Tuesday Open Thread

As promised, let's try two days of open thread.  What's on your mind?

I noticed a huge amount of discourse over charters.  I hope to have a couple of charter threads in the coming days as this is certainly a topic of interest (and some even consider them inevitable but nothing like throwing in the towel before the fight). 

Last call for the big School Board candidate debate tomorrow night at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.  You need a ticket but they are free. 


anonymous said…

"We voted down charters three times. I'm thinking it can happen again especially considering the very tight financial situation. "

Maybe, but a lot has changed in the 8 years since we last voted down charter schools.

1) Parents have far fewer choices now than they did 8 years ago. The "choice" system is gone and has been replaced with neighborhood schools. Transportation has been cut back tremendously. South end busing has been discontinued to Mcclure and Hamilton. There is no longer excess space at Ingraham and Sealth HS for south end kids. And with the tight economy many of the families who used to be able to afford private school no longer can. With limited choices and families feeling forced to send their children to schools that they might not otherwise sent them to, I think it is totally possible to see a lot more families in favor of charters.

2) Charter proponents will argue that charters SAVE the state money and are run much more efficiently than traditional public schools. Whether that is true or not I don't know, and won't argue, but I hear it all the time. And so do others. That may tip the scales for voters who are looking to tighten the reigns on spending. Especially now that states will be monetarily incentified by the government if they have charters.

3) Charters have been in the news A lot. They have seen a tremendous amount of publicity. Popular movies, like Waiting for Superman, are major hits. President Obama and Arnie Duncan are huge cheerleaders. Way to many people don't take the time to do their own research and they let the media heavily influence their vote. They may very well vote in favor of charters.

4) Charters have been around for over 10 years now. They aren't new and scary anymore. In fact we are one of only a hanful of states that DON'T have charters. We have had the time to monitor charters, collect statistics, and analyze outcomes. And we have seen many different models and styles from the corporate chain charters to magnet schools, to small homegrown community run schools. The public has had time to see what works and what doesn't work. What is appealing to them and what is not appealing to them. They may feel much more confident about trying charters now than they did 8 years ago.

I have no idea how Seattle will vote on charters if there is an opportunity to do so again. What I do know is that a lot has changed in the last 8 years since we voted them down last. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
WFS, you are speaking as a Seattle parent. Are all these things true throughout the state? It will be a state measure.

Actually charters have been around for 20 years but I'll cover that in my thread.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
Yes, Melissa, everything that I mentioned are state wide issues (with the exception of losing choice which is specific to SPS).

Anonymous said…
I'm reposting this from the earlier TFA Fights Back Blog, to respond to some comments on my last post there:

Mirror, tired, & NLM: There's a reason I put "fall for anything" in quotes. My point was the exact opposite of how you took it. I apologize if my sarcasm compromised my articulateness.

My point was that, if what you have is not working for you, and you are tired, frustrated, and anxious about when, if ever, your schools will start working for you, then alternative models and new ideas look a lot brighter to you than to folks who are happy with things they way they are. That group, by the way, will often be called "defenders of the status quo" by folks who want and embrace change.

My larger point is to maintain self-criticism and self-reflection, so we can all remember that there are plenty of folks throughout the district who do not share the same experiences we do. All of our schools are not in crisis, but a few are. One's view of reality is shaped largely based on what school they are in and the experiences they've had.

I don't intend to condescend to anyone on this blog. I do, however, challenge people to look at, and see, the bigger picture from time to time, because this district has a chronic and nasty habit of not telling or disclosing the truth to its community, constantly breaks promises, and happily creates conflict, from time to time, between neighborhoods, clusters, and schools, to achieve its agendas.

Its as simple as this: If it works, don't fix it. If it doesn't work, fix it. Some want "fixes" that others don't. All I want is for people to make informed decisions, and consider the consequences to the larger community when they make their demands.

We're all in this boat together, after all. WSDWG

9/27/11 10:29 AM
Anonymous said…
As many of you know, Lafayette got Jo Lute-Ervin from TOPS as our new principal this year. Not knowing anything about her, I turned to this blog to gather some feedback on her over the summer. What I saw wasn't very favorable, but I really tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. We are now going into our 4th week at Lafayette and she has managed to turn a high-performing school into a wreck! This woman possibly had the easiest job in the world walking into a school like Lafayette. (Is it perfect? No, but certainly not broken!) Yet instead, she decided at the very last minute to make drastic changes to the drop off/pick up procedures for a 560+ school with no communication to parents or teachers! And, what's worse, the process does not logistically work and she is unwilling to change it back. Teachers are unhappy, parents feel unwelcome and kids are consistently missing instruction time because they are getting into their classrooms late.

Many parents commented that Jo was not a culture fit for TOPS. Frankly, I'm not sure she's a culture fit for Seattle Schools. She's a horrible communicator, unable to think through the logistics of key processes, and has a top-down approach to management with little input from the teachers that really are the heart of the school.

Somebody, please Save Our School!!

-Distressed Parent
Anonymous said…
Distressed Parent: Get other parents to E-Mail Enfield and the Board right now. Do not wait. Squeaky Wheels get the grease. 560 families will not be pushed around by one rogue principal. But it won't fix itself. Get organized an make it happen. It's YOUR neighborhood school. She just works there. For you, supposedly. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
What I see is 35+ kids in all my kid's classes. At least 3 periods at 38 - in middle school. "Honors" classes at my school are at 16. That sucks. We have a huge system of inequity, and that pretty much sums it up.

-bring on the change, any of it
suep. said…
WFS -- "Waiting for Superman" was a considered a huge miss by many others, for its one-sided, negative representation of public schools, the absence of teachers' voices in the movie, and as Gail Sheehey at the New York Times pointed out, the cruel and unnecessary method of publicly announcing the 'winners' and 'losers' of the enrollment lottery.

The skewed and highly politicized nature of the film is likely what kept it out of Oscar contention last year.

(See: The The Myth of Charter Schools
November 11, 2010, NY Review of Books, by Diane Ravitch)

In these past eight years there has also been the release of the most comprehensive assessment of charter schools in America, and it found that 83 percent of charters perform no better -- or perform worse -- than traditional public schools. (Stanford University's CREDO Report in 2009.) Even Sec of Ed Arne Duncan has admitted that too many charter schools are not doing well, or have serious issues.

(Their record of not accepting children with special needs or English Language Learners, and their high attrition rates are among the troubling traits of charter schools.)

(See the right-hand margin for more info on charters here: http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/ as well as here: http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/)

Yes, we have an administration in D.C. that embraces the privatization of public ed through charters -- an administration that works closely (some argue, is run by) wealthy individuals with multimillion-dollar foundations (Gates and Broad) and a corporate approach to education reform (and have privately invested millions in charters), so there has been an onslaught of pressure to enforce this model on all 50 states. (Whether that is Constitutional is another question.)

But this effort, called "Race to the Top," which is an offshoot of "No Child Left Behind," has come under fire because it pressures (arguably, bribes) states to adopt a federally-directed agenda -- moreover, one that does not prove to work. In fact, many elements of this agenda have proved to be detrimental and have led to draconian mass firings of teachers, school closures and rampant cheating on standardized tests -- and no discernable improvement in the outcome for the children on the receiving end of all of this churn.

Yes, charters have been in the news a lot -- because there has been a highly-financed, concerted effort to put them there (Bill Gates spent a great deal of money promoting "Superman") -- and they are being pushed by the federal government in unprecedented ways, so that is newsworthy. But the subject of this news remains highly controversial.

Yes, the economy has changed in 8 years. Even more kids are living in poverty and fewer people can afford private school. But we also have 8 more years of information about the success or failure of privatizing public ed via charter schools, and the research does not support this as a sound option.

I believe we need to invest in our existing schools, not redirect precious public resources away from them into private hands.

Washington State ranks near the bottom among all 50 states for per-pupil funding. We should start there and change that abysmal fact.

I believe Seattle and the state of Washington have the ingenuity and resources to "innovate" and invest in our existing schools without outsourcing this responsibility to charter franchises like KIPP, Inc.

We don't need the middlemen.

It's a matter of commitment and vision.
suep. said…
On another subject, can anyone tell me why we have deputy superintendent as well as a superintendent?

Has SPS ever had this doubling-up of jobs before? How is it affordable right now?
Eric B said…
I've seen (from a short distance) what I think would be considered the best possible charter school, once that focused on academics and college readiness. I'm appalled at the difficulties in getting basic things figured out (principals who don't proselytise, etc.). The person I know who is involved said that the charter school universe is also full of flat earthers (his words) trying to escape basic science and reason. And it still drains away high-achieving students and money from the local district. I am not a fan.

Concerned Parent, you might try calling or emailing Pegi McEvoy on the operations issues. I've found her to be very helpful and responsive.
Po3 said…
"We are now going into our 4th week at Lafayette and she has managed to turn a high-performing school into a wreck! "

You say this principal has turned the school into a wreck, then only point to one change - that of drop off/pick up procedures.
Wondering if this is an overreaction based on preconceived opinions coming into the building?
Just SaYING said…

The majority of the $400M Family and Education Levy will go to high need schools. Low income schools also receive grants up to one million dollars.

Communities have wrapped themselves around schools such as Bailey Gazette. We just had an in-kind donation of half a million dollars to support under-performing schools.

I don't see charters as helping; only another method to privitize public ed, and leave low performing children in public schools.

The state is broke. We'll probably see more cuts to our public ed. this year. Don't see charters as the answer.
mirmac1 said…
To be honest, I am glad the deputy is there. i believe he can actually accomplish things with a conscience.

On the matter of Lafayette. Phew, got out of there in the nick of time. It was(is?) an excellent school. With that big monstrosity of a new Safeway across the street...is that what's gumming up drop-offs?

I was NOT pleased to hear of the principal change. Refresh my memory please. Did they ever replace the Assistant Principal position? It's 560+ kids, for gosh sakes!

Why muck up something that WORKS!? These folks do it all the time! Is Lute-Ervin on a PIP or something? Is she supposed to be learning from Aurora Lora?

Lafayette has a dynamic population with active families. Quit messing with it!
Anonymous said…
I just finished watching POV on PBS where it featured a documentary following 4 Filipino teachers in their 1st year in Baltimore. It is called "The Learning." It was absolutely riveting. I've worked all over the world and many people at home (US) often make comments along the line of how hard it must be to work in war torn areas and under "primitive conditions". But I think in many ways what these teachers sacrificed to come to an unfamiliar culture to work (one many of us in Seattle would find just as unfamiliar) was even tougher.

It was fascinating is to watch how culture norms and differences played out. These women and men have a lot of grit and heart. All 4 of them were inivited to come back the next school year and one recently has been offered another teaching position in Philadelphia.

A bit of background. Currently there are about 600 Filipinos teacher in the Prince George school district (Baltimore is in this county). They were brought in (back when the economy was shiny) under H1-B program when the school district couldn't find enough highly qualified teachers (math and science) for schools (inner city, hi poverty schools). Their salaries were equitable to homegrown teachers, but the Fillipino teachers had to pay several thousands for visa application, so in the end, they were paid less than local teachers. With school districts under massive budget cuts, only the best ones will probably be kept.

On a side note, I was surprised not to see TFA supplying 600 teachers instead. I think when it comes to supplying science, math, and special ed teachers in the number needed, TFA is not the answer, so perhaps less of a threat to career minded teachers.

I lived in DC, so I know Baltimore quite well. In terms of challenges, Seattle school district has it easy in comparison.

- POV fan
SolvayGirl said…
Just spent the morning with an educated, capable single mom of two school-age children. She is coming out of a very messy divorce and struggling financially to keep her household afloat. Originally solid middle-income, her kids are now FRL.

We were discussing SPS and she noted that she just did not have the time to attend PTA meetings or to do much more than read this blog to stay abreast of the doings in the District. She lamented the catalog sales fundraiser her child is expected to participate in. She definitely does not have time to volunteer in the classroom, or money to donate. We discussed the problems that come when schools are so dependent on parental involvement and financial support to provide what used to be considered the basics.

She moved back to Seattle two years ago in the fall and could not get her child back into the school she had attended. She had to choose, with no time to tour, etc., between two other schools in the general area. She was lucky that her choice turned out to be a good one.

This is the reality for many families in SPS. They are struggling to survive in a down economy and do not have the time to fight for their rights, or, in many cases, advocate for their child beyond the basics. My friend noted that she paid her taxes and expected SPS to give her child a good education.

Some posters on this blog act as if all parents/guardians are exactly the same and all able to advocate for their children on the same level. They believe that to suggest otherwise is insulting, or worse. It is not the reality I've seen during my child's 8 years at a school with a high FRL population. Many parents just cannot advocate

The problem with Charters—and even Seattle's Option Schools—is that parents have to spend a lot of time investigating, researching, talking to other parents, etc. to make an informed choice. Some don't even realize there is a choice to make.
Consequently, only the kids whose parents are already advocating for them are going to benefit. This may be great for those kids, but what happens when more public dollars are syphoned off from the struggling publics? What happens to the kids left in those schools?

Because of the economy, you can bet they won't see smaller class sizes and more personalized attention. I fear, instead, we will see more school closures and even larger class sizes. We've got to figure out a way to give all kids the education they need. I don't have the answers, but I'm not sure Charters are it. I just don't see how they will benefit the whole.
Dorothy Neville said…
POV fan, sounds fascinating. But Baltimore is not in a county. Prince George's County abuts DC, not Baltimore.
Anonymous said…
That's very corrrect. Baltimore is a city. Should have checked my writing before posting. Prince George is considered part of Baltimore metro area where Filipino teachers are recruited to teach. (Sory for bad spelling and grammar too.)

POV fan
Bring, what honors classes are those? Are you talking about Spectrum? If you were, that would be amazing because my sons never had small Spectrum classes in middle school.

Suep, we have had a deputy super (but that was maybe 20 odd years ago by by reckoning). It had been a COO, CFO, etc. for awhile. I'm not sure why Enfield decided to change that but she did (and MGJ tried to double up with Kennedy being both COO/CFO - that didn't work).
Anonymous said…
Distressed parent... Been in exactly the same situation. Thriving school, very supportive community, excellent school with lots of involvement. SPS put a dud of a principal in, I have my theories as to why. (did Lafayette get to hire, or was it an SPS placement?) At our school, let's say SPS didn't put her there b.c it was a good fit.

She caused conflict, abdicated responsibilies (said "it's not my job" many, many times), was hardly ever in the building, didn't know anyone's names (including her own staff and parent volunteers she saw all the time), made decisions that lacked any kind of logical reasoning (this is reported from staff)... on and on. She left mid year on medical leave.

Definitely write Enfield but write, call, write some more your director. It's his/her job to supervise the principals in that region. And document everything.

good luck.
--another parent
Anonymous said…
@another parent -- We did not have an opportunity to interview for a new principal. (but we did for the vice principal role) It's sad that there's a pattern with this principal and the District continues to pass around an ineffective leader.

-distressed parent
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said…
"Yet, from good authority they've been told not to talk - another tactic of an ineffective leader."

the culture of fear and intimidation is alive and well at Lafayette...Sundquist, are you listening?

anonymous, please use a pseudonym or your post will be deleted!
Anonymous said…
Right Melissa, but did your kid get to have 38 kids in his class, while some other classes had 16? I bet you never even got 30.

-bring it on
Anonymous said…
You don't want to talk to TOPS. TOPS did Seattle Polite thing and it took two years for Jo Lute to move on. You want to talk to McGilvra. They are an amazing community. They managed to get an ineffective principal with a decade long history of issues, taken out of the system in 4 months.

The community worked collaboratively and positively and documented, documented, documented everything that the principal did that was ineffective, inappropriate and in many cases a direct violation of policy. The effective, clear, documentation meant only a semester of damage to the McGilvra students.

Regardless, the damage of MGJ continues. In one year, she gave mandatory assignments to many principals with the worst track records to the schools with the strongest parent communities so that the parents could do the dirty work that HR failed to do.

I don't generally believe in conspiracies but ... if you wanted a way to distract some of the strongest and most vocal parent groups while making major changes, this would have been a great plan.

As it is, I think it was mostly laziness and a complete and total disregard for students that was the driver. As far as I know, Jo Lute probably is the only principal as part of that round robin still in the system. Charlie did a thread on it at the time with all the principal moves. He might know more.

- been there, done that
Anonymous said…
Dear Bring It On,

Which school is this? Cause at our kids' school, his Honors classes are full. I've heard from a mom that her kid didn't get into one of the honors class because of this. How full is your school? Does it have a waitlist? Can they take more kids?

- el's mom
Bring, I just trying to understand your situation. "never even got to 30"? What kind of statement is that?

My son had 33 kids in 4 and 5th grades and nearly the same in middle school.

I note you don't explain if it's Spectrum or what school.
Anonymous said…
Suep - The deputy superintendent has been a huge improvement over the old structure. Principals and parents have had much better customer service driven by the deputy than we have in many years. The successful move of APP was led by the deputy I think and the communication was superb.

- Fran G.
Anonymous said…
Wow, Fran G., I was at L@L this summer and we had very different experiences. The PTA communicated regularly, but we got very little information from the district itself and it certainly was not "superb."

Remember, Noel Treat was promoted months before any decision was made to move APP. Parents and staff worked miracles (an hundreds of hours) to make it work, but the decision to move the program in July is indefensible.

L@L parent
Charlie Mas said…
Jo Lute-Ervin has a speckled history in Seattle Public Schools. She has moved from school to school to school.

The process is the same for anyone with a concern about the effectiveness of any district employee:


2. Speak with the person directly and candidly share your questions and concerns. This can and should be done without accusations or insults. Take notes. Get it right. Encourage others to do the same.

3. Speak with the person's supervisor directly and candidly share your concerns. Encourage others to do the same. Share the results of your conversation with the person (from step 2). Ask for specific action and ask for a timeline. Ask what specific action will be taken and when it will be taken. Take notes. Get it right.

4. Use the District's complaint process. Share all of your documentation. Encourage others to do the same. Insist on a response.

5. Contact the superintendent. Insist on a response. Put together a delegation of six or more and ask for an appointment. If there are a group of you then you should be able to get on her calendar. Ask for specific action by a specific date.

5. Contact the Board member who represents your area. Insist on a response. Encourage others to do the same. Again, a group of six or more should be able to get an appointment. Again, ask for specific action by a specific date.

6. Go public. Use this blog, use neighborhood blogs, use the comments section of the Seattle Times, use board meetings, use every soapbox you can reach. Encourage others to do the same.

7. Document everything you do, everyone you talk to, and everything they say. Keep pressing everyone to give you a response, pressure them to take action, demand a timeline.
Maureen said…
She has moved from school to school to school.

Charlie, don't make statements you can't support. Jo Lute Ervin was at Leschi for YEARS before MGJ moved her to TOPS. She was not a good fit for TOPS but that shouldn't diminish the positive impact she had at Leschi back in the days that principals actually had some control over their building budgets. MGJ wanted a Montessori at Leschi and Ms. Lute-Ervin didn't fit into that plan.
Anonymous said…
Did you know,

The new manager of Maintenance Bruce Skowyra is providing Credit Cards to all Maintenance employees that want one. That could possibly be over 75+ Credit Cards.

Now, would you or anyone you know give a Credit Card to any Employee or new Employee in your company that doesn't have a track record of reliability and trust. I know I wouldn't. There has been over ten new employees hired at least. This is what Bruce is currently doing.

Now if this was his own company he wouldn't do this, there could be extreme abuse of the credit cards. It is not coming out of his pocket. It is coming out of the School District's budget. To me it seems as if he really doesn't care.

With this care free attitude I hope someone from outside SSD is reading this and helps the mess that has been created by the Management.

-- TheOne
Anonymous said…
33 ain't 38. And "nearly 33" in middle school, as you mention, is a lot less than 38... and isn't overloaded at all. Middle school, spectrum students are served with something called "honors" for LA and math. I thought that was the norm in middle school, esp for math. That is the so-called "math pathways", as described in the district math handouts.

With the NSAP, all schools are full. However many students live in an area - that miraculously becomes it's capacity... and so there's a waitlist at every middle school.

-bring on the change
Charlie Mas said…
She has moved from school to school to school.

Okay, that was wrong. I should have written: "She has moved from Leschi to TOPS to Lafayette"

I'm not so sure that I would describe her tenure at Leschi as successful. The school had a brand-new building and Madrona as a neighbor and still could not attract enough students to come close to filling the building's 425 student capacity.

2004 Enrollment: 232
2005 Enrollment: 207
2006 Enrollment: 227
2007 Enrollment: 236
2008 Enrollment: 274

# of K students naming Leschi as their first choice for assignment:
2006: 16
2007: 16
2008: 13
Anonymous said…
Rather than eat-crow and admit to an arrogant and poorly thought out change to a system that wasn't broken, Principal Jo Lute-Ervin is plowing ahead with her failed experiment. Now she has made the decision to employ the hoariest trick in the bureaucratic book. A panel is being appointed to study the problem, and all the trimmings of the study commission syndrome are being used. The establishment of the group was announced with flourish by the (new) President of the PTA. The panel has been given an unspecified amount of time to complete its work, which will buy valuable time to mend fences and dim the public memory of a school where children were taught how to prepare for life by getting themselves to their classrooms on time rather than Jo Lute-Ervins' system of being led like little herbavores. The scope of the panel's study will be broadened to include the entire structure of the school district, which will help dilute the attention being placed on the unpardonable amount of classroom time, and classroom preparation time that is being lost by treating kids, and moving kids, like livestock. Finally the panel will be "balanced" with individuals who either know nothing about how well the un-broken system used to work or by those who are beneficiaries of Principle Lute-Ervins' practices.
Its' positively Orwellian to change the criteria to qualify one's desired goal. Before this year kids who were not in their seats by the second bell were marked as tardy. Now teachers are told to NOT call that tardy.
Definition of Perfect: When you decide to suspend all criteria.

This is not good work, I have no understanding of how Jo Lute-Ervin was given this plumb of an assignment.
Our children are not only losing valuable classroom time, the teachers are likewise now losing classroom preparation time escorting kids who were and have been able to move themselves since kindergarten. What are these kids going to do when they go from here to middle schools of 1000 or more? Look for the teacher with the shepards crook?

This system is slower, uses up more resources and teaches the kids to dumb-down. What kind of a principal can't see that ?
whittier07 said…
Whittier held an advanced learning q & a with Robert Vaughn tonight. He seems like a very nice man who wants students challenged with whatever program serves them best - APP, Spectrum or ALO. He seemed completely supportive of Whittier's self-contained model BUT there were a some comments that caused concern for some who attended:

1) Robert Vaughn and our principal have been discussing how to best serve more students ... the principal has brought up the idea of an ALO program with staff but did not have the details as to whether it would replace Spectrum or be in addition to the Spectrum program.

2) The principal also shared that Whittier's test scores were really good across the whole school and then posed the question of "is the Spectrum program really needed" if students across the school are scoring well.

3) Robert Vaughn stated a couple of times that it was great that we had so many "bright" students in SPS even though some of them end up on wait-lists. He said that an ALO program helps b/c the students could at least keep their Spectrum status ... why not create more Spectrum seats?

4) A parent (she is also an SPS teacher) brought up the fact that Spectrum & ALO programs generally have students working 1 year ahead in math but when they get to middle school the students are tested & either placed in an honors math class that is working 2 years ahead or placed in the general ed math class which is a repeat of what they covered in 5th grade. Another parent confirmed that this happened to her child. They were talking about Whitman, I'm curious if this happens elsewhere? Robert Vaughn seemed at a loss as to what parents should do, who they should talk to so that the students had an appropriate math class.
Anonymous said…
I'm sorry Bring on the change, but I didn't understand your posting @ 9:51 PM. It is probably me, as I have a hard time with subtlety. I am really interested in any schools with open honors seat as there are kids who could use those seats if there are still ways to get them in rather doing a repeat of last year's work. If you are not comfortable naming the school, can you at least give us the geographical area (NW, NE, SW, SE) school is in?

el's mom
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
My child is taking his second year of Spanish in middle school. Next year as a freshman in HS he will skip Spanish I and be placed into Spanish II. My question is this. Is Spanish II in HS the equivalent of the second year of Spanish in middle school. Will he be repeating the same thing over again?

Anybody have experience with this?

Also how does he get HS credit for the two years of MS Spanish that he took? I understand it is possible but don't know what to do to get it.

hschinske said…
When my kids were at Whittier, the regular class sizes had been bought down to some extent, but they couldn't do that with Spectrum due to the waitlist. You frequently saw parents wondering if a regular class with a lot fewer kids would be better than a chock-full Spectrum class. (In my experience, no. The smaller classes were more peaceful and pleasant, but I never knew the teachers to take advantage of them to provide any further challenge for the top end.)

Helen Schinske
Charlie Mas said…

Two years of middle school world language equals one year of high school world language for both placement and credit.

Students who took two years of Spanish in middle school can be and should be placed in Spanish II in high school.

High school credit is available for students who took any high school level class in middle school, including world language and math classes. The credit must, however, be requested. You can request it by sending an email to the school board. Tell them that your child took and passed the class, that it was a course equivalent to a high school course, that your child received at least 150 hours of planned instructional activity, and that the course was taught by a teacher qualified to teach the course at the high school level.

You should get some sort of message confirming the credit on your child's transcript.
hschinske said…
2) The principal also shared that Whittier's test scores were really good across the whole school and then posed the question of "is the Spectrum program really needed" if students across the school are scoring well.

See, it works like this: if your kid's scores are high, the school argues that they're doing a GREAT job educating your kid in the regular classroom or the scores wouldn't be so high. If your kid's scores drop, the school argues that they're doing a GREAT job and your kid obviously doesn't belong in Spectrum anyway due to lower scores. Catch-22.

What you really want to do is follow the talent search model, taking the kids who score well on grade-level tests and giving them an above-level test. The ones who still do fairly well at a couple of grade levels out obviously were doing well at grade level because they were way ahead, and the ones who bomb the out-of-level test (assuming it wasn't due to nerves, etc.) are probably doing well at grade level due to being already adequately challenged.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
With regards to the math placement at Whitman MS, honors math is just working one year ahead - NOT two. My child also had to take the test at Whitman. He did get placed in advanced math, but they are working just one year ahead. My understand, from a counselor at Whitman, is they take into account both the score on the test and other data such as MAP scores.

I'm not sure I agree with the additional testing, since Whitman doesn't give details about how the decision exactly is made. I would be frustrated if my child had to repeat 6th grade math if they are received a "passing" grade the year before.

- new middle school parent
Charlie Mas said…
People often misstate the MSP and HSPE results. If 79% of the students pass the test with a Level 3 or Level 4 score, people erroneously say that "the test scores at the school are high". So far as we know, all 79% of those students just barely passed. It is not the test scores that are high, but the pass rate that is high.

You have to look deeper to know if the test scores are high.

Even if the test scores are, in fact, high, there is no reason to leap to the conclusion that the school had a positive influence on them. Given the fact that the primary determinant of standardized test scores - by a wide margin - are home-based influences, there is no reason to attribute high test scores to the quality of instruction at the school.

Here's an example:
Suppose School A enrolls 100 students who, upon entry, are in the top 20% of their age peers for math achievement. After a year only 80 of them are still in the top 20%.

Suppose School B enrolls 40 students who, upon entry, are in the top 20% of their age peers for math achievement. After a year all 40 of them are still in the top 20%.

A casual observer might see that School A has twice as many students in the top quintile as School B and - mistakenly - presume that indicates that School A does a better job serving that population.

In short, the presence of a number of students with high test scores is not, in itself, evidence that the school serves those students well. And a high pass rate on the MSP is even less of an indication.

Furthermore, anyone who offers a high pass rate as evidence that the school does a good job of serving the academic needs of high performing students is a freakin' idiot. If that's what Whittier principal Linda Robinson said then I suggest gently educating her on interpreting data. You should use small words and short sentences.

Here is the story for the most recent cohort at Whittier:

In 2009, 38 Whittier third graders earned level 4 scores on the Math WASL.

In 2010, 38 Whittier fourth graders earned level 4 scores on the Math MSP.

In 2011, 30 Whittier fifth graders earned level 4 scores on the Math MSP.

Of course, there is no reason to assume that the cohort remained intact for these three years, but these are the numbers we have.

Let's look at another cohort.

In 2008, 36 Whittier third graders earned level 4 scores on the Math WASL.

In 2009, 41 Whittier fourth graders earned level 4 scores on the Math WASL.

In 2010, 37 Whittier fifth graders earned level 4 scores on the Math MSP.
Linh-Co said…

Don't be surprised if Whittier goes to ALO by next year. You're being primed. If you do become an ALO school, it will be a "staff decision" I'm sure.
Charlie Mas said…
Here's another way to think through the need for Spectrum at Whittier.

If Whittier is doing a good job of serving high performing students, and Whittier is doing it with self-contained Spectrum, then isn't that an endorsement of self-contained Spectrum?

The real truth, the real problem at the heart of all this fuzzy thinking, is the simple fact that the district makes no effort to measure - let alone assure - the quality and efficacy of advanced learning programs.
Charlie Mas said…
Actually, the district makes no effort to measure - let alone assure - the quality and efficacy of ANY program.

The old District policies used to require the superintendent to provide an annual report on every school and program. The current board never requested those reports and so the district staff have not produced any of them for the past four years.

The new District policies are vague on how the Board will oversee the quality or efficacy of programs. It appears that they have now codified their complete abdication of that responsibility.
Maureen said…
I don't understand why MAP scores aren't being published the way WASL/MSP scores are. Schools' CSIP (Continuous School Improvement Plan) goals are based on them. Comparing them with MSP scores might be a good way to see which schools are doing a better job covering state standards and creating actual growth in student learning. We see our individual kids' scores but never get to see what is happening on the school or District level. (I'm not pro MAP but given that our schools are suffering through them, and we are throwing millions into Research, Evaluation, Assessment & Development downtown, why aren't we all able to see the results?)
Melinda Gates on Colbert said…
OMG, Melinda Gates on Colbert last night discussing education reform.
Watch it on Hulu
Anonymous said…
Colbert Report link with Melinda Gates:


Anonymous said…
LIS- I've had two kids who took 2 years of Spanish in middle school and both passed with A's & B's.
The first kid was highly discouraged by the HS counselor from taking Spanish 2 as a freshman (teachers generally feel the 2 years of MS language doesn't prepare them for the pace of 2nd year language course), but being a self-motivated kid he took Spanish 2 anyway and had to work his tail off all year to fill in all of the blanks and catch up from a very weak middle school program.

Our 2nd kid had 2 different MS teachers, also with very weak instruction (never any homework or practice). He is kind of a "go with the flow" kid, so he was happy to take Spanish 1 as a freshman and is very glad he did. He said they covered more in the first two weeks as a freshman than a whole year in middle school (his homework confirmed that). Maybe a bit of an exageration, but getting a solid foundation for a language is like making sure you are successful in Algebra 1 before taking the next class in math.

This is especially true because WA state colleges require two years of the same world language for entrance requirements. We know other kids who took Spanish 2 as freshmen, struggled all year with very poor grades (ending up limiting their college choices because of this- Out of state schools don't require 2 years of the same language).
So I'd say, it really depends on your kid and the quality of their MS program.

Go with the flow 2nd time around---
Anonymous said…
Well el's mom, there isn't going to be any excess capacity in any comprehensive secondary school. You don't have choice anymore, right? The definition for every school of "at capacity" is "we have enrolled all the kids in the neighborhood who wish to attend public school and now we are full". That's it. There's not room for anyone else because they don't wish to make room or to have a choice system, but a neighborhood one. "Seats" arent' given out to middle school students based on "honors" or anything else. A seat is a seat. If we had more "honors" students, I would expect it to overcrowd the "other" classes even more. So, new-middle-parent, you'll have to hunt for our gem of a school yourself.

By the way, the other problem with a exclusive, segregated Spectrum - it leaves the rest of the school disproportionately disabled. And that number becomes really large. Disabled kids are entitled to seats in general ed, and they are entitled to it in natural proportions. But when we have programs like Spectrum - where the kids aren't really all that bright, and certainly not very far ahead, it means that there is a vast disproportionality in disability in the general ed classrooms. We see this problem at my school as well - at least 35%, and probably more, of the gen-ed class is actually disabled. That means the disabled kids are still stuck disproportionately with other disabled kids, and it is very inequitable for the regular students who are left behind in general education too. Students with behavior problems are shuffled out of the exclusive classrooms and then back regular gen ed. Why should some classes have ALL the disabled kids in them, and ALL the behavior issues that come with that, and others (Spectrum) have NO disabled students? And then, those much "easier" Spectrum classrooms (easier because nobody has a disability) also have less than half the class-size? That too is a matter of equity. If you're going to strip all the challenge out of one classroom, the only fair thing would be to make it 2 or 3 times larger.

If people think about equity, even for a moment, they would see that ALO's are much more equitable. (But, I don't think it's for middle school.) Students are proportionately placed, (so no big clumps of disabled kids) and everyone would have access to advanced learning - not just the few lucky ones. At least the notion of ALO. In this regard, the school district supporting ALO and killing off Spectrum, is way ahead of the parents - who mostly just want an exclusive program for their budding genious - no matter who else it negatively effects.

-bring on the change
TechyMom said…
Are the kids at Lafayette being asked to walk silently in lines with their fingers over their mouths? Are they being taken as a group to the bathroom on a set schedule? This is what I saw when I toured Leschi in Jo Lute-Ervin's last year there.

She also didn't show up for tour. We saw a Spectrum teacher screaming "Someone is not making good choices! You need to make a choice to SHUT YOUR MOUTH!" while leaning over the desk of a 4th grader, about 5 inches from his face. And, there was at least one kid sitting outside every single classroom being punished. All of this was happening *during a tour*. This was NOT a succesful school.

By all accounts, it is doing much better with Montessori and a new principal.

And, I agree, talk to the McGilvra PTA about what they did to oust a principal, as they were far more successful than TOPS.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Bring on the change.
Your post is spurious and certainly appears to indicate that you don't have any idea what you are talking about, in addition to trying to make your point in an incredibly insulting way. It's pretty clear you haven't even spent 2 minutes in a Spectrum classroom and that you are forming your argument based on rumor and innuendo.

The disabled kids of which you speak, do you mean special ed students? Those students are in fact put in every classroom, including Spectrum classes. (ever hear of twice gifted - w/a learning disability and a high CoGat score?) Kids with behaviour problems are not the same as special ed students. Sometimes there is overlap, but not always. You appear to be confusing those two groups.

And Spectrum classes are rarely "easier". There are plenty of behaviour issues in a Spectrum class. But if all you ever do is talk to other parents who hate/begrudge/badmouth the Spectrum program and it's students, you'd never know that. Some due diligence of your own would be a good idea. It doesn't matter whether YOU think they are smart, the fact that they passed the tests and scored appropriately on the CoGat matters in order to qualify.

A spectrum program exists to serve the academic needs of those students. By your own argument, it is not equitable to ignore those needs. It's not elitist or any other inflamatory term you want to throw in there. Those students have rights just like any other.

-keep your change
I had to delete a remark because it was anonymous but here it is and I echo it:

"But when we have programs like Spectrum - where the kids aren't really all that bright..."

Uh, wow.

Bring, you said a number of inflammatory and unfair things. I might go to a different thread to address them. I will just say in advance that you contradict yourself in a couple of places and if you think there are no "behavior" issues in Spectrum classrooms (and I wonder why you'd think that because you don't think there's anything different about them anyway), you'd be wrong.
Maureen said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said…
(I thought Uh, wow was the signature?)

You know, I actually agree with a lot of what bring it on said. I have two kids who qualified for APP (at some point at least) and while they are perfectly bright, they aren't exceptional. They have had plenty of peers (especially in one subject or the other) in their NonSpectrum/NonALO classrooms.

I'm sure some Spectrum level kids do have behavior and even learning challenges (but obviously they have overcome those to a great extent). But anyone who has spent any amount of time in a school that doesn't segregate kids by test scores would echo what bring says about classroom disruption and differing levels of need. (And I haven't even seen an extreme version since everyone chose to be at our K-8 and our HS is pretty privileged.)

People on this blog constantly complain (with good reason)about charters and alternative schools skimming off the easier to educate kids. I don't know why it's verboten to point out that Spectrum does exactly the same thing.

That's not to say I think Spectrum should be disbanded, but I think bring's points should be acknowledged. I do agree that easier to handle classrooms (including ones my kids would be in) should be larger than harder to handle ones.
Charlie Mas said…
I will certainly acknowledge the truth of some of what bring on the change wrote, but much of it was also far wide of the mark.

Let's think about this for a bit.

Let's say that in all of the schools in one middle school service area there are twelve third grade classrooms. One of them in one of the schools is the designated Spectrum class.

So if there are about 340 third graders in the service area, about 34 (10%) of them would be Spectrum-eligible and about 48 of them (14%) would have an IEP. It is also likely that there would be one or two students who would be Spectrum-eligible AND have an IEP.

If 28 of 34 the Spectrum-eligble students are in the Spectrum class and, therefore, withdrawn from the general population, then the concentration of students with IEPs would increase. It would go from 48 out of 350 (13.7%) to 48 out of 322 (14.9%).

In the average class of 28 students there would be 4.2 students with an IEP instead of 3.8 students with an IEP. Since fractional students are statistical fictions, the truth is that there would be 4 students with an IEP instead of 4 students with an IEP.

It would not approach the 35% figure offered by bring on the change. That would mean 10 students with an IEP in each class.
Charlie Mas said…
Here is what bring on the change wrote that rang true for me:

* The District has been dishonest about the space available at schools for out-of-area students. They have been playing games with capacity, making it elastic to meet their preferences. And their preference has been to kill choice.

* The belief that Spectrum classes could continue to be effective even if they were larger than general education classes. I don't have any data to support this contention, but it does make sense to me. The teacher would not have to differentiate across as wide a range. I would expect fewer behavior issues since the students are, generally, more motivated and engaged.

It is less clear that larger Spectrum classes would necessarily translate into smaller general education classes. It would be nice if it did, but I don't think it does.

* The belief that Spectrum families are not so much running towards an academic opportunity for their children as they are running away from the elements of the general education classroom which they fear: lack of challenge, lack of discipline, lack of engaging material (boredom), lack of a stimulating peer group and - more than anything - peer pressure to under-achieve.

Here is what bring on the change wrote that rang false for me:

* Dismissive of Spectrum-eligible students' need for a different academic opportunity. They cannot be well-served in the general education classroom. If they could, then that's where they would be. EVERYONE would prefer to send their child to the neighborhood school - if they believe that their child would be well-served there.

* The sense that general education students suffer from the presence of disabled students in their classes. That's just mean. For someone who is advocating the benefits of inclusion it is also discordant.

* The fairy tale that A.L.O.s represent access to advanced learning. There is no evidence to support this claim. So far as I can tell, nearly all A.L.O.s exist only on paper.

* The implication that Spectrum students are "the few lucky ones". This positions the students as somehow un-deserving of appropriate service. Surely any "unlucky" ones are also entitled to service - aren't they?

I didn't really understand this remark:

* The belief that Spectrum classrooms are much "easier". Easier for whom? The teachers? the students? the district administration?
Charlie Mas said…
I still advocate for Spectrum admission on demand rather than through testing.


* Saves on testing
* Not elitist - available to everyone
* Recognizes that the ability to work hard is also a talent.
* Opens the access to academic challenge to all who want the academic challege.


* Could actually create general education classes in which 35% of the students have IEPs.

Here's Plan B:

Eliminate Spectrum and replace it with authentic A.L.O. in every school


* Students are served at their neighborhood school
* Keeps siblings together
* Saves on testing
* Not elitist - available to everyone
* Recognizes that the ability to work hard is also a talent.
* Opens the access to academic challenge to all who want the academic challege.


* The District, the schools, and the teachers simply cannot be trusted to actually do it. It's a fantasy.
whittier07 said…
New middle school parent ... both of the Whitman parents that attended the meeting said that the honors class was working 2 years ahead ... I wonder if that was a one year thing that took place last year? Are the classes just called Math & Honors Math or have the students moved on to Algebra, Geometry, etc? This year, my 4th grader will be starting Algebra in the spectrum class.

Charlie ... Linda is great and loves data, although from my stats class I have the belief that data can be seen through many different lenses. Her comment was that "Whittier blew the roof off" its MSP scores ... hummm?
whittier07 said…
Oh, I forgot to post that the 2nd - 5th grade Spectrum classes are larger than the general ed classes. All of our 1st grade classes are @ 28 students each.

I think things must change a lot in middle school ... not really looking forward to it. :( At the meeting last night, Robert Vaughn stated that some middle schoolers take calculus. WOW!
Anonymous said…
Maureen: I think you miss the point of why people complain about charters skimming the better behaved & better scoring kids. Spectrum does not do the exact same thing at all. It's not verboten. It's just wrong.

The objection with Charters is that they take the students out of the school entirely, not just a classroom, and then compare and contrast with the former, conventional public school, claiming to do better by the same group of students, in order to ultimately weaken the public school system to allow it's takeover by more charters, including private, for-profit ones.

You're seriously confusing the apples and oranges here when you compare charters to Spectrum. Spectrum doesn't suck dollars out of a struggling school like a charter does, further disadvantaging the remaining population of kids. Neither, by the way, does APP. The per pupil funding is the same for all kids in the building, because it is allocated by head count.

So lets be clear: If you're point is that better "behaved" kids benefit the experience of both Spectrum kids and some charter-attending kids, then I suppose that's a fair point. But Spectrum kids are not competing unfairly for resources with their peers inside the same building in any way, shape of form like a separate charter does.

We would never compare the Spectrum kids performances with their gen ed peer performances to bolster a claim that one model is "better" than the other. Spectrum is simply advanced or accelerated for kids capable and ready for it, because we don't grade-skip anymore. WSDWG
dan dempsey said…
HUhh??? ....
Robert Vaughn stated that some middle schoolers take calculus. ... WOW!
I must believe him but ....

Where? How many?

normal progression...
Advanced Algebra
Pre Calculus

Did any complete a high school algebra class in grade 4?

Is Dr. Vaughn stating that the district curriculum offered to some students was responsible for this accelerated Calculus situation?

What class are they taking after a middle school calculus class as 9th graders in HS?
whittier07 said…
The only class he mentioned by name was Statistics ... I think he must have been talking about APP students??? Although my 4th graders teacher says they will be doing Algebra this year.
klh said…
I'd question the statement about Calculus in Middle School as well. I remember some discussion about Hamilton's APP students not having access to anything above Geometry, or something like that. Can't imagine Washington has a big enough extremely advanced APP kids to make a real Calculus class.

Could it be independent or on-line?
Anonymous said…
At the meeting last night, Robert Vaughn stated that some middle schoolers take calculus. WOW!

To clarify, I don't think they are taking calculus at school. If students wish to accelerate beyond the "pathway," which is at most Algebra I in 7th grade (typical APP pathway), they are most likely doing it outside of school (at least at Hamilton, home to north end APP). Families then assume the cost.

How do other schools accommodate students?

-held back at Hamilton
Anonymous said…
The fact that a teacher has to do less differention in a Spectrum class is huge--frees up direct instruction for larger groups, allows for better and more in-depth planning, more classroom cohesiveness (and on and on).

The fact that students who have involved parents (which is often the case of Spectrum) are siphoned off from the general classrooms is huge, since such a family profile is greatly correlated with student success. Spectrum takes these students from the gen. ed. classroom--yes, very charter-like.
That means that non-Spectrum students do not have contact with the good learning behaviors of peers (sure, it's not your kid's job to set a good example but this is a public school).

Charlie's often requested opt-in option is huge and basically refutes the idea that Spectrum students are gifted (which they are not, according to every measure of gifted). I do not think Spectrum students should be in a separate classroom but should potentially receive some enrichment pullout or push-in. Sadly, I know students who are in APP but did not even test in (they got lobbied in--so how authentic is that program, really?).

The influx of students with severe behavior problems who are in any non-self-contained classroom--Spectrum, gen. ed. or whatever--is having a huge impact on teaching and learning.

How can one not be more than a little fed up considering this misguided adventure called Spectrum? Wasn't its original purpose to bring more diversity to advanced learning?

--the road to hell is paved with good intentions
Anonymous said…
I guess I'm indifferent to differentiation.

math parent said…
There are students that accelerated (calculus in middle school), but I don't think the District can take credit for it. I seriously doubt they use District curriculum.
Charlie Mas said…
I don't think that suggesting that Spectrum be available to all students on an opt-in basis (with, of course, clear exit criteria) denies the giftedness of Spectrum students at all.

On the contrary, it acknowledges the giftedness of students who are motivated, dedicated, and hard-working. It democratizes access to academic challenge and makes it available to all who are willing to accept it.

I'm not saying that Spectrum students aren't gifted; I'm saying that there are other students who - gifted in other ways - are also ready and able to succeed with the Spectrum curriculum.
Anonymous said…
The set-up Charlie suggests was happening at Wedgwood. Spectrum classes were sometimes filled with teacher identified students.

The problem was that they weren't guaranteed a spot in the class the following year. They could be bumped by a newly identified Spectrum student and end up repeating what they learned the previous year.

Anonymous said…
Kind of corroborates Kate Martin's statement that 80% of Seattle students are underchallenged.

Too bad that the district threw those students who succeeded in Spectrum under the bus the next year. Are they still keeping such a cruel practice?

Motivation is not acknowledged as a gifted category. The identifying characteristics of Spectrum students do not fall into any research supported categories of giftedness. However, motivation is highly correlated with future success, as is any strong executive functioning of the brain.

Enrichment should include teacher identified students, as well as those who fall into the Spectrum spectrum. However, Spectrum's existence as a self-contained program was a very misguided experiment, despite the good intentions of trying to increase diversity in advanced learning.

Linh-Co said…
The Whitman math pathway has advanced 6th graders working one grade level ahead. Trust me, we tried to opt our 6th grader into Math 8 and the principal told us that wasn't allowed. We are currently single subject homeschooling him. The advanced 7th graders are doing 8th grade math but by 8th grade the advanced kids will do Geometry (2years ahead).

Meanwhile the general ed 8th graders will all magically be put into algebra (typically taught in 9th grade for gen-ed). This is coming from a school where Low Income 7th graders are failing at a 70% rate and 51% of those kids are at Level 1. It makes no sense.
Inside as well said…
Hey "TheOne"

Not to defend Bruce Skowrya, but in the interests we all share (I hope) for accurate stuff being posted on this blog, I would go back and check your facts about the handing out of credit cards to maintenance employees.

Those of us who actually know the facts know that he is doing no such thing. As a matter of fact, he is doing the exact opposite!

C'mon people, funs fun but lets not simply throw trash at people because we don't like them.

Aren't we better than that type of FOX news tactic?
Anonymous said…
Whittier '07

My experience with Linda at Bryant was that she pushed the teachers to truly use differentiated instruction regularly.

That was what our Gates grant money was spent on- training, materials & collaboration around offering several grade levels of instruction in a classroom. My APP qualified kids often, but not always, were challenged. Interestingly in math they worked several years ahead. These were flexible groupings that might change with each topic based on a quick pre-test. Teachers were using Jr. Great Books to teach reading so that it would be more amenable to differentiated instruction.

Some teachers struggled with this. In those cases, sometimes tutors or pullouts were used to meet needs. This differentiation was much stronger in the upper grade levels.

There was also an emphasis on enrichment opportunities like speech contests, writing clubs, math teams, & science fair with scientists that mentored each team. Not all of these were started by Linda, but she pushed the teachers to incorporate them for all students.

In those days most APP & Spectrum kids did not leave for self-contained programs. This was not the best model for all children. It worked for many. It was nice to have the choice.

My experience was similar to Maureen’s. While there were usually 3 or 4 other APP qualified kids in class with my child, there were also other kids who were equally gifted (or more gifted) in one area and performing at that level, but did not qualify for APP or spectrum. Then there were the kids who were gifted in areas not addressed by the district, like writing, creativity, leadership, art, etc.

I do not know if this model will fit Whittier.

-Bryant Alum
Anonymous said…
Sadly, I know students who are in APP but did not even test in (they got lobbied in--so how authentic is that program, really?).

Here we go again. Okay, you said it, road to hell. Now back it up with facts.

Tell me exactly how a child that doesn't qualify for APP gets "lobbied in." I really want to know how that happens. Please educate me. Thanks in advance. WSDWG
"Spectrum takes these students from the gen. ed. classroom--yes, very charter-like."

No, because charters are open to all. Spectrum is a choice. Unless the charter has honors or is an advanced learner school, the classes should be similar in make-up.

"That means that non-Spectrum students do not have contact with the good learning behaviors of peers (sure, it's not your kid's job to set a good example but this is a public school)."

No, no, no. Not every "bright" kid leaves general ed. I know many people who don't test (wouldn't even consider it) and some who do but stay in their neighborhood school. To say that all the bright kids leave for Spectrum is not true. (Also, it's not any child's job to be the behavior example or help the teacher teach a lesson.)

"Wasn't its original purpose to bring more diversity to advanced learning?"

Nope, it's mission was to serve ALL students who test in to reach their academic ability (no matter their race/socio-economic status).

I concur with all of Charlie's assessments of the issue.
anonymous said…
I agree with Maureen. I think that the schools that have Spectrum do skim the advanced kids away from gen ed, much like we complain that a charter (magnet) school might to our public schools.

The result is that the average students and the many struggling students remain in the general ed classrooms. It becomes disproportionate, and the average kid is not served very well as the bar is generally lower as to reach the majority (struggling).

On the contrary, the elementary school that my children attended, Bryant, did not have Spectrum or an ALO, despite the school having a fair amount of high performing students. Everyone was in the same classroom and it worked very well for all, gifted, average, and struggling students.

Same for high school. My kids now go to Nathan Hale where there are no separate honors classes, and everyone takes AP English as juniors and seniors. If a student wants honors they must meet a higher level of criteria (their choice) but remain in the general ed classroom. I know this model isn't for everyone, but for us it has been fantastic. My kids are fairly average and have found themselves far ahead at times, and far behind at other times, and have done just fine. I am so grateful that the "smart" kids weren't pulled out, that all kids worked together, and that the bar was set pretty high along the way.

whittier07 said…
Linda has shared the Bryant model with us ... it sounds great. She has been working with our staff to create lesson plans that include differentiation @ 3 levels ... below average, average and above average. Maybe Bryant added more levels as they became more experienced? I'm not sure that all students can be classified into these 3 levels? Then again, how many levels can we expect one teacher to handle when they have 28-30 students?
anonymous said…
WSDWG, I see your point, that charters skim the brightest students (not though that would be only the magnet schools, not the corporate KIPP type charters that target low income kids) and then compare and contrast student performance in an attempt to show that they perform better than the traditional public schools do. However, what I think Maureen is talking about is that the charters that do skim the best and brightest students, leave the public schools to deal with the average, and struggling students. The same thing happens in a school that offers Spectrum, only the division happens by classroom instead of by school. The best and brightest are skimmed off and placed in one classroom while the average and struggling are left in another classroom. Same outcome, culturally, just without the manipulation of test scores.

Anonymous said…
I thought I read on a prior thread that Charlie stated the original purpose of Spectrum was to increase the diversity of advanced learning pool candidates. If I am not remembering correctly, I apologize. If I am correct, it would be traceable in the past year of this blog.

I did not say that all bright kids test into Spectrum. Actually, I don't believe this.

The parents of the students who did not test into APP appealed their case to the district's advanced learning committee. They stated that their child would not make adequate progress without being in an APP classroom. If you don't believe me, I can live with it. However, it can be corroborated by the district.

Maureen said…
This year, my 4th grader will be starting Algebra in the spectrum class.

I can't reconcile what Linh-Co and Whittier07 are saying. Whittier Spectrum 4th graders learn Algebra, but when they get to Whitman they aren't allowed to take Algebra until at least 7th grade? what are they doing for the intervening years and do they take Algebra twice? (I'm thinking that Whittier probably does some prealgebra unit for its Spectrum 4th graders? I actually find it difficult to believe that there are 28 4th graders ready for Algebra, even in Ballard!)
whittier07 said…
It blew me away too ... but at curriculum night we were told that the 4th graders would be doing 5th & 6th grade math, including algebra. Maybe we just have a very optimistic teacher???

I'm not sure about the Whitman math program - all I know is that parents said their students had completed Spectrum at Whittier but then ended up repeating what they had already covered because they weren't placed in the advanced math class. Those parents said the class was 2 years ahead ... I'm thinking maybe it was a one time fluke??? A SPS teacher/parent also stated that ALO students from her school were having to repeat a year of math @ Whitman.

It seems crazy to me to have these students work up to their potential in elementary school and then waste a year once they reach middle school.
Road, I'm sorry but how can the district confirm just letting someone into APP? They would never give out that information. I'm happy to ask Bob Vaughn but I know what the answer will be.

One thing that Bob can say is that not all bright kids leave for Spectrum.

"Bryant, did not have Spectrum or an ALO, despite the school having a fair amount of high performing students."

Bryant is a pretty high-performing school and I'd venture that the number of truly struggling students is pretty low.

It's fine if differentiation works at your school. But my experience is that not nearly enough teachers are trained to use it and that if you get a large class, the teacher will teach to the middle.
Maureen said…
FOS has interpreted me more correctly than WSDAWG. I actually don't think charters of any sort skim only the brightest (maybe the best though), but I think that all charters do leave behind a disproportionate number of high need students of different sorts, just like Spectrum/APP (at the class room and sometimes whole school level.).

Charlie's math (way up the thread) makes the impact look trivial, but I don't think his numbers are right. We have over 4% of SPS 1st-5th graders ENROLLED in APP, (even though it is supposed to be for the top scoring 2% and we know many don't enroll or even test.). Spectrum is supposed to be top 13%. If the APP pattern holds, it could easily be including kids who are in the top 30%. Combine that with the liklihood that a disproportionate number of kids with 'issues' of all sorts (IEP or not) are likely to be in the other 70%, I don't think bring's point of view should be so easily dismissed.
anonymous said…
"It blew me away too ... but at curriculum night we were told that the 4th graders would be doing 5th & 6th grade math, including algebra"

Algebra I is not taught in SPS until 9th grade. Advanced students can certainly take it earlier, but I've never heard of Algebra I being taught in 4th or 5th grade. Of course as part of the standard elementary school curriculum, kids are introduced to some of the most basic concepts of Algebra in 4th and 5th grades. I wonder if that is what was meant?

klh said…
Knowing nothing at all about Whittier or it's Spectrum program, I may be way off base here. But, I have heard teachers talk about the elementary Discovery Math program with its spiraling curriculum, as teaching many topics that sound very advanced in early grades. When I've seen the materials in the book, it's been what I would call an "intro to the concepts of algebra" - like learning to use a blank in an arithmetic problem for something other than the answer. Then, when they learn to fill in the blank they call it algebra - not completely illegitimate, but a little misleading. It is the beginning of learning to use variables in equations - but not what most of us thing of as Algebra as a class. Could this be part of the issue?

Just guessing on this one.
Maureen said…
I reread my post--actually there probably are charters which do skim the brightest as well. I'm just talking about the general issue of charters that take kids with informed parents and don't provide services for special needs kids. (As others have pointed out SPS Alt schools do this to some extent as well.)

Whittier07: But Algebra is 5th-6th grade APP math, not 5th-6th grade SPS math. I can't understand why some schools/programs are able to do whatever they want when others are monitored to within an inch of their lives. Lucky Whittier.
whittier07 said…

I honestly don't know ... she said they would be covering 5th & 6th grade math this year.

I would be thrilled if it was just one unit of pre-algebra! I'm already having a hard time helping with homework (fuzzy, old brain) and EDM isn't helping.

The class currently has the 5th grade EDM mathbook - if they move onto 6th grade work, what would the matchbook be?
Dorothy Neville said…
Actually, we have a little under 3% of all SPS elementary students in APP. I used to have something with Spectrum as well but can't find it at the moment.

We do have more than 5% of our middle schoolers in APP though. Lots of possible reasons interact to get that jump.

An interesting thing about this discussion is that both spectrum and charter schools are opt in, in that the parent must go though some hoops first. Therefore, an involved parent. Spectrum has an additional test score gatekeeping. So they are really not the same in terms of percent of high performing kids they skim, but more in that they skim from the kids with involved parents.
Dorothy Neville said…
I just did a public records request on the number of Staff Climate surveys returned for Lowell Elementary Staff for Spring 2011. I was told 56. Now for Spring 2010, there were 46 surveys returned out of 51 staff members. And the staff climate answers were significantly lower than the district average with regard to staff climate. We will have to wait until School Reports to find out what the 2011 results are.

Can anyone with knowledge of Lowell Staff comment on this? I was told that there was a kerfluffle and that staff climate surveys were not properly returned. Did that get straightened out and therefore a huge percent of staff actually got their survey to the district?
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
"It's fine if differentiation works at your school. But my experience is that not nearly enough teachers are trained to use it and that if you get a large class, the teacher will teach to the middle."

You may be right Melissa. But if we agree that segregating the Spectrum students so they don't have to be taught to the "middle" is a good thing, then we'd have to agree that we should also segregate the middle students so they wouldn't have to be taught to the "lowest bar" in order to accommodate all of the struggling students that remain in the gen ed classrooms? Of course this would mean that the lowest performing students, by default, would also be segregated and in separate classrooms, being taught to the lowest bar. Is that what we want?

Personally, I'd like to see all kids in the same classrooms, working together, in small groups, at their levels. It may not work perfectly, but it models the real world.

Of course I only have my kids and their schools to use as my perspective - so this is just my little piece of reality.

Anonymous said…
"Everyone was in the same classroom and it worked very well for all, gifted, average, and struggling students."

It worked well for the kids remaining at Bryant, you mean, and that's great. What about all the Bryant neighborhood kids you don't see?

Bryant is a very strong school, as is View Ridge, as WAS Wedgwood, but take off the rosy glasses, FOS. If it worked for all, there would not be BUSLOADS of literally hundreds of NE kids leaving the NE neighborhood for L@L. There is not even room for my kids in your full-to-busting schools.

A couple of years ago, a teacher from Madison middle school tried to tell me the same thing about how well her school met the needs of their advanced learners, and that there was no justification for Spectrum or APP. I don't think she had any idea how many WS kids were at WMS.

open ears
Linh-Co said…
Whitman gave a math placement test to all 6th graders this year on the first day of school. If your kid failed then he/she was put in the regular track. I know the staff told parents they looked at both the MAP and placement test for consideration. I don't buy it because I know of at least 3 families whose kids scored in the 94 percentile or better on the spring MAP and were still put back. All of these students took 6th grade math in 5th grade and were a Level 4 on the MSP.

Algebra or algebraic reasoning is a strand in mathematics. I highly doubt these 4th graders are truly doing high school algebra. Just because you are solving for n in 5+n=20 in 4th grade does not mean you are doing high school algebra.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, I whole-heartedly believe that disabled students should be mixed in with other students. But, one group of students shouldn't bear the entire brunt of doing that inclusion, leaving others scott free to include nobody. The idea of inclusion is "natural proportions", of everybody. Like any other form of "integration", it isn't a job of some people and not others. We didn't integrate some of our public schools, so that others could remain segregated did we?

Notably, if your kid is in Spectrum or APP... you get the luxury of 0 (or close to it), and you force every other class to be overloaded with disabled kids. (The same problem as charters, btw) It's fine to have 5 learning disabled kids and 1 autistic kid in a general education classroom. But, when it becomes 6 autistic students and 11 learning disabled, and then another emotionally disturbed student - all in a class of 38 students, it isn't really a fair situation. And that is exactly what we have at my school. And make no mistake, it's the presence of some classes which have 0 disabilities, that creates this huge imbalance in the other classes.

I didn't mean to imply that Spectrum students didn't have needs, or needs for advancement. They do, and so do lots of other people, who for many reasons aren't in spectrum. And who knows? Maybe some of those disabled kids would benefit from some advanced learning. Too bad with this arrangement, they never get the chance.

-bring on the change
Anonymous said…
PS. Charlie you asked why is Spectrum easier? I meant it's easier to teach because it teaches to a narrower range of students by design (percentagewise) Teachers have to do less differentiation, and they don't have any students with disabilities in their classes. So, it's easier to teach Spectrum - than to teach something with those challenges: broad range, disabilities, behavior problems. Not to mention, there seems to be less cultural diversity - which does add a dimension of challenge too. Whether we admit it or not.

-bring on the change
Anonymous said…
@road -- I am only one person, but I can tell you I lobbied HARD for two different kids to get them into Spectrum when their test scores were just barely below the cut-off. No dice. One of the two was eventually allowed into a Spectrum class on a space-available basis, but we were told not to expect the same thing the next year.

I do know people who appealed APP placement successfully, but they all did so by having a private counselor administer tests that showed their child to be qualified "by the numbers." Some people claim there are unethical therapists who bump scores up, and it is arguably a more favorable testing environment in the private office vs. at school(especially for the youngest kids) -- but these factors are not SPS's fault.

While I'm on here I'll complain that SPS assigns kids to middle school Spectrum based on combined math/L.A. scores -- but Spectrum classes are only for L.A. (and Social Studies if they do a block system). Meanwhile, math placement is done separately. So one of my kids had her score dragged down by her lower math aptitude and was denied Spectrum placement when her language scores were at APP level. But that same "low" math score qualified her to work 1 year ahead of grade level. Huh?
Anonymous said…
OK Melissa. You say it isn't any one student's job to be a behavior role model. But that isn't really the point. It isn't the job of the kid left in plain old general ed to be that behavior model either. And yet that's what happens as a result of those programs. Something has to give to make the situation equitable. If we insist on a segregated Spectrum - then it should be WAY BIGGER to make up for all the challenges that are left in general ed, and concentrated there. At my school Spectrum is an entitlement to some sort of preferential teaching ratio. And that's plain wrong. The fact is, these segregated systems create huge problems and imbalances and inequities. And it really works against the same people every time. I mean, you make this same argument about charters nearly every day. Blah blah blah - it weakens public schools, they leave all the disabled kids out and concentrate them in other schools, etc. Isn't that the same thing as Spectrum? I think you are so close to Spectrum, you can't see that it's the same thing and the same problem.

-bring on the change
Anonymous said…
Personally, I'd like to see all kids in thesame classrooms, working together, in small groups, at their levels. It may not work perfectly, but it models the real world.

No FOS, it does not model the real world. A surgeon is a surgeon, and a custodian is a custodian. And they do not work together on a project. One operates with a team of skilled professionals, while the other mops the floor hours later.

They work together only in the sense that perhaps they get a paycheck from the same entity, but the doc gets better hours and more money, while the custodian hopefully earns a living wage.

Fate may hold that your kid becomes the doc, and mine the custodian. That's the real world. Kumbaya. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
It isn't the job of the kid left in plain old general ed to be that behavior model either. And yet that's what happens as a result of those programs. Something has to give to make the situation equitable.

Bring on: I totally agree with you. The problem is not the Spectrum kids, however, it's the kids who would ostensibly be dragging down your role model kids, right?

Nowhere along the continuum should this be happening, yet it does. You don't like it, so can you understand why Spectrum families don't like it either and prefer self-containment?

No kid should be role-modeling someone else's kids. That's the parents job. If you're kid is being treated as a sacrificial lamb because another kid doesn't have good classroom behavior or skills, then you have a right to be angry. But spreading the pain around to harm or disrupt more kids is not the answer. The answer is that your kids don't owe their time and effort to someone else's kids, and that should stop now.

There is a "grass is always greener" tendency to think that some who have things ostensibly "better" have cheated or rigged the system to escape your fate. Rarely is that the case. Instead, the system has not reached your kids and is short-changing them. The answer is to address and remove the problems from the classroom that are forcing your kid to sacrifice their time and opportunities. It is not to spread the pain to others who might not be in your shoes.

I think too many parents are afraid to stand up and say, "my kid shouldn't suffer because of that kid's problems." It certainly isn't Seattle nice, and teachers and principals are notoriously quick to dredge up some problem your kid might have had once, three years ago, just to remind you that you aren't perfect. Bah! We've all heard it, bring it on! I know you have too!

But, the district just loves to hear one school or program blame another, and even classroom teachers love to downplay aberrant behavior because it takes the heat off of them, and is so politically incorrect to accuse a brat of being, well, a brat! WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Last post you scare me.
anonymous said…
"No kid should be role-modeling someone else's kids. That's the parents job."

Isn't that the whole point of special ed inclusion? And inclusion classrooms? So Special ed kids can be part of a typically functioning group (IE role models) and they aren't segregated? I don't know a whole lot about special ed so please correct me if I'm wrong, but I do seem to remember that the UW special education preschool lab class admits 1/2 typically functioning kids just for this purpose. So does the Bryant special ed kindergarten class.

Anonymous said…
I'm not talking about special ed inclusion. That's an entirely different point and purpose. Come on folks. The issue is kids and parents caught in the middle with their needs going unmet in the typical, gen ed classroom and how to best deal with it as a model. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Our school has both Special Ed and Spectrum. How does that work with your plan.
Anonymous said…
And most brats don't pay a lot of attention to other kids anyways. They tend to be selfish, self-centered and crave attention, even if that means disrupting the whole class.

I'm not sayin toss them out on their ear. I'm saying problem kids need to be dealt with and learn to work through their issues without everyone else paying their freight.

Actually dealing with a problem's cause...Boo! Isn't that scary! WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Who's plan? My plan? WSDWG
Anonymous said…
And yes, full disclosure, at least once, each of my kids has qualified as the brat, and got put out of the classroom so the other kids didn't suffer. And I had no problem with it. It's what they, and I, deserved. WSDWG
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
They have started using vouchers in Indiana. You can make all kinds of choices about who your child sits next to in a private school.

--be careful what you wish for
Anonymous said…
Wow! Talk about fighting over scraps.

Has anyone ever heard of market share? Seattle has a huge private school population - way above the national average. Those numbers skew the classroom population more than Spectrum numbers.

Moreover, all the real budget cuts plus all of the funds that have been diverted from teaching to some other "novel central office" project is the real thing that prevents actual differentiation in the classroom.

I find it just inexcusable for people to blame the current nearly intolerable classroom conditions (crazy large size, no specialist support, massive failure to support special eduction, not to mention no supplies, etc) on the backs of a handful of more advanced students.

The entire reason SPS is so messed up is their entrenched failure to consider student learning as the number one priority of the district. I think that is crazy.

But parents pointing fingers at children being the problem because they are not in the classroom to balance it out, that is inexcusable.

Families are not geographically or economically distributed in such a way so that every classroom is this perfectly balanced utopia.

It doesn't happen. families and children are unevenly distributed. That is a fact. No amount of charters is going to change that. Families that feel they have choice will always feel that they have the choice to move.

- seattle parent
Anonymous said…
Well, I think this has really gone WAY TOO FAR. People like WSDOG - always will argue for their child's special privilege. I don't think the issue is really that of "role model". I guess I don't see it that way at all. There are a lot of people excluded for lots of reasons - and they all bring perspective to any classroom. I really do believe that. It's just when certain groups, WHO ALSO HAPPEN TO HAVE CHALLENGES, are disproportionately represented - that it does become a problem. That isn't to say they shouldn't be there. It isn't their problem. It's a problem caused by some people (and I'm talking Spectrum parents here) who think their kids should never endure any problem - even when they, themselves are problems too. You know folks, it's not a private school. In private school - you can have your own secluded everything. The only snag - you have to pay for it. Nobody using a public service - like education - should get to have an exclusive situation, especially when your exclusive program negatively impacts others. Right WSDAWG - was your brilliant brat kicked out of APP? I didn't think so. 5 minutes out in the hall isn't what we're talking about.

-bring it on
Anonymous said…
Bring it on , bring it on! You are good.
Anonymous said…
Ah, the "s" word, segregation. I see where this is going FOS. How about by hair and eye color, too? Where does it stop, indeed? When each child has his own miniature classroom I suppose.

There is a fulcrum point where a teacher and parent make a determination of whether their kids needs are being met in a classroom, or not. In most cases, there is no need for change, if a child is happy, learning, growing socially, and developing skills and abilities. When they become bored, because the work is too easy for them, and the differentiation differential is too great for a teacher to adequately bridge, then a change must be considered. The system is not perfect, and it cannot be. The issue is whether the system is adequate for your child or not. Nobody gets precisely what they want, from public or private school. Children have to learn to accept and conform, and most have incredible abilities to adapt to their environments.

I'm not following you down the rabbit hole, because we all have to live within the confines of the current offerings and models.

What you call "segregating" I call "focusing" or "targeting" of precious resources. Self-contained Spectrum worked well for the vast majority of Spectrum families, which resulted in an efficient deployment and use of resources. The grievances aired above primarily focused on non-Spectrum kids suffering unmet needs, in some cases due to resources and time being diverted from them to other students in the classroom.

When that point is reached, dividing the children into different groups has to be considered for the best interests of both, or all the groups being affected. Spectrum did not help the non-Spectrum kids, but it certainly helped the Spectrum kids. The question should be how that could be replicated for other kids in the same school.

Most of the arguments above are based on fairness and equity, versus effectiveness. But we delude ourselves and ignore reality which is certain to hit the kids at middle and high school, which is the fact that kids take all kinds of classes at all different levels, and we don't hand-wring over it. But in Elementary, its considered destructive. It doesn't make sense. What makes the most sense is being in a class best and closest suited to your academic needs and cababilities. The more levels available, the more kids needs will get met. But budgets are driving the philosophy of shoving them all in the same classroom and expecting a teacher to differentiate magically everyday. That is not realistic and we will regret it down the road. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
The issue here is segregation of a group of students who do not qualify as exceptional by any well established research definition. The Spectrum students are on the normal spectrum.

The choice to go private is available but cannot be used as a bargaining tool on this ethical issue. It doesn't hold water.

We need to stop pretending that the students in this experiment called Spectrum need anything different from other general education students (except some focused enrichment). The real problem is that few, if any, students are getting their needs met in general education classrooms in Seattle.

The fact that Seattle has huge class sizes and administrative bloat certainly takes the money out of the classrooms and away from the students. Segregation is is not the cause or answer to this dysfunction--a new school board could help.

--public schools are integrated
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
"No FOS, it does not model the real world. A surgeon is a surgeon, and a custodian is a custodian. And they do not work together on a project."

You really believe that WSEADWG? You really think that surgeon could operate on a patient if there weren't a custodian to keep the hospital clean and keep the OR sterile? Could he do his work without the nurses? Or without the admitting desk employees? Or without EMT's or lifeflight pilots? Or without that IT dept that keeps the floor computer running efficiently? Or without the nutritionists to serve the patients food, the psychologists to deal with their mental health, and the chaplains to deal with eminent death? We all work together in one way or another. For the good of the whole. That's the real world.

Anonymous said…
Private school? Not a chance. Been there, done that, by the way. And no, you do not have as many choices and "get what you want." You get less choice. Far less. Our public schools are good in Seattle, but they need to be better and serve more kids, wherever they are at on the spectrum.

Privileged? Don't I wish.

There are two schools of thought on this issue: One is that mixing lots of kids together will positively affect the most kids. The other is that kids being separated by ability will be better served by resources being more closely targeted to their particular needs. The goal of both models is to bring all kids up to grade level and beyond. Some abhor the idea of "segregation" and I don't love it either. But the goal is not to exclude a kid permanently from another group, but to focus resources on struggling kids so that they can be brought up to grade level where they can thrive alongside their grade level peers. Likewise with ALO and Spectrum kids, so that they can reach their appropriate levels.

I do not see this happening effectively in widely differentiated classrooms today, and the challenge is how best to deliver the goods so the goal can be reached. Mixing kids of widely varying needs together leaves many kids with needs going unmet. I wish kids needs could all be met in the same classroom, but I have yet to see that model produce the results we all want, compared to separating kids by ability, with the goal that the gaps will narrow as targeted needs are more specifically addressed.

We have a long way to to, but I do not believe dismantling Spectrum will produce the results we all want. If I am proven wrong, I will happily and deservedly eat my crow. But I have seen and lived the alternative, and I would not change the self-contained model we've had.

Stepping back a bit, it's down right sad I'm called "privileged" because I've actually had some good experiences with my kids in SPS. I really think those comments say a lot, when a marginally satisfied family is called "privileged." But that's a different topic. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
FOS: But not in the same group, at the same time, on the same project, giving and taking each other's advice, face to face, like in the classroom.

Of course we all need each other and everyone counts. That was not what I said, nor the point of my comments.

The point was, that if everyone is broken into separate groups, by ability, within the classroom, then what difference does it make whether some kids are in a different classroom when they are working at an entirely different level anyways? If two kids, sitting next to each other, are never using the same books, then why keep them in the same classrooms? Why not separate them, allowing a teacher to divide less time, thereby reaching more kids within a tighter abiity level?

I think there's always two sides to this coin. While I liked Spectrum as it was, I don't mean to demean others who think it would be better if different and/or not self-contained.

But calling it a "failed experiment" and the like, is just not accurate at all. Spectrum worked great for us, as it was. So instead of scrapping it, why not replicate it, in part, for other kids.

Again, ALOs were supposed to reach the kids who seem to be the most underserved of all. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
PSIA: You said: The real problem is that few, if any, students are getting their needs met in general education classrooms in Seattle.

If that is true, or even close to being true, then the problem is much bigger than I can imagine. Sounds like a great statement for another thread on this blog.

I don't question that's how you feel, but that is an absolutely startling, heart-stopping statement. I shudder to think things are that bad throughout the district based on all the satisfied parents I know in SPS. I would not consider myself privileged, but when I hear figures like that, it's hard not to feel lucky, and relieved. Scary. WSDWG
SeattleSped said…
Bring it on!,

I hear you Bring it.
anonymous said…
" The real problem is that few, if any, students are getting their needs met in general education classrooms in Seattle."

What do you base this statement on? Hopefully it is just your own experience. I am not naive I understand that some kids are not being served well, but "few if any" is a stretch. FWIW, my kids have been served very well in elementary, MS, and now in HS. All of my neighbors feel the same way. Maybe it is just the part of town we live in and the schools we have access to? Our experience was not perfect, but it was certainly satisfactory and exceeded many of our expectations. I think our public schools are doing a good job, despite the hype, and the downtown shenanigans.

Anonymous said…
Class sizes of 28 plus in primary level classrooms cannot possibly allow for the needs of children to be met. Teachers and schools are doing Herulean work but cannot humanly make up what is lost with such teacher/student ratios and needs.

Which makes what Bring It On is saying so much more urgent and accurate--the load is not being shared.

--public education
Anonymous said…
Open ears,

You bring up an interesting point that I think really pertains to dealing with outliers in a classroom.

I do think that it is interesting that in the last year or so APP qualified students are leaving Bryant in droves (more than 25 a year), when that was not the case in the past. It was 2 or 3 kids a year.

I have a hypothesis based on talking to teachers and hearing of the changes at the school in the last few years.

One big change has been the shift to standardized curriculum. Bryant’s differentiated materials have been replaced by EDM and other mandated materials. The amount of time per day spent on these dictated curricula has increased and pushed other programs out of the school day. A majority of teachers are new and have been trained through district staff development with a goal of making sure that every child is doing the same lesson in the classroom every day. I am not saying that differentiation & challenge have completely disappeared. But I do think that it has decreased tremendously. In fact I was reminiscing with a former Bryant teacher who taught one of my children with 4 grade levels of math being taught with different materials in the same classroom. She said, “Well that’s not allowed anymore.”

The other big shift at Bryant is the overcrowding. I think that some staff & parents see APP as an easy way to get more children to move out of the building.

I did talk to Bob Vaugn years ago about the shift to standardized materials with fidelity of implementation & pacing guides and how I thought that was a disservice to advanced learners. His response was that they should be in self-contained programs. I asked how that served kids who were more than 2 years advanced or were gifted in one subject only. He shrugged & said, we can’t teach everybody. My thought was that the district shouldn’t deliberately make it harder to teach outliers because they are in every classroom.

- Bryant Alum
Anonymous said…
Like I said. I'm cool with a segregated Spectrum/APP. And of course lots of people have benefitted! But make no mistake, it has been at the expense of others. But let's keep the good - but make it equitable. Those classes should not get the benefits of "targetted learning", "special targetted curiculum", "no disabilities here because of bad-fit" AND IN ADDITION - get the same class size, or even better - class sizes of 1/2 that of regular ed. A full "advanced class" should be at least twice the size of other classrooms, since it is taking on none of the challenges of general ed. In fact, it is making those other classes much less manageable by "targetting" the general ed kids with excess and concentrated levels of disability level, is in fact, by design of the advanced learning programs. So we want to focus resources? Great. Let's do it. Let's fund our general ed at twice the rate of special selected, but limited advanced programs. In elementary school - advanced learning should be around 56, if we keep regular ed the same. I would say, then it would be equitable. For secondary - 64. If gen ed kids, with 35-40% or even more, disability rates can have 38 kids/class, then a rarified advanced class should be able to take on numbers in the 60's. There would then be more to go around for those who need it most, and those wanted exclusive programs could get it too, but not at the expense of others.

If people were really interested in equity, or fixing our schools, or "save(ing) Seattle Schools", then that sort of resource reallocation is something that we need. It's a tough nut to swallow, and most won't be able to. But if you like what is - well, I guess it's all good then. But don't expect others to not to take shots at it, and sooner or later they will knock a hole in the programs and they will come down. No doubt, that is what the inside staff see as problematic in the programs that makes them want to end them.

-bring on the change
whittier07 said…
Bring on the change ... just curious as to what middle school attendance area you're in? In the Whitman area the middle school Spectrum classes usually have a wait list as does Whittier Elementary. These classes are bigger than the gen-ed classes and I've never heard of any @ half the size of the gen ed classes.

BTW ... does anyone know how many self-contained Spectrum programs are left? Whittier and ...... ? I just wonder how many kids we're talking about as a district?
Anonymous said…
Bring On: From my vantage point, I can agree in theory, with a lot of what you suggest. But the advanced classes have more work to cover, more papers to grade, etc, so doubling the class size wouldn't be fair or workable. But increases of 25% to 40% might be, if source were used religiously, communications were improved, and the teacher could have more latitude with the curricula. That some advanced or honors classes only have 16 kids compared to 35 to 38 elsewhere is pretty unequal, but that doesn't happen because parents demand or insist on it, it happens because the schools have no real ALO programs, as Charlie says, to meet the needs of those students in the regular classroom, and/or no teacher can actually handle the differentiation. Occasionally this results in a small class, because say only 16 kids are ready for a 10th grade math class in 8th grade, and there is no other class that fits that need, but that is not typical.

Clearly there are inequities compounding the problems in gen ed classes, much due to shrinking budgets and poorly allocated spending at the district level. But let's not thrash the Spectrum folk while letting the district spendthrifts off the hook. There is a lot they could do to help the situation, rather than continuing to vacuum dollars into administrative pet projects and people.

But what I'm sensing, beyond mutual sacrifice, load sharing, and equity, is that in certain classrooms the structure has exceeded critical mass and is literally collapsing under its own weight. That should not be allowed to happen, and it shouldn't be blamed on Spectrum people in a district that closed too many schools when everyone told them not to. Dismantling successful programs should be the last resort, not the first, when the real issue is diminishing resources. I don't buy into the notion that Spectrum parents are dumping or escaping the problems at others expense. There's just too many bad financial decisions made downtown and in the schools to blame parents who just want the best of what's available for their kids, even if that seems unfair to others. While the separating of students is a contributing factor to the problems you describe, eliminating Spectrum will do little to alleviate the problems, beyond spreading the chaos, and who or what does that help? Do we really think it would create a rising tide that will float all boats higher? In light of all the steps this district has taken over the last several years to magnify this crisis, I don't see how anyone could think so. WSDWG

It reminds me of non-union folks railing against union workers and their "fat cat" pensions, while saying nary a word about billionaire hedge-fund managers who bilk us out of trillions of dollars with no discernible benefits to us in exchange for our dollars, and debt guarantees. But many blame the unions for ruining the economy, because that's what the press feeds them?

Aren't we going down that same road when we blame each other for what a bubble economy and the administrators of this district have done? We voted by initiative to fund smaller class sizes, then our governor and legislators suspend the law while continuing to hand out tax breaks to private businesses left and right.
Jan said…
Bring it on: here is my experience:
I had a child who qualified for APP by COGAT, but not achievement test -- and was placed in Wedgwood's self contained Spectrum program. My child's smallest class (2nd grade) had 27 kids -- at least 5 more than either of the "regular" classes. Lots of "behavioral" issues -- mainly by boys (that class had the greatest group of girls I have ever known), but virtually no true special ed kids that I know of. Many of the SPED kids at Wedgwood had their OWN self contained classes then -- by virtue of extreme disability. I don't know anything about the school's population now. For "integrated" classes (music and science) the entire school, SPED, Spectrum and all, were integrated.
By 5th grade, my child's Spectrum class had 35 -- at least 10 more than any regular ed classroom in the building. I think it was widely accepted that what you want was in fact in play -- because the teacher had far fewer differentiation issues, she took way more kids. By then, several kids, including mine, had used the extra acceleration (everyone working at least 1 year ahead, and many 2 or more) to boost their achievement scores to APP levels and made the switch at middle school (because despite your assertion, there are, in fact, PLENTY of "truly gifted" kids in Spectrum classes who would be very poorly served without significantly differentiated and accelerated curriculum).

My child's 6th grade APP class had a child who walked around the room, constantly, flapping hands and singing, interrupted constantly - and was certifiably brilliant. There were at least 2 other children with pretty extreme behavioral issues. Happy yet? Is that enough suffering for you to allow the kids in that class a chance to perform somewhere close to their true level? All of my child's APP language arts, social studies, and science classes were larger than "average" (at least by my and my child's observations -- I spent less time there, so am less certain of the numbers). Math, of course, was subject to school-wide testing, and so placement was not APP specific.
GHS has no segregated classes for APP kids at all -- so if there are special ed kids who are mainstreamed, they are in all classes (except for those which are so far accelerated that ONLY kids who have exhausted the regular 12 year curriculum are in them -- AP Calculus, AP Statistics, and AP Chemistry (and maybe AP Physics) are the only ones that come immediately to mind).

Taking apart programs that work well for the kids in them, to try to dilute other classes that don't work well is NEVER a solution. I think you know full well that once Spectrum kids have been bled out to the regular classrooms, the teachers will largely ignore them, since they will already be working at or ahead of the rest of the class, and will be glad to ask them to spend their time (since they are bored) "helping" kids who are behind. Actually teaching them at their level will just add two or more additional levels of differentiation to an otherwise overlooked teacher's load.
Maureen said…
No kid should be role-modeling someone else's kids. That's the parents job. ...WSDWG

Wow, I so disagree with this. It IS my kid's job to be a role model for yours and it is every other kid's job to be a role model for mine. Your kid can model intelligence or industry or patience, empathy or generosity or problem solving. If they have huge behavior issues or are cruel or petty, they can model how NOT to act. I hope my kid can give something to yours as well. I think it is her job.

The fact is that this happens whether you want it to or not. Unless you home school, your kid is a role model and the other kids are modeling behaviors that your kid is benefiting from (or not.)
Bird said…
I asked how that served kids who were more than 2 years advanced or were gifted in one subject only. He shrugged & said, we can’t teach everybody.

I've heard this a couple of times about Bob Vaughn. I don't know what he was like back in the day, but if this is his attitude now, he really has no place heading up an advanced learning program.

It reminds me of being a kid "more than two years" advanced in high school. I well remember several of my teachers suggesting I spend the year in the school library instead of class, under the premise, I suppose, that if they weren't going to be teaching me anything, why spend the year looking at me?

I still look back bitterly and think about how my classmates all got some kind of education, however imperfect, but I was offered none and was simply expected to sit on my backside for four years until I got out.

The tragedy of the whole thing is that providing me with an education could have been as simple as just giving me a reading list or an appropriate textbook. I wasn't even offered that.

I might charitably assume Vaughn thinks every kid in that situation can be pulled out for private tutoring funded by their wealthy parents or some such, but it's hard, given my past, not to think of Vaughn and people like him simply as thieves, thieves who take the public's money on the premise that they will provide a public education to a student in exchange, but then declare that student too smart to be educated.

What garbage!
Anonymous said…
Bring it, Everyone is entitled to their opinion I suppose but you really appear to be making huge leaps and I'd like to see your data. Otherwise it's just your opinion masquerading as truth. How can you say the kids in Spectrum aren't gifted, or that they don't fall under the definition of gifted? Not sure what you're reading or using as your source, but that's just wrong. They passed tests and specifically the CoGat which addresses HOW they learn and process information, which is proven to be different from other kids. I'm sure you'll say there are too many of them and/or that 87% isn't a true bar, but if you talk to the advanced learning department, the fact is AL programs all over the country fall within that range. Some higher (ie gifted programs deal with only students who pass at 98% or higher, some fall w/ in our 87% or higher but there is a wide range nationwide so Seattle falls within the norm. Ranges - incidentally that were developed by actual professionals in gifted ed, not people shooting off on a blog, representing their opinions as facts.) I'm guessing your student doesn't process information and learn in this way otherwise you'd say, wow... this kid needs something different. But it seems you just want to complain about how the spectrum students are 'skimmed off' (which is offensive, as is your use of segregated) and how those kids (parents really) are keeping everyone down for all the special treatment they get. Pshaw.

And if you research gifted ed, you will find that there are many, many studies, w/ actual data, conducted by academics and experts in the field of education, that show that "skimming" the gifted kids and instructing them in a self contained setting is good for those students, sure. But more important to your argument, it is that it is better for OTHER students as well. High achievers who aren't gifted don't do well alongside gifted kids because they don't get a chance to "shine" by comparasion. Far below average learners don't do well alongside gifted learners for because they take longer to understand concepts and it's very disheartening to have kids who always get it quickly, don't need it repeated etc.... Lots of data on this. So yes, it's beneficial to Spectrum students, but not at the expense of other students.

Not to mention the fact that your nirvana classroom where all ability levels are put in the same class makes effective differentiation nearly impossible (my teacher friend's words, not mine). There are very few teachers who can teach to the kids doing work 1 (sometimes 2) grades above + the at grade level + the just below grade level + the far below grade level. It just isn't realistic to think this can work well or that it benefits any student group.

The fact is that many of these issues are social issues, not academic ones. If there are behavior problems in class, that requires a social solution, not an academic one. The answer isn't to toss out a functioning academic program in an attempt to address a myriad of serious social issues.

-thump, banging my head against the wall
Anonymous said…
Maureen: Great insights, but Cat's in the Cradle wasn't just a good song; it also rang incredibly, painfully true for parents.

Willy Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas also sang "Who do you blame when a kid is a brat? The Parents."

They absorb far more from us than we realize, which is why role-modeling is perhaps our highest duty as parents. We may not agree, but maybe our kids are just different.

suep. said…
Quick correction to a comment much earlier in this thread: I meant to say Gail Collins (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/opinion/30collins.html).
suep. said…
I find it interesting that a number of commenters on this thread presume that APP and Spectrum kids have no learning or physical disabilities or issues.

I suggest these commenters do some research on the nature of gifted kids.

And stop presuming.
Anonymous said…
Thump. I'm not sure what data you want? I've only talked about my kid's class. You mentioned your child's 6th grade class had 3 odd children who flapped and interrupted people. Was I happy yet? Absolutely not. Some of my kid's 38 seat classes have 3 autistic kids (I seriously doubt the oddballs you mentioned are actually full-blown autistics in your APP class) AND we've got 12 other kid with disabilities. Yes, there are rowdy boys too. Let's not start counting every little thing, because that isn't going to add up for you. So no thump, I'm not happy at all. You need to stoop down here and pick up quite a few more problems before I'll be happy. How many kids in that APP class? 28? Ok. When you take 5 disabled kids out of mine and serve them in yours, THEN, I'll be happy.. and you'll still be grossly underserving students with disabilities in your classroom proportionately. And by the way - please provide them the excellent education they deserve.

And Charlie, there's absolutely no doubt that MANY general education classes have disability rates of 35%. Heck. Roxhill elementary alone has 28% disability rate... for the entire school! Throw a spectrum in there, and you'd quickly get gen ed classes more than 50% disabled.

And yes, my teacher told there were 13 IEPs to do in our room.

apparent said…

when you crunched your numbers, why did you not include Section 504 Plan students along with Special Ed IEP Plan students as students with disabilities in advanced learning programs? This will show a larger proportion.
apparent said…
Road to Hell and Bring on the Change,

Road to Hell, you say "Sadly, I know students who are in APP but did not even test in (they got lobbied in--so how authentic is that program, really?). 9/28@2.46 p.m.

Back it up. Please provide those students' nationally-normed test scores that you claim were deficient. You provide no information to suggest that those students did not file successful appeals meeting the published criteria posted on the advanced learning website.

For both of you, why do you assume that qualified students with Special Ed IEPs or Section 504 Plans are not in advanced learning programs?

You're both wrong.
apparent said…

why didn't you include Section 504 Plan kids along with Special Ed IEP Plan kids in your number-crunching for the proportion of disabled students in advanced learning programs? It changes the numbers.
Charlie Mas said…
But bring on the change, the Spectrum-eligible students from the Roxhill attendance area DO have the opportunity to leave for Spectrum. They leave the building entirely and go to Spectrum classes at Arbor Heights.

The effect you are describing doesn't happen only at Spectrum schools - it happens at every school where Spectrum-eligible students have the option of a true Spectrum class instead of the general education program.

I think you just feel it more sharply at the designated Spectrum site because that's where the classrooms are next-door to each other. The impact of Spectrum that you describe happens at all schools, not just those with Spectrum.

I looked up the School Report for Roxhill. It showed that 31% of the students at Roxhill were in Special Education as of October 1, 2009. Oddly, the 2009-2010 Annual Report says 13% as of the same date. They can't both be correct.

The official enrollment report for October 1, 2010 shows that 40 of Roxhill's 312 students were in Special Education. That's 13%. The School Reports aren't reliable.

By the way, 13 of those 40 - about a third of them - were kindergarten students. The other grades had between 2 and 9 students with IEPs.

As of October 2010, the number increased to 53 of 334, 16%. Again, there were a lot more in Kindergarten (15) and 1st grade (11), than at any other grade (7 or 6). Still, it's nowhere near 28%. Where did you get that figure?

Roxhill had been home to a Transitional kindergarten program - moved this year to Concord - and is now home to a K-5 Autism program. It is the only autism program in the Denny Service Area, and that is where students on the autism spectrum from the entire Denny Service Area are gathered for service. That will skew the numbers a bit.
Charlie Mas said…
apparent, I didn't include the students with 504 plans because I don't have the data on them. If I had it, I would have used it. Do you know where I can find it?
Charlie Mas said…
I should note that I did not include the students in the Special Education pre-school program at Roxhill in my count since there are no other students in those classes and therefore don't contribute to the impact that bring on the change is addressing.

I also want to be very clear. I absolutely believe that bring on the change is right about a lot of this and has a very valid point. I'm just trying to keep the numbers real when we use numbers.

There is no question that students with IEPs are under-represented in Spectrum and APP classes. There can be no question that the under-representation of students with IEPs in these classes contributes to a higher concentration of them in general education classes. That's indisputable.

The extent of that increased concentration is measurable with the data available to us, and I've tried to put some real numbers to it. If people are going to throw numbers around I would like the numbers to be real and to be sourced.

In the 4th grade at Roxhill last year there were only 38 students. I don't know if they were in one class or two, but I have a hard time imagining two classes of 19 in this budgetary climate. Of those, 7 (18%) had IEPs. That's a big class, and a high concentration. There's a tipping point, and seven special-needs students in one class may be on the wrong side of that tipping point.

If we presume the return of about four or five Spectrum-eligible students who would have otherwise been in that class, then Roxhill might instead have had two classes of 21 with three or four special needs students in each - a SIGNIFICANTLY more manageable situation.

On the other hand, if the fourth grade at Roxhill last year was in two classes, they would have been each about 19 students and they would each have had three or four special needs students and it should have been okay.

The details matter.

That's why I want the numbers to be right. Yes, the self-contained advanced learning programs create a higher concentration of special needs students in the general education classes, but I want a real, quantified measure of that effect. Does it push the classes over the tipping point or doesn't it?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SchoolsForAll said…
Bring on the Change wrote, "Let's fund our general ed at twice the rate of special selected, but limited advanced programs ... There would then be more to go around for those who need it most, and those wanted exclusive programs could get it too, but not at the expense of others."

I think this is all you need to know about the argument this person is making, that he or she believes children performing above grade level in public schools are taking funds away from those children working below grade level. Essentially, it is a claim that public education should only be for children who are performing below grade level.

I am a strong supporter of public education. I believe strong public schools are diverse public schools, with families drawn from the entire community. Every child in Seattle should be able to go to Seattle's public schools.
Maureen said…
I find it interesting that a number of commenters on this thread presume that APP and Spectrum kids have no learning or physical disabilities or issues.

Special Ed rate at Thurgood Marshall was 11% in 2008 and 8% in 2009. Headcount was 264 then 447. Ask your 6th grader to do the algebra!

Answer: (assuming all new special ed kids were from the APP cohort and no TM special ed left): APP special ed rate is 3% as compared to 11% in TM gen ed population.

Not zero.

Bilingual numbers actually decreased by 30% when APP came in, I'm thinking a BOC program moved out? So I didn't compare those rates.

TM 2008 Report

TM 2009 Report
Anonymous said…
The top performing 2% (or 3%?)statistic continues to be misinterpreted. If the criteria require that students perform in the top 2-3% on nationally normed tests, then it means that when the test was normed, they set the score for the top 2%. When others take the test and meet that same score, they are considered being in the top 2%.

It does not mean that only 2% of Seattle students are admitted. It's possible that 4% of the student population tests at the 2% level, or maybe only 1% test at the 2% level. It varies.

clearing it up
Anonymous said…
First thanks for having a Tuesday thread. Reading this thread reminds me of the spectrum debate at Lawton. Lots of arguments used here were also used-- including the big "S" for segregationist to lable spectrum parents, the classrooms with spectrum kids who had more involved parents and less misbehaving kids, and fewer representation of FRL and IEP kids in those classrooms. (Though Lawton is a high performance school with very low FRL and spec ed kids to begin with). At Lawton, these arguments became a pretty divisive and effective wedge and still reverberates to this day. I suspect that reverberation will continue on as long as we have APP, Honors programs in middle schools, and magnet programs in high schools (IB, biotech). In a couple of years, it will probably percolate its way up to HS with AP classes as some of those more advanced classes do have smaller class sizes with kids who want to be there to learn.

In our family, we have kids at both end, one in spectrum (honors) and one who is not and who has some cognitive and processing issue. I think as long as we have large classes sizes regardless of ability groupings, strict curricululm and pacing guidelines, less support for the classrooms, heavy focus on standardized testing, we are all on a sinking ship.

Presently, this whole argument have left our kids with lables and it is that label that should determine which classroom they should go so each can provide some kind of "experience" or "enrichment" so that children can have exposure to all kinds of kids as in the "real world". Just leave me a bit queasy. Does society really arranges itself that way? Does Magnolia reflects Seattle's demographics? Should school rearranges its demographics to fit the City's? We went to NSAP, so if that is our end goal, we need to re-evaluate that.

--sad and confused
Also Anonymous said…
Having high performing students in the public system should reduce the average cost per student as they tend to require fewer extra services overall.

If all students get the same per capita funding from the state, which then goes to a general fund, you'd want to retain and maximize the number of students that don't require the expense of extra services. This reduces the average cost to educate.

Tha state provides extra funding for gifted education as part of the definition of a basic education.

In the past, APP bus riders actually brought in extra money from the State, which then supplemented the transportation for all students.

If gifted programs are draining resources away from the rest of kids, then show us the numbers. The numbers that I've seen show the average cost per student is higher at schools with high FRL numbers. The Stranger (or one of the weekly papers) published this data years ago for Seattle Schools.
Bring, what does this mean?

"At my school Spectrum is an entitlement to some sort of preferential teaching ratio."

"We need to stop pretending that the students in this experiment called Spectrum need anything different from other general education students (except some focused enrichment)."

Tell that to Bob Vaughn because, as the expert, he'll tell you differently.

Maureen, I think WS was saying that the teacher cannot expect that kids are part of their teaching toolbox. All kids have gifts and qualities to share with each other. But it's not any child's job to be the spark for the discussion or the mediator for the classroom. (I know a kid who was at Hale - he had been in Spectrum and the teacher knew it - and the teacher constantly called on him because she knew he could "lead" the class. He left the class because of it.) Every student gets to be a student.

"I seriously doubt the oddballs you mentioned are actually full-blown autistics in your APP class"

First of all, "oddballs"? That's how you refer to a child in a classroom?

Second, if you weren't there, don't presume you know who or who isn't autistic. There is a range of autism.

This discussion may call for its own thread (and I said I wouldn't talked about AL again). I'm actually ready for a real throwdown here.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
The problem with both sides of the argument is that each provides support for each other's arguments. If a classroom has too many challenging students such that regular gen ed kids suffer, then some kids should be moved out so a workable balance could be restored IMHO.

Charlie asks THE question: Does it push the classes over the tipping point or doesn't it?

Bring: It sounds like your classrooms are way past the tipping point, but your solution is to keep them that way, but bring some Spectrum students into the classroom in order to make it fair. All I see resulting is even less kids being served and having needs met, for the sake of "equity and fairness." Something is very wrong with that picture if denying other kids their educational opportunities would constitute fairness and be acceptable to you.

Spreading the pain and suffering around just isn't an acceptable solution to me, but neither is leaving classrooms in a sorry state "beyond the tipping point." There are many ways to address these problems and improve these situations without throwing Spectrum families under the bus.

After decades of hearing people blame fictitious welfare queens and such for our economic doldrums, while corporate America ships jobs overseas and Wall Street steals my last dimes, I'm really tired of the misplaced scapegoating. It only makes things worse. WSDWG
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said…
clearing it up, yes we've all heard the 'Seattle as Lake Woebegone' explanation.

Helen Schinske actually gave what I thought to be a more valid answer here sometime in the past two years. My memory is that it had to do with kids taking the exam over multiple years and given the standard error, kids in the top 5% are likely to hit a top 2% at some point and then they are admitted. There may have been something about fat tails as well which could map to Lake Woebegone. Helen are you out there? :)

I don't think that an individual kid should be expected to teach the other kids in the class on a regular basis. But the fact is that school age kids learn as much or more from their peers as they do from their parents (think of the English Language Learners you know) and we shouldn't resent that or pretend it doesn't matter.
anonymous said…
My personal belief is that most kids should be in an inclusive, gen ed classroom, working together, despite ability levels. Of course there are some exceptions like students who have disabilities that are so severe that it is not in their best interest to be in a general ed classroom.

However, putting my own opinion aside, I think if the district were to dismantle APP and/or Spectrum, and go with a more inclusive model, AL families would leave SPS in droves. They would either move to the burbs, or go private. And the impact of that would be even more devastating to our schools than having self contained (APP/Spectrum) classrooms. So does the benefit outweigh the risk? Sadly, probably not, IMO.

I also believe that the loss of self contained (APP/Spectrum) would push many more SPS families to vote in favor of charters, in hopes of more choice, and magnet schools.

So, as much as I believe that inclusive classrooms are the best way to serve most kids (and yes, I do think all kids role model for each other) I would not want to see APP/Spectrum dismantled at this point.

Charlie you have two kids in HS. I believe one of them is at Sealth which has self contained honors, and IB classrooms. The other is at NOVA where all classrooms are inclusive. What differences do you see, if any? Is the child at NOVA (who is APP qualified I believe) being served well in inclusive classrooms?

Anonymous said…
Still waiting for those facts behind the accusation that somebody who's kid didn't qualify for APP admission got "lobbied in." That's a serious accusation of unfairness, underhandedness and corruption. If it's going to be asserted on this blog, I'd like to hear the facts. Just a reminder. WSDWG
Maureen said…
I agree with FOS. Given that reality, I wish SPS would commit to supporting Spectrum and tighten the requirements for APP (and require meeting the base requirements at reentry grades) and either open it to new HS students or disband it at the HS level.
anonymous said…
I personally know a family who had two children test for APP (one in 2nd grade, and the other in 5th). One tested in, and one was just a couple points away in one category and didn't get in. Mom called and spoke to Bob Vaughn, and he "made and exception" and put child 2 in APP as there was space available. This mom is a very good friend of mine, and a lawyer, and I believe what she told me.

It does happen WSEADWG. Several parents have told you it happens. However, not sure how a parent without access to district APP testing results and records could possibly PROVE IT to you. So take it for what it's worth. You can believe what the district says, or you can believe what parents say. You decide.

you could also call Bob Vaughn and ask him if there are any circumstances where exceptions are made. You could ask him to see testing results of all kids admitted last year (though I don't know how that works with confidentiality) and if he doesn't or can't provide them, ask Dr. Enfeild to have the records checked.

Anonymous said…

How would you go about having kids work together if they are so spread out in abilities? If you have kids who can and want to tackle algebra or geometry in 6th grade, how can a teacher make that possible without creating some groupings? If you have kids like mine who is working in math 2 grades below and is struggling with word problems because they are not fluent readers, they will need help and attention from the teacher. The only way where I can see you vision takng shape is IF we have much smaller class size like 16 kids OR many more assistant teachers (not just parent volunteers like me) in the classroom. I love the idea of that by the way. And if there are true outliers on the high end, perhaps we can go back to skipping grades. I also think in high school, there are not going to be a large swarm of kids who choose to take calculus or trig or AP physics.

But the public schools are facing class size in elementary school of 30+ kids in upper grades and 28+ in K-2, so I don't know if our utopia is possible or was ever in place to begin with.

-sad and confused
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
Sad and confused - take a look at some of the schools in our district that currently offer all inclusive classrooms. It can work beautifully and harmoniously. In fact some of our most successful schools use this model. Check out TOPS, Thornton Creek, Salmon Bay, Bryant, Laurelhurst, Nathan Hale HS, Nova HS, and Center School, to name a few.

Inclusion can and does work very well in most settings, though I understand it's not for everybody.

And yes, I wholeheartedly agree that class sizes are out of control in SPS, and are damaging. However, I'd think that 33 struggling to average students, long with a disproportionate number of kids with IEP's would be more challenging to teach, than 33 students of all ability levels and proportionate numbers of kids with IEP's, but I'm not a teacher and don't know for sure, that's just my thought.

FOS, you nailed it.

Get rid of Spectrum? You'll drive those kids to APP or private (guaranteed).

I plan on pointing this out to the Board and the Superintendent who should, by the way, man up and just yank the bandaid off Spectrum. Don't continue to weaken it. And better get that ALO work done because EVERY school should have coherent, thoughtful rigor accessible to every child.

I also go with Sad and Confused's point about the classes getting bigger. At some point differentiation gets harder with more kids.

It's interesting that Hale keeps coming up. I know so many people who go there because of their inclusion and so many that left because of it. (Several years back, they didn't bother to explain this feature and many parents felt they had been handed a bill of goods.) One size doesn't fit all.
ArchStanton said…
I'm late to this thread, but since no one has offered the sports/arts analogy, allow me to toss it in.

To those of you advocating for the elimination of self-contained academically gifted programs in favor of inclusive groupings where the teacher teaches to the broadest possible range of abilities:

Would you advocate for the inclusion of less athletically gifted students on AAA Varsity sports teams? Would you mandate that everyone on the team gets a chance to play in the big game instead of holding down the bench?

Would you eliminate competition for seats in performance bands/orchestras at GHS or RHS and insist that beginning/struggling music students be able to sit alongside their more musically gifted/talented peers when they travel to national competitions?

Do you feel it is unfair, elitist, or somehow takes away from disabled, struggling, or just plain average students when we provide fancy playing fields, performance spaces, uniforms, individualized instruction, or other accommodations to meed the needs of athletically/artistically gifted students?
Anonymous said…
State law requires that there be an appeal process for entry to highly capable programs and it also describes the review of test results.

WAC 392-170-065

Nondiscrimination in the review of testing results.

Test results used in the assessment of any nominated student shall be reviewed by a psychologist or other qualified practitioner with training to interpret cognitive and achievement tests. Where specific test results obtained in any assessment do not appear to the qualified district personnel to accurately reflect a student's cognitive ability or specific academic achievement, due to such reasons as test measurement error or environmental, cultural, or economic factor, the qualified district personnel shall apply professional judgment to a determination of cognitive ability or specific academic achievement. In such event, the qualified district personnel shall document in a written narrative the basis for such determination, the instruments used, if any, and the data collected for a determination of cognitive ability or specific academic achievement.

It sounds like exceptions can be made by the professsional based on additional information.

-enough with the accusations
ArchStanton said…
Furthermore, should we eliminate special arts and sports programs that concentrate artistically/athletically gifted students into a few schools and re-integrate those students into the arts/sports programs available to the general population at their local schools?
apparent said…

the nationally-normed scores, please. And the precise regards in which you claim those scores were deficient when compared to the eligibility standards and appeal criteria publicly posted on the advanced learning website?

"I personally know a family who . . ." doesn't cut it.
Anonymous said…
Back to Maureen's comment about retesting - the mean mathematics MAP score for APP 5th graders was 95% (Feb 2010 Draft report). That means that almost half of APP 5th graders didn't meet the 95% cutoff. Does that mean they are unqualified, or that the test is not that accurate or reliable? Shouldn't success in their most recent course or placement be factored in?

There used to be a test in 5th grade for 6th grade math placement, but now it seems MAP scores are being used. Though what ranges or cutoffs get used is anyone's guess.

Ingraham APP/IB is being opened to new HS students (if you test as an 8th grader). This is new and not available for Garfield. Someone had posted the info earlier and I think the testing may be this fall.

Anonymous said…
FOS: The facts you state do not smack of "lobbying in" to APP. They establish a kid right on the cusp of admission, close enough that having to go pee during the test could affect the scores, and the review by professionals as to whether placement of that particular kid is a good or bad idea in a given situation. That is a far cry from "lobbying in a non-qualified kid" as suggested above.

And FYI, the Bar Association also has an appeal process for people who score within 3 points of passing the bar, and about half are typically admitted through that process.

You can't lobby or buy your way in if you don't belong in the program. Only if a kid is extremely close and a strong candidate, such as passing two of the three admissions tests, and being very close on the third score, will exceptions be made. That's entirely reasonable for any program.

And again, that's a far cry from the oft-repeated suggestion that people "game the system" or "buy there way in" to programs. I can't see how anyone would find those facts unfair or scandalous. WSDWG
Maureen said…
Furthermore, should we eliminate special arts and sports programs that concentrate artistically/athletically gifted students into a few schools

Arch, does Seattle have programs like that?
I'm with Arch, equity for all. Let anyone into any band, on any team. That would be fair and the best people would help the others along. It would certainly eliminate Roosevelt and Garfield as music powerhouses at Essentially Ellington but okay.

When my son was at Hale, they had "no cut" sports. (I think they still do.) Sounds great but it also means "no playing" time sports. You get to go to practices and then sit on the bench. They finally told my disabled son he would never play in a game and maybe he should just leave. He did.

It would have been better that he never "made" the team because it was that hurtful.

Be careful what you wish for.
ArchStanton said…
@ Maureen:

Honestly, under NSAP, I don't know. Are there situations where families can choose their HS? Before NSAP, I would argue that programs like RHS and GHS jazz bands siphoned off musically talented students from other schools. At the very least, families certainly can choose to live in a neighborhood or lie about their address to give their child access to a desirable school or music/sports program.

I'll own up to engaging in bit of hyperbole, if that be the case, but if those unfamiliar with APP can make unfounded assertions, so can I. ;)
Anonymous said…
bring it,

(you've confused my post w/ another... I wasn't the one that said 'happy now' in my post - just to clarify)
And my bad, I got your posts confused w/ "public schools are integrated"'s post when I asked for data. Sorry.

BUT, the data, or more accurately, your source in asserting: "But when we have programs like Spectrum - where the kids aren't really all that bright, and certainly not very far ahead, " (9/28 11:23 am/ Bring it On) "

and to "public schools are integrated" I'd like the sources you use to assert:
""The issue here is segregation of a group of students who do not qualify as exceptional by any well established research definition. The Spectrum students are on the normal spectrum." "
and ""We need to stop pretending that the students in this experiment called Spectrum need anything different from other general education students (except some focused enrichment)." (9/28 7:37 pm/public schools are integrated) "

Because I understand that to be just wrong if you look at gifted ed research and the markers for giftedness (a term which bugs me as an aside).

To FOS (I think, sorry if not you) and others.... it sounds nice to have all kids of all ability groups together in the same class but the evidence proves that it's better for the non-gifted/at or below grade level students to NOT be in classes w/ gifted learners. So really, to best serve the ACADEMIC needs of all students, ability grouping is the way to go. And ability grouping allows more efficient differentiation and delivery of curriculum to ALL groups. This isn't my opinion, (though I agree w/ it once it was explained to me and I read the studies) this is what researched based studies prove. Some general info on ability grouping is below, but by no means exhaustive.

The thing that strikes me about this thread (and every other one on AL) is that it is a huge shame that there are rampant misconceptions about gifted ed/Spectrum, APP. So blame is heaped on these students and their parents. And creates a very us v. them dynamic (misconceptions seem to be present too for Special Ed learners)

To add to the equity discussion, NAGC says it well "Gifted students need consistent opportunities to learn at their challenge level—just as all students do. It is inequitable to prevent gifted students from being challenged by trying to apply one level of difficulty for all students in mixed-ability classes. When teachers can provide opportunities for all students, including those who are gifted, to be challenged by rigorous curriculum, there is nothing elitist about the situation."

--thump, banging my head against the wall (less now)

Common Myths of Gifted Education
NAGC Position statement Grouping
Cluster Grouping of Students
The Relationship of Grouping Practices to the Education of the Gifted and Talented Learner
Lori said…
Class size really does seem to be the issue when you get right down to it. For whatever it's worth, here's our anecdote.

We opted to put our child into a blended K program at our neighborhood school a few years ago. Max 17 students; 7 with IEPs and 10 "traditionally developing." There was a wonderful special ed teacher and a full-time aide in the class. Turns out we had 15 kids that year, 5 with IEPs and 2 who are now in APP (including my child), thus there were a variety of needs to be met. My child had a fantastic year in that class, and to date, that teacher is probably still the one who got to know her best and adapted material for her needs.

The following year, however, was simply awful. First grade had 28 kids, and my quiet APP-qualified child was pretty much ignored the entire fall, except for when she was asked to read to another child so that the teacher wouldn't have to. She quickly became sullen, withdrawn, unhappy, and started acting out at home because she didn't know how to manage the boredom and frustration. Each month seemed to get worse, and her frustration grew and grew. None of us could wait for that year to end; my child still to this day bristles when asked about first grade and has even told me she doesn't know why people send their kids to that school because "they don't teach you anything there."

Now, lots of families love that school and have happy kids there, so this isn't a criticism of the school. I just wanted to share what we've lived with respect to ranges of ability/need and class size.

My takeaway is that there is some sort of "sweet spot" for class size where a good teacher can meet everyone needs, but once exceeded, the needs of the outliers just aren't met. I don't know what that ideal number is, but it's definitely less than 28.

FWIW, the only randomized study of the effect of class size on outcomes in K-3 (the STAR study) compared classes of 13-17 students versus 22-25 and found that smaller classes were more effective. Yet people seem to ignore this study and somehow conclude, at least in Seattle, that 28 kids/class is okay in K-3. Now, I know the plural of "anecdote" is not data, but it is hard for me to ignore our own experience when it comes to class size discussions: 15 kids/class, good; 28 kids/class, bad.
ArchStanton said…
The plural of "anecdote" is not data.

Love it! That's the best nugget of wisdom I've come across in a while...
suep. said…
My child's 5th grade APP class of 29 included 7 kids with IEPs.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
"It's interesting that Hale keeps coming up. I know so many people who go there because of their inclusion and so many that left because of it"

Melissa can you expand on this? Why do you think so many kids left Hale while your son was there? Were their needs not being met, or was it something else? Was it the leadership? I was not pleased with the leadership at Hale a few years ago, and thought the school felt "sloppy" and "hippie like" for lack of better words. Personally, I think that was partly due to choice and the families that "chose" the school, partly due to sloppy leadership, and partly due to a complete lack of oversight at the district level.

But there has been a lot of staff change at Hale over the last couple of years, including a new principal (Dr. Jill Hudson) who has been doing a fantastic job, and two new vice principals. The school, now in a beautifully remodeled building, feels tight, and well run. There is a great energy in the halls, and kids seem genuinely happy and engaged. I don't think a high attrician is an issue any longer as there were so few spots open in the 10, 11 and 12th grades this year.

And despite the schools affinity for inclusion the school has had to compromise on some levels (probably due to it now being a neighborhood assignment school). They have added a fair amount of stand alone AP classes (including the only environmental science AP class in SPS), they have strengthened the band, and added an orchestra. They are one of the few high schools with a football stadium and a pool and their sports programs are thriving. Some sports are cut sports (Baseball and basketball) and some aren't cut sports (ultimate frisbee, track, golf). The sports teams are very competitive and do well, and the students are often recognized as having some of the highest GPA's on sports teams in SPS!

I'd invite you to come to one of our school events, take a tour, or just sit down and talk to Dr. Hudson and ask her what she's been doing, and what her vision is for the school.

Anonymous said…
I want to clarify that my posts were in reference to Spectrum, not APP. Exceptional children in the category of gifted do have research-identified needs that usually need intervention (similar to an IEP), like other forms of exceptionality. I have exclusively referenced Spectrum, and not APP, during my remarks.

Spectrum students(although Jan clarified the issue that some in Spectrum meet cognitive gifted qualifications) are by and large part of the normal spectrum. Removing them into a self-contained setting is the segregation that I have been referring to during this posting.

By the way, Charlie, did you post earlier this year that Spectrum was started by the district as an attempt to widen the advanced learning pool for more diversity? You were my information source for this bit of district history.

--Road taken
Anonymous said…

Melissa's agreement with the assertion that Spectrum parents will leave in droves is not a competent defense for an unjust program. This threat has been used as a rationale for maintaining injustice for ages.

Some southern Democrats did not want to support civil rights because they said white southerners would defect to the Republican party in droves...and they did.

Such is the cost sometimes of doing the right thing.

FOS, if you read my comment carefully, I said I knew people who came to the school and I knew people who were at the school and left - both groups for the same reason.

Yes, the leadership turned over several times and at points was lackluster.

I know Dr. Hudson; she good but not what I like in a principal.

The point is not that I don't like Hale - I'm proud my son graduated from there. It ended up - for the most part - to be a good fit.

But the leadership was not honest about the direction the school was going and it took YEARS to get them to do so. As a result, there was confusion about Hale. I think you are right that it settled down now.

They have stand-alone AP because they were forced to have it. They did not want to have any at all and many faculty resented even having to teach it.
Well thank you Road for that unpleasant comparison. How your mind connected the dots from a gifted program to being against civil rights is a big stretch.

And I didn't say it was a defense; I said it was what I believed would happen. If parents don't care and the district doesn't care, then I guess ending Spectrum won't be a problem.

But again, the district and the Board need to man up and say out loud what they are doing.
Charlie Mas said…
Couple quick things.

First, a mean score of 95% does not equate to a median score of 95%. For example, if there are twenty students and 19 of them get 100% and one of them gets a zero, then the average score will be 95%.

So parent at 12:08 PM was just flat out wrong when writing: "That means that almost half of APP 5th graders didn't meet the 95% cutoff."

Second, the preference for inclusive classrooms - is it for pedagogical reasons or for political reasons? Is it because that's how students learn better or is it because it appeals to your sense of egalitarianism? It's okay either way, but let's be clear about it.

Studies have certainly indicated that skill-level grouping is most effective for all students.
Charlie Mas said…
Personally, I prefer a different solution. Take a look at what they are doing at Queen Anne Elementary and at RocketShip charter schools in San Jose. Students spend a part of the day learning skills at their individual pace then come together as a group to work on projects that exercise higher level cognitive skills and interpersonal skills.

With project-based learning it is easier to differentiate instruction across a broad range. That's how they do it at The NOVA Project and how they do it at STEM. And Dan, don't worry about the direct instruction, they get that from the computer.

Use computers for what they are good for: individualized instruction, skill building practice, and dispensing information.

Use teacher and class time for what they are good for: collaboration, higher cognitive function, open-ended questions, ambiguity, and challenge.

Students working at all levels can write about what they think of the same story. They can all write a paragraph with a topic sentence and at least three supporting sentences. Some of the paragraphs will just reflect more depth than others.

I think this hybrid model shows a lot of promise.
ArchStanton said…
I want to clarify that my posts were in reference to Spectrum, not APP.

Fair 'nuff, but you have to acknowledge that gifted-ness falls along a spectrum, so to speak. It's not as if kids stop being gifted or having different needs (academically or otherwise) just because we set some arbitrary criteria. Unless I'm mistaken; we have different tiers of athletics and arts programs that are still not open to just anyone. Are you advocating that we eliminate JV teams or second tier bands/orchestras?
Anonymous said…
Inclusive classrooms are not for pedagogical or political reasons.

It is the law.

Charlie Mas said…
The Spectrum program has its roots in the Horizon program. I wasn't here for it, so I may not have the history right - and the District doesn't have a historian.

My second-hand understanding is that to be eligible for the Horizon program students had to be among the top performers (5%, I think) in their racial category. So the top 5% of African-American students, top 5% of Asian students, top 5% of Latino students and top 5% of White students.

The District has also used the placement of advanced learning programs as part of some sort of racial integration effort. That's how APP got placed at Washington and Garfield and how Spectrum got placed at Roxhill, Muir, and Leschi. Of course, they might just have been putting it wherever there was room - and the lowest performing schools were the ones with the most room.
Charlie Mas said…
"Inclusive classrooms are not for pedagogical or political reasons.

It is the law.

Then call a cop, road, because Spectrum and APP must be illegal.

By the way, which law?
Anonymous said…

Segregation and its usage. It is a big stretch, but people did take that leap. Which is why I am...

--sad and confused.
Anonymous said…
look up IDEA, originally based upon Brown v. Board of Education,
and expanded through a series of lawsuits that have evolved the definition of what inclusion is today

it's actually not so legally funny in the case of Spectrum (maybe there's more going on with the dismantling of Spectrum than meets the eye)

like I said, I haven't been talking about APP--although, ideally those students would also be in the least restrictive environment, too, like any exceptional student--be with normally developing peers for lunch, PE, etc.)

Charlie Mas said…
Ah! Now I understand, road.

IDEA does not apply to all students, only to students with disabilities. So the District is legally required to place students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and with normally developing peers.

The District is not legally required to do that with any other students. So there is no legal requirement that students outside that protected class be in inclusive classrooms at all.

Inclusive classrooms are the law for students with IEPs, not for anyone else.
Charlie Mas said…
And why would it be "ideal" for APP students to be in inclusive classrooms and least restrictive environments? For pedagogical reasons or political ones?
ArchStanton said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArchStanton said…
I am hereby coining ArchStanton's Corollary to Godwin's Law. It states that:

"As an online discussion pertaining to the academically gifted grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving racism or segregation approaches 1."
Anonymous said…
the expansion of the law has helped define what "a classroom of normally devleoping peers" means, as well as the composition of that classroom

you cannot segregate all the kids with IEPs into one classroom, in a grade with several classrooms, for example

also, I am soooo not a lawyer but only have a rudimentary understanding of SPED

however, you certainly could not put all the kids of one ethnicity or religion into one classroom either, for example

the fact that Spectrum itself does not contain a protected class of students (which APP, as gifted, is likely defined as having) but is not receiving an equal share of students with disabilites/ELL could, in fact, be a violation of the law--there may be others

IDEA, ADA, and Civil Rights laws are closely intertwined

IDEA is the basis for most of this education law; sometimes I wish I knew more but usually am glad I know less

Anonymous said…
Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you but students in the Spectrum program DO meet those research identified criteria/needs of giftedness to which you refer. They take the CogAT and and Reading and Math Achievement tests. If they score within the identified percentage they are eligible. The percentage ranges fall within accepted ranges nationwide. Some districts require higher scores for AL placement, but many districts nationwide fall within the same range identified for AL eligibility in Seattle. SPS is not out of the norm for AL determination. This is information I have been told directly from the AL department.

I would like to know why you say Spectrum students fall outside the scope of the gifted program. I'm unclear why/how you can make this assertion. I'm hearing you say, Spectrum kids aren't really gifted, but you haven't provided anything to support that. Certainly there are a handful of kids in the program who just got lucky and tested well, but most really do fall within that range. Perhaps your personal observation of Spectrum students has been different but what counts is not your perception or opinion, it's the fact that those children passed the tests and are capable of working ahead. And have been determined by nationwide educational standards and Seattle's AL department to fall in the academically gifted category. I understand that you don't like that - and that you disagree with that - as do many others, but just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's not a fact.

Unless it's changed, the AL department falls within the Special Ed Department, because those students also fall outside the bell curve/middle/normally developing student range. If I understood my conversation with the AL department, that means that every Spectrum and APP child is eligible for an IEP to get their academic needs met. Do most parents do that? No, because it takes away resources from students who need those services more, but they are certainly entitled to it (disclaimer, I may have misunderstood that from my conversation w/ AL but I'm pretty sure that's what they said)

anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said…
road, the IDEA law has not been extrapolated to the point that your comment anticipates. It may get there someday, but it isn't there today.

I don't think it is likely to get there either. It's a question of standing. The IDEA law is there to protect the students with disabilities; it does not protect the other students in the class with them.

If IDEA could be used to mandate the inclusion of gifted students in the class with students with IEPs, then couldn't it also mandate the inclusion of ELL students in those classes? Or FRE students?

Consider this - could not the same sort of extension of IDEA mandate that all classes have a comparable share of students with IEPs? Why should Roxhill have so many and JSIS have so few?

How about we just follow the law as it is written and not try to imagine unlikely spiraling future variations?

Skill-level grouping is a fundamental tool of education and it is not a violation of the IDEA.
1 – 200 of 220 Newer Newest

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools