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Monday, December 05, 2011

What the Heck is Going on at Wedgwood?

Are you confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program? Join the club. Everyone is confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program. The president of the confusion club appears to be the school's principal, Chris Cronas.



Here is a letter from the principal to the community, published on the school web site.

From the letter:
For those who do not know, cluster grouping is a method of grouping gifted students (gifted being identified as students who score in the 98th - 99th percentile on a cognitive ability test) into clusters of 6 students in one classroom that also include high achievers and above-average students. The remaining students would be clustered so that the highest achieving students and lowest achieving students are not in the same classroom. With that as a guide, Wedgwood is developing plans to move from having self-contained spectrum classrooms to integrated classrooms using an interpretation of this model. We are already doing this in 1st grade, albeit more heterogeneously than what the research we based our 1st grade model on suggests.
Do you see his confusion? We are following the model, only we aren't. We're developing a plan, only we've already implemented it. We won't mix these two groups of kids, only we will.

The letter continues:
Because Wedgwood is such a high achieving school overall, staff feels they can meet the needs of all students by developing an integrated model similar to the cluster grouping model outlined above but a bit more flexible. This would allow us to integrate the student community more so than it is now. Staff met on Wednesday 11/30 to discuss the move and we decided that we will need more time to outline the logistics and steps for implementation before writing a formal plan for families to reference. During our meeting, teachers expressed that they needed time this year to plan and prepare and would like more professional development on how to differentiate for advanced learners.
Yes, more confusion is in evidence. The staff says that they can meet the needs of all students but that they need more training on how to meet the needs of all students. We will follow the rules of the model, but we will break the rules. We need more time before we can describe what we are doing, but we have already started doing it. We can't describe what we are doing.

The letter finishes in a similar, confused and self-contradictory style:
There are a wide range of opinions about the implementation, the decision making process for adoption and what will happen next. Based on the comments, I am hearing three overarching themes from all community members:
  1. What is cluster grouping and what will it look like for Wedgwood Elementary?
  2. How will students be grouped and how can you be sure students will be challenged academically?
  3. Why are we doing this and how could you have involved more families in the decision?
Once staff has had another opportunity to meet as a group, we will focus on these questions and others we have generated. We will then bring our answers to the community in the form of a written plan. At this point, we still intend to move forward with the process of integrating all classrooms over a three year period that started this year with 1st grade.
So he keeps hearing three basic questions, but he can't answer any of them, which means that he decided to move forward without the answers to fundamental questions. How is that good? He says that they don't have a plan, but they are moving forward at full steam ahead.

The letter references a survey. Here is a link to the survey results. Here is a critical question from the survey:
13. How concerned are you with your student participating in a cluster model?
18.9% - Very concerned (I would consider removing my student from Wedgwood)
19.3% - Somewhat concerned (I do not like the idea, but I would want my student to stay at Wedgwood)
26.3% - Indifferent (The change does not matter to me one way or another)
35.5% - Supportive (I am glad to see the change)
These percentages only reflect the responses from the 88% of survey takers who did not skip the question.

The actual results were:
16.6% - Very concerned
17.0% - Somewhat concerned
23.2% - Indifferent
31.3% - Supportive
12.0% - No answer

Not exactly a mandate. There are more folks either somewhat or very concerned than supportive. There are more people who are indifferent than anything else.

Here are another couple questions from the survey:
11. Do you feel that the Wedgwood community will be served in a cluster model?
64.2% Yes
35.8% No
12. Do you feel that your student will be served in a cluster model?
60.7% Yes
39.3% No
If the 35.5% of folks who support the model are going to be regarded as a significant group that should be heard, then shouldn't also the 35.8% and the 39.3% who feel that the cluster model will not work?

I don't know what is going on at Wedgwood, but it appears that no one else knows either.

132 comments:

dj said...

Unless I am misreading that survey, those "concerned/not concenred" stats are for the whole Wedgewood community, as opposed to specifically from the Spectrum parents. Right?

Charlie Mas said...

dj, that's right. Nearly every Wedgwood family responded, only 43% of them are Spectrum families.

Anonymous said...

And why are non-Spectrum families given influence over Spectrum families, again?

Gee, I can't imagine anyone's opinion being less-than-informed, tainted, or mis-informed about another group's practices and functions with whom they have no experience or involvement. Can you?

That letter is a mixed-up, jumbled-up plate of jargon served up from the MGJ letter bin if ever there was one.

Shouldn't it be required that principals communicate in plain English?

Sytems, procedures, and protocols...Deja Vu all over again.

WSDWG

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

...cluster grouping is a method of grouping gifted students (gifted being identified as students who score in the 98th - 99th percentile on a cognitive ability test) into clusters of 6 students in one classroom that also include high achievers and above-average students

Huh. This is roughly what my kid gets in their high achieving neighborhood school. Glad to know there's no point in transferring to Spectrum.

What a clever way to end the program.

Letting the individual schools end it one by one while still retaining the label cuts down on the district-wide outrage that would occur if the district ended the program outright.

TraceyS said...

Correct, dj. The results did not break it down by Spectrum vs non-Spectrum. A little over 40% of the families at the school have children enrolled in a Spectrum class, so this is going to directly impact a significant number of families.

The other critical item to know is that Chris informed the school of these proposals last spring, and held a series of presentations over the summer(!) about the proposed changes, and that has been it as far as informing the community. This is the first official letter from him this school year.

A group of parents have asked him for more information twice, and his answers have been equally contradictory. We have since sent a third email to Dr. Vaughan asking for clarification on supporting research and district policy, and are still awaiting his reply.

To say that some of are deeply frustrated would be an understatement. I am shocked at inconsistencies in his responses, as well as the complete lack of written documentation, planning, metrics, or even basic information about the massive changes to a district program. Keep in mind that this is already being implemented in first grade this year. No one, not even the teachers, have a clear idea as to what model is being used, or what metrics are being applied, or even how the highly differentiated curriculum is being delivered in the first grade test program.

I have informally discussed some of this with the PTA president, and I will be drafting a formal request to the PTA to become more involved, especially in light of the news that 20% of the current families are considering leaving Wedgwood over this, and another 20% on top of that are unhappy. We are back to a divided community again, and that is very troubling as well. I, and others, are also writing to Phil Brockman, the executive director, expressing our deep concerns over this lack of documentation, contradictory information, and apparent lack of planning.

What makes this even crazier is that there was huge support within the Spectrum ranks to expand the program to include more non-district identified kids. Every single parent I have talked to is very supportive of including as many kids as possible in an academically rigorous curriculum. But given what we have been seeing, and hearing, we are moving in the opposite direction. I simply do not see any desire to deliver an academically rigorous curriculum to any student going forward, much less the Spectrum-enrolled kids.

Jan said...

Wow. Hope they don't run surveys like that for the Sped kids like mine. I'm sure lots of parents would be happy to just vote them off the island -- and conclude that it is working "just fine" for the "community."

Jan said...

Here is what astonishes me (and makes me wonder how Dr. Vaughn can go anywhere without a paper bag over his head): They have absolutely NO basis -- based on given research -- to indicate that their proposal will work.

They are relying on a clustering theory that -- going in -- says that it is preferable to have self contained groups where there are enough kids (which there always were when I knew Wedgewood).

Then -- they take the theory and change it -- but they neither identify the extent of the changes, nor offer any research-based data (or even any off the cuff rationale) that indicates those changes will enhance the plan -- or at least be benign.

The school really needed to man up and say -- we refuse to offer Spectrum anymore. We want regular classes, with an ALO program. Because that is what they have.

TraceyS said...

Correct, dj. The results did not break it down by Spectrum vs non-Spectrum. A little over 40% of the families at the school have children enrolled in a Spectrum class, so this is going to directly impact a significant number of families.

The other critical item to know is that Chris informed the school of these proposals last spring, and held a series of presentations over the summer(!) about the proposed changes, and that has been it as far as informing the community. This is the first official letter from him this school year.

A group of parents have asked him for more information twice, and his answers have been equally contradictory. We have since sent a third email to Dr. Vaughan asking for clarification on supporting research and district policy, and are still awaiting his reply.

To say that some of are deeply frustrated would be an understatement. I am shocked at inconsistencies in his responses, as well as the complete lack of written documentation, planning, metrics, or even basic information about the massive changes to a district program. Keep in mind that this is already being implemented in first grade this year. No one, not even the teachers, have a clear idea as to what model is being used, or what metrics are being applied, or even how the highly differentiated curriculum is being delivered in the first grade test program.

I have informally discussed some of this with the PTA president, and I will be drafting a formal request to the PTA to become more involved, especially in light of the news that 20% of the current families are considering leaving Wedgwood over this, and another 20% on top of that are unhappy. We are back to a divided community again, and that is very troubling as well. I, and others, are also writing to Phil Brockman, the executive director, expressing our deep concerns over this lack of documentation, contradictory information, and apparent lack of planning.

What makes this even crazier is that there was huge support within the Spectrum ranks to expand the program to include more non-district identified kids. Every single parent I have talked to is very supportive of including as many kids as possible in an academically rigorous curriculum. But given what we have been seeing, and hearing, we are moving in the opposite direction. I simply do not see any desire to deliver an academically rigorous curriculum to any student going forward, much less the Spectrum-enrolled kids.

TraceyS said...

Charlie, please check the spam filter - I can;t seem to get a reply posted. thanks.

TraceyS said...

Jan, the best that any of us can determine is that Cronas' new model most closely resembles a straight up heterogeneous model. This is the one usually used as the control group in any comparisons of approaches for delivering advanced learning curriculum. Its hallmarks are that it does poorly for the lowest and highest ends of the learning spectrum, and does an ok job for the middle tier of learners. In other words, it is a "teach to the middle" model. In fact, the poor performance of the two ends of the learning spectrum are used as justification for other models.

TraceyS said...

Take two on my original reply:

Correct dj, tThe results did not break it down by Spectrum vs non-Spectrum. A little over 40% of the families at the school have children enrolled in a Spectrum class, so this is going to directly impact a significant number of families.

The other critical item to know is that Chris informed the school of these proposals last spring, and held a series of presentations over the summer(!) about the proposed changes, and that has been it as far as informing the community. This is the first official letter from him this school year.

A group of parents have asked him for more information twice, and his answers have been equally contradictory. We have since sent a third email to Dr. Vaughan asking for clarification on supporting research and district policy, and are still awaiting his reply.

(more below)

TraceyS said...

(continued)
To say that some of are deeply frustrated would be an understatement. I am shocked at inconsistencies in his responses, as well as the complete lack of written documentation, planning, metrics, or even basic information about the massive changes to a district program. Keep in mind that this is already being implemented in first grade this year. No one, not even the teachers, have a clear idea as to what model is being used, or what metrics are being applied, or even how the highly differentiated curriculum is being delivered in the first grade test program.

I have informally discussed some of this with the PTA president, and I will be drafting a formal request to the PTA to become more involved, especially in light of the news that 20% of the current families are considering leaving Wedgwood over this, and another 20% on top of that are unhappy. We are back to a divided community again, and that is very troubling as well. I, and others, are also writing to Phil Brockman, the executive director, expressing our deep concerns over this lack of documentation, contradictory information, and apparent lack of planning.

What makes this even crazier is that there was huge support within the Spectrum ranks to expand the program to include more non-district identified kids. Every single parent I have talked to is very supportive of including as many kids as possible in an academically rigorous curriculum. But given what we have been seeing, and hearing, we are moving in the opposite direction. I simply do not see any desire to deliver an academically rigorous curriculum to any student going forward, much less the Spectrum-enrolled kids.

Anonymous said...

I hope that they break down the results by grade. Based on the roll-up plan presented last spring/summer, the cluster grouping will not affect current 4th or 5th graders. As the parent of a 5th grader, it was hard to know how to respond to the question about whether we would leave Wedgwood.

I think it's interesting that 43 families (some of which probably have multiple kids at Wedgwood) said that they would consider moving from Wedgwood.

If these families did leave (to private, APP, another Spectrum school, or their neighborhood school), it's possible that the portable proposed by the capacity committee would not be necessary.

-wwparent

Anonymous said...

This might be the greatest example of outright lying by a principal that I've ever heard of. He doesn't believe in self-containment, period. Done. It doesn't matter what works or doesn't. It was a knee-jerk decision arising from a gut level by a demonstrably anti-Spectrum principal. There are several teachers and principals who philosophically don't believe in separating kids by ability, but can't live with the research, so they just lie about it, like in this case. This isn't new, but this case is just preposterous at this point. WSDWG

Po3 said...

"..gifted being identified as students who score in the 98th - 99th percentile on a cognitive ability test"

That is wrong; that is the the threshold of "Highly gifted".
Those are APP students.

Spectrum students are 87th (or higher) percentile. Or "Gifted" Students.

Minor but important detail.

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Look, why is the Advanced Learning Taskforce working if things are changing as we speak? Is our work to be after the fact?

Everything in the AL programs should stay as is until our work is done.

I have NO idea why the district has a chokehold on some things (like instructional waivers) and yet a principal can decide, on his own, to completely change the service delivery on a program. And Dr. Enfield told me she had known nothing about this when it started so he really was operating on his own. Unacceptable.

Mr. Cronas told parents at the Brulles meeting that this was on-going and just piloted this year.

I think maybe a couple of e-mails are in order.

Jan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am sad to hear this. My child was at Wedgwood for a couple of years before transferring to APP - this was long ago - and the self-contained model worked well for him and worked well in the school.

- So many changes.....

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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RachelS said...

I have colleagues who work for the Seattle School District and asked them to help me figure out who, in the District, is a champion of gifted education. Sad to say, my contacts do not know of such a person. In discussing the matter with them, though, I was told that the scuttlebutt is that the district is trying to dismantle Spectrum entirely, mostly because of the overcrowding that has resulted from the new enrollment plan. The *district* -- not (or not only) Wedgwood's principal.

This is a rumor. Is there some way that we can determine whether there is any truth to it? There is such a disheartening lack of transparency in this whole process.

Linh-Co said...

Maybe the parents at Wedgewood should do an FOIA request for all e-mail exchanges between Chris Cronas and central office?

Anonymous said...

1. Enfield is directing Cronos.
2. She wants self contained reserved for APP only.
3. Some form of grouping is needed, the model must be flexible to be used at all e,ementary schools.

My opinion

Anonymous said...

What on earth? There are many things wrong with this "Cronos interpretation."

First. "...into clusters of 6 students in one classroom that also include high achievers and above-average students." The cluster grouping model (if he had actually READ the book) states specifically that gifted kids ("1's") are grouped with at grade level ("3's") and slightly below grade level ("4's") and NOT with high achieving above average[but not gifted] ("2's) or far below grade level ("5's"). To the extent Winebrenner and Brulles have data on the success of this model at all, it's based on rigid following of those groupings. So Cronos shouldn't be putting gifted students along w/ high achievers. (the book explains why not in detail) No matter what his "interpretation" is, unless the interpretation is "we'll call it cluster grouping, but not follow the book at all."

ALSO, he just cut out a good number of Spectrum designated kids, right? And he's wrong, according to the SPS Eligibility Criteria. Those falling below the 98% (Academically Highly Gifted) but above the current Spectrum threshold of 87% (Academically Gifted) are what? Out of luck? He's just made a stand alone APP program w/o any of the APP supports. But he's calling it Spectrum.

The Spectrum program was designed by the district and at a MINIMUM the district needs to insist that Cronos grandfather in all children currently designated as Spectrum (and who have passed the cognitive testing threshold set by the SPS). Spectrum students should be in the "1's" group. Regardless of where you stand on the 87% allowing in too many kids who "really aren't gifted" the fact is they passed cognitive tests to get in, are currently designated, and parents made enrollment decisions based on this framework and to stop that delivery model simply based on one man's incorrect 'interpretation' is bad leadership. Period. And SPS needs to stop it.

Even the Lawton change, as messy as that was, had weigh in/ support/ buy in from Vaughan and an AL rep was a member of the team that studied it and attended every meeting. No matter that the model wasn't followed this fall(at 5th grade at least) nor is it really serving the AL kids, but that's for another post....

-Spectrum mom

Anonymous said...
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kellie said...

@ RachelS

I can't address any conspiracy theory but I can address the capacity and systems issues that are driving the problem. IMHO, it is important to note which problems are a result of capacity issues and which ones are not in order to advocate more successfully. Issues that are NOT a result of capacity are the NSAP, community influence and leadership directives. Capacity challenges might influence these but they are not the result of capacity issues.

The lack of sufficient system and local capacity does create a large number of real and meaningful problems. These problems tend to become exaggerated and/or amplified when there is any special programming. This means that special education, advanced learning and alternative programs feel the impact of zero capacity more intensely and dramatically than general education.

This is not to imply that general education gets a pass in any way. At 90% capacity, special programs gets strained. General Education programs get strained at 95% capacity. At 100% capacity, all programs are taxed and "surge capacity" is used.

Simply put there is ZERO actual system capacity, including surge capacity, in the north end and in West Seattle. When there is zero system capacity, extreme decisions are often made. Complex decisions require some capacity. Just like in life, you don't want to make complex decisions with zero sleep. Zero capacity is the rough equivalent of no sleep. This "decision making under pressure" is sadly setting the course for many decisions.

kellie said...

In many ways, the Spectrum program (as we know it) was a product of the choice system. Now I know Spectrum predated choice, so in many ways, it would seem that reverting to a geographic system would not be dramatically impactful on Spectrum but because Spectrum evolved with the choice plan, the change in assignment policies virtually assured the end of Spectrum.

Spectrum pre-choice was placed in schools that had lots of excess capacity. This was generally because the school building was geographically undesirable - either because the school was very close to another school, in an area with a low density of families or geographically hard to access ( small walk zone, lots of arterials, etc). This meant that there was not a lot of competition for that particular space and the program could be essentially left in peace. It would succeed or fail based on the community.

Under the choice assignment plan, self-contained Spectrum became normal. This is because self contained programs, live and die according to their wait list. Under the choice plan, the wait list defined the Spectrum program. Schools with a wait list developed a reliable self contained program and in effect classrooms were set aside for this "school within a school" program.

Spectrum without a wait list was either rounded out with teacher nominated students or the program was an integrated model of some sort. These program were generally considered less desirable.

What is critical here is that self contained spectrum really only existed if there were students that were denied access to this program via the wait list. So while capacity issues are getting the blame for all of the re-programming, this lack of access is equally responsible for the current pressure on Spectrum and gifted education.

The entire reason for the NSAP was that certain groups were routinely denied access to programs. This reason gets lost in the current very real capacity crunch.

kellie said...

IMHO, these are the pressures on Spectrum.

1) The NSAP does not permit assignment school buildings to set aside the number of classrooms required for self-contained spectrum. Only option school buildings can set aside classrooms like that.

2) Capacity issues have gotten extreme enough that all special programs are threatened.

3) Communities want reliable access to gifted education that is not predicated on wait lists.

Anonymous said...

What bothers me most is that the Spectrum designated schools are meant to serve the Spectrum-eligible kids from a group of schools, not just from that building. Getting rid of Spectrum at Wedgewood doesn't just effect Wedgewood. If Wedgewood has a good principal who is anti-Specrrum, why not just move him to one of the many elementary schools that doesn't have Spectrum?

--amsiegel

Anonymous said...

What Kellie said makes much sense. There may be legimate reasons to make changes to spectrum program, so why not just be open about them. Show us the plan and address the issues affecting spectrum openly instead of letting individual schools roil in turmoil, pitting parent groups and staff while trying to figure out what the heck is goin on.


The hostile environment created is toxic to the point that some parents and kids have left schools and the majority who are left are trying to coexist hoping to stay out of political mindfield. This is a welcoming learning environment? This is unforgivable and inexcusable.

If SSD can't or won't even handle such basic administrative duty with all the EDs, and admin specialists available from downtown, then how do you think individual schools will handle it? Why not set up some kind of guidelines when changes are made so they are consistent, show some responsibility and reasoning behind these seemingly harum scarum actions, reassure parents that kids learning needs are being met? Why leave it up to prinicipals to try to explain this? They are not doing a very good job of it mainly because when people are forced to make up reasons, it shows.

Downtown needs to support site based management. Wiithout collaboration taking place and good communication, this create needless havoc and crisis after crisis. Really. This is how you want to run a school district?

-Very disappointed

an very apt WV: unisheep

Naughty District said...

Kellie sounds right. This is about capacity for Enfield. She has to do away with Spectrum self contained to make NSAP work smoothly. Why is this not mentioned by principal Cronas? It plays out as a fairness issue at the local level. Maybe it's both issues driving the change; but why let all the acrimony develop like at Lawton? It is possible that Spectrum parents could realize that sacrifices need to be shared. I guess I don't know much about how to manipulate public school parents, but it seems a bit evil to do things this way. It's like a spanked kid whose motivated only by not getting caught and the truth is irrelevant. Not a great example for SPS students.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Kellie thanks for drawing back the curtain and talking about the capacity pressure that might be driving many changes.

As the following Anon says, though, the solution can't be to be coy about how the decisions are being made in the hopes that people won't notice. We're a sophisticated bunch and notice when the argument doesn't make sense.

I'm fully sensitive to capacity issues. I do not think are going to be resolved by just finding more room and trying to go back to runnign at 85 or 90% of capacity at "popular" schools. But if the capacity concerns are driving the decision making they should tell the community.

The letter contradictory and simply doesn't make sense. It is embarrassing. It makes sensible the impression that they wanted to close spectrum because of capacity issues. So, someone suggested the cluster model. But, they took the words "cluster model" and came up with their own definition (which had nothing to do with the actual model).

If capacity is a significant concern, does a real cluster model solve the capacity problem? (by distributing kids in classrooms in smaller groups that don't force you to have spectrum qualified kids come in 25 kid chunks)?

Are there other solutions? I am open to models other than self-contained testing based spectrum, and think they could work.

Anonymous said...

"Getting rid of Spectrum does not magically give these classes more space. "

It does if people don't come to Wedgwood looking for self-contained spectrum or if they actually leave the school. The school could be looking for space by decreasing kids coming from elsewhere. Also, removing subgroups of kids who feel strongly about programs decreases the overall population (though I'm not yet quite cynical enough to assume that mechanism as part of the "surge" capacity management).

Are there other ways that it helps with capacity?

(zb -- oops, and the last anonymous was me, too. )

Anonymous said...

Kellie thanks for drawing back the curtain and talking about the capacity pressure that might be driving many changes.

As the following Anon says, though, the solution can't be to be coy about how the decisions are being made in the hopes that people won't notice. We're a sophisticated bunch and notice when the argument doesn't make sense.

I'm fully sensitive to capacity issues. I do not think are going to be resolved by just finding more room and trying to go back to runnign at 85 or 90% of capacity at "popular" schools. But if the capacity concerns are driving the decision making they should tell the community.

The letter contradictory and simply doesn't make sense. It is embarrassing. It makes sensible the impression that they wanted to close spectrum because of capacity issues. So, someone suggested the cluster model. But, they took the words "cluster model" and came up with their own definition (which had nothing to do with the actual model).

If capacity is a significant concern, does a real cluster model solve the capacity problem? (by distributing kids in classrooms in smaller groups that don't force you to have spectrum qualified kids come in 25 kid chunks)?

Are there other solutions? I am open to models other than self-contained testing based spectrum, and think they could work.

(zb, reposted to have a sig)

Charlie Mas said...

There are models other than self-contained that work. But let's be clear:

Self-contained has been shown, time and time again, to be the most effective model for the greatest number of students.

There are other effective models, but that's what A.L.O.s are for. Spectrum is distinguished from A.L.O.s by its self-contained delivery model. The use of that model is the difference between Spectrum and A.L.O.s.

People who want an inclusive model can choose an A.L.O. - there will soon be one in every school. People who want the self-contained model, the model that has been proven to be the most effective for the majority of students, can only get it with Spectrum. That choice should be preserved.

Charlie Mas said...

The pressure on the self-contained model is an operational pressure rooted in the overcrowding of the schools. It is not a pedagogical pressure. Once again, the operations tail is wagging the academics dog.

This change also has some support in the form of political pressure from folks with a misplaced sense of egalitarianism. It's funny, because these are the same folks who so often like to say that equality and equity are not the same.

There are a lot of mistaken beliefs about advanced learning and we are seeing them all come out.

Spectrum and APP are not better than general education any more than third grade is better than second grade. It is better for third graders, but not for second graders.

No one buys their way into the program with test scores that were paid for. The professionals who administer these tests are not going to risk their licenses and careers to get your kid into an inappropriate class. Individual testing leads to more precise scores than group testing, but not necessarily higher scores. Also, individual testing is available for free to families who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

Spectrum and APP families do not think of their children like too precious hothouse orchids - at least no more than other families do. They just want what any family wants for their child: an appropriate academic opportunity. Actually, these families have a lot more of the "tiger mom" types. These children are cared for, but not coddled. In fact, putting them in these advanced programs is an effort to challenge them, not coddle them.

Advanced learning is not out of reach for most students. Every student should have access to challenging material and content. Absolutely. That's not in dispute. The creation of A.L.O.s was a specific step taken to make that happen. A.L.O.s were created by the 2001-2002 version of the Advanced Learning Task Force. They were created to provide challenging instruction for any student who is willing to accept it.

The District does not value or support these programs. The District has abdicated its responsibility to assure the quality and efficacy of advanced learning programs. That is why they have fallen into decay; because the District allowed it. District officials love to say that they support Spectrum or APP, but they do not act in support of these programs. They never brag about them. When Spectrum and APP students do extraordinary things - and they sometimes do - no one from the District ever mentions the students' membership in the program.

Spectrum and APP families do not have political influence with the District. The District has never kept a single commitment ever made to any advanced learning community. Not in the ten years that I have been watching. There have been dozens and dozens of promises, but none of them has ever been kept. Some recent memorable ones include: the implementation of a written curriculum for APP concurrent with the split, a response to the APP Audit, and the three core principles of Spectrum.

Charlie Mas said...

That probably should have been its own thread. Followed by threads dispelling the myths about Special Education, alternative schools, Title I, and bilingual education.

TraceyS said...

No Charlie, I think your comments belong here. I have been saying since the summer meetings that this is not a battle over self-contained vs integrated/blended/clustered. As Kellie so very eloquently pointed out, there are real capacity issues that make delivering self-contained Spectrum program difficult, if the goal is to take all comers. All the parents at Wedgwood have been sensitive to this, and most have been willing to move to a well-considered, research-backed, integrated model as a way to get a more rigorous, accelerated, compacted curriculum to every student who needs it.

But that is not happening at Wedgwood. What I am seeing is a move away from delivering any meaningful advanced learning program, in any form. I see no commitment or interest at all in preserving or fostering any aspect of advanced or gifted education for any child at Wedgwood, much less those with a Spectrum label.

Anonymous said...

I think part of what I'm saying is that in these fiscal and political times, the operation tail is going to wag the educational dog. If I accept that (rather than fight it -- and I'm not saying that people shouldn't keep fighting it) then I have to think about not just "best" solutions, but "best"/operational solutions.

I am also unconvinced that self-contained (87%, testing based) is necessarily the right model -- Charlie you state that it is, but I need cites to agree, and I suspect that the answer won't be quite as clear cut, because the answer will depend on implementation. Would self contained be a good model if instead of using 87% as a cutoff, it used 50%? In schools like Wedgwood, what is the mean difference between the % of the spectrum v non-spectrum classroom? Are the general ed classrooms at the 75% while the spectrum is at 90%? Does that make a meaningful difference for learning styles/pedagogy? Is the effect of spectrum at generally high performing schools to remove the bottom 25% (effectively a method of removing low performers from the spectrum classroom, rather than moving high performers)?

If "elective" spectrum was the model at a school like Wedgwood, what percent of students would choose to be served that way?

Is the cluster model an answer to any of these concerns? (and I mean the real cluster model, and not the fake one described in the Wedgwood letter?). Is there a compromise position that addresses the needs of the high performers as well as the operational concerns?
I don't see these questions being asked and answered, but I do think they are relevant.

(And, I simply disagree that the advanced learning community does not have influence in SPS. I think it does; it just doesn't have influence that trumps all the other concerns in SPS).

(zb)

Anonymous said...

So true Charlie... thanks.

I wonder though if it's not so much a situation of SPS not valuing advanced/gifted learning as much as a USA not valuing advanced/ gifted learning. Or more accurately, local districts are taking their cues and directives from the federal rules, namely NCLB, which focus on minimum competency (among other things.)

As described here:
Mind the (Other) Gap! The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education

This is not to minimize any other achievement/opportunity gaps, it only uderscores that there are opportunities to challege students at every level.

-Spectrum mom

Anonymous said...

TraceyS -- I see what you're saying, and your concern raises one of the big problems with even a real cluster model. It's hard to provide oversight of that model when there's no political will to really support it within the school. The self-contained model has the benefit of requiring less oversight, since it's implementation is more rigid with clearly rules.

So I see the problem, from the parent's point of view.

(zb)

Anonymous said...

Does someone have a link for the fee waivers for individual testing free/reduced lunch students?

(zb)

Anonymous said...

Even the Winebrenner/ Brulles Cluster Grouping book says that self contained (they use a different term, but it describes the SPS self contained program) is the preferred method of delivering gifted ed and the better model for all student groups. They cite many studies and how and why that model best serves not only gifted students, but all others as well (high achieving, at grade level, below grade level, far below grade level - as well as Special Ed (and twice gifted) and ELL in an inclusion model.)

They are also pretty clear that cluster grouping is intended for schools who have gifted learners but no program or way to serve them. It's not meant to replace a self-contained program.

The Cluster Grouping Handbook: A Schoolwide Model: How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement for All is $29.00 on Amazon and a great read for everyone who wants to learn more. It's not just dividing students up into groups. It explains gifted ed, the best way to serve all learners, and a suggested timeline/process for integrating the model into a school. (fyi, NOT the way Lawton and Wedgewood are doing btw) There are critical components of teacher preparedness, professional development, learning plans, differentiated instruction guidelines and strategies.

Parents who have schools changing to this model would be well served to read it, particluarly since it seems the leadership making the changes, have not.

-Spectrum mom

TraceyS said...

zb, the problem goes even deeper than that, as your link points out. Parents like me have the will, and usually the means, to supplement their child's education through tutoring, extracurricular activities, trips, and other ways that broaden and deepen their education.

The move away from publicly funded advanced/gifted learning will affect poorer communities far more strongly, because bright and gifted kids will have less access to similar educational experiences, and a weakened public school culture that encourages it. My inner liberal is screaming at the inequality of that scenario.

TraceyS said...

zb, this was buried deep on the Advanced Learning webpage:

"Seattle Public Schools will provide in-house appeals testing for families who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. In order to assist you, parents or guardians must provide support letters and/or classroom work that demonstrates exceptional achievement by the date indicated in your letter. For questions contact consulting teacher, Roger Daniels."

You can find more on the Advanced Learning - Appeal Process page at the seattleschools.org website.

Anonymous said...

I hope the anti-self-contained folks can see that those who prefer self-contained programs are not doing so to be privileged or exclusive, but rather to ensure accountability and effectiveness of those programs.

I have little faith, especially given the Wedgewood problems we are seeing right now, that enough teachers can differentiate properly, and enough administrators will follow through to see that appropriate curriculum and instruction is actually taking place for the Spectrum-qualified kids.

Self-containment may not be popular and may seem exclusive, but it has a proven track record. Clustering doesn't, and it doesn't look like it will in SPS, give the incredible lip service about mythical ALOs.

Self-containment is not about exclusion or privilege. It's about oversight, validity, and ensuring appropriate education, which every parent at every level has a right to for their child. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Myth #1. The cluster grouping book by Winebrenner does say self contained is best.but anyone can see that a narrower range of ability Is good for learning, it's the effect on the rest of a School when you have a Self contained program in the same building that is based on an arbitrary test score. Skimming the top 8% (87% or highery for 2out of 3 test area gives about 92 percentile) in a neighborhood school and letting them work together year after year is good for those kids academically but what about the kids who just miss the scores needed or who are high achievers, higher than some spectrum kids, but can never get in the class? What about the other class(es) that run from 92% and below? Those classes will have a huge range of ability?
Get real, it stinks for a lot of parents nd kids too. If SPS grouped all kids by ability and in a 3 classroom per grade level school you had high, medium and low classrooms, I would be rational but very unpopular.
I think the best plan is let staff place kids on their criteria but have walk to programs for all kids who want to try moving up, who test in on teacher evaluations or whose parents want the to move up.If they can't do the work, they go backto gened.

Reality check

Melissa Westbrook said...

And, I simply disagree that the advanced learning community does not have influence in SPS. I think it does; it just doesn't have influence that trumps all the other concerns in SPS.

My belief is that APP has some influence and Spectrum has zero.

But could you clarify what this means because my interpretation is that it is an unkind statement.

kellie said...

Thanks for the kudos on my capacity rants.

Just to be extra clear, Capacity is not the only problem that Spectrum is facing. Even if the district opened multiple new schools in the immediate areas that are having challenges with Spectrum (near Lawton, Lafayette, Wedgwood, etc) there would still be a push to make changes in the Spectrum delivery model. Some of this "push for change" would come from staff and some from the community.

The extreme lack of capacity is creating a very harsh environment that is not conducive to dialogue or problem solving. That is a very real issue but it is only one of the issues facing Spectrum.

As we all know, students do not come in neat little packages where they are lined up just so that all the classrooms have equal numbers. Schools "with a wait list" grew accustomed to unnaturally even class loads. This was because the wait list was a way to deny access to some particular student to create that even load balancing in a building.

The NSAP does away with any real load balancing mechanism. As such programs that share a building (Spectrum, special ed, Montessori) feel the absence of load balancing much more extremely than schools with a single focus. When the dominant half of a building has to take "all comers" that means the specialized program has to take what is left over. (Lowell?)

This phenomena was simply not addressed as part of the NSAP. As such, staff is going to naturally demand some balance of resources and the community is going to demand some access to the special program (now that choice is limited).

The absolute lack of real capacity is a real issue. However, the bigger issue is that fact that there is ZERO alignment between alternative curriculum and service delivery and assignment policies.

Traditional general education = Assignment School
Alt pedagogy = Option School.

That alignment between pedagogy and assignment should have been a core part of the NSAP. Instead we have general education schools with option status and alt programs with assignment status. That gap in pedagogy vs assignment is the real thorn in the side of Spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Reality check is getting at what I'm worrying about with the Spectrum model and I guess I want to see evidence that it's not true -- that the current spectrum model is not being used to exclude low performers, rather than include high performers, with the kids in the "middle", but potentially just on the other side of the cut loosing out.

TraceyC -- I understand what you are getting at about the less advantaged population having a harder time compensating for the lack of advanced learning opportunities in SPS, but I'd need to see some evidence that Spectrum is currently serving that population. For example, what percent of Spectrum students are FRL students? To the extent that the current programs separate the advanced learners from the less advantaged population, it may not e beneficial to them (I think the research does not support the idea that it is beneficial to this group -- the group that misses the cutoff).

Anonymous said...

Reality check is getting at what I'm worrying about with the Spectrum model and I guess I want to see evidence that it's not true -- that the current spectrum model is not being used to exclude low performers, rather than include high performers, with the kids in the "middle", but potentially just on the other side of the cut loosing out.

TraceyC -- I understand what you are getting at about the less advantaged population having a harder time compensating for the lack of advanced learning opportunities in SPS, but I'd need to see some evidence that Spectrum is currently serving that population. For example, what percent of Spectrum students are FRL students? To the extent that the current programs separate the advanced learners from the less advantaged population, it may not e beneficial to them (I think the research does not support the idea that it is beneficial to this group -- the group that misses the cutoff).

(zb), sorry reposting again with a sig

Robyn said...

I think the reason for doing away with Spectrum is two-fold. The first has been mentioned above numerous times - it's impossible to keep self-contained with the NSAP guarantees.

The second reason, which maybe I missed it when reading the comments, is teachers wanting balanced classes not for the good of students, but for the good of their career now that they are judged by test scores. Who in that system wouldn't argue about getting the class with all the high-achieving students removed?

Anonymous said...

@Robyn: Wow, how far off-track is the Ed Reform if that's the case? Talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. So here we are shuffling kids around to create the impression of improvement, when, in actuality, the average kid is probably doing worse?

Talk about losing sight of your mission. Sheesh. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

No one buys their way into the program with test scores that were paid for. The professionals who administer these tests are not going to risk their licenses and careers to get your kid into an inappropriate class.

What fairy-tale land do you live in? Yes they do buy it. Risk their licenses? When are their licenses ever really at risk? Who is going to complain? Medical professionals have very little oversight, and psychologists have next to none. These people are running businesses - dedicated to getting kids into better schools and select programs. They aren't going to stay in business if they don't get good result for their clients. Furthermore, parents can take the tests with lots of different psychologist providers which invalidates the results if given more frequently than once per 6 months. The psychologist wouldn't even necessarily know that the results they were giving were invalid because little Johnny has taken the test 15 times to get a better score. And yes, people actually do this. I know a few in APP now. If you think school psyches and psychologists comprise such a lauded profession - you might consider a few of their findings in the past. A few of them include: Autism is caused by "refigerator" moms. Homosexuality was a personality disorder to be cured with hormone therapy. Suddenly now, they are above reproach? Give us all a break.

observer

Anonymous said...

ZB & others: Your concerns are exactly what ALO's were supposed to address. Exactly. That they are not taken seriously or even offered in a lot of schools is unacceptable. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

@observer: If it's all such a fraud racket, and "precious little dear" Johnny doesn't really belong in APP, how is PLD Johnny testing 95th percentile - two grades ahead, and earning high grades in his classes too? Wouldn't PLD Johnny be falling behind and dropping out, if what you say is true?

Some kids are counseled out of APP & Spectrum, but the numbers are incredibly small, year to year. So, while its entirely possible that some kids get in through arm-twisting or bribery, as you allege, wouldn't the proof be in the pudding, at some point? WSDWG

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Yes they do buy it. Risk their licenses? When are their licenses ever really at risk?"

You have zero proof. I would need to see actual proof to believe your claim.

hschinske said...

The APA code of conduct for educational testing is here: http://www.apa.org/science/programs/testing/fair-code.aspx. See also the statement concerning whistleblowers at http://www.apa.org/about/division/officers/whistleblower.aspx.

"It is the policy of APA to encourage individuals to bring to the attention of management, preferably in writing, their concerns regarding any conduct they believe is legally or ethically questionable including possible instances of corporate fraud, unethical business practices, conflicts of interest, or violations of state or federal law (“Unethical Conduct” or “Conduct”). Those with good faith concerns regarding any Conduct they believe is questionable should contact any lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel immediately. This policy does not require reporting the Unethical Conduct to any individual who is involved in the Conduct. Once a complaint is registered, legal counsel will confer with other appropriate individuals and will follow general complaint procedures outlined in APA policy B5.08."

I encourage you to have at it.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

@Observer,
I suppose you believe that their are Dr.s who prescribe unneeded medical marijuana? Get real.

Don

Jan said...

observer -- so, I am also supposed to be sneering at doctors, because they used to be clueless about viruses and bacteria, and mostly resorted to leeches to cure folks? This is a silly argument -- and a total red herring.

I have had kids tested for APP, multiple learning disabilities, and a whole host of other things. NONE of the psychologists I used were anything other than totally busy (they didn't need work from parents who were going to try to abuse their services) -- and none was anything other than totally above board. Not only was I asked if my kids had been tested recently -- but I believe that they asked various questions of my kids that would have indicated that as well. Moreover -- putting a nonqualifying kid into a program like APP would be a great way to take a perfectly sound, functional child and make her feel like inadequate failure when they couldn't keep up and other kids were clearly smarter. Why would any parent do this? And why would any psychologist allow him/herself to be used in such a deleterious manner? They wouldn't. I know lots of parents who wanted their kids in APP and/or Spectrum. I know zero -- zero -- who did anything underhanded or irregular to get them there if testing did not indicate that they belonged there. I keep hearing this slanderous stuff -- but I have never known any instance where it has occurred. As far as I know, never once have any of the people so willing to sling this mud ever, ever reported (anonymously or otherwise) the name of a single family, or a single psychologist -- to my knowledge.

dw said...

Here's the part where "observer" shows him/herself to be a big fat liar. It's easy to post lies under the anonymity of the internet, but this is over the top.

And yes, people actually do this. I know a few in APP now.

A few. Not one, not two, but a few. You actually know 3 or more families who have not only behaved in a despicable fashion (to the detriment of their child), but they also took you into their confidence and told you about it? Because that's the only way you could possibly know it happened.

These 3 or more families all trust you with their family secrets, trusting that you won't spill the beans, either on purpose or accidentally, to anyone? We're to believe these families would trust you with this information when you obviously have a problem with the testing process? Otherwise why would you be posting such trash here?

I hope this is the only time ever say anything like this on this board, but you are a big fat liar and a very small person for being so jealous that you would bother posting blatant lies like this.

Maureen said...

I gree with Robyn, who said:...teachers wanting balanced classes not for the good of students, but for the good of their career now that they are judged by test scores. Who in that system wouldn't argue about getting the class with all the high-achieving students removed?

Note that (in my opinion at least), this doesn't necessarily mean that everyone wants all of the 'high achieving' kids in their class. The higher a kid scores on the MAP the less room there is for growth. Once the scores are in the top range for middle school age kids (so fairly typical for APP qualified 4th-5th graders) the standard error outweighs the expected growth of the scores and a good teacher could easily look ineffective when judged by MAP growth. So parents of high achieving kids shouldn't necessarily assume that the teachers are fighting over keeping those kids in their classrooms (especially since, as we have been told here repeatedly, behavior problems are common in APP and Spectrum classes.)

Anonymous said...

The sad part is what observer posted is repeated over and over in schools by other like minded folks. On this blog, there are enough defenders, but out there...it is another matter. As changes were made to the AL program, it was difficult to have conversations because of such vehemence. That and the insistence that somehow this is segregation at its worse. Much irony there given who we are, but that is another story. Ultimately for us, the bitterness and the fact that the school allowed the arguments to be put forth over and over again unchecked made us realized our child who does not "fit the profile" will always be under that cloud of doubt. It is amazing how fast rumors are taken as facts. For our family, we were lucky because we had other school choices including APP.

-consequences

Dorothy Neville said...

I wish folks would not claim such absolutes like "never" or "always" because that can backfire. All someone would have to do is find one exception and voila! Your position is completely broken.

OK, many folks know me and I am using my real name here. I will state that I do know of people who pushed their kid into APP. One parent in particular admitted to multiple private testing *and* tutoring beforehand said testing. The parent thought nothing wrong with this. The position of the parent was that the child did belong, but due to age or personality simply tested poorly. So yes, sometimes parents will admit this sort of thing.

Another child (who left after a very stressful year) the teacher told me in confidence that most likely the student was tutored to do well enough on the tests, but that is simply unsustainable for some that are admitted. The teacher told me that it regularly happened. Not often, but regularly.

So, frankly, I posit that there ARE a small number of cases where the student's road to acceptance includes things that the parent might not consider inappropriate but that someone else might.

There's also the fact that the eligibility assessments, grade level GogAt, WASL or MAP are simply not robust enough to accurately and reliably find all the students who are the target audience for APP. Not only does this include accepting some kids who really are more in the bright high achieving category, but it also means missing some who really do belong and need the program. That may seem like justification of some parents to be pushy or do something that might "stack the deck."

And frankly, when my son was in APP, the teachers taught to the middle and it was nowhere near satisfying the needs of kids who need acceleration and depth two or more years ahead. So kids who were bright, gifted but not highly gifted would and could do perfectly well.

anonymous said...

The fact is that many families do seek private testing at a cost of $1000-$2000, despite SPS offering testing for free. Why? What is the purpose? Advantage? I don't have a kid in APP, so haven't explored this, and am truly curious.

fg

anonymous said...

I know a family whose first child tested into APP. When their second child reached first grade they had him tested too, but he did not score high enough to test into APP. This family took the child to be privately tested and the child still didn't score high enough. Still not satisfied they took the child to a different psychologist, and that time the child scored within a couple points of qualifying for APP. The family called the APP office and asked if they could make an exception and squeeze the child in since he came so close, and since his sister was in the program. And he got in.

Why? Convenience. The mother wanted both kids in the same schools. She pushed a child who was clearly not qualified for APP, into the program.

It does happen.

another mother

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, it does happen that people test multiple times. That's their dime.

Yes, it does happen that people tutor their kids for the test. That's their time.

In the history of APP, has any parent paid off a professional to change results? Maybe once. I say that because these people are professionals and would do untold damage to themselves if word got out they fudged scores. I just refuse to believe it happens "regularly."

There is a perception that these kids are getting more than a general ed classroom when, as Dorothy points out, it's somewhat faster/deeper but not always much.

Anonymous said...

What you say Dorothy about absolutes is very true. The problem is there is very little to get around that short of tattooing your kids' cognitive and MAP scores on their foreheads. We prefer a low key profile and privacy. In the end, none of that matters because we can't fight all the assumptions and stereotypes and in a closed community of neighborhood school, life can be tough for a kid. It takes work to get to know people as individuals.

consequences

anonymous said...

They don't get more in the way of state funding, materials, class size, etc., but they do get some pretty major advantages schedule wise when they get to HS. APP students are working 2 grade levels ahead of their peers. If they've already taken algebra 1, geometry, physical science, and other freshmen and sophomore classes before they get to high school then their high school schedules are a lot more flexible. They can take AP classes as freshmen and sophomores where gen ed students can't, and are better prepared for running start. They can take multiple foreign languages, more electives...

There are definitely advantages to APP and I can see why some parents push to get their kids in.

hschinske said...

$1000 sounds awfully high. When I had my kids privately tested it was $350 or so.

I have no problem believing that there are pushy parents and that psychologists are sometimes deceived. But that's a far cry from saying the whole system of private testing is corrupt.

Incidentally, there are probably borderline kids who get in via the CogAT, too, often after multiple assessments. That's the problem with using grade-level tests, as I keep saying: a student who's generally in the top ten percent may well get a score in the top two percent by chance, because they were more on task that day and made fewer careless errors. I have heard one APP teacher say that the kids who got in on CogAT scores were if anything slightly more likely to flounder than those who'd had private testing. That may or may not have been an informed opinion, but it makes sense to me that it could be so.

There are, of course, also many kids who don't make the cut on private testing and don't enroll in APP or Spectrum. You don't hear as much about it for obvious reasons.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Like some posters here, in an ideal world, we would prefer kids of all abilities to learn in the same classroom and stay in neighborhood school. Other countries do it and do it well in the lower grades and differntiate more at the HS and post graduate levels. But that is the ideal and many here have to live within SPS's messy world. The APP label offers school choices with the spectrum changes, but will agree it is not the golden ticket. Lots of ups and downs and uncertainty (check the APP blog). Regardless of 1 or 2 year ahead math and LA, we use and recommend on-line learning, 826 writing center (for those mad scribblers), Hamlin Robinson has great summer learning programs especially design for kids with dyslexia and/or processing issues to keep kids interested in learning.
-consequences

hschinske said...

They can take AP classes as freshmen and sophomores where gen ed students can't

Okay, how is this an advantage? I'm serious. If you weren't ready for those classes, they'd be a nightmare. Indeed, I'm not convinced that a lot of kids in APP are developmentally ready for the demands of some AP classes in 9th and 10th grade, either. I don't think it's a great solution.

In any case, it wasn't true until very recently that AP classes were available to freshmen and sophomores, no matter what they'd taken in middle school (apart from the very few who placed into AP calculus that early).

It sounds to me as though what you're really complaining about is the low quality of non-AP courses rather than the lack of access to AP. Different problem.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

"They can take AP classes as freshmen and sophomores where gen ed students can't, and are better prepared for running start."

This was from Anonymous whose post I had to delete because it was not signed.

To answer that, what high school can a freshman take an AP class? I was not aware that was possible in SPS, not even at Garfield.

Thanks for those suggestions, Consequences.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Oops, that's me again, zb

Anonymous said...

hschinske said...

"They can take AP classes as freshmen and sophomores where gen ed students can't"

" Okay, how is this an advantage? I'm serious. If you weren't ready for those classes, they'd be a nightmare."

It's an advantage if you *are* ready for the classes but just didn't happen to test into APP. There are the kids who didn't attend APP in middle school, but may have the same ability. There are the kids who did well in math but not verbal and would be perfectly up to taking the Math AP, but were excluded from the K-8 APP program. There are the kids who have done advanced work outside of the SPS (in private school, or by taking classes elsewhere).

As with other subgroups, the equity question is whether those groups of people are a big enough cohort that the system is not functioning as it should.

The problem with APP "accommodations" is that there are others who desire them (potentially even need them) and who *can* benefit from them who are currently excluded in our system. The question is how many of them are there, and is this a serious enough problem to require addressing.

And, although my answer to the question with APP is ambivalent, I am even less confident about Spectrum, where I really question whether the entire population of kids (the ones who "get in" and the ones who don't) are best served in the current system.

(zb)

TraceyS said...

zb, I agree that equity issues are important in public schools. But not every school district guarantees that every qualified child gets into a program. Many, if not most, districts run lotteries for the limited slots in their advanced learning/gifted programs. And some will rank all applicants based on test scores and other criteria, then take the top x number of students based on available slots. I have been informally cataloguing what other districts do to address these problems, and will try and present something more specific in a couple of weeks, when I have a bit more time.

I think this is an unaddressed factor in our district - we seem to want to have neighborhood schools, plus guaranteed admission to all qualified advanced learners, plus option schools, all in a time when our physical buildings are straining and running at or even over capacity. It is simply not possible for these to co-exist (as Kellie has been saying for some time).

We need to either expand capacity to the point were we can maintain enough wiggle room for programs to expand and contract, or we need to do what other districts do and go to a formal lottery (which is what we realistically had with choice schools). Does anyone else out there see any other alternatives?

Anonymous said...

From Dorothy: And frankly, when my son was in APP, the teachers taught to the middle and it was nowhere near satisfying the needs of kids who need acceleration and depth two or more years ahead. So kids who were bright, gifted but not highly gifted would and could do perfectly well.

This has been our general experience as well. Is it really any different than any other classroom where you have a range of abilities?

The claims of "unqualified" students gaining entry into APP come up with such regularity that it gets tiring. There is a clear process for acceptance. The process acknowledges that the tests used for entry are not precise and therefore multiple measures are taken into account. Appeals can be based on other evidence of a child's abilities (classwork, etc.) and the final decision is made by the Advanced Learning office. Why would the Advanced Learning office admit a student without evidence that a student is likely to succeed in the program?

As far as prepping, kids are "prepped" for the WASL/MSP by taking sample tests. Is that inflating their scores, or simply reducing their anxiety come test time? When a child takes the test they are on their own, prepping or no prepping, and really, how much improvement can prepping actually provide?

Teachers should have no knowledge of a student's test scores for AL testing (with the exception of MAP results), so it's disturbing that teachers may be speculating about whether a child was "tutored" into the program.

I can't refute others anecdotes, but I have to believe that those cases constitute a small minority.

-Can we please go back to our regularly scheduled program?

Maureen said...

Like Helen, I question whether AP classes are either appropriate or optimal for 9th and 10th graders. (And Melissa, I'm pretty sure APP 9th graders at Garfield are sent straight to AP LA and SS now). Unfortunately that, and the cohort, are all that is offered to formerly APP qualified HS kids. Of course, their parents could choose to enroll them in their neighborhood HS (say Roosevelt-where Honors courses are only offered in Math and everyone takes APHG in 10th grade and AP LA in 11th all together no matter what your reading level.)

There is a real value to the GHS APP cohort and that value will increase drastically when the science alignment goes through--then every non APP 9th grader will automatically be two years behind the APP kids in their grade in science (no AP Chem/Physics for them--only for the APP kids) and no non APP kids will ever outrank the APP kids who got the same grades as they did. Ever. My kid is applying to college right now. Rank matters. Taking the most rigorous courses offered at your high school matters. In another year or two, no non APP identified GHS grad will have a chance at Harvard/Brown/Stanford/Williams. If I had a bright, motivated non APP 8th grader headed for GHS right now, I would carefully examine my options. That kid will likely never rank in the top 10% of their class or be able to enroll in the most challenging classes offered.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:09 -- your post might be deleted if you don't add a sig.

I am intrigued by the anecdote that the level of work in the Spectrum & non-spectrum classes at Wedgwood are not all that different, and would like to hear more follow up on the idea.

If true, it would be an independent motivation for changing self-contained Spectrum. One characteristic of Wedgwood is that the general ed population is generally doing well, which increases the probability that the children in the gen ed class will be statistically quite similar to those in the Spectrum classes. In theory, given that APP might draw off kids who are 2 standard deviations above the mean on the tests, and a generally high performing student population, the Spectrum and non-spectrum kids at Wedgwood could be statistically indistinguishable.

If so, the Spectrum division really wouldn't be well justified. It would make sense to mix students in the general ed population, potentially with "walk outs" for specific students who were performing at higher levels. Mixing the children together wouldn't necessarily significantly change the ability range in the classroom (well, except to the extent that special ed students who are performing academically less well are included in general ed but not Spectrum, but then, we'd really be talking about a program whose purpose is to exclude special ed students, which is not an acceptable plan for a school to implement).

Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:09 -- your post might be deleted if you don't add a sig.

I am intrigued by the anecdote that the level of work in the Spectrum & non-spectrum classes at Wedgwood are not all that different, and would like to hear more follow up on the idea.

If true, it would be an independent motivation for changing self-contained Spectrum. One characteristic of Wedgwood is that the general ed population is generally doing well, which increases the probability that the children in the gen ed class will be statistically quite similar to those in the Spectrum classes. In theory, given that APP might draw off kids who are 2 standard deviations above the mean on the tests, and a generally high performing student population, the Spectrum and non-spectrum kids at Wedgwood could be statistically indistinguishable.

If so, the Spectrum division really wouldn't be well justified. It would make sense to mix students in the general ed population, potentially with "walk outs" for specific students who were performing at higher levels. Mixing the children together wouldn't necessarily significantly change the ability range in the classroom (well, except to the extent that special ed students who are performing academically less well are included in general ed but not Spectrum, but then, we'd really be talking about a program whose purpose is to exclude special ed students, which is not an acceptable plan for a school to implement).

(zb) Aargh, that was me again. I'm really really sorry that I keep forgetting to add a sig. Anon at 11:09 wasn't me, though.

hschinske said...

no non APP kids will ever outrank the APP kids who got the same grades as they did. Ever.

It's always been (in theory) vastly easier to get into a high-ranked college if you weren't at a school like Garfield. Big fish, little pond, etc. But it really only matters to the tiny fraction of kids who get pretty much straight A's no matter what. If you're the kind of kid who won't get decent grades at all if you're not engaged, it's another matter. You have to go for the program that gives you the best chance of getting *some* A's. For some students, that's the easier program; for some, it's the more challenging one. It may be different in different subjects.

I very much doubt all APP families are going to go through with having their kids take all the AP classes they are in theory allowed, especially as the curriculum isn't nearly as coherent as IB. I suspect some are going to say hell, no, you need a solid high-school level history class with good writing support before we'll let you anywhere near AP history.

I agree that pushing AP classes further down has all sorts of nasty unintended (I hope unintended!) consequences. I would fully support those students who CAN demonstrate readiness for such classes, by whatever means, in taking them early, but I think it's a terrible idea as a catch-all solution for any group.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Two comments:
1) Private testing is often sought because many kids, especially the younger ones, do not do well in the group testing situations run by the district. For example, my kindergarten son refused to finish the district test because he was tired and hungry, but couldn't take a break. Private testing allowed him to take several breaks and get simple snacks, which freed him to do his best academically.

2) Most elementary teachers cannot or do not differentiate for many levels of math. I've gotten tired of hearing gen ed teachers talk about differentiation and then finding out that my child has learned almost nothing in their class. One teacher admitted that he knew my child understood the math concepts the first time they were presented, but was glad she waited patiently while they were explained four more times to everyone else. I've gotten tired of my kids wasting 80% of their time. That's why I fight for self-contained classrooms, where my children can learn at their own level.
Mom of 2

Anonymous said...

Tracey writes: "We need to either expand capacity to the point were we can maintain enough wiggle room for programs to expand and contract, or we need to do what other districts do and go to a formal lottery (which is what we realistically had with choice schools). "

We do have lottery for option schools now (as we did for all schools under the old plan). We could add lottery for special programs like APP & Spectrum, but that wouldn't solve the problem when APP & Spectrum are co-housed with general ed, space guaranteed schools.

I think the solution I would want is to have wiggle room for capacity. But, I don't think I see it as fiscally possible in the climate we're in right now. Effectively it is asking for resources that won't be used, and with so many resources being cut, I don't see where political will can be found for "wiggle room" unless it doesn't cost anything.

(zb)

TraceyS said...

zb, the issue at Wedgwood is not whether the non-Spectrum kids can handle advanced work. Most of us at the school think they can, and should be given that opportunity if the parents wish it. The real issue is whether there is a commitment to provide a rigorous advanced learning environment for *any* child. There are real concerns that these changes will reduce opportunities for all kids, not expand them.

The basis for this is comments that have been made by Chris and some staff, plus the lack of a clear model for the integrated approach. What little we do know about it (again, no written plan) from verbal comments, a summer Powerpoint presentation, and the most recent email, says Chris is implementing heterogeneous classroom approach. And he has no plans to evaluate the "test" program after this year, nor publish metrics about the test, but plans to proceed with the rollout to the upper grades over the next one to two years (we've heard both dates).

We think this means the kids are being ranked solely by MAP scores and teacher evals (no Spectrum ranking), then evenly and deliberately distributed among all three classrooms, so all classrooms have exactly the same student makeup. BTW, this is the model for Brulle's control group, and it is pretty much the opposite of the schoolwide clustering model she and Winebrenner present in their research.

This breaks up any cohesive cluster for any cohort, maximizes the academic differentiation in each classroom, and requires teachers to provide the widest possible range of teaching styles for the widest possible range of learning styles. Study after study shows this provides the worst outcomes for the highest and lowest students, and neutral results for the middle. This is your classic "teach to the middle" strategy. In fact, this heterogeneous classroom composition is usually used as the control group when comparing other models for delivering instruction, and it usually fares the worst.

I wish to point out again that there ARE ways to deliver an integrated advanced learning classroom. But those well researched models and best practices are being ignored. This is why I keep insisting this is NOT a self-contained vs integrated issue at Wedgwood. This is a fundamental shift away from delivering a true advanced learning program to *any* student. And why there is no oversight going on at the district level is beyond me.

TraceyS said...

zb (11:52), I agree this is a problem. I really want to see how other districts manage this, because we are not the only district to have ever faced this issue.

Maureen said...

In fact, this heterogeneous classroom composition is usually used as the control group when comparing other models for delivering instruction

Is there any chance that Chris Cronas is working on a PhD in Educational Management and is remodeling Spectrum at Wedgewood in order to create a control group he can use in an analysis later?

Anonymous said...

This is a fundamental shift away from delivering a true advanced learning program to *any* student. And why there is no oversight going on at the district level is beyond me.

This whole thing is a disaster, and it's not going to be resolved by working with Chris and/or building staff. This needs to go upstairs.

Have you been working with anyone downtown yet? Are you at school regularly, for after school pickup or anything? I'd like to talk with you.

- very frustrated, but no name

TraceyS said...

very frustrated, my husband and I swap off morning dropoff, and I usually do pick up at the back of the building, but have to run to get my other child at a different school. You can email me personally if you'd like: just tack on "conyers" to my name here, and send it to the usual gmail extension.

There are a group of parents who have been asking for more information (I've been told the emails are up on the SPSleaks site), and we are now reaching outside of the school for help.

I am really disturbed that 40% of the school is unhappy with these changes, and half of those are considering leaving. That is a bad thing for our school community, no matter how you feel about the Spectrum program.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Dorothy Neville for her candor. I know her facts are true
about some APP and Spectrum applicants getting in under dubious circumstances because I have similar first-hand information.

No, we can't "prove" it, but enough people with the same story can't be easily discounted, either.

--Just the facts

Anonymous said...

Just the facts, OK, my appetite is whetted. Please give us the facts!

spectrum mom

Anonymous said...

Maureen,

9th grade APP kids do not go straight into AP LA. They take that in 11th. Fact check before you hit publish.

They take AP World History as a two year course beginning in 8th grade, then take the AP exam for it in 9th. That's the only one in 9th grade.

Have you ever tried to prevent a kid from learning who was hungry to do so? The fact that these kids are two or three years ahead in math means that they hit those AP Calc classes sooner. Should they have been held back in 5th grade math so that other kids would get a "fair shot" at being in the top 10% of the class later?

Are you saying that those who are two years ahead in math should be class ranked equally with kids who got all As in less rigorous courses?

Yes, the science alignment is too restrictive and needs to change at the district level. It holds qualified kids back.

Other than that, a non APP kid can take whatever Honors and AP classes he or she wants and is qualified for.

open ears

Anonymous said...

This is spectrum mom again, actually just the facts, you don't have to give the gory details. Don't want to put you in a spot. Better share the facts with the alleged guilty party and listen to what they have to say or go to the advanced learning office. You feel pretty strongly about this, so doing something about it. Besides law brainiacs in this office will say just because a thing gets repeated by different folks, doesn't mean it's a fact.
SM

Maureen said...

open ears, I didn't mean to spread misinformation (in fact I went looking for a GHS APP standard course progression like the one I've seen for IHS Accelerated IB). I based my 'pretty sure' on the fact that Bob Vaughn told me that my 2012 TOPS grad wouldn't be able to keep up with GHS APP kids even in LA because they go straight into AP. Maybe that was just a proposal and hasn't been implemented yet? Will it be next year?

Other than that, a non APP kid can take whatever Honors and AP classes he or she wants and is qualified for.

So, you are saying that they can take math and LA (and electives of course) along side the APP kids, but not history and science? Do all of the APP kids go into Algebra II (or above) as freshman or are some in Geometry? Is this in writing anywhere for the class of 2016? I know at least six kids (not mine) this would matter to very much.

It's unclear to me where you got the impression I want to hold anyone back? I do want to allow all students to take the most challenging courses they can handle, whether or not their parents had them tested when they were 5. I also would prefer AP classes to be full of kids who are mature enough to slog through the work required (I can't tell you the huge difference between what my (APP eligible but not enrolled)kid is getting out of AP Gov as a 17 year old as compared to what he learned in (the much easier) APHG as a 15 year old. And, as long as I'm asking, I would prefer there were more upper level Honors classes where teachers get to showcase their passions and fewer AP courses where everyone has to slog through a standard textbook (and unicorns and ponies and world peace too please!).

Anonymous said...

Last year was the first year APP 9th graders arrived at Garfield having taken both Biology and World History 9 as 8th graders. This advanced curriculum placed them in Marine Bio, Genetics or Chemistry and AP World History in 9th grade. All other 9th graders take World History 9 and Biology.

The vast majority of GHS APP 9th graders take Algebra II, though some take Geometry and some precalc or calc. Most non-APP 9th graders take Geometry, though some take Algebra 1 and some take Algebra II or precalc if prepared.

The district relented on the science alignment last spring which would have mandated that all non-APP 9th graders take Physical Science, progressing on to Biology, Chemistry and Physics, while their APP colleagues would have been able to take a breadth of different science classes (AP Chem, Calc based Physics, proposed AP BIO and AP Environmental Science). This change was drastic, at once allowing the APP GHS cohort to work 2 years ahead in science because the district was pushing the GHS curricumlum back a year with the science alignment mandating freshman Physical Science. Transcripts for high achieving Garfield students not in APP would have looked very poor in comparison to the APP cohort. Many kids come in from other programs with strong science backgrounds, arguably stronger than the science preparation at APP WMS and HIMS. The district did relent and allow 9th graders at GHS to take biology, allowing more flexibility in their coursework as juniors and seniors.

Math placement is flexible, all freshman take LA9, science and social studies are accelerated a year for APP. Once the APP cohort finishes AP US history in 10th grade, there has only been AP Gov left on the Social Studies course list, a one semester class. Perhaps they are coming up with a different social studies class for the APP cohort to take in 11th grade, but I hear we are having a budget crisis, and Running Start is always an option.

The transcript issue is very important. There are many kids at Garfield every year who get into elite colleges even though they did not come up through APP. They have been able to compete with their academic peers at Garfield on a level playing field. Hopefully this opportunity will continue to be available to high achieving and motivated students at Garfield. And everywhere? Does that fall into the world peace category?

Nearly out

Jan said...

And, as long as I'm asking, I would prefer there were more upper level Honors classes where teachers get to showcase their passions and fewer AP courses where everyone has to slog through a standard textbook (and unicorns and ponies and world peace too please!).

Maureen: I totally agree. I am not opposed to all AP classes, but there are some I thought had the "mile wide, inch deep" problem. I think many kids would hit college better qualified for college level work if they had the opportunity to take "honors level" courses that required more depth (and less inhaling of a zillion facts). Many of the top private schools do this (and place less evidence on AP). It would also be cheaper (no overpriced AP tests) and would better fit our school year schedule (avoiding the problem of what to do after the AP test is over -- but there are still 2 months of school).

WV says "qualify" -- and wonders why we make it so hard, in Seattle schools, for kids to qualify for classes that best suit their abilities?

Jan said...

nearly out and Maureen: it is so totally nuts that we handicap kids (in terms of college entrance) by screwing up their transcripts. We need to sit down -- figure out what we need to provide for kids so that they have a reasonable shot at being accepted at these schools, and THEN figure out how to provide it. The "waiver" for 9th grade biology is one thing. Is that the only one? Again -- I feel like so much attention gets paid to the achievement gap (not that it doesn't deserve our hard work) that sometimes we don't stop and say -- gee, MIT? Williams? Columbia? Cal Tech? Who is applying there? Are they getting in? Assuming they have the brains and drive -- what are we providing (or not) so that they have a reasonable shot?

This goes back to stuff Charlie has been preaching for years (more generically) -- how many kids do you have below grade standard -- and what interventions are you providing for them? Well, how many kids in our high schools are aiming for X and Y colleges -- and what are we providing to make sure that they have a shot? Especially since we HAVE the classes for these kids. We HAVE AP Calc. We have all sorts of stuff. What we need are policies and a general willingness to deliver the goods to these kids -- whether they are labeled APP or not.

anonymous said...

Open Ears said "Are you saying that those who are two years ahead in math should be class ranked equally with kids who got all As in less rigorous courses?"

I don't think Maureen said that. What she said was that if she had a motivated, high achieving, non APP student she might not want to send them to Garfield where they would not have a chance of being in the top 10%. I think that's a fair analysis.

If the same classes are offered at Roosevelt or STEM or Ballard, and her non APP kid had a much higher chance of being in the top 10% why wouldn't she consider that when she chooses a high school?

go green

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

Speaking of students being in the top 10% I recall Charlie Mas writing a post a couple of years ago with a strategic idea. He figured that if you sent a high achieving, motivated kid to RBHS, a school of 300 or so students of whom are predominantly lower performing, the high achiever could easily be in the top 5% of the class, and not only get accepted to many colleges, but get plenty of scholarship offers to boot! In contrast if that same motivated kid went to Garfield with it's 1600 students, APP cohort, and attraction to many other high achieving students, the child might only place in the top 30% (or there about), even if they took the same classes, and earned the same grades. They would likely not get into the most selective colleges, and would lose out on most merit scholarships.

These are real issues, and do factor into a families decision making.

go green

Patrick said...

Go Green, I think many colleges have a pretty good idea how well the students from any high school are likely to do and weight their admissions accordingly. Top 5% from Rainier Beach might well not be rated any more highly than top 30% from Garfield to the admissions committee.

Anonymous said...

Rigor aside, it's a heck of a lot easier to score in the top 10% in a small school than a large one. I graduated 7th in my class from a cohort of 175 with an A- average. Colleges take all that into account—including the reputation of the school and the types of classes taken. The college admissions game is far from cut and dry.

Solvay Girl

Lisa said...

I'm the mom of kids who are not in Spectrum. ...however they have tested in the 98th and 99th percentile.

I have chosen not to put them in a self-contained classroom.

I have a Master's Degree in Special Education and feel pretty qualified to say that the classrooms, which are not self-contained, work equally well for educating all levels. For social skills, they work better. It sounds like many parents have lost sight of the importance of social skills. Remember: This is elementary school.

My children have not suffered from being in a classroom which is mixed with all levels. They have thrived.

The "un-neighborly" comments that have been posted are troubling. What I am hearing is that some parents want their kids placed in separate, special classrooms because they fear that their children will become "tainted" somehow if they are merged in with children of all levels. (Note that the children still get pulled out for their special "smart kids time.") The message is that they are better than other kids.... I'm just saying that's what it sounds like.

A more balanced, and productive discussion may be possible if the comments were toned down and the personal attacks on folks like the principal (and we other parents who are for this new approach) were stopped.

...and really, if you are as upset as your notes indicate, you certainly have an option to move your children to a different school. Things are separate enough without my kids having to hear more "us" vs. "them" and all this talk about "gifted." When my kids ask me what "gifted" means, I tell 'em that Christmas is coming....

If you think your talk and opinions are not influencing your children to become elitists, well, nevermind. No sense in arguing with you.

Just bear in mind what message you are sending. ...and remember there is a difference between "book smarts" and "wisdom." Some of the smartest people I know are failures in life.

-Lisa

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lisa, for someone who seems to not like name-calling, you did a fair bit.

"I have a Master's Degree in Special Education and feel pretty qualified to say that the classrooms, which are not self-contained, work equally well for educating all levels."

You didn't say your child's classroom or how often you are in there but you said "the classrooms which are not self-contained." So you've sat in every one of those classrooms at Wedgwood and know this for a fact?

Why do you perceive kids in a self-contained classroom aren't socializing? I'm sure they are (as my kids did). At Whittier, they have half the students from the regular class and half from Spectrum mixed at PE and music time. Every kid knows every other kid at their grade level. Are they doing this at Wedgwood? What about time interacting at the playground or after-school activities?

"Tainted" "smart kids time" "better than other kids" - really? Look, it's a DISTRICT program that is accessible to all students. These kids do have to show they can do the work via the test so yes, they are "smart kids". It doesn't make them better - it means their level of achievement is higher.

Why so many get offended over bright kids versus kids who do well in arts or athletics (I assume that's okay with you) is very confusing and troubling. I do not get it.

Move your kid to a different school? A pretty disrespectful statement. The movement at Wedgwood is not district-sanctioned (at least not officially) and it certainly isn't not the majority of parents (if you read the survey results carefully). Be careful who you try to push out.

But yes, there are some people - gasp! - in the world who are smarter than others. A lot of them started off that way as children. Go figure.

You want to waste the abilities of bright kids - go ahead. You will find fewer great engineers, scientists, doctors, etc. Bright kids can get just as frustrated and bored as any others.

Everyone has the right to want their child's academic needs to be met. The district has determined there are different ways of doing that and they have a program set up for it.

Lori said...

In her defense of not putting her eligible kids into Spectrum or APP, Lisa wrote, "Some of the smartest people I know are failures in life."

It's kind of ironic, because I absolutely agree with her statement, but it's one of the reasons that my child *is* in the self-contained APP program.

Underachievement is a major problem for gifted kids; years of boredom and lack of challenge can make them tune out. Perfectionism can make them afraid to take risks, and sadly, lack of challenge can worsen perfectionism. If everything is always easy, the first time you get an answer wrong is devastating. Fear of future or repeated failure or feeling like an imposter can be disabling later in life. There is even some evidence that gifted kids drop out of high school at higher rates than other kids.

I respect Lisa's decision to keep her kids in heterogeneous classrooms. I'm glad it's working for them. But I wish that respect went both ways. Yes, I realize this thread is about Spectrum, not APP, so maybe I'm not the target of her animosity. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to speak up whenever I see myths about gifted kids going around.

As to the social aspect, for a sizable minority of these kids, they simply can't get optimal social opportunities in a heterogeneous classroom. Until you've seen the clinically significant impact that appropriate placement can have, maybe it's hard for some parents to believe. But if it's your kid who is bored and lonely in school and self-contained gifted classes solve both of those problems, you'd fight tooth and nail for them too. It's not elitist; it's just good parenting.

Anonymous said...

Look, it's a DISTRICT program that is accessible to all students. These kids do have to show they can do the work via the test

Why should there be any barrier at all to advanced learning? Why do students have to pass any test at all? (Those tests always track race and income. All of them, including cognitive measures.) Why can't advanced learning be available in all classrooms? That's what inclusivity is all about. That's actually what the district believes too. Ask any director. If you're not champing at the Spectrum bit, they'll tell you what they really think. Obviously that's what's going on at Wedgewood. I've seen people write that clearly everyone at the district believes in the district's self-contained mantra. Clearly not. Nothing could be further from the truth. Really it's only the parents than believe in segregation and exclusivity. The best schools in our district are inclusive. Look at Montlake or Salmon Bay. Both serve advanced learners in *gasp*, multi-aged inclusive classrooms with plenty of students with severe disabilities too. How would that even be possible? According to the Spectrum mindset - that would be impossible. Those kids who score in the whopping top 85% deserve nothing less than complete exclusion as the budding geniuses they are. Right? As to why "advanced" learners underperform... their parents told them they were born smart, and there's no work involved with their success. Guess what? After a while, when the "born smart" theory starts to fray - they doubt themselves because of it. How not?

Right on Lisa. These minimally-gifted think they know something and are entitled to exclusive learning. To them, it's only good, and real - if some other people don't have access to it. Well, that means lots of people wouldn't be getting advanced learning. I'm glad they're finally killing off Spectrum. It isn't just about a choice. The thing has been a detriment to the the district for many years and they're finally killing it - even if they have to sell it by telling you they aren't. Good for them... and good for the students in Seattle. It's a move in the right direction. And if your kid is really too smart for general education as some are - they should be in APP (tested once please, not privately tested over and over to get in.) And it is true that many parents see nothing wrong with that. Why would they hide it? They don't.

-another parent

ArchStanton said...

Why should there be any barrier at all to advanced learning? Why do students have to pass any test at all?

Then you shouldn't have any problem with this:

Why should there be any barrier at all to varsity sports or performance bands? Why should students have to be able to run faster or play better at all? Why can't everyone play in the big game or perform at a national competition. That is what inclusiveness is all about.

Are you willing to go down those paths, too?

Anonymous said...

This district believes in Inclusion. Hogwash. Look at the stats for schools and neighborhoods. SPED, ELL. Inclusive, I think not. Just another tool used to buttress a position. We're a city and nation more divided than ever. Nice of Facebook and social media to confirm likeminded POVs. From reading 109 comments thus far, few posts show the willingness and flexibility to see the other POVs. Very little solutions offered. So these arguments will get replayed again in another thread.

(back to mind control)

dw said...

Regarding Lisa's comment, Melissa said: Lisa, for someone who seems to not like name-calling, you did a fair bit.

No kidding. What an ugly case of pot / kettle.

Here's the worst: because they fear that their children will become "tainted" somehow if they are merged in with children of all levels.

This is a huge load of BS and you know it. You are making stuff up, and you cannot possibly point to an example of anyone saying this, nor has this attitude ever been anyone's intent. Not from anything I've read on this blog, nor from anyone in any AL program that I've talked with over many years in multiple programs. In fact, saying it in the way you did sounds like your intent was simply to be outrageous and piss off the readers here.

No one thinks their kids are being "tainted", what a crock. The fact of the matter, which research bears out (one would think someone with a Masters might possibly pay attention to research, but I guess not when it doesn't match your own views...) is that by narrowing the range of learners in all classrooms, the students benefit. Trying to effectively teach to all levels from top to bottom in a single classroom is nearly impossible to do effectively. And the extremely tiny portion of teachers who are able to do an even passable job at it can always do much, much better with a narrower range. This is not just common sense, but research-backed. Did you even attend Dr. Brulles' talk?

Bottom line: it's impossible to do as good a job prepping 5 different levels of materials and discussion as it is to prep 2 or 3. Few teachers are capable of doing a good job differentiating more than 2 levels without an IA.

I have a Master's Degree in Special Education and feel pretty qualified to say that the classrooms, which are not self-contained, work equally well for educating all levels.

I love it when people tout a tenuously-related degree in the hopes that it gives them some credibility. It's too bad you don't actually have a degree in Gifted Ed, otherwise you would understand the damage in spreading myths like this. Maybe we should bring in Myth Busters, at least they would perform or pay attention to research. What's good for SpEd is not necessarily good for all kids. The thing is, research shows no negative academic fallout for the struggling kids when gifted classes are self-contained, and socially, the kids who are not placed in the HC class actually benefit, because they are left with more chances to take leadership roles in the classroom.

More...

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Another Parent thinks he/she speaks for the many but again, we really don't know, do we? None of us do. He/she said a lot of fairly disrespectful things about others' children.

I would ask that NO one disparage anyone's child.

Arch, I ask that question EVERY SINGLE TIME and get...dead silence. Of course not because in some realms we like exclusivity.

dw said...

Lisa continued: Remember: This is elementary school.

Exactly! From a social standpoint, this is the time these kids need to be free to be themselves, to excel and grow with support (not ridicule or ostracization) from their classmates. Ever wonder why so many gifted girls tend to shut down and conform at an early age? They're far more sensitive to the social actions around them.

It's clear to me that you were not a highly gifted kid. Many of us parents, particularly APP parents, lived through it ourselves, and we understand exactly what our kids are going through. Firsthand. And it's because of this that we advocate for our kids so strongly, and generally advocate for self-contained classes in elementary. Middle school, not so much, and in high school things are pretty blended in all but the advanced classes.

if you are as upset as your notes indicate, you certainly have an option to move your children to a different school.

Really? Where? AFAIK Wedgwood is (was) the only elementary school in the region with self-contained Spectrum. Your statement is far more relevant for families like yourself, who would prefer to opt out of self-contained. Guess what? I fully support your decision to opt out of self-contained; it's not for everyone. You have options nearby, like View Ridge, so please feel free to do as you suggest, and move your children to a different school (without screwing things up for others). It's not so easy anymore with the NSAP, but at least you would potentially have the option. Unfortunately, it sounds like you don't want anyone who disagrees with you to actually have a choice for their kids. That's sad and petty.

Your thinking is so last-century. Wake up and realize that equity and equality are not the same; different kids need different things.

anne said...

"Why should there be any barrier at all to varsity sports or performance bands? Why should students have to be able to run faster or play better at all? Why can't everyone play in the big game or perform at a national competition. That is what inclusiveness is all about.

Are you willing to go down those paths, too?"


Acually, sports is a good example, because it has some of the same issues. There are the truely gifted athletes, that given equivalent training, are way beyond their team mates. They are the APP of athletics. Then there are those that are good athletes more due to their training and interest. They have some talent, but most of it is that they have been playing the sport for years, and often their parents have been giving them access to extra training (league teams, camps, personal trainers) to help them have a chance at moving up. These kids need parents that have the resources to find the opportunities, pay for them, drive them, etc. These are the Spectrum atheletes.

I see the exact same thing in the APP vs Spectrum populations. The 98% APP kids are gifted to a level that they stood out as unusual at an early age and it wasn't due to the parents exposing them to things. That's just how they are wired. Spectrum kids, on the other hand, are bright, but a large component of their advanced achievement is what they have been exposed to by their parents. Lots of learning/reading at home, summer camps, travel. All things that depend on time/resources of the family.

I have no issue with Spectrum parents wanting challenging work for their kids. And can see why, with the current state of things in SPS, the only way they can see to attain this is through a pull-out program, but I think it is the wrong model.

Public education should not require parental resources to allow capable kids to advance. The kids that are capable, but don't have the parental resources to help them get the extra boost outside of school, should be given those resources within school. Any child that wants to work hard to improve their academic standings should be given the opportunity.

In SPS, kids get one chance a year to take a high-stakes test. And they must perform well across the board to get any access to any advanced coursework. That doesn't seem right. Any child that has the drive to want to take on the challenge of advanced coursework should be given that chance. When the Spectrum kids are pulled out, what gets left in the general ed program is not very challenging because there are a disproportionate number of low-achievers in the class. How can a student that is behind due to lack of extra-curricular support ever get ahead? On the other hand, if there were self-selected honors courses, or pull-out by subject groups in elementary school that were fluid as abilities changed, I think this would meet the needs of all learners.

I'm all for tightening up the APP requirements, because there definitely are kids that are highly gifted and their needs cannot be met in the regular classroom. But beyond that population I think it is wrong to exclude students that want the challenge based on a yearly high stakes test.

Anonymous said...

Anne, like what you say except you need to take a look at how the most "elite", olympic caliber athletes train. If you have ever worked with them, you will find the amount of time devoted to training body and mind, is beyond what most above average HS and college players will undergo. They live more hours in a day for it. It is not just a "god given" talent, but 1000 of hours of training at great cost to develop talent. It is true with any talent, be it musical, artistic, etc. You can have an ability, but it takes work, perseverance, training, and sometimes a little luck, to be good and possibly excellent at something.

For the rest of us, use these work ethics and positive mindset to improve ourselves. That should be our aim regardless of where we place on cognitive or achievement testings. I'm ok knowing there are these differences out there. Within my own family, I see these differences. Regardless of our fitness, we work from where we are hoping to do a little better. We strive even when we fail at times. Sometimes we give up or moderate the goals. That's ok too. It is learning to balance things and live with who we are, taking pleasure in small gains and finding confidence and peace of mind in the process.

(btmc)

Melissa Westbrook said...

The issue around athletics/music was NOT around ability - it was about why not allow ALL kids to be on any team or group they want to be on? Why wouldn't that be okay if inclusiveness is a good thing?

Still waiting.

Anonymous said...

Right Arch -

I'm willing to take it just like the olympic athlete does. If your child is an Olympic athlete - great! Sign him up for APP. If not, he can do intramurals with everybody else. Showing a little talent (like Sprectrum kids, eg minimally-gifted), or evidence of extra work from the family, doesn't mean you need or benefit from an olympic training schedule.

ANd really - APP isn't the caliber of the olympics athletic program either. Top 5% of SPS isn't going to be in the olympics - but it's fine if you think of your child that way.

I'm not sure what is "disrespectful" of other's children in my post. Rereading it. It's an easy complaint to make when you find a position you disagree with. And given the plethora of advanced learning segregation proponents - Spectrum/APP - you see huge attacks against anyone who sees the problems with it. Nearly any post with "advanced" in it will garner 100s of responses. Look at all the attacks on the very few people posting who favor inclusive learning. If there is a segregated system - that won't be possible. So, it's either inclusion or segregation.

-another parent

ArchStanton said...

Right Arch -
I'm willing to take it just like the olympic athlete does. If your child is an Olympic athlete - great! Sign him up for APP. If not, he can do intramurals with everybody else.


I think you have another comment confused with mine. I said nothing about Olympic athletes. I concur that APP is not the equivalent of the Olympics (possibly the top 2% of APP is - just as possibly the top 2% of Varsity athletes are Olympic material). My comparison was of APP to Varsity sports and first tier performance bands/orchestras (whatever they call them these days).

I still stand by that analogy. So; if you want to eliminate Spectrum, would you advocate eliminating their roughly equivalent Junior Varsity sports teams and second tier bands/orchestras and open them up to anyone who wants to play?

ArchStanton said...

Oh, and for those keeping score, this thread has been officially "ArchStantoned"

Melissa Westbrook said...

It is disrespectful to call other people's children "budding geniuses" in a sarcastic manner. It is disrespectful to say that parents have told their children they "smart" and sneer at it. Yours is the straw man argument, not mind.

Again, I won't have people saying negative things about others' children. You can certainly disagree with service models but no putting down other people's children based on your perception.

And again, is everyone for inclusive treatment okay with anyone who wants to be on the team being allowed on (and allowed to play) for sports and be in the top-tier music groups for all performances?

Charlie Mas said...

I've been away for a few days, but I'm back.

1. Children qualifying for APP through efforts that could be interpreted as unethical are rare and the efforts were made by the students' families, not by members of the professional community.

2. The opportunity to enroll your high performing child in an inclusive classroom is available to every family. That choice is preserved. The opportunity to enroll your academically gifted child in a self-contained classroom should be preserved as well.

Anonymous said...

Wish people would be just as fervent about segregation lack of diversity, and inclusion with the NSAP onset and not just in advanced learning program. Talk about SPED neglect, 10% set aside at popular schools, FRL/racial tiebreakers, resource management (instructional texts, wrap around services) and you will get different opinions on the same issue. Would we get 121 comments there? I don't know. What I hear is the biggest determinant in a student's success is in the home, not teachers and not schools.

The district's poor management, churn, and budget problems in good times and bad will insure that such battles will go on. Parents who are there for their kids will struggle with each other and the "system" hoping they are getting it right.

btmc

Charlie Mas said...

Lisa, I don't know who you are or who you think you are, but you did not present a very credible case. In fact, you sound like a troll.

"I have a Master's Degree in Special Education and feel pretty qualified to say that the classrooms, which are not self-contained, work equally well for educating all levels."

Lisa, you are not at all qualified to say anything about how well inclusive classrooms work for gifted students unless you have some research to support it. I doubt that you do. All of the research supports self-contained classrooms. What supports your opposing belief?

"For social skills, they [inclusive classrooms] work better. It sounds like many parents have lost sight of the importance of social skills."

I'm curious about how you measure "social skills". What is the metric and assessment for that? What is the benchmark and where is the data?

I can't tell you how many families I have met who were grateful for Spectrum or APP. Not for the academic opportunity they present, but because their child found social acceptance only in that self-contained classroom. You're going to have a hard time convincing them that the inclusive classroom, where their child was bullied and ostracized, was better for developing social skills.

"I'm the mom of kids who are not in Spectrum. ...however they have tested in the 98th and 99th percentile.

I have chosen not to put them in a self-contained classroom.
"

How and why were they tested if you had no intention of enrolling them in the program? I'm just curious. Did you have them tested privately or did you have the District test them for APP eligibility when you had no intention of enrolling them in APP or Spectrum regardless of the results?

"My children have not suffered from being in a classroom which is mixed with all levels."

That's great. That's your kids. Other kids have suffered. It's not all about your kids. You have your option available to you. Why do you want to take away other people's option?

"What I am hearing is that some parents want their kids placed in separate, special classrooms because they fear that their children will become "tainted" somehow if they are merged in with children of all levels."

I don't know where you are hearing this, Lisa. No one else is hearing it. Is it on the blog? Could you please point it out?

I do hear some people say something that sounds sort of like this, but I hear it from middle-class Black families who send their kids to private school. They don't want their kids to be exposed to peer pressure to under-achieve.

continued...

Charlie Mas said...

... continued

"(Note that the children still get pulled out for their special 'smart kids time.') The message is that they are better than other kids.... I'm just saying that's what it sounds like."

I have no idea what this is reference to. Is Lisa writing about "walk to math"? Is smarter better or is it just different? Is third grade better than second grade or is it just different? What other kinds of people does Lisa think are better than other kids? Don't Lisa's high performing kids get pulled out too? Aren't her kids sending the same message? That's what it sounds like.

"A more balanced, and productive discussion may be possible if the comments were toned down and the personal attacks on folks like the principal (and we other parents who are for this new approach) were stopped."

Pot, kettle.

"...and really, if you are as upset as your notes indicate, you certainly have an option to move your children to a different school."

Likewise.

"Things are separate enough without my kids having to hear more 'us' vs. 'them' and all this talk about 'gifted.'"

Thank goodness we have a uniter like you. By the way are "we other parents who are for this new approach" the "us" or the "them"?

"When my kids ask me what 'gifted' means, I tell 'em that Christmas is coming...."

Do you also tell them that Santa is coming? When my kids ask me a question I give them an honest answer in an age-appropriate way.

"Some of the smartest people I know are failures in life."

Funny, some of the failures in life that I know have a Master's Degree in Special Education and feel pretty qualified.

anne said...

"And again, is everyone for inclusive treatment okay with anyone who wants to be on the team being allowed on (and allowed to play) for sports and be in the top-tier music groups for all performances?"

Yes, at the younger age I am definitely ok with that. In soccer they don't have competitive level play that requires try-outs until U-11. Let kids develop without the pressure of pushing them constantly. I've seen so many kids in soccer pushed by their parents to play at a higher level only to drop out completely when they find they don't enjoy playing anymore when there is so much pressure to perform at the parents' expectations.

Don't you think most Spectrum parents would be happy to keep their kids in their neighborhood school if they simply had fluid pull-out sections for subjects based on current ability? I'm not saying that is currently happening, but neither is an exclusive Spectrum program. So why not try for the other model? It might meet the needs of the Spectrum families as well as the general population. It allows for kids to grow and be placed by the teacher, who has immediate information as to each student's abilities.

As far as middle and high school goes, everyone seems to be happy with the self-selection of AP classes at Garfield. Why can't that work with honors classes in middle school? Supposedly that is working quite well in Shoreline.

Review Mirror said...

Anne, I believe that is how it works in Federal Way past the elementary level. Not only are there Pre-AP classes in middle school, but also Pre-IB and pre-Cambridge, depending on the school. Then there is the TAF Academy, AND there is also a grade 6-10 school for high academic rigor. Many kids at that school go from grade 10 to Running Start or regular colleges. In none of these options fit your kid, there is also a system where you are placed in the highest-level class possible and you have to opt OUT rather than test IN.

Some of the middle and high schools also have something called AVID, which directs youth from typically underperforming populations into college-prep. Instead of the vocational programs that some on this blog suggest for those same populations, they are moved in the other direction.

We are switching to the Federal Way school district and won't be looking back. There are ways to offer high achievement without insulating those kids from the general population, bring up the struggling ones, and offer more rigor to anyone who wants it. FW seems to have found the formula.

Charlie Mas said...

Anne asked: "Don't you think most Spectrum parents would be happy to keep their kids in their neighborhood school if they simply had fluid pull-out sections for subjects based on current ability?"

YES. Every family would prefer that their child get an appropriate academic opportunity at their neighborhood school. That's true for Spectrum, APP, ELL, SpEd, and General Education families alike. We would ALL prefer that.

But who do you think opposes the pull-outs more than anyone else? It is the "let's teach them all together in an inclusive class" camp. They hate Hate HATE pull-outs. They say it stigmatizes students more than the self-contained classes.

I will acknowledge that they are also opposed by the research that shows that self-contained classes are more effective for everyone, though less vehemently.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Checked Federal Way - they have a self-contained 3-5 classroom in every single one of their elementaries.

TraceyS said...

Lisa and another parent (in fact, any WW parent) - please contact me. I really want to listen to what you have to say.

Anonymous said...
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