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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Advanced Learning Survey Out

Here's a link to the Advanced Learning Survey that was taken earlier this year.  I would like to hear comments and feedback.  Thanks.

61 comments:

Jon said...

I was disappointed that the survey results, as summarized and perhaps watered down, do not give clear actions.

For example, in the written comments in my survey, I said the biggest changes we need in advanced learning are to stop forcing APP to move schools, to switch to Singapore Math for advanced learning, to favor and support teachers certified in gifted education for APP, and to strengthen the Spectrum option (or new alternative school options) for children who nearly qualify for APP (ideally, placing those in the same school as APP). Those four changes would be hugely beneficial.

I'd be surprised if there was not widespread support for all four of those. But I did not see those four things emphasized in the summary of the survey, perhaps not because parents did not say it in the survey, but because the summary of the survey did not fully convey what parents said.

Anonymous said...

The ALO option is inadequate for us and it seems many others too. My child missed qualifying for APP by one percentage point on one of the three tests . There are no available Spectrum seats in my area. My ALO school is high-achieving but I don't see much effort at all at acceleration or differentiation or deeper learning--more the opposite actually; the school seems content to rest on its good reputation & test scores. My child is an outlier in his classroom & socially & has zero appropriate options.
--frustrated

Anonymous said...

Frustrated above calls out a major issue, also not delved into via the survey. That is the testing and eligibility component. The test creators acknowledge that there is a degree to which testing results vary. This "level of significance" is a few percentage points one way or another, due to testing conditions, cultural bias to the questions, whether the kid had protein for breakfast, you name it. Yet, and I cannot emphasize this enough, our AL office has a set cut-off. This is beyond illogical-- it's unfair. Although the letter describes appeal, many parents do not deeply understand the process. Finally, while there is a corelation between performance in AL classes and performance on the tests-- it's not really that high of a correlation when the number of kids cut out are considered. No data suggests kids close to the cutoff, even by 10 percentage points, couldn't have competed in 2 yr ahead curriculum. On NPR recently new brain research was discussed which points to new understandings of the fluidity of intelligence, especially during the tween and early teen years. Researchers found that IQ points of highly educationally stimulated kids went up 10 pts if I remember right! Kind of like if you lift weights you are stronger. In addition, although types of intelligence vary broadly, unlike many districts SPS requires potential AL students to reach set cut-offs in BOTH reading and math-related indexes. That combined with how shockingly disproportionate the impacts are (e.g. kids of color-- except Asian students-- cut out at an extremely high rate) makes the AL program eligibility highly problematic.

Recently, I heard a very well-spoken woman make this case to a district official at an AL-related public meeting. She had a great suggestion: why not allow enrollment (especially in MS and HS) based on effort as well as ether grades or cognitive ability? Thus, a student who missed a cutoff could sign a pledge that they will maintain a certain GPA during a probationary period, or some other type of effort indicator. Remember in college how you couldn't progress to Bio 205 unless you had received a B+ in 105? How about the same for Middle School APP? The goal being to SERVE EVERY CHILD who wants rigor, and to encourage kids from underserved communities to sign up to it as well-- no testing (which is costly), no fuss, just several options: 1) learn at grade level 2) learn 1 yr beyond, 3) learn 2 yrs beyond. The racial disproportionality of our current AL system has got to be dealt with in a way that is positive for kids, all kids, and this is the best way I can see.

Signed,
Access to AL is a Civil Rights Issue

Anonymous said...

Access-

One of the ideas continually suggested is to make spectrum exactly what you say - an opt in program. They need to admit spectrum is broken, and then fix it, before anything will improve there. I think it might then be appropriate to allow a kid to opt in as long as there is an understanding that if it doesn't work there is a strategy to move the child. One kid can slow an entire classroom down. I don't think allowing kids to opt in to APP would be appropriate.

I think seeing the survey comments is mandatory to really understand where parents think the program is. I don't believe that so many AL families are happy with the math curriculum. The parents of kids in my kids' APP classes certainly aren't. The district should post the comments. I know comments have been posted from other surveys.

-parent

Anonymous said...

I agree with frustrated in that the differentiation at the ALO school that my child attends is poorly implemented and there is little support given to assure that the advanced learners are encouraged and supported to progress in their learning. The math differentiation is an additional page or two of math that is given as homework and there appears to be no differentiation in science or social studies.
I also agree that the survey comments should be released. It would be more helpful to get a sense of what recommendations respondents came up with and it would be useful in the future to have surveys that query support or lack of of real options for improvement.
--another frustrated ALO parent

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that the ALO results seem as positive as they were. I know few parents at our school (Bryant) that are impressed with the amount of differentiation or rigor to this program. Are there strong ALO schools out there? Which schools are doing this well? Maybe it would be helpful to our principal and teachers to see it done in a successful way, or for some of our administration to visit a school with a stronger program. I would have loved to see a breakdown of satisfaction by school.

One more dissatisfied ALO parent

Anonymous said...

My children tested in to APP & Spectrum but until now, we have chosen to keep them at their SE Seattle neighborhood ALO school. It is ALO in name only, truly. They were getting a different report card until the report card design changed, that is it. I have challenged the principal to make ALO a meaningful point of difference to keep kids, and the reply I received was more or less, "some teachers handle differentiation better than others. But if I leave my Spectrum kid there, he keeps his status for MS. If I move him to a non-Spectrum or ALO school he loses it. What is that? Suddenly he loses IQ or ability because he changes schools? When the ALO school he attends does absolutely nothing to differentiate learning for AL kids? Utter BS.

I wish the AL survey results were broken down by geography, in addition to showing more detail.

Done

Zombie said...

Access, your claim that APP is not diverse is false. APP actually has very similar racial diversity to the children of Seattle.

The City of Seattle says the city is 70% white, 8% black, 14% asian, 1% native american, 2% latino, and 5% two or more races.

APP says it is 69% white, 17% asian, 4% latino, 3% black, and 6% multiracial. That is almost the same.

It is actually Seattle Public Schools that does not reflect the racial mix of Seattle. Maybe the question should be why Seattle Public Schools does not have the same racial diversity as the children of Seattle? Why is APP equally likely to attract students regardless of their race but other programs in Seattle Public Schools are not?

Anonymous said...

@Access to AL is a Civil Rights Issue:

No, sorry, it is not. AL is not mandated by the state nor is AL any sort of protected class. Nor should it be.

Yes, AL must be improved in SPS. It is a mess. But it is not a civil rights issue. To claim it so cheapens both your claim, and those who do qualify for civil rights complaints.

Southie

Charlie Mas said...

A lot of folks see the satisfaction numbers from the Advanced Learning survey and conclude that families are very happy with the programs. The satisfaction rates of 90%, 76% and 63% sound pretty good. At least the 90% and the 76% sound good.

But let's remember that in the recent survey conducted by the Board families in the District expressed a satisfaction rate of about 83%. That's the benchmark. That's the satisfaction average in Seattle.

So even the satisfaction with Spectrum is about 10% lower than for schools in general.

Anonymous said...

Frustrated ALO parents, do Bryant/ALO schools use gifted/highly gifted status when making class assignments? For example, the AL data say there are 11 students in advanced learning in Bryant 1st grade; are those kids just randomly distributed in the 5 classes? If they were grouped together, would that help? Or is it a moot point because it would make the program too Spectrum-ish?
New to ALO

StepJ said...

I am personally disappointed in how the survey results are being highlighted - those few sentences at the top of each page.

For example, page 23.

I’m guessing the actual question was if a child was excelling in only one subject – say, Math vs. both Math and Reading – if they should be able to receive AL opportunities in that one topic.

I am guessing as I did not take the survey and the actual question is not presented as a part of the survey results...

Yes response to the survey was: APP – 60%, Spectrum – 72%, and ALO – 79%. Very obviously a majority from all three categories of YES.

Yet, the survey results were presented as “The majority of families surveyed feel that AL programs should serve students who are advanced in only one subject.”

“APP and Spectrum families have higher proportion of ‘No’ responses.”

If these survey summation sentences are presented on a PowerPoint to the Board or to the AL Committee without the question/actual results -- then a very skewed/spun idea will be introduced vs. the actual.

As an example: If a kid is doing great at math why not let them fully exceed and excel to the best of their ability? The majority of respondents in all categories said -- yes!

Yet, the summation of the results presented made it seem like ONLY AL families said yes -- when that was not the actual survey result.

Crummy, spin, crap, which our kids don't deserve.

Anonymous said...

I started to write a long answer to Southie and Parent but don't have the energy to respond to their suggestions in other than the most general terms. If anyone is interested in the topic of disproportionality-- and yes it is a civil rights issue becasue these programs receive govenrment funding, and disproportionate impact is one indicator under the law of a civil right violation-- please see some of the research, such as http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt/reports/rm05216/rm05216.pdf, or for an overview that includes multiple perspectives and plenty of pro/con citations, read http://www.education.com/reference/article/cultural-bias-in-testing/.

A telling quotation: "If a test negatively affects opportunities for a group to participate in, for example, gifted education, then it has a disparate impact and should not be used. Out of Griggs v. Duke Power came the fundamental question: 'If a group consistently performs poorly on a test, why do we continue to use it?'"

Finally, Parent, our district contains 43% caucasian kids-- 19% black, etc., check the district report card. Using city numbers is not related. Reghardless of the number of Seattle residents (most of whom are not children), the apposite numbers are our own district percentages.

Lastly, although I may not respond to other comments because I have a client proposal due at work, I hope the topic encourages some thinking, and some advocacy for all rather than gatekeeping. Best of luck to all,

Access, etc.

Anonymous said...

The ALO kids at Bryant are evenly spread out, I have heard. Is it different at other ALO schools? While there are 11 ALO kids in 1st grade, there are 32 in second, and 36 in third (where my child is), making it a program worth strengthening. I am happy with the decision not to put my child in a completely segregated program, however feel that with these high numbers there could be some pretty structured ways of finding differentiation within each grade, whether it is moving kids around for a math class, reading groups that meet with kids from other classrooms, or just a common curriculum for advanced students that is shared among grade level teachers. I have heard parents bring this up many times but never get the feeling that ALO is a priority for the principal. It seems like the teachers who were differentiating well before the ALO program was in place continue to do it, while new teachers with less experience, or weaker teachers who struggle in their class to begin with just don't get how to implement the program. It is hit or miss if you end up with the right teacher, and it would be unheard of to group kids with similar strengths. Any Bryant parents happy with ALO? I don't want to speak for everyone, I've heard of parents who are happy with what their teacher has done, but for my child I'm not impressed.

a different disappointed ALO Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hope to begin a discussion about ALOs because I think they are key to providing advanced learning opportunities to ALL kids at ALL schools. The district must make this a priority as many families, for many reasons, want access to rigor for their child at their neighborhood school.

Anonymous said...

I had really hoped that having a principal with experience in gifted ed at Bryant would allow them to create a rigorous, effective ALO program.

I always thought that was one of the reasons Ms Fox was originally assigned there. She has a masters in gifted ed, worked as gifted facilitator and a gifted ed director, and the school was charged with developing a formal ALO program the year she was assigned there.

If someone with this background can't create a great program that parents rave about, what hope is there for ALOs at other schools?

signed, former Bryant

Anonymous said...

I agree that ALO programs are key for providing advanced learning opps. for all kids at all schools. My child qualified for Spectrum two years in a row--even though our neighborhood school offers that program, the program is consistently full. It really seems pointless testing her each year as I know there will never be space.
North End Mom

Anonymous said...

Ironic that with the pervasive "run it like a business" mentality at SPS, nobody prioritizes fulfilling "customer" demands so tellingly revealed in the AL survey.

ALO, by design, should provide any & all rigor and challenge at appropriate levels for any kid who doesn't qualify, or can't get into a self-contained program (which shouldn't happen if they actually knew how to manage capacity in SPS, but that's another issue).

This is what Bob Vaughan and the last board endorsed as the solution to meet any kids who otherwise fall through the cracks, or want acceleration without leaving their neighborhood or preferred school.

So, why isn't it working? Is differentiation actually more difficult than it's proponents, like HMM, believed? Is the chronic lack of support for advanced learners in general by principals who don't believe in separating kids by ability rearing its head? Or is it something, like Singapore math supplementation promised 4+ years ago, that they just "haven't gotten to yet," as Carla Santorno once answered to Michael DeBell.

Bottom Line: Talk is Cheap. All schools have ALO in theory only, not in practice. Epic fail. And who's responsibility is it to see this problem remedied, if not the administrators in charge of the school, and the highly paid Ed Directors at SPS? Or shall we continue to lay it all on Bob Vaughan's shoulders, as if he has any power outside JSCEE anyways?

Sure as hell, you can count on teachers being the scapegoats once again, while meanwhile, yet another list of promises go unfulfilled. And so it goes.

WSDWG

Benjamin Leis said...

@NorthEnd Mom. Have you considered transferring to a different school? While Wedgewood might be full, JA is not for instance.

In general I think the district really has to get Spectrum sorted out. They should guarantee access to everyone who qualifies and if they're moving to non self-contained clusters then it seems fairly easy to startup such clusters everywhere in the district rather than having isolated ALO learners. If 6 extra kids popup at school X, then group them into a cluster. You could be really dynamic shifting the cluster sizes and location to give all kids a cohort. Of course then you'd also have to make the classes appropriate as well. So it makes sense to not shift around as much as possible.

But it seems like there is a consistent large number of AL learners and we should be able to develop a curriculum and teacher base able to support them.

What I don't think is particularly effective is to leave single kids in general classes and expect enrichment to uniformly occur without much guidance or incentives.

Ben

Anonymous said...

And one more thing about ALO. While it's a perfect win-win idea, which allows parents with children on the cusp, or qualifying but not wanting to leave the school they are at, to have an actual CHOICE, many within the administration have it up their sleeves to someday use the ALO theory to dismantle Spectrum and APP - if they can - because they abhor the idea of separating kids by ability.

Watch closely as ALO is floated as the silver bullet alternative, "just as good if not better" than self-containment, thereby eliminating the need for self-containment altogether. It's already happening in Spectrum schools. And how's it working out? The almighty "data" says, not so good. Yet, now watch how the district will spin the negative feedback into something positive about ALO to serve the agenda of those who want to remove choice from the system, eliminating self-contained Spectrum, etc.

So, what we have here is ALO being dangled as a carrot to reduce demand and support for Spectrum and APP self-containment, and it all sounds good, except that in practice, it resoundingly fails. But watch and listen in the coming months as the "data" is twisted, misinterpreted, and spun to serve the philosophical ideals of agenda-driven people, at the expense of parents and children in the district.

ALO is supposed to be the perfect solution, but it's instead little more than a political club to beat down those who support self-containment models, and little more.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

I should proofread before I post. Gads. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

With all the complaints about inconsistencies in ALO, is any school's ALO program generally considered a success? What makes it a success and how can those characteristics be replicted across the school district?

Curious

Anonymous said...

McGilvra is starting an ALO next year. Honestly, I think they already do what an ALO is supposed to do, so they're just adding the designation. Differentiation in classes that are already towards the top end of the general ed curve. Support for kids who can't keep up with reading and math specialists, special ed teachers and referals to private tutors. Reading groups. Walk to Math in grades 3-5. Integrated projects and themes across subject and grades, including art and PE integration into the curriculum. A combination of official SPS math and 'parent way' math. Class sizes are pretty typical for SPS in k-1, smaller in the pre-NSAP classes, but they use the specialists and pull-outs to reduce effective class size, and to do ability grouping. It all works very well, and with the ALO designation, kids will be able to stay there for elementary, and then enroll in Spectrum or APP at Washington (their attendance area middle school). Whatever you may think about the demographics of McGilvra, they do ALO-without-the-name very well.

-Happy soon-to-be ALO parent

Anonymous said...

As another happy ALO parent, I feel that over the past 5 years or so West Woodland has moved to a similar model of high expectations and quality teaching in the classrooms combined with as much tutoring as possible for small groups who need more instruction. When I walk around the school I see tutors in every possible corner, back room, "closet" etc. Having strong teachers across the board as much as possible is key to everyone feeling that they are beling well served. I'm not sure how class assignments are determinded, but I suspect if everyone feels that they have a "good" teacher then there is less worry about how clusters are dispersed.

WW parent

Susan said...

ALO's could be successful if there was money spent in the right places - like Mcgilvra parent mentions. Our school doesn't have the funds to get all those great additions to the standard fare. I don't begrudge McGilvra, I think they should be able to spend their PTA dollars this way, and I don't think they should have to send a percentage of it to other schools.

What do I think? ALO's can only be successful if there's money! Class sizes need to be smaller and the things the McGilvra parent mentions that are contributing to successful differentiation need to be funded by the district. I'm not an educator, but I can think of a bunch of things to cut in order to make this work.

The one thing missing from the McGilvra comment that would make it a perfect situation for us would be pull-out for the highest achievers as well as pull-out for the struggling.

I appreciate hearing the positive comments from parents who are happy since it could help guide all our schools in the right direction. I really hope people don't bash McGilvra for having the funds to be able to do this. Instead, look at it as they are finding out what is needed for ALOs to succeed.

Anonymous said...

At our school, class assignment takes in the social consideration of "best fit". I've heard it explain as making sure there is gender balance, ethnic/race/FRL balance, and that other social factors are considered as well (not sure what that means, but sounds like making sure no one teacher gets too many kids with behavorial or academic issues). Clustering occurs, but depends on teachers who are willing to swap kids. We do lots of supplementation at home anyway, so we don't rely on getting the right teacher, class or cluster for the academics.

ALO parent

Anonymous said...

I am happy for McGilvra but the contrast with my experience as a Bryant parent (which I believe is a community that is viewed as having a somewhat comparable level of resources, but I may be wrong as I am not that familiar with McGilvra) is stark. At Bryant there is perhaps also a student body toward "the top end of the gen ed curve" but it seems that this is almost used as evidence that there is no need for differentiation. I am almost certain that my child could benefit from pull-out with an appropriate cohort across his grade-level but there appears to be no intention of designing such a system. I like the others feel that school leadership is letting us down but am not clued in enough to know to whom to voice my concerns.
frustrated

SE Elementary Parent said...

ALO's aren't at ALL schools, though. My daughter attends an option school and there are no ALO's there. I wish there were. She qualified for Spectrum but the south end delivery model is very different from other schools (although admittedly it seems that every school now has their own delivery model). Because of the absence of ALO I have to have her tested every year (expensive for the district, I would assume) to keep her eligible. Because the option school might dumb her down? ;-)

Anonymous said...

The grade 3-5 walk to math is a pull-out model with smaller groups. I don't know how much differentiation is done within those groups, as my child is younger. My child is very advanced in some aspects of Math, and we still do a lot of supplementaiton at home.

One thing I have noticed at McGilvra is that the whole staff seems very interested in making school work for each individual kid, even when that means private tutors or home math supplementation.

--Happy soon-to-be ALO parent

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why every school wouldn't work to fulfill ALO goals. Shouldn't every classroom work to best teach every kid in their class? Making some schools ALO seems to only cause problems and allow other schools not to bother education those kids in their class. This isn't even mentioning the ridiculousness of keeping AL eligibility at some schools and not at others.

-drop the name

Melissa Westbrook said...

Why wouldn't a school want to work to ALO goals?

Well, for those that don't have them, it could be that you have a principal who believes they already have rigor so who needs a program or you have a principal who thinks it's too much time/effort and doesn't want to do the work.

For those who do have them, I don't know why they would say they have an ALO and then have something lame.

But I think the day of reckoning is coming for Advanced Learning programs and I hope, really hope, that parents who want rigor for their child - no matter how they test or don't test - can find it at their own school. And have no doubt about it all.

Anonymous said...

That's right, Melissa. Let's end this nonsense about labeling programs and kids. Let's make the conversation about rigor -- appropriate rigor for all kids. Separate but equal hasn't been legal for a half century, so why do we keep trying? Demand rigor, support and facilitate differentiation (at the classroom as well as the school level). Period.

Emile

lauralindhe said...

I would have liked to have had the opportunity to actually take the survey -- I have a kid in the spectrum program at Wedgwood and never received it. Did anyone else have this experience?

Annie said...

emile - right on!!!!!

Charlie Mas said...

Emile is, of course, right.

So much for the theory, let's get back to reality.

Anonymous said...

Good point Emile. Now how to make sure that rigor is there for all? That's the conundrum. It's far easier to make sure there is no rigor because that's the non-action and passive process, while providing rigor and depth is an active process. And labelling doesn't go away as long ast there is testing. So need to reconsider standardized testing because you can't get the schools, teachers, paernts or kids to ignore those numbers.

-back to reality

Annie said...

So Charlie, why are you so dimissive of emile's point? I would agree that there is a very high end of kids that needs 'special' above level teaching but really the top 12 or so percent?

Tired of the hate said...

I have never understood the level of venom that some throw at APP. APP gets the same funding as anyone else. It is just another alternative program, no different than the other alternative programs in the district. As an alternative program that costs nothing more, it is very popular and successful. Why attack it? Why try to destroy it?

Honestly, I think your venom is misdirected. Why are you angry at a successful alternative program? Shouldn't we be creating more of these popular and successful alternative programs rather than trying to destroy them? Isn't it great that programs like this attract people to our public schools and engage them in our public schools?

Rather than be angry at advanced learning, shouldn't you be angry at the (unusually high) 20% of Seattle parents who refuse to engage in or help Seattle Public Schools and go private instead? Shouldn't you be angry at the people trying to vote in charters and suck money out of the public schools? Don't you think your anger is misdirected?

Anonymous said...

Tired of the hate. Please if you are tired of the hate, then stop transferring it. I'm an APP parent and don't feel the hate.

SPS parent

Annie said...

I am an APP parent. I have no hate just curious as to why the ideasof Emile is being dismissed so readily.

Anonymous said...

Hang on to your ideals. It's the stuff poets live for and allow me to sleep without nightmares. Otherwise...

- reality bites!

Anonymous said...

Again, why don't we put the principles of ALO in place at all schools? ALO is something the district has at some schools and not others. Why? So the principal doesn't like it. Tell that principal they don't have a choice. You ought to be able to do ALO everywhere and then we won't have angry parents who don't have access. Do leveled reading groups everywhere. Do walk to math everywhere. That's all spectrum even is at some schools. These changes are all free, and should just happen as a matter of course. Get rid of the ALO name and have this be standard practice.

-drop the name

annie said...

Bingo, drop the name.

Annie

David said...

Dropping the meaningless ALO, turning Spectrum into more rigorous and structured alternative schools/programs, and keeping APP makes a lot of sense. And, yes, that should be combined with trying to teach all students at the maximum of their abilities in all classrooms.

Anonymous said...

My ideals just smashed headlong into a brick wall. We live in a lower income, diverse neighborhood, not well served by AL. The landscape is really different here. You can't count on a generally high achieving population, or a critical mass of participants, or sufficient resources. Our attendance area school, which my daughter has gone to since K, is a healthy, happy, integrated title one school. We love it, and I've always wanted to be able to stay here and have her academic needs well met. I've volunteered both in the classroom and in after school tutoring. I've been working with the school to get an ALO started, and it has been sobering. The principal is wonderful and truly believes in meeting the needs of all learners. That being said, the reality of the resources and the needs at this school mean that when push comes to shove (and when a school is operating perpetually under-resourced, it will), priorities will always favor bringing struggling kids up to baseline. No matter how well intentioned, when something has to give, it will be the few in the the high end that get less attention. And honestly, after working with the broad range of kids there and knowing them, I can't begrudge them that.

Some of our adjacent low-income schools have ALO programs with no or very few children participating in them. Our school has about 15 eligible across all grade levels, and maybe just us APP eligible. After advocating for the solution that I believe in--high quality neighborhood access for everyone--I see how painfully out of synch it is with the realities of Seattle's resource distribution. Absolutely, the no-cost/easy/effective solutions should be standard issue, but I'm not sure that would be sufficient to meet the needs of these learners in the absence of critical mass and more deliberate attention. I had to come to terms with the fact that maybe we're more trouble than we're worth in this context. I agree that the ALO label is pointless--some schools without the label do this work well, and some with it clearly just have the label. Effective differentiation should be standard practice at every school, but systemwide changes would need to happen for that to be a viable reality. I'm genuinely heartbroken that we have to choose between the rich diversity and integration of our school and the credible assurance that our child will get the rigor she needs. Wanting those realities to be different won't help (I've tried that)--the only things that would help would be real money and real resources in the right places.

--from the periphery

Anonymous said...

With growing class size, our reality is differentiation takes place more in the home. Some years, depending on the teacher and cohort size, there is more rigor and depth. We've noticed it takes a lot of work and volunteer time to make that happen especially with any project based learning. And even that turns into more fieldtrips and more individualized project done at home.

Also I don't know if it's due to an increase in standardized testing, we've noticed much more teaching to content on the MSP and MAP which doesn't always connects to the curriculum (the LA's workshop, NSF kits, and EDM).

DIfferentiation is tough to implement because as so many here have described, you may have some differentiation happening, but differentiation of resources and priority and quality of instruction is not equal.

SPS parent

TechyMom said...

periphery,

I've often wondered if some combination of grade-skipping and clustering could help to meet the needs of isolated/sparse advanced learners. For example, and these are only examples as there are lots of ways this could be strucutred, what if AL qualified kids were given the option of walk-to-reading and/or math in the next class up, grade skipping, or both for 2-year advancement? What if there were some sort of multi-age pull-out that allowed guided self-study? Maybe with a coach who serves multiple schools? What about some sort of scholarship arrangement with the after-school and saturday classes at the UW Robinson Center? How could the AL office set these programs up centrally, so it's easy for principals to adopt them and get back to the task of helping at-risk kids?

Anonymous said...

APP comment
Kregory King, and I feel Rina G, did not support teachers who had an understanding of what gifted education was. Note the number of APP teachers that left last year. Our school was gutted. They now have a school full of teachers who know next to nothing about gifted education. Standing up for "gifted education" and the actual needs of gifted students, is what put teacher's on the chopping block. The pressure to let go of creativity, follow only the SPS curriculum guidlines that go out to all schools, culminated in the loss of most of what was "gifted" about our curriculum.

Rina and Gregory would come in and be interested as to if our "teaching point was posted." If we had more than one point in a lesson, we were written up. I can say for sure that gifted children can handle more than one point per lesson. Even testbook lessons are written with a number of teaching points per lesson. Rina and Gregory completely missed the essence of the good teaching that was going on, and attacked excellent teaching. You wonder why teachers left? Believe me, they didn't leave lightly. They were not given a chance to teach "gifted" curriculum any more.

I also want to say that the SPS legal audit on the Lowell situation from last year is months late in coming out. I'm sure that it was damning, or it would have been out long ago.

Former Lowell Teacher

Anonymous said...

Periphery illustrates the reality very well, Charlie. As long as we're fighting over defining these labels and who deserves to be where, we're spending all our energies that should be directed at simply ensuring appropriate rigor for all kids. This is the reality that won't change unless somebody blinks and just says, Yes, let's change the conversation now.

Emile

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how sad I am to see the systematic gutting of gifted learning in Seattle.

dk

Anonymous said...

Emile, glad to have you posting. If you go to search about AL, you will find a glut of discussions in the past on this blog alone. Believe me when it comes to talk, surveys, discussions, and meetings, there have been many and great ones presenting terrific ideas and systemic and thoughtful plans. What has not been forthcoming is the follow through action, which is why we are where we are today. Still talking about it.

6+ years and still at it

Anonymous said...

Zombie, you comment is ridiculous.

The fact is - we have many, many, many private schools catering to gifted students - mostly white. Or - they count very nominal measures of diversity. (Been to Lakeside lately? They say they're 40% minority, but you sure don't see it when you're there.) The white students remaining in Seattle public schools is around 50% of the total living in Seattle - and significantly "less gifted" than those represented in the city since so many are attending the private schools catering to giftedness. Therefore, true "giftedness" of that community should be under-represented in the SPS programs. Instead, we find the opposite. At the very least, if you consider "access", you must use the percentages actually present is SPS - not those who happen to live in the whole city. SO - access really is an issue. The fact that Lowell at Lincoln has not a single black student speaks volumes to the issue.

Converserly, those same private schools accept very students with disabilities. Some accept students with minor disabilities. Therefore, we should see our disability programs OVER represented with white students with disabilities. Here too, we find the opposite. Our disabilities programs are over-represented with students of color, which is a nation-wide civil rights issue.

-observer

Anonymous said...

I think there are strategies that could really work, but they all require both genuine commitment and resources. I don't agree that any part of a successful strategy involves no longer labeling children. A lack of labeling is one of those things that sounds great on paper, but in actuality what it would mean is that needs may go unidentified and would almost certainly go unmet. Particularly, it would exacerbate geographic/socioeconomic inequalities by putting families in a place of potentially endless advocacy--something that families with certain backgrounds and resources would be more inclined to do, leaving the children of those with other backgrounds and resources even more likely to fall through the cracks than they are now.
--periphery

Anonymous said...

shouldn't you be angry at the (unusually high) 20% of Seattle parents who refuse to engage in or help Seattle Public Schools and go private instead?

Why would anybody "hate" people using private school? People who go private should be thanked. They leave the limited resources of the state's education funding for the benefit of others. The idea that we will somehow get more money by having more students doesn't pass the "Everyday Math" sniff test. If there were a lot more students enrolled in SPS, the state would not magically come up with more money. It would simply cut K-12 PER STUDENT funding again. Same money for more students amounts to that basic fact. And a few more cakes sold at the PTA isn't going to make up that difference.

Thank you for going private and spending your own money!

Do we hate people who use private medical insurance instead of medicare/caid?

Another parent

Charlie Mas said...

It is all well and good to say that all of our classrooms should be able to meet the academic needs of every student in them, it is something different to find a way to do that.

The obvious solution is to reduce class sizes and put some real emphasis on differentiation through training, resources, and management focus. Unfortunately that cannot happen. We lack the funds and the classrooms for the smaller class sizes that would make a difference. We lack the resources or the funding to acquire them. We lack the management talent and authority for a management focus of any kind. Worse, our management focus is currently in exactly the opposite direction: standardization.

Another approach, short-cutting the need for those strategies, would be to use technology to introduce a ton of individualized instruction in the areas of skills and skill-building while devoting class time and teacher time to projects that engage higher level cognitive skills as well as collaborative skills. This style of hybrid education, now in use at Queen Anne Elementary and some charter schools, requires an investment in technology that is currently beyond our budget, the development of creative, engaging, challenging lesson plans for class time that we have yet to build, and a revolutionary change in the perception of the teacher's role which is no where near discussion, let alone adoption.

The other way to short-cut it would be to group students by skill level and teach the separate skill groupings separately. That's what APP and Spectrum are supposed to do. That's where we are. That's the reality.

Don't like that? Then find another path that will get us where we need to be that is within our budget and the abilities of our staff.

Anonymous said...

Actually Observer, I have been to Lakeside school recently, and there is a hugh representation of "minorities" and quite a mix of different cultures, religions, and languages. There are Seattle public schools who have breakdown of < 12% FRL, < 10% Sped Ed, > 75-80% whites. You also have neighborhood schools that have disproportionate numbes of FRL and "minorities" > 50% and very high %ELL. Reality is SPS remains segregated and NSAP will accentuate that.

-reality bites

Anonymous said...

I am pointing the SPS statistics out not to show Lakeside or other private schools are better (I don't really care about them), but it is important to acknowledge that within this district we have disparity among neighborhoods. It doesn't do us any good to compare a public school to private. It's apple to orange. A straw man. More helpful to see the breakdown of the district school population makeup and see how that impact academic access and outcomes. It helps us figure where we need to focus resources and why is it harder for ALO program in certain neighborhoods to thrive (see periphery's experience). It helps to undersatnd why ALO/spectrum in a wealthier neighborhoods may facing different issues (disinterested principal, parental conflict over labelling) than ALO/spectrum in a poorer neighborhoods (not large enough cohort, more focus and effort on higher need population, limited resources such as lack of parental volunteers/engagement/AL awareness).

reality bites

Zombie said...

"Another parent", your mistake is thinking there is a fixed size pot of money that is divided among students, no matter how many or how few students there are.

That mistake would be just a mistake if it didn't lead to such tragic conclusions. It makes you think Seattle Public Schools is a zero sum game where, if you can only drive enough people out, you who remain will have everything that is left.

That isn't how it works. There isn't a fixed pot of money. You can't win by getting rid of people.

The fact is that, unless our public schools attract and educate all the children of Seattle, levies and taxes will fail, charters will pass, and public schools will see their funding deeply cut. And, if that happens, the kids who can't get out will be the ones who get the most hurt.

Anonymous said...

What's going on with the task force? No minutes since December. Are they through? Any more meetings?

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