together.Teachers are at the core of the program and its success. Next year at Lowell, a whopping 8 teachers will be new to teaching APP--in 4th and 5th grades, 4 out of 7 will be new. Four teachers were new this year. This is tremendous turnover and threatens to destabilize the program at the school. We feel that by being together at Lincoln, the APP staff can mentor and support each other and their new teaching staff, work on program curriculum alignment and coordination, and become the cohesive teaching cohort they need to be for the students. This work is critical now and would be much
more difficult, virtually impossible, at two or three sites.

2--Keep the program student cohort together.Second only to academic rigor, APP families have always said that what they value most about APP is the cohort. The cohort is often the primary reason why families stay, and why new families will come to APP.They count on the cohort of students for the much needed academic, social, and emotional support they don't get in their neighborhood schools.
Putting a 4-5 group at Lincoln would isolate this fairly small group of students, change their school identity,cut their support line to their siblings and younger friends, school buddy programs, and so many other important aspects of their school experience. Splitting to three sites now would have an even greater negative impact.

3--Don't disturb the success at Thurgood Marshall.It is imperative that Thurgood Marshall remain untouched as the centrally located APP school. The TM school community has worked very hard to create a school that works well...this IS the successful model
the School Board envisioned. It should be allowed to develop and grow without altering its path and
disturbing those students, families and teachers. Proposing a Lowell split to 3 sites now is threatening
their stability.

4--Lowell Walk-Zone families should have choice of schools.Families that live in the Lowell Walk Zone attendance area should be permitted to attend Thurgood Marshall
if they choose, or go with their cohort to Lincoln next year. Families should also be given the option to return to their neighborhood schools and Spectrum programs given the unpredictability ahead.

Stephanie Bower said...

Email 107 cont.

It has been difficult to come to this decision. We fully realize the many consequences to the various options on the table and the challenges to this one in particular -- among them, APP will be without an ALO partner while at Lincoln, and the ALO and Special Ed families will lose APP at Lowell. The loss of these relationships
is particularly painful to us. We know there are costs to theDistrict as well as many logistics to work out, such as library, music/art/PE teachers, school nurse, after school programs, transportation, and PTSA support for both sites.

We sense that if APP is split 1-3 and 4-5 next year or into 3 sites, there will non-stop battles with frustrated parents, a splintering of the community that goes beyond just where kids are placed in a building. This would not be a productive use of time and energy for anyone and would inevitably impact the students.

If the cohort can remain together, we feel that the APP community at Lincoln would be willing to pull
together for the greater good, channel their energy into positive support, and will make it work, regardless of where they go afterward. They would also find ways to support the families remaining at Lowell.

As we have seen at Ingraham, we know that you, Dr. Enfield, are ushering in a new culture in the District--you listen, and we are grateful that you do.

We sincerely hope you might listen again now and consider our recommendations for Lowell APP.

Respectfully,
Stephanie Bower and Geeta Teredesai, Co-Chairs, APP AC
and the APP Advisory Committee

none1111 said...

What I said: I won't speak to autism, because I don't know nearly as much as others here on the blog, but there are a LOT of kids in APP with varying degrees of Asperger's and other social disorders.

Response: None111, you are simply ignorant. Students with autism are routinely denied admission to APP when they meet the criteria.

So you didn't even bother to read what I wrote, and yet I'm ignorant? Not sure why I'm bothering to reply, but I'll make one more attempt before moving back to the immediate overcrowding/dismantling issue.

Thankfully 2E Parent shared a very different firsthand experience (above). Are you going to discount what she/he said too? Have you personally experienced all this supposedly evil behavior you think is so common? Have you spent countless hours over several years in our building and in many different classrooms? Many of us have.

Look, I have no doubt you either experienced some crappy situation or know someone who did. That sucks, no matter what building or program it is. Maybe your experience was with a different generation of staff, I don't know. But as 2E Parent says, if your kid achieve the appropriate scores, you're in. If not, they're not. And the district even makes special provisions for kids that need it, as related by 2E Parent. Your comments seem really out of line.

Can you hear this, Bob? said...

Jan,
We keep hearing about Spectrum on this thread and I hope it doesn't bother anyone. From what I know, APP will always exist as a program. The state provides funding for what they call HC or Highly Capable and the Seattle district applies for and receives a grant each year to help with administration of the program.
Spectrum is not under any such protection as it serves kids who fall below the HC definition. Although, interestingly enough, SPS does not use best practices to admit students into any of their Advanced Learning programs. By requiring students to show high ability in two areas, it contradicts the state and commonly used definition of giftedness which is high ability in one area. This keeps kids out of the programs who should be in. A high math kid with poor reading should be offered the chance to take advanced math and vise versa. Two hurdles to overcome to get into an AL program instead of one door. Why is this so?
I have heard of districts that will change the age level of the CogAT to reduce their gifted population. Maybe this is the method SPS uses to keep the programs smaller.As usual, we get no info from Bob Vaughan or Dr. E. Surely Bob knows tons about gifted ed and what APP, Spectrum ans ALO can do for kids and the district as a whole. Why no communication? Why does downtown let these battles go on year after year and let programs fight each other for resources and attention? Why doesn't Bob explain to the gifted naysayers what he knows about the benefits of these programs?
Anyways I was going to respond to Jan and agree that Spectrum parents are a helpful bunch, maybe more than average, but the resentment of the program runs way deeper than that, I'm afraid. It's hard to deny that a full or nearly full Spectrum class with a good teacher is a pretty sweet deal for a public school parent. If getting some Spectrum parents to work in other classrooms is the price, I think they would gladly do it. Would this help the bad feelings towards Spectrum? It might help on the practical level but the ideological issues would remain. That's what we need Bob and his dept. to help with. Explaining to principals, staff and parents what is in fact happening with AL and developing ways to deal with it at the school level for students as well. People have different abilities and why it is a supposed sin to say so about academics in elementary school is really the big issue, I believe.

Ben said...

I'm glad to hear from thd APP AC that TM APP is working so well! This is good news indeed! I will share this with all the other TM APP parents, so they'll stop being dissatisfied!

Ben said...

What makes you think "APP will always exist as a program"?

Jan said...

Can you hear this, Bob:

I totally agree with your observations about testing for giftedness in SPS. I am no expert on giftedness, but from what little I have read (as well as common sense) it has never seemed to me reasonable to exclude mathematically gifted kids, based on a lower reading score, or vice versa. Exactly what and how you provide for those kids I think can be discussed, but my understanding of what constitutes "giftedness" matches yours -- and that doesn't even get into the 2e issue (I have one of those too!).

If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that Bob needs to come to the defense of the program. I totally agree. The District set up the parameters (they are too narrow, but -- here we are). The District needs to defend its program against those who would dismantle it. But they don't. Instead, they side with any number of detractors, based on any number of gripes. They purport to cite research for their clustering model -- but when you read the research, what they are proposing does not match it, and in fact -- the research suggests that APP and Self Contained Spectrum are the preferable model, if you have the population to support them.

It is all so senseless, and maddening. It has always been deplorable that Spectrum has had to put up with years of no funding (to your point that federal AL dollars all go the APP grant -- and it doesn't cover Spectrum). They site it in unworkable schools -- to try to attract families to schools needing bodies, rather than schools centrally sited for the children, they deny access based on preset available numbers that they know are inadequate. And now, they refuse to defend it against attempts to undermine it.

All I can say is -- it seems to me that it would behoove parents of any kids who can stay OUT of cohousing situations to do so, because there is not much evidence of a District spine when it comes to AL.

And finally -- I concur that helpful, volunteering Spectrum families willing to go wherever needed do not solve the entire proboem. But it helped a little, at Wedgwood many years ago, to mollify teachers who felt that they had needier kids -- and fewer hands to help with them.

SeekingSurvey said...

@Shannon : Can you please provide the URL to access the capacity survey? My (incoming 1st grade Lowell APP) family didn't receive the district email.

NE said...

Jan and Looking Around,

Jan nailed part of it. Right now it's about what the teachers and principal perceive as fair and balanced, they're not paying attention to what's best for the kids. Chris Cronas is completely, and from all appearances, willingly, misrepresenting both the model he is moving to and its implementation. Is there no one seriously taking him to task on this? You're not getting Spectrum, you're not even getting a real cluster grouping. Dr. Vaughan should be getting phone calls from every Spectrum family in the building every week!

There are many ways to help the students in a building. Like quietly asking parents to split volunteer hours in other classrooms. That's good stuff. Purposely ignoring best practice, after it's pointed out to you repeatedly, is dishonorable.

from my recollections at Wedgwood years ago, the friction (such as it was -- at the time, the then-principal kept everything running pretty smoothly)

Not sure when you were there, but you're right on target as far as the principal's role. Many years ago there was a lot of stress in that building between Spectrum and GenEd. You could practically feel it walking down the hallway. Many parents we knew at the time said they would not send their kids there under any circumstances. Why? Spectrum vs GenEd attitudes. Eventually a new principal came, got the adult attitudes under control, starting with the teachers, and things were great. It took a year or so, but discussions of who was in Spectrum vs. not in Spectrum became virtually non-existent, which is just as it should be. Unfortunately, it seems Mr. Cronas has divided the school again, and it's not going to be a pleasant environment because of the resentment between adults. I'd be furious if I was jerked around like that.

Sure, the teachers may love to have the volunteers spread around, but when parents are not happy, their kids know it. Kids hear things, they talk to each other. They're not stupid. I feel really sorry for those of you who were misled because ultimately it's your kids that lose out on what was a solid program.

Mercermom said...

Ben,

TM is working well for some APP families. Newly eligible families are choosing to join, including ones who have the Lowell option. If it's not working well for your child, it might be helpful to others to know in what way, what you think could be done to improve your child's experience, and why you still choose it over whatever alternatives are available to you.

Ben said...

Alternatives? What alternatives? We can't afford private school. We live directly across from TM, so that would be our neighborhood school, even without an APP option.

APP, while not perfect, is the best we can do, so we're doing it. Our son went to Lowell for 1st grade, before the split.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben, APP is part of a grant process that is recognized by state and federal law; I think that's why the statement was made it could never go away. (And that's why they can kick Spectrum around - there's no legal protection for it.)

Arch, you continue to make me laugh. Honestly folks, check out the latest poster - very funny.

http://tinyurl.com/3z8dvbd

Ben said...

Are you saying SPS can't get "APP in every school"? (Wasn't that MGJ's goal?) That they can't split it apart and shave it down until it's meaningless? They split it once. They want to split it again now, with Lowell 4/5. Is there a limit to how many times they can try to split it? Fine, APP isn't going anywhere, but aren't there countless forms it could take, some of them ineffective?

Lori said...

Two possible clarifications about state funding for APP versus Spectrum. I followed this funding issue closely this past year because the legislature was threatening to no longer fund Highly Capable programs, which would have even been retroactive this past year.

Several parents who are experienced lobbyists kept us apprised, and here's my understanding.

The state gives SPS $400K/year for Highly Capable Programming. That money pays for the fall testing, which is how kids get into APP or Spectrum, and it pays for the Advanced Learning staff. We were repeatedly told that if the money were cut, the AL office would lose staff and the ability to test each fall. That would not affect just APP; it would also affect Spectrum. To the best of my knowledge, APP does NOT get a special pot of money to continue to exist particularly above and beyond anything that Spectrum gets.

Next, until this September, there has been no legal obligation to provide gifted eduation of any sort in WA state. A few years ago, a bill was passed to include gifted ed in the definition of Basic Education, but due to the budget, the state kicked the can down the road and delayed implementing the law (which is why the funding cuts mentioned above would have been legal). This month, however, the governor finally signed the bill, and gifted ed will now be basic ed for qualified kids and protected from funding cuts. This affects APP and Spectrum, or whatever programs the district comes up with to replace them (ie, nothing in the law determines who to test, what scores are required, or how exactly gifted ed is delivered).

Here's the announcement about the new law:
http://wcge.wordpress.com/

WV is hilariously, "stall"

Anonymous said...

The District is under no obligation to provide a program such as APP. Districts have local control and can opt to have a program or not. Only if they receive categorical funds for a program are they obligated to provide services.

However, the WAC states: Once services are started, a continuum of services shall be provided and may include kindergarten through twelfth grade

Highly Capable
WAC 392-170-015
Local option.


The offering of a program by a school district to serve highly capable students with categorical state funds is optional. However, if the school district accepts categorical state moneys for this purpose, compliance with this chapter is mandatory.

WAC 392-170-078
Program services.


Education program plans for each identified highly capable student or plans for a group of students with similar academic abilities shall be developed based on the results of the assessed academic need of that student or group of students. A variety of appropriate program services shall be made available. Once services are started, a continuum of services shall be provided and may include kindergarten through twelfth grade.

-read the code

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update, Lori. The code language posted doesn't take into account the changes to basic ed. definition you mention.

Anonymous said...

I went to the Lowell meeting Monday night and left with the understanding that the district would release a proposed plan today, with the final plan released next Friday.

I am wondering if the survey released last night supersedes this plan? Anyone know?

-Waiting is the hardest part

Stephanie Bower said...

Lori is correct about the grant and how it is used by our district, the largest in the state. It supports identifying anyone for advanced learning, it is not used to support APP specifically.
Thanks for clarifying and posting that information, Lori.
Stephanie

Funding fro the State said...

If you read the RCW pertaining to funding, (28A.185,020) it states that the districts will receive funding based on 2.314% of it's student body. The district can use it for identification as they see fit but are subject to yearly review.
Check out the OSPI site and look at HCP- Highly Capable Program- under "other programs". Lots to read and there are minutes of the two committees and our own Bob Vaughan is on both.

Anonymous said...

why are you unhappy with the TM APP program?

none1111 said...

SeaCit, good find on the JMarshall data, thanks.

Interestingly, there is another document on that page (the SiteAssessmentSummary), which lists, among other things:

# of portables: 0
Capacity including portables: 868

which is quite a bit different than 786.

But to make things even more confusing, that same page says "# of regular classrooms: 12".

I'm sorry, but 868/12 = 72. Are they suggesting that we can have 72 kids per classroom?! Obviously not, but do they really expect space other than "regular classrooms" to be used for more than 1/2 the classes?

Not to mention the Site Educational Adequacy comments are confusing and don't contain enough detail. I think the only way to understand what this all means in the context of opening the building and possibly using it for APP is to walk the building with that purpose in mind. Given that there appears to be formal discussions about re-opening JM, I hope folks will be looking carefully at this option to see what's feasible. I don't see any other reasonable option right now, does anyone else? Elementary can't co-locate with another program, it will just be squeezed out again.

Also, when you read through these building condition documents (and I remember this from a couple years ago) you have to look at them in their full context; the authors are looking for any and all problems they can find. When you read all the problems your own building has you might think OMG, it's ready to fall apart! But read through a few more and you'll see that they find lots of problems with most buildings, and they're fully habitable. Granted, it highlights a huge backlog of maintenance (I hear Melissa's voice), but it's district-wide, not generally something specific to your building.

ArchStanton said...

Arch, you continue to make me laugh. Honestly folks, check out the latest poster - very funny.

Thanks again. Hope the humor provides some relief for folks. I started working up one for the latest audit, something with Britney Spears' "Oops, I did it again", but that feels too much like going for the low-hanging fruit. It's just that they make it so easy...

ArchStanton said...

Aw heck, here's the lyrics - some inspiring youngster can make a video or something.

(Ballad of the SPS Audit) "Oops I Did it Again" - to the tune of, well you know...

[Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah]

I think I did it again.
I made you believe
That I'd make amends.
Oh, baby;
I might seem like I care,
But it doesn't mean
That I'm serious.
'Cause to lose my finances...
That is just so typically me.
Oh, baby; baby.

Oops!
... I did it again.
I played with your schools.
Got lost in the game.
Oh, baby; baby.
Oops!
... You think I've got a clue.
That I care about you...
I'm not that innocent.

You see my problem is this:
I'm pissing away;
That which was yours, I hope you don't miss.
I lie wasting the days.
Can't you see I'm a fool
In so many ways?
But to lose all your finances...
That is just so typically me.
Baby, oh.

Oops!
... I did it again.
I played with your kids.
Got lost in the game.
Oh, baby; baby.
Oops!
... You think I've got a clue.
That I care about you...
Don't be so ignorant.

[Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah]

"All aboard!"
"Johnson, before you go, there's something I want you to have."
"Oh, it's a bonus! But wait a minute, isn't this too much... ?"
"Yeah, yes, it is."
"But I thought my performance review sucked at the end..."
"Well, baby, I went down and got it for ya."
"Aw, you shouldn't have."

Oops! I
Did it again to your kids.
Got lost
In this game; oh, baby.
Oops! You
Think that I care about you...
Don't be so ignorant.

Oops!
... I did it again.
I played with your schools.
Got lost in the game.
Oh, baby; baby.
Oops!
... You think I've got a clue.
That I care about you...
I'm not that innocent.

Oops!
... I did it again.
I played with your kids.
Got lost in the game.
Oh, baby; baby.
Oops!
... You think I've got a clue.
That I care about you...
Don't be so ignorant.


/got that out of my system, I'll lay off for a bit and go have a weekend ;-)

Ben said...

All right. At the risk of committing a flagrant Off Topic penalty—and the graver risk of looking like a jerk—here are my thoughts on APP at Thurgood Marshall.

My main problem with APP at Thurgood Marshall is with what I see as the attitude that the APP kids—though the majority—are just visiting. And the conclusion that the school doesn't really need to adapt to them, to accommodate them. No, they need to adapt to the school. I do not want to see the ALO kids left out or ignored, either. But I see a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that TM is now more than half APP. Not only that, but there are actual reasons why the APP audit recommended against cohousing APP in this way.

My examples of this might seem trivial. Hell, they might BE trivial. But added up, they have left me dissatisfied with the arrangement. Still, I do believe APP at Thurgood Marshall is better for my child than gen ed elsewhere would be.

* Last year, we saw an informal boycott of ALO parents refusing to allow their kids to participate with the APP kids in field trips. For instance, to visit a pumpkin patch. The parents with suspicious and didn't want the APP kids somehow showing up their kids.

* Lowell has the Lowell Way (and then it didn't have it, and then it had it again). Thurgood Marshall's version is about striving to be a good learner. ("I can learn and I will learn!") Supporting enthusiastic learning is good, of course. I'm not complaining about the message. I'm complaining that it is a hold-over from TM's pre-APP days. Affirmation is great. Of course we all want (all) kids to be confident and capable learners. But this message was not tailored to the APP population. It wasn't written or modified with them in mind. To me, the message was always, "Okay, APP kids, hang on a sec while the Thurgood Marshall kids say their pledge."

* Last year, some overly rough playground trouble was excused with, "Well, that's just the culture here at Thurgood Marshall." Yeah, but maybe the culture of Thurgood Marshall should/could change, now that HALF OF THE KIDS are from elsewhere. Why aren't the APP kids' values or "culture" important enough to warrant a different response? To me, it seemed like the APP parents who objected (of whom I wasn't one) were told, "You need to learn how this school works. And how it works isn't about you or your kids."

* At a TM PTA meeting, parents were admonished to read at home and to make sure their kids can see them reading. Again, an important message. We all want our kids to be strong, lifelong readers. But I don't believe this is a message that was intended for the APP parents in the room (who were most of the parents in the room). It's like we just can't acknowledge that we have two very different populations put together in one school. We all know it, of course, but it's treated almost like a dirty little secret.

* Last year, when I attended a meeting of the APP AC at Lowell, I saw this attitude in action among the (APP) parents there. They spent the first 20 minutes of the meeting talking about ALO issues and concerns. I know I sound like a jackass or a snob (or both!), but I'm really not. Being concerned with the needs of kids other than your own is a good thing, not a bad thing. I certainly don't begrudge the parents their concern. But this was a meeting specifically, explicitly about APP. And even there, there were eggshells to walk on. We can advocate, we just can't advocate too much or too hard. We're always asked to "remember how this will look.”

* At a TM PTA meeting recently, the principal laid out her goals for the kids next year. Not one was about APP kids.

For me, the message over and over is, "Your kids will do just fine on their own. We're here for the ALO kids."

I want to feel like the school is there for my kid, too.

Thirsting for Knowledge said...

Funding...,
There is a great report from Indiana U. called "Mind the Other Gap" about the achievement gap in advanced learning. Found it in the minutes of the last (May) meeting of the HCP Advisory group.

http://ceep.indiana.edu/mindthegap/

Lot's of interesting stuff that Bob V. must know about. I would love it if he would schedule monthly chats about trends in gifted ed and then take a few questions.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to co-opt the Lowell meeting discussions much more, but just wanted to add a few responses t those of you kind enough to respond:

Anonymous - thanks for the heads up about still being able to get on a waitlist. We has assumed that option was closed because of the overcrowding issue. Still not sure it is the right choice, but it is better than what we are now seeing.

Melissa - Bob Vaughn was at one of the meetings, and he supposedly said he supports this change. Writing the Board may help, but I have zero confidence that Dr. Vaughn would or could address the unwelcome atmosphere for Spectrum families. The resentment in the room was palpable, and he must have seen it, yet he is still behind this last minute change.

Jan - Your descriptions of the past match what I had heard from other families, and had everything to do with why we chose Spectrum over APP or Gen Ed. But at the meeting I attended, the atmosphere felt very, very different. Gen Ed parents stood up and said how glad they were about the changes, and spoke down to the Spectrum parents who wanted to know more about how this new equal distribution plan would affect the learning environment for kids in the advanced classes. Teachers talked about how Spectrum kids were not really advanced in reading, just math. The principal said this was done purposely to break up the Spectrum program, so everything could be inclusive, except math, which he was required to provide at one year ahead for the Spectrum kids. I was shocked at the slant of the presentation (Spectrum was a problem to be solved swiftly and with no parental input) and the tone of the discussions, which bordered on open hostility towards the Spectrum parents in attendence. That is why I felt "outed" - not because my child might perform well in the classroom, but that we were now publicly labeled as a Spectrum family, which was somehow a bad thing. And every time someone tried to bring up the advantages of a cohesive program (delivered either as self-contained or not), it was either outright ignored, or dismissed as being exclusionary of Gen Ed. It was very clear that the teachers, principals, and some parents at the meeting saw no value in maintaining cohesion, or any sort of cohort, and some held it in contempt (including the new principal).

NE - Thank you for confirming my impressions. I left initially thinking that I must have misread things, that it could not possibly be that bad. But as I have watched this unfold, I have become more depressed, and frankly extremely worried about the reception my child will receive there in the fall.

We would have NEVER signed up for Spectrum under these circumstances, and we would desperately like to leave the school before fall. I have already resigned myself to the liklihood of a watered down academic program for the next year, because my kid is resiliant enough to survive that, and elementary school is so much more than academics anyway. But I would never have willingly put my child into an unwelcoming, bordering on hostile, environment. That is a significantly harder thing for a very small child to weather.

It is a nightmare, and simply confirms what NE said - APP is the only way to go in this district for advanced learning. Spectrum and ALO are a terrible choice, not because of the program content, but because some parents and staff harbor such strong resentment, and there is no one at the district helm looking out for the kids and families caught up in these unexpected course changes.

- looking around

Bobbi said...

Looking Around -

If it makes you feel any better, we are being vilified by our "friends" and teachers in our neighborhood school for leaving for APP. We learned that was common on the Lowell tour, but not to worry, we'd make new friends. Yes, yes, it's true, playdates aren't in the 'hood anymore, but what's the big deal about an hour drive each way?

The best part of all this is the folks who swore they would never have their kid tested if they got "the letter" from the district, and if they did, they would still never leave. Funny thing, though, some of those families who saw improvement on the Spring MAP scores are now inquiring about APP & Spectrum programs. I say, OK, I'll give you the scoop after you eat this crow.

I wonder if we left our neighborhood school for a private school if we'd get the same treatment.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben, I thought that when half of Lowell was moved to TM, the idea was to meld the cultures so as not to leave anyone out (or make the TM kids feel taken over). I thought the principal was going to build this new culture.

This is pretty much what happened at Madrona and this is what Superintendent Stanford move Lowell out of there.

Anonymous said...

You may find that some private schools are unable or resistant to providing accommodations for advanced learners. And there also exists resentment from some parents when students get special accommodations. It isn't just in SPS.

been there

Anonymous said...

Ben - Speaking as one of the parents for whose child APP at TM has worked out fine for the last two years, I'm sorry you continue to feel your child is being shafted. I know you were very vocal about your unhappiness at the time of the split.

I see no problem at all with TM's motto. Plenty of smart kids, and their smart parents, need to be reminded that school is about learning. Learning how to be with others, how to work hard and be kind, is just as important as any academic subject. I saw that mphasized at TM this year. The playground issues you mention from last year did not reoccur. If you attended the end-of-school events, such as the music concert and fifth grade promotion, it just doesn't feel like a divided community anymore.

I like it when I see TM's principal treating the student body as one whole, rather than two parts. That's what I wanted for my child. It's what I think a lot of TM parents want. I don't need to have the principal underscore the differences between my child and others. The goals I heard articulated applied to APP students no less than ALO students. I would have been a little put off, in fact, to hear the principal articulate goals specific to each program.

My child is off to Washington next year, so I'm off the elementary APP merry-go-round for the moment. I don't know what's going to happen with Lowell, but I certainly hope it doesn't interfere with what I and others perceive as TM's ongoing success.

Ruthie

Jan said...

Looking Around --

What you describe is heartbreaking! -- and you are correct. It is very different (though maybe all the bad stuff was always there, but under the surface and I was too clueless to know it?) from how I remember Wedgwood. I owe you a huge apology if my post in any way made too light of the circumstances you are in. The meeting you describe is totally beyond my comprehension. I had no idea. And I would not want to send MY child into a hostile situation either. At any rate, mea culpa. I had meant my post to be reassuring, but it seems I may have been way off base!

As for APP -- I am not sure exactly how waitlists work. When my child switched from Spectrum to APP, I got a waitlist letter from wms, but was then told by the staff there to ignore it -- that ALL APP kids got APP slots -- they never turned them down for inclusion. Of course, that was when there was only one site -- so I understand that there may now be TM kids "waitlisted" for Lowell (or WMS kids "waitlisted for HIMS, or vice versa), but they are going (or can go) to the OTHER APP in the meantime. Also, in my case, I had not already accepted a Spectrum spot -- but based on the idea that all APP qualified kids have to be served by APP if they want to, and the fact that Spectrum is changing radically in the school you chose -- you might try to get Bob and Tracy to reassign your child to Lowell APP on those grounds.

Good luck with all this, and let us know how it turns out.

Jan said...

Melissa: Based on Ruthie's comments, I wonder whether it might be the case that APP can successfully cohouse with programs if the APP cohort is seen -- by the community -- as adding more than it detracts, in terms of parent support, AL opportunities, support for music programs, etc.

This is how I have always viewed GHS. Things are not perfect there, but at least a portion of the neighborhood seems to like having APP there, because of what it provides in terms of access to more AP classes, more academic rigor, better music programs, etc. etc. etc. That works better at the high school level, because the classes are available to everyone (who can keep up) -- but I think if building leadership is behind ALL programs in the school, AND the neighborhood perceives benefit, maybe it can at least work a little better than the horrible Madrona years.

Jan said...

Bobbi said: "The best part of all this is the folks who swore they would never have their kid tested if they got "the letter" from the district, and if they did, they would still never leave. Funny thing, though, some of those families who saw improvement on the Spring MAP scores are now inquiring about APP & Spectrum programs."

What I want to know is -- who ARE these people! Really. You would get a letter advising that maybe your child was APP eligible, and you would not even pursue it? You would not even evaluate whether maybe there was a program that would nail your child's strengths and weaknesses, and give them a much happier, better education? Really? Good thing I am not sitting around having coffee with them! It wouldn't end well.

Look -- I can see, on a case by case basis, saying -- I know my kid. I know their attachment to -- whatever (this neighborhood, their sibs school, their friends, etc. etc.) or I know how anxious/motionsick, whatever, the transporation would be -- and thus, for this child, it makes no sense to go further.

But to not even take the test? Or to take the test and then never even evaluate the fit of APP? What am I not getting here? This seems so "reverse snobbish" -- but to the possible detriment of their own child. I don't get it, and I think I am glad I don't.

ALO friend said...

I'm with Ruthie-I know at least a couple of parents who yank their kids out of school for all sorts of non-learning things-and I think reminding them that school is for learning isn't such a bad idea.
Reminding kids to read is along those same lines.

Much was what Ben says comes across as...yes, elitist, because it SOUNDS like he's saying, TM is OUR school now, stop catering to those bothersome ALO kids and their ways. Do it OUR way because we're BETTER!

No, of course that isn't what he's ACTUALLY saying, I'll bet my life that's how some of the ALO parents hear it.

We are not in APP but my daughter is friends with many of the ALO kids at TM and by default, I know their parents. And I can tell you that for every one of Ben's complaints, there's a flip side of complaint by some of the ALO parents.

The most heartbreaking story I've heard is from a parent who's been at TM since her kids were in preschool. We're talking several years. Last year she tried any number of times to strike up conversations with APP parents and was ignored. Finally she stopped trying.

This year she tried to get involved in an APP parent-run volunteer project and was told, politely, "We don't need you."

Oddly enough, the KIDS seem to be making friends across the school, especially some of the younger ones, and my kid's friends all have friends in APP. I'd say that there are parents on BOTH sides that could be more welcoming.

But as long as people like Ben continue to wish they were somewhere, anywhere else, that's not going to happen.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Been there,you said:

"And there also exists resentment from some parents when students get special accommodations."

What special accommodations does APP get beyond a cohort? Because I'm pretty sure the district expends very little on their program. They certainly don't on Spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Jan, no need to apologize whatsoever. You confirmed that my previous understanding of the school's environment was not wrong, and for that I deeply thank you. I don't know if it is the new principal, or outspoken teachers, or anti-Spectrum parents, or all of the above, but things have changed there since this announcement. We no longer feel welcome at the school (which is bitterly ironic, given the statement that this was done to promote inclusivity).

- looking around

Jan said...

Melissa: I thought "been there" was talking about what happens with an APP type kid in a private school setting. Many don't have enough kids for a whole class working even one grade level ahead, much less 2 or 3. So if MY child needs to start Algebra I in 6th grade, because he is bored with anything else -- and I ask the school if he can go up and take the class with the older kids, or if he can be pulled out for private tutoring (at my expense), or if he can read more challenging books, other parents may resent what they see as "special stuff" that my child gets, and theirs does not. Private school parents are not immune from the same hostilities that we see in the public schools.

As for public schools, I think that the "special accommodations" that other parents see are the exclusion of their kids when APP and Spectrum kids go off to their own classes/schools. There is not extra money spent -- but I guess it still feels like they are getting "something" that other kids are denied. I am not siding with them -- but that is the sense I have always gotten -- that they resent that what is good enough for THEIR child is perceived (by me, the school, whatever) as NOT good enough for mine.

Long Live APP and Spectrum (self-contained)!

Jessica said...

Responding to Ben:

I'm a TM APP parent, and attended the end-of-year talent show -- open to all children. The diverse talents at that event were a fantastic expression of the diversity in the school. I'm not joking when I say that all parents clapped for all children, whether the performance was Beethoven on the piano or hip-hop dancing or a Taylor Swift duet.

I don't think the school should cater to APP, even if it's the majority of students. Julie B's emphasis on learning and reading is suitable for every age and classroom, and I appreciate her summertime push to get all children to read for a few hours a day and to open the library regularly this summer.

Walling off APP on an island for those who test above average is not a good way to teach children about the world around them.

Tosca said...

I am a TM parent of two, and we spent one year at Lowell before the split. I’d would echo Ruthie’s and Jessica's experience regarding TM and add that for us the last two years have gone quite well. Has everything been perfect? No. Was it perfect at Lowell before the split? No.

My children feel invested in TM as their school and, while it’s not perfect, they like it. My younger son chooses to wear his purple shirt on Fridays and my older son was on the Student Council. Those little things are important to them. Personally, I am pleased to see how far the TM community has come in two years. Certainly, I can think of examples where their academic experience or social environment could be improved, but overall we are happy and they are learning.

@Ben - I appreciate hearing about your specific concerns. For me, the things you pointed out have never registered as concerns. Yes, the TM pledge is a blend the pre-APP TM motto with something new. I like phrases such as “I am unlimited” and the “The dream is alive at Thurgood Marshall” and I am glad my children are reminded about respecting others every time they recite it.

As for the playground, it sure seems like things were a lot different this year. One of my children had one isolated problem on the playground last year and I haven’t heard anything from either of them since. I know other parents had very real concerns, but for us it has not been a problem. Again, for my kids, their conflicts usually happen with APP-classmates.

I do have questions about the academic side of APP, and where we are going with that. How is the continued alignment affecting the classroom experience? How can things be better tailored within the Readers and Writers’ workshops? How can we integrate social studies with reading, for example? Next year, we are told, we'll see more emphasis on non-fiction; I applaud this since my children seem to read nothing but fantasy fiction, despite my best efforts. I'm sure many APP parents share these or similar concerns. But for me the co-housing situation has not turned out to be the problem I anticipated. To my eyes, TM is NOT a repeat of the Madrona situation.

Continued below.

Tosca said...

Continued - Part 2.

This year, my 2nd grader had several field trips with the 2nd grade ALO classroom, and both of children had joint APP/ALO classroom field trips last year. Fifth grade promotion this year seemed to me to be a truly inclusive event that reflected a functional not fractured community. This coming year, I understand, there will be real inclusion of PEACE academy children into “regular” classrooms, and the teaching staff and families are welcoming that.

Again, there is still more that can happen. I hope that opportunities like the Global Reading Challenge can be repeated (a team that competed nationally and was comprised equally of APP and ALO students.) I also would like to see Julie B. continue to communicate the successes of all the students from all of the programs. There were some incredible gains by the ELL students this year and although they are not my children, I am pleased to hear that ALO children at TM are thriving because of the focus on reading and literacy.

There can and should be more ways for parents to interact across programs. I am sorry to hear from “ALO friend” that some ALO parents have had been rebuffed or their efforts to volunteer rejected. We can all do better. But I also know how much effort has also gone into reaching out to ALO parents—to join the PTA Board, to attend PTA meetings, etc. It remains a challenge.

Yes, I do agree that there is a concerted effort to speak to parents and families across all programs as a single group but like Ruthie, I value that. I don’t want my children to feel separate (or as Jessica says, walled off) from their schoolmates. I very much appreciate that APP is self-contained but I am happy to see that doesn't mean isolated. One of my greatest fears about the APP split was that my children would feel part of a world within a world at TM. Instead, their school exist as one world with many different but interesting kids. The reality – at least for us – has been decidedly more positive than negative. I say all of this not to suggest that the split was the best choice, or even that the TM model can or should necessarily be replicated. For us, TM is a community is evolving in a good direction and should be allowed to exist without further tampering from the District.

I am hopeful that the District's planning process for APP's future will allow time to consider what is best for all of APP—with lots of parent engagement. (Ok, please stop laughing, Charlie!) I do plan to keep a vigilant eye on what they do and say in the next few weeks and months.

Ben said...

Or maybe it's just me.

Jessica said...

Pointing out one more thing: TM Elementary School's namesake was a great man who dismantled "separate but equal" in the schools. Not a bad thought on the July 4 weekend.

Anonymous said...

Have you spent countless hours over several years in our building and in many different classrooms?

Ah. Yes I have, thank you very much none111. Why make assumptions? I'm not saying anything is evil. Just saying how it is. There's 2E and there's 2E. Yes, the easy stuff they SPS will do, so long as there is really nothing to do, or no appriciable difference, so long as it costs nothing. None111, you should try getting off your high horse from time to time. Sure, I believe there are always some people well served. And if they say they are, I believe them. But let's not extrapolate from there.

-sped parent

Damned When I Do said...

This discussion about cohousing at TM, and the potential break of the current cohousing arrangement at Lowell, really underlines to me that there are two distinct problems: cohousing KIDS and cohousing PARENTS.

The concerns at the kid level should be about curriculum, learning in the classroom, playground culture, after-school activities---you know, things that involve them. Kids are surprisingly tolerant of arrangements that parents have issues with, and kids tend to have different priorities than parents anyway.

From what I have seen, wherever APP goes, APP parents dominate the PTA and parent-driven activity at that school. I understand why non-APP parents feel resentful and have issues with that---but nobody is stopping them from getting involved. There's nothing magical or mysterious about showing up to a meeting or writing an email (or letter). I do know that for some families, even minimal participation is difficult due to demands on their time.

I notice that 'Ben' basically noted that APP didn't have a seat at the table, and was immediately accused of wanting to exclude others or deny them. Unfortunately I think both views are right: when APP parents participate, other parents disengage, and the result is domination which nobody likes to acknowledge. So we get an uneasy truce at TM in which APP parents are active but there's little public acknowledgement of the program.

Some Lowell ALO parents have expressed concern that the APP-dominated PTA is leaving, at the same time complaining that the PTA is dominated by APP. Paradoxically, the parent who authored a petition on this is and organized some ALO signers is, as I understand it, an APP parent in the walk zone who likes to tell a story about how difficult it was to find any ALO-family emails to send the petition to. There's a lesson in there somewhere...

I say this as an APP parent (last year at Lowell), and I know full well that if I go to a meeting about APP at Lincoln and take the mike, there is someone somewhere who thinks that every word out of my mouth is denying someone else their voice and their right to be heard. It's a ridiculous paradox born of pettiness, paranoia and myopia on both sides, and I don't have any solution to it.

The one group that comes out ahead in all this is, of course, the district planners who prefer playing divide-and-conquer.

treading carefully said...

Ben, it's not just you. It's just not polite or PC enough for a lot of people to come out and publicly say these things. There are a lot of people on both sides of this camp, and even among those who are "satisfied", you'll hear a lot of things like "It's much better this year", or "we're making it work", not "it's great!", and never "it's even better now with APP split".

Damned When I Do makes some great points above, which I won't repeat. Bottom line is that the elementary APP cohousing situations are more like a wary truce, where it takes many people working hard on a regular basis to make sure things don't fall apart, and there are always a few people around the edges that antagonize.

Ben said...

Before the split brought APP to TM, there was basically no PTA. There might be plenty of valid reasons for this, but APP parents did not shove anyone out.

Damned When I Do said...

Ben --- I should have been clearer on that point...we're not at TM, but prior to the split I did hear that the PTA was basically non-existent.

If APP at Lowell moves to Lincoln, I have no idea what will happen as far as parent volunteering/PTA stuff goes. Maybe it will disappear and Lowell will be like TM was before the split? I hope not.

I take it as a given that parental involvement at a school is a net positive for the school, and a major one at that. I suspect some families are not engaged in that way because they don't share that assumption, in which case they might see parents-at-the-school as a problem, not a benefit.

ALO friend said...

Ben, that is absolutely NOT TRUE that TM had no PTA until APP arrived. I personally know two of the women (quite well) who were members at the time of the split. They were very active in volunteering with the school and worked very hard with the incoming Lowell PTA members.

They helped put on joint events-one was a dance that first year that from what they've said was fairly well attended by both groups. The TM had also run fundraisers in the past. They most certainly WERE active! You're either utterly misinformed or just lying to make yourself sound more sympathetic.

With the misinformation you're spreading and your type of attitude, I can see why it's tough for some to accept any kind of merge.

Ben said...

I said there was "basically" no PTA at TM pre-APP. I wasn't there (my kid was going to Lowell then), but this is what I've been told. I don't think there's any reason to call me a liar.

My type of attitude. And what of yours?

(And don't forget to call "Damned When I Do" a liar too. He or she claims to have heard the same thing I did about the TM PTA.)

Anonymous said...

Just reading through blog posts from the first split (Jan 09)...this was a post from "another mom":

The 2007 APP Program review team suggested developing a vision, goals, and curriculum framework prior to any reconfiguration of the program. That same report goes on to say the curriculum should be fully functional prior to any change in the program. So much for expensive outside reviews.

This work has yet to be completed, and here we are facing another major change, with the curriculum still in flux.

frustrated as well

ALO friend said...

Ben, if you were at Thurgood Marshall the first year after the split, on the first day of school the newly merged PTA officers got up and spoke about the work they did over the summer to help bring the two populations together. I know this because, as I said, I know some of the women involved and I know what some of their concerns were as they talked.

They could not have MERGED the PTA's if Thurgood Marshall hadn't HAD one!And if you missed that first day, you surely attended some of the PTA events-as an involved parent. Did you never think to wonder where the ALO PTA came from?

I said you were either a liar or misinformed. You may also be uninvolved, and maybe that's where your lack of information stems from.

Look, I KNOW there have been problems. But there have been many posts here from APP-south parents who are not seeing the negativity you do. You've painted it in that negative light since the beginning (I'm a long-time reader).

It comes up often among more affluent parents that poor schools have no PTA's and that just isn't always true. They may not raise tons of money, but PTA's do other worthy things and the parents get little or no credit when it comes to the lower-income schools. Parents there are seen as uninterested and uninvolved, happy to let problems lie-and it really hurts.

It sounds like some of the APP parents posting her have made the effort to "reach across the aisle" and include ALO parents. Seeing their PARENTS work together is the best way to get the KIDS working together, no?

ALO friend said...

Damned When I Do-people "heard" a lot of things about Thurgood Marshall before the split-I remember reading on this blog (I think) that people also heard that in addition to their being no PTA, that the kids were split according to gender, something that hadn't been in place in several years. They heard about longer school days and that too, hadn't been in palce for years.

Very few bothered to reach out to Thurgood Marshall and ASK. As I said in my post to Ben-the two PTA's worked together over the summer before the first post-split year. That only happened because someone reached out and ASKED. I'm sure the merge would have been smoother if more parents had done so rather than spread what they "heard" to be gospel about how the school operated.

Damned When I Do said...

Yes, the gender split, the uniforms, etc. I remember that, and hunting around the TM website (which was badly out of date) and I was unable to find any reference to a PTA. If there was an active one, that's great. I believe there are supplemental funds for schools that don't raise PTA funds, so I'd expect at least a minimal one most places.

But this does remind me of Ben's original point: wearing uniforms because it shows "we are ready to learn" (which was the phrase as I recall)---that's a fine message but IMHO isn't super-relevant for a group of kids who tested at 95% on acheivement tests. Those kids have other challenges---e.g., some of them can overvalue academic acheivement at the expense of other areas of activity and growth, since after all academics are what adults make such a fuss over.

I'm not at TM, so I'm going to exit this thread...but I sure hope people like ben can be heard (right or wrong) without being drowned out by happy talk.

dj said...

Yes, damned when I do, the gender-split info was on the website when the split was announced, so it wasn't some crazy rumor. Also, APP parents specifically were admonished not to go flooding down to TM to info-gather and otherwise overwhelm the exist TM school as they processed the future for their site, so it truly was damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Anonymous said...

So no news good news from SPS about the Lowell move until Friday?

Lowell Parent

Anonymous said...

I understood that the announcement for next year's plans would be on July 8. The deadline for responses to the district survey is July 6.

I didn't expect any communication (good or bad) until Friday.