Friday Open Thread

I attended the Assessment Taskforce meeting yesterday.  It was a good meeting that was very well organized (kudos to staff) and the talk by Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University who phoned in was stellar.  I'll put up a thread this weekend.  (If only the Advanced Learning taskforce work had been organized this well.)

The Garfield teachers are having a press conference today at 3:15 p.m. to talk about the coming consequences of their MAP boycott action.  Those consequences could start as soon as today as this is the last day of the winter testing window.  From the press release:

"Of the over 800 MAP tests that were supposed to be administered at Garfield during the winter testing window, only around 180 valid tests were administered - further demonstrating the unity of the Garfield community in the pursuit of quality assessment." 

It is confusing as the Superintendent told the teachers that, despite his plans to suspend them without pay for 10 days, that he would NOT do it.  But they couldn't get that in writing so it is unclear what will happen. 

Community meetings with Director DeBell (9-11 am) and Director Patu (10 am to noon) on Saturday.

Something for the kids to do - name those new lion cubs at the Woodland Park Zoo.   It's looks like a fun contest.  Boy, these cubs are cute - I've got to get to the zoo to see them while they are still little.

Friday funny (that you could share but with older students) - in a mass knife fight to the death among our presidents, who would win?  Could be a good way for kids to learn about our presidents (I recall that my kids learned the presidents, in order, via the Animaniacs.)  The author, Geoff Micks (suspiciously a Canadian), goes through the known strengths of each president and it's all good historical entertainment. 

Here are the parameters of the fight: 

To begin, here were the original conditions of the hypothetical, as suggested by the redditor Xineph:
  • Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses (e.g. FDR’s polio) remain.
  • The presidents are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the [1] Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.
  • Each president has been given one standard-issue [2] Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife [3] presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the presidents have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.
  • There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.
  • FDR has been outfitted with a [4] Bound Plus H-Frame Power Wheelchair, and can travel at a maximum speed of around 11.5 MPH. The wheelchair has been customized so that he is holding his knife with his dominant hand. This is to compensate for his almost certain and immediate defeat in the face of an overwhelming disadvantage.
  • Each president will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.
What's on your mind?


G n A said…
I'm pasting an email I sent to enrollment services yesterday to clarify how exactly the computer selects schools for open enrollment. I would LOVE any insight people have. Much thanks!

I'm hoping someone can clarify a question I have about the open enrollment process. I've spoken with two different people at Enrollment Services, and have received two different answers. I'd like to know what model the computer uses for selecting open choice schools. This is about the lottery, after any tiebreakers have been determined. There are two scenarios:
Method 1) The computer randomly selects a student ID. If the student's first choice is full, the computer moves on to their second choice, then third, etc, until the student is placed. That student is not set aside until they have a school placement, even if it is their neighborhood school.
Method 2) The computer randomly selects a student ID. If the student's first choice is full, the computer sets that student aside and goes on to the next randomly selected student to see their first choice. After all students' first choices have been looked at, a second round starts with the students still left to be assigned, and the computer randomly selects a student. If the student's second choice is open, they are placed in that school; if full then the student is then set aside for round three (assuming they have a third choice). The computer then goes onto the next randomly selected student to see their second choice. Etc, etc.

I read the Transition Plan on the district website and it states: All first choices will be processed first, all second choices next, etc etc. I read that as being Method #2, but I'm not certain. When I called, the first person I spoke with said that this is the method the district has been using, and she would basically only repeat the line, "All first choices will be processed first, all second choices next." She wouldn't clarify scenarios I put forth. The second person I spoke with went into great detail about the open enrollment process. She eventually said that it's Method #1 that the district uses.

The distinction is important in what we put for our #1 and #2 choices as one is a highly desired school. Our chances of getting in are not great. Our second choice had a waitlist last year and is anticipated to have one again this year. If indeed the district uses the second method, we would most likely miss out on both schools.

I really hope someone can confirm for me which method is used so we can more carefully weigh our school choice options.
So basically you are asking if the computer does ALL students at once or does it put students aside if their first choice is not available and go on to other students' first choices until ALL first choices are done? Then move on to second choices?

I can try to ask Tracy Libros but I want to make sure I understand the question.
G n A said…
Melissa, Yes, that's what I'm asking. If it uses that model, we'll put our #2 choice first b/c we have a better chance of getting in. However, we anticipate a waitlist at our #2 school, so if we put it as our second choice, we have little chance of getting in b/c all slots will likely fill in the first round. I hope this makes sense! Thank you for asking. I hope to hear back from enrollment services.

I'm out of the house for the morning, so if I don't reply to comments or questions, that's why. I'll try to check the board from my phone, but not sure I'll have time.
Anonymous said…
G n A,

Contact Brandon Holst. He heads up the open enrollment process and should be able to give you a difinitive answer.

Just passing by.....
Anonymous said…
Hi Gretchen,

This is my best understanding of the process…I don’t know definitively as I have not seen all of the computer code.

Your application for your first choice submission will be processed along with everyone else that listed the school as their first choice. Each applicant is given a randomly selected Lottery Number (one of the tiebreakers.) Student ID does not come into play in the process unless you are enrolling twins.

All of the tiebreakers are taken into account (including the randomly selected lottery number) and a score for your applicant is calculated. Then all of the applicants are ordered for that school based on their calculated score.

If you don’t get your first choice then the process will continue for you when a new randomly assigned lottery will be given to you for your second choice, score determined, and your applicant ordered along with everyone else that also listed that specific school as their second choice.

Once all of your choices have been processed, if you do not receive an assignment to any of the choices on your application, you will automatically be assigned to your attendance area school. You do not even need to list your attendance area school on your application as it is the default.

You will then be ordered on the wait list for the school you listed as first choice based on your score from the calculation of the tie-breakers.

If you truly do not want to attend a school do not list it on your application. If you receive an assignment to a school on your application you give up your seat at your attendance area school.

A new consideration this year is the distance tie-breaker so don’t overlook that.

Another consideration is our current capacity issues at most schools. Unless your second, third, etc. choices are schools that are dramatically under enrolled the odds are super slim that you would get in after all of the first choice applications for that school have been processed.

If you are fine with your attendance area school as a back-up – go for it and list your real first choice first. If you don’t get in during open enrollment you will still be placed on the wait list.

Good luck!

Anonymous said…
Wilson Pacific? When will we be hearing about all of that? Any guesses?
Laura, sadly, I wasn't able to get to the BEX Oversight Committee meeting this morning and they may have discussed some of these timing issues.

That the Board had a John Marshall renovation item on the the Board agenda this week in order to open it this fall may be a tip-off to something coming for W-P. The agenda item did not identify why they wanted it ready.
Anonymous said…
Congratulations to both the Roosevelt and the Garfield Jazz Bands for being accepted to Essentially Ellington this year.

-Music Supporter
G n A said…
Thanks StepJ for that explanation. Not the answer I wanted, but the one I suspected.
Maureen said…
I'm curious as to how the tours are going out there. Do people feel that the Option schools are selling themselves well? Have you been surprised at how popular (or un) any of the schools you have looked at are? Do the presenters seem to have a clear idea of how the assignment plan works for their school?

(My interest isn't limited to Option Schools, but tours and open houses seem most important for them to get right.)
dan dempsey said…
Overhaul of Teacher-Prep Standards Targets Recruitment, Performance from Ed Week.

A set of proposed standards for teacher-preparation programs unveiled today by the Washington-based Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation are leaner, more specific, and more outcomes-focused than any prior set in the 60-year history of national teacher-college accreditation.

Put together by a CAEP-commissioned panel of some 40 members, including teacher educators from both traditional and alternative programs, representatives from advocacy organizations, states, and districts, the standards would for the first time require accredited programs to adhere to a prescribed minimum-admissions standard.

CAEP is the newly created successor to two former national teacher-college-accreditation bodies.

The proposed standards would also require programs to consider "value added" test-score-growth data alongside other measures to examine graduates' ability to boost P-12 academic achievement, and to continue refining existing quality-assurance measures. (Value-added attempts to isolate the specific contributions of teachers or, in the context of teacher preparation, groups of teachers, on student learning.)

Some of those requirements touch on hotly debated topics within the teacher-preparation field, and as such, the standards are likely to meet with a diverse response from the field. As evidenced by a federal effort to write new teacher-training-accountability rules last year, there are deep ideological divides in the field about these ideas. It is generally split between those who favor an emphasis on outcomes-based on such measures as test scores and employer-statisfaction surveys, and others who see such requirements as too expensive, burdensome, and error-prone.
Anonymous said…
Just got this email from SPS...thought some of you might also like to take this survey and provide input.

SPS seeks input on updating the Strategic Plan

In June 2008, the Seattle School Board adopted a five-year strategic plan, Excellence for All. As the fifth year comes to a close, the Board has directed Superintendent José Banda to develop an updated version to guide the District for the next three-to-five years. The District has hired Pivot Learning Partners to assist in the development of a revised plan.

Your voice is essential as the strategic plan is updated. Seattle Public Schools is asking members of the community to share their feedback through an online survey, which closes on February 27th. This survey focuses on prior and/or current experiences with Excellence for All and will ask you to share perceptions and assessments of the plan, as well as your level of involvement and connection with the plan.

We hope that you’ll take 5-10 minutes to complete the survey. We want to hear from everyone, so please spread the word and complete it as soon as possible. We will produce a summary of the results to share with the community.

If you have questions about the survey, you may contact

Thank you again for this important feedback.


Spanish - Español

Chinese -

Vietnamese - Tiếng Việt

Somali - Af Soomaliga (Luqadda af Soomaliga)



TraceyS said…
This was sent out last week by Chris Cronas, the principal at Wedgwood:

Update on cluster grouping at Wedgwood

Hello Families, I wanted to update you on the timeline for our continued integration of students from self-contained to cluster grouped classrooms. Wedgwood's Building Leadership Team (BLT) which consists of staff members, a parent representative, and me recently settled on the following recommendation to staff for the continued integration of our student population:

BLT's recommendation to staff is that we continue at the current pace of year by year roll-up of cluster grouped classrooms on the condition that capacity issues across grades do not supersede this pace. Capacity issues may impact the current pace of integration and it may be necessary to accelerate the integration of grade 4 next year.

The original timeline presented to families and staff two years ago was to have the entire school integrated by the beginning of next year. Based on feedback I received last year from families, staff and central office, we decided to slow our pace and integrate only grades 1 & 2 this school year (instead of grades 1-3). In response to BLT's recommendation, we intend to continue integrating at a rate of one grade level per year on the condition that capacity does not impact our ability to maintain a self-contained spectrum classroom. Should our enrollment figures for the 2013-14 school year indicate attrition in grade 4, I must seriously consider integrating all of grade 4 in order to manage our teacher load effectively and responsibly.

Please expect that students will continue to participate in both self-contained and general education classrooms for the 2013-14 school year in grades 4 & 5. However, please understand that may change, depending on enrollment and budget projections. If any changes to our model become necessary as a consequence of the 2013-14 budget, I will let families know.

Thank you and if you would like to discuss this or have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Chris Cronas

TraceyS said…
There is also a sidebar in the email, with his interpretation of cluster grouping. Note that he specifically describes it as having 6 Spectrum students in the classroom. This varies significantly from the Brulles model, and actually brings the classrooms in line with the control group and not the cluster group she studied. (Brulles' model specifically clusters gifted students into one or two classrooms, and compares results with classrooms where gifted students are separated and spread out equally across classrooms.)

Sidebar from Cronas' email:
What exactly is cluster grouping?
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.
The Wedgwood implementation is based on a model developed by Dr. Dina Brulles, PhD, a highly respected gifted educator and administrator. Click here for her website including bio and publications. [ link referred to is here: ]
Unknown said…
A bill which would have mandated that student test scores make up 50% of a teacher's evaluation died in committee today. That's good news. I wonder how much the Garfield MAP boycott had to do with the bill dying in committee.

Also, a bill I have been working on, 1688, which would require parents be notified if restraint or seclusion is used on their child made it out of the House Education Committee yesterday. Some parents are not happy because they feel this bill does not go far enough, and they are right. I feel that it is morally wrong and violates best practice research to use aversive interventions on children with disabilities, particularly children with developmental or intellectual disabilities. But I am also a pragmatist, and I'm going for incremental change.
Anonymous said…
Tracey, thank you for sharing this information. I hear many parents that are really interested but really confused about how Spectrum is implemented at different schools. Sounds like they are mangling the Brulles model but at least there is a defined plan. I wish my ALO school in the NE had such a plan.

NE parent
Anonymous said…
I thought the Brulles model had the 98%-99% students (APP level) in one class and the high achievers (Spectrum level) in a different class?

Based on 3 classes per grade level:

APP, Average, Below Average

Spectrum, Average, Really Below Average

I hate all these labels ... just trying to understand the model.

Ballard Family
I went to the talk by Dr. Dina Brulles sponsored by Wedgwood. No, they are not following her model so I feel it somewhat disingenuous to say they are.
Anonymous said…
What's the distance tiebreaker? how is that different than the system used last year? I see references on the school district's website about the tiebreakers that were adopted on 1/31/13 but the link to the document is broken.
Just saying said…

Are students in seclusion required to have a camera on them? Are staff required to check on a student in seclusion every 15 minutes and provide documentation?
Unknown said…
@Just Saying,
There are no requirements isolation if the student is not special education. If a special education student is not able to get out of a room by himself, there must be constant visual monitoring. If the student is able to leave himself, then the student must be within visual or auditory range of the supervising adult.
North Seattle Mom said…
A caution to read those open enrollment letters carefully - our 'Spectrum student in 5th grade' was NOT 'automatically assigned to 6th grade Spectrum at their attendance area middle school' but assigned to Gen Ed. at current K-8. Not sure what happened but not too concerned since we're going with APP.
TraceyS said…
It has been very disingenuous to claim they are following Brulles model. It's not even close, nor does it follow the basic guidelines or intentions. Brulles' model clearly clusters the children with the same learning styles/needs in only one or two classrooms, not spreading them out throughout the entire grade. In fact, that was the entire *point* of the cluster model -- NOT to divide the kids up.

I, and everyone else, get that there are capacity issues. But that is being used as an excuse to dismantle the program. There is no need to evenly distribute the kids. That is where the 6 kids per classroom comes from-- deliberately dividing up the Spectrum kids among all the classrooms in the grade. There is no legitimate reason to do this.

If Wedgwood no longer wants to host a Spectrum program, I truly wish everyone would just be upfront and say so, and let the kids who need a program with critical mass move on to one that supports their needs.

The news of this change came the same day we got our enrollment letter, so we are once again faced with wondering whether there is support at the school for a geeky elementary aged girl in need of similar peers. I swear to God this district is doing everything within their power to discourage girls in STEM. It is already bad enough finding support and peers for a child who likes Tinkerbell, Legos, chess, and Doctor Who. Breaking up the geeky girl gang is just going to alienate the small amount of traction that they've been able to carve out for themselves. We left our previous school precisely because there was not cultural support for science and math oriented girls. This latest move is a swing backwards for girls like her.
Anonymous said…
When Cronas writes "attrition," does that mean what I think it means: Kids leaving his school because they aren't getting what they need there? And leaving for what, more rigor, APP, a principal they like, who listens to them, and isn't pushing his own agenda, by chance?

Or is he doing what the majority of his community wants? It's hard to tell.

Anonymous said…

I understand how hard is for "geeky" girls to find friends with similar interests. I would suggest that the best way to find like-minded friends for your daughter is through participating in activities and your daughter not being afraid to let others know what she's into.

My daughter, who loves Star Wars, Legos, robotics, and computer programming, was in Spectrum at Wedgwood. There wasn't a girl in her class who shared her interests. When she got to Eckstein she took tech classes and joined the robotics team. There she met her best friend, who shares her interests. Guess what elementary her friend attended - Wedgwood. She was just in a different class. So it isn't always necessary to be in APP or Spectrum to find other geeky girls.

I have heard some parents have expressed an interest in starting a First Lego League robotics team at Wedgwood. Laurelhurst has a team and it had girls on it this year. Perhaps this is something you could take on.

You could also look into IGNITE.

It's a Seattle non-profit whose focus is to show girls possibilities in STEM careers. Perhaps a chapter could be started at Wedgwood. Through IGNITE my Eckstein daughter went on a tour of Microsoft, which inspired her and it was an opportunity to meet other girls with similar interests.

Wedgwood & Eckstein Parent
Anonymous said…

...But Should a principal "just do what the majority (of the school's parent community) want?

Think about it. Certain educational best practices that apply to 'minority learners' (not talking about race, creed, ethnicity, etc; I'm referring to learning style or learning needs) are best determined by professional educators and the parents of the minority children, not by a 'mob vote'.

So, for example, if a school has a special ed program that is self-contained, and the school is under a massive capacity crunch, such that they are about to switch to 'art on a cart' AND 'music on a cart', so the parents - the vast majority - are really upset, should they demand the special ed students who 'absorb more space' and 'are not neighborhood kids anyway' get kicked out so that they can all continue to enjoy their music and art?

My point is 'majority rules' is a terrible way to make educational decisions about minorities, whether they are ELL, SpEd, or gifted learners. No, I am *not* comparing ELL or Sped to advanced programs -- merely the fact that students in those programs *system wide* are not the majority of learners within SSD's schools.

Anonymous said…
If schools are supposed to be equitable, why is it ok for schools who can afford it to buy a better math curriculum while those who don't are stuck with EDM? There are now three elementary schools in West Seattle who are using a different math curriculum and a fourth school is considering which alternate curriculum to adopt next year. The stem school is one of these schools so obviously was able to get the district to pay for a different curriculum. However, the other three schools have wealthier PTA's so can afford to purchase the different curriculum. I have been told by staff at my kid's school that EDM, especially for k/1's, is not good. The teachers at our school are piecing together a curriculum for this age group because of that. It is more like "every once in a while math" than "every day math." There is an inherent inequity here. If your school can afford it, you will get better math. If not, good luck figuring it out yourself. Is this something parents can sue over (not that i have the money to do so?). How can such blatant inequity continue as schools with wealthier PTAs decide to purchase their way out of the bad math curriculum we are currently stuck with in SPS?

Equity for math is not adding up
Benjamin Leis said…
Wed. Night is the advanced learners discussion at JA. I'm not sure if it will fit better for you or not but it might be worth looking at.
Anonymous said…
Isn't the bigger question why there isn't a better math curriculum district wide, so schools don't feel compelled to buy something different? Mercer, Thurgood Marshall, Schmitz Park - doesn't the district have enough data to show we can do better than EDM and CMP?

Meanwhile, the head of Teaching and Learning is an interim, and the position for Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction sits vacant.

fix the math
CT said…
Equity - make sure they don't buy the Pearson product - Envision math. Terribly inappropriate for K-1 and has to be so chopped up to meet with WA math standards its hard form a coherent sequence of instruction. They also borrow heavily from some EDM activities, but present them so horribly that you'll be wishing for the simple Frames and Arrows and What's my Rule graphics that EM had. Not a good product, and they claim to have all this "interactive online content" which turns out to be .pdfs online. But because its not EDM, districts are going for the Pearson product. Sometimes the devil you know and can work with is better than a whole new one.
Benjamin Leis said…
Has anyone had any experiences with the transitional kindergarten at Sandpoint? I'm looking for some first hand accounts.

Anonymous said…
Having followed the AL issue for a while, I continue to be somewhat confused yet at the same time optimistic about the direction things are going. Wedgwood, Whittier, Lawton, Viewridge, Lafayette; those are the Spectrum schools I've followed the most and they all seem to take different approaches to delivering the program. My hope is that the AL dept is tracking student performance and comparing the models. The Hamilton, Lincoln, TM, Washington, Garfield, Ingraham, IB, IBx scenarios are also in flux and would seem to create a great opportunity for Dr V. To crunch numbers and develop a more cohesive and standardized model for delivery. Or maybe it is the plan to ,et things progress more individually in each school. Or a hybrid.
It feels like reading tea leaves to understand the district on many occasions, and I guess I understand not wanting to get tied up in a debate at the district level about every decision. Take the 6th grade Algebra 1 issue. It was " decreed" that a score of 252 winter MAP was needed in 5 th grade. Many parents were upset that their kids missed by a point or a few points. Some went homeschool for math, some are just mad. But this decision came down without a task force or any discussion that I am aware of occurring. Should many hours or days be spent on listening to parents at school meetings be spent on such an action? I don't think so. That's what we pay Bob and hhis staff to do.
The decision to let individual Spectrum schools plot their own courses is another one that seems strange in that delivery is so different around the district, but can also be seen as a way to incubate new ideas. As I said before, if AL is using the data they have, MAP and MSP, to evaluate delivery options, that's great. I for one would like to hear about it. On the flip side, however, what are the different models doing for all the kids at these different schools. Tough questions, worthy of a real scientific study.
To sum up, whether one agrees with the approach taken by AL and the district as a whole or not, there seems to be some intentionality to what's happening. I like Bob and would rather have a dynamic situation for all its faults and uncertainties than a rigid system like in NYC for example, that seems to have devolved in many respects to methods of gaming it.
BB said…
Advanced learning, ELL, SpEd - they all have the resentment issue form parents who aren't in the programs. The fact is that society is better with gifted kids reaching their potential while maintaining a social conscience, with immigrants learning English so as to have full opportunity, and kids with disabilities becoming as self sufficient and empowered as possible.
That is the big picture and in our system of representative democracy each group advocates and things work out in the end, sometimes.
Anonymous said…
Fix the math- that is exactly it. Let's see now, it will be half of the elementary schools in WS who have Singapore math while the rest of us are stick with EDM. I love my school and feel that the teachers are doing the best they can with the materials they have (and coaching because they have a fabulous math coach on board - at least our PTA could afford that much), but the fact that PTA's are spending money to fix this problem is not acceptable. The three wealthiest schools in West Seattle will have better math. The stem school has Singapore math PAID for by the district. It is simply not equitable. It needs to change.

Math equity not adding up
we need better math said…
An APP parent reporting from Thurgood Marshall on the Envision math (reposted from the APP blog):

For what it's worth, my child usually scored 98-99% on math MAP tests, but plateaued for 2 years at thurgood Marshall under the everyday math curriculum (with high percentiles but little to no improvement). This winter, my child scored 99% again, but the RIT score jumped about 40 points from last winter, much more than typical progression. Anecdotally, families are reporting big leaps in winter math MAP scores at Thurgood Marshall with the implementation of Envision. The MAP scores, standing alone, have little meaning or importance but they confirm what I already knew. My child is learning a lot of new material this year, and understanding the material well.
-- Happy with Envision

Will the teacher evaluations consider them "highly effective," whereas with EDM, they were just "average?" It's not just equity for the students, but for the teachers as well.
dan dempsey said…
About the Math...

Highline is using Math in Focus (Singapore Math) and an online program (ST Math) from the Mind Research Institute..... This will be the first year for this combination district wide after a one year pilot of the combo at one elementary school.

MSP test results were very good at the one school last year. It will be interesting to see the district wide MSP results for 2012-2013.
Anonymous said…
Jane Addams has begun using ST Math for most special education students. Wonder if it will improve things.

Anonymous said…
BB says:
Advanced learning, ELL, SpEd - they all have the resentment issue form parents who aren't in the programs. The fact is that society is better with gifted kids reaching their potential while maintaining a social conscience [blah blah blah]

BB, the fact is that this type of segregation ALWAYS results in the illegal clustering of special education students together. When some classes have 0% (or close to 0%) disability rates, the remaining classes will be disproportionately disabled - and very often other classes are highly disproportionately disabled. Especially true when the number of minimally gifted population (ie... not very gifted as in Spectrum) reaches a high percentage at any given school. And that happens typically in wealthy neighborhoods where a large group of kids are either "gifted" or "disabled". That is illegal because it is a more restrictive setting for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are entitled to an LRE under IDEA. Eg. It isn't an "LRE", least restrictive environment, it becomes a more restrictive environment because students with disabilities are restricted to disproportionately disabled populations.

And while some people believe with passion that "best practice" is segregation - there is no entitlement to that. And as the law has found - nobody is entitled to a cadillac, only a basic floor of opportunity.

-just saying
BB said…
Just saying,
You are absolutely correct and I agree. Why doesn't anyone call the district on self contained Spectrum? It is unfair and apparently illegal. APP can avoid the legal problem I guess because it meets a federal definition of gifted? So the walk to models that group students for a class or two each day are OK I presume. Can we not all have "Cadillacs"?
CT said…
Oh look - Arizona is having trouble finding out how any of its public money is being spent in charter schools.
And they're supposed to be at the head of the pack for accountability. 20 years with charters and what do they have to show? Lots of corruption - unable to be proven though, since the financial records are not public - nepotism, cherry-picking (even though it is NOT allowed), greasing palms, etc. The comments are pretty telling. Washington's in for so much fun!
Anonymous said…
Just sayin - we left our highly thought of (ie good test scores) neighborhood school and one of the reasons was the self contained spectrum program. It just created a weird tension at the school that was palpable. It is refreshing to be at a school this year where it isn't an issue. I absolutely agree that some truly gifted kids need accelerated programs. I am just not sure spectrum is the answer. One of the last straws for us (there were others) was when one of my kid's friends in kindergarten started telling my kid about it last spring. She kept going on about how much smarter she was because of it and how she knew who her teacher was going to be the following year. My kid wanted to know why she didn't know who her teacher would be like her spectrum friend. I really did not have good words to explain it to a kindergartner. Anyway, I am so glad we left that school! It was a toxic environment. Weird resentment if you weren't in the program even amongst parents who said they didn't care. I wanted no part of it. It was just weird.

APP yes, Spectrum hmmm.
BB said…
the problem is keeping kids at the neighborhood school.You left because of self contained, others will leave because it isnt there.we really want to serve as many kids as possible at their closets school and walk tos can do it, IMO. there will always be kids bragging, but the "school within a school" dynamic is something to be avoided. i really want to know why a parent doesnt threaten to sue over self contained Spectrum at whittier or Lafayette if it is illegal?

Anonymous said…
News Flash:

The Seattle Times will require digital subscriptions for full online access to the Seattle Times.

-- Dan Dempsey

The NY Times online is $15 per month... so what is access to the Seattle Times worth?

Can we not all have "Cadillacs"?

Really? Are we going to have this argument....again?

If you think that APP or Spectrum kids are getting more/better, go sit in a classroom and see for yourself. They aren't.

As for Spectrum being illegal, I doubt it. The district would not have been able to use the format for so long if it was.

The way things are now, Advanced Learning is mostly a joke/afterthought anyway.
Dan, it looks like the Times is about $6.00 a week, $3.15 for Sunday (is that more than the actual paper is now?) and $3.80 for the weekend.

I don't know if I think it's worth it especially for their brand of journalism.
Anonymous said…
WSDWG: about 25% of the third grade Spectrum students at Wedgwood left last year, mostly for APP. Though I do not expect or even want a self-contained class if the numbers drop, isolating the remaining students is a program-killer. They could easily be clustered (as in Brulles-defined clustering) in a single classroom, or even among two, and there are definitely school-identified non-Spectrum kids that should be included. Leadership at Wedgwood is not interested in pursuing that option.
For those not familiar with Brulles-her model places kids with similar learning needs in one classroom "cluster" if there are not enough to form a self-contained class. It was developed and studied as a better model that isolating students in small groups among multiple classes. In other words, what Wedgwood is proposing for 4th grade, and what's been done to the lower grades.

Wedgwood&Eckstein parent: We already do most of those things, and thank you for the reminder about IGNITE. My issue is a school environment that is becoming less supportive of its STEM-focused kids, particularly girls. I mean, it's school, for crying out loud -- they *should* be finding ways to encourage academically-interested kids while *at school*. I should not be having to seek extensive outside supplementation for my geeky girl to feel comfortable about basic science and math related subjects, or for her to feel ok about about discussing her reading choices with her classmates.

Ben: We looked long and hard at Jane Addams. I really liked the K-8 aspect, and liked very much how they structured their Spectrum program (its an integrated model, but they actually cluster the kids, and don't try and break them up evenly and separate them from their counterparts). However, there was simply too much instability surrounding JA's future to move my 3rd and 6th graders to the school. We have been through too many school changes, and stability was crucial for our family. That had a lot to do with our decision to stay at Wedgwood. It is also why I am frustrated with this announcement that Spectrum and other academically advanced kids are going to be isolated and divided up into small groups of 6 in each classroom, like so many party favors.

Anonymous said…
Lastly-I do not give a fig as to whether Spectrum stays self-contained or even if the program remains at Wedgwood. At this point, I'd rather see it move out of the school than pretend to be something it is not. What I do care about is that my child be academically comfortable and safe at her school as well as be academically challenged. That is her right, and what I pay my taxes for.

I really do get that there are people out there who don't understand the kids who need this program. But I have two children, one of whom deeply self-identifies as an engineering oriented, geeky girl, and one who does not. Both are similarly capable. But my younger one, the engineer-in-training, happily spends the majority of her free time on chess, Legos, and math puzzles, as well as on dolls and hamsters. We saw a huge difference in her school motivation once we transferred her into a program where she spent part of her school day with like-minded *girls*. My other child would die of boredom and frustration in a similar environment. It is essential that these kids, particularly girls, be supported in their early years if we want them to retain that enthusiasm and interest all the way to college.

Other school districts are able to provide these advanced learning/gifted/talented/honors/accelerated/nom-de-jour opportunities with far less sturm and drung than SPS. There are a variety of best practices out there. So far though, we seem to be doing our level best to run off or isolate or denigrate or otherwise demotivate the students who actively want to pursue their interests. There are few enough girls who self-identify as "geeks", and that critical mass is essential for them to feel it is safe to speak up and be heard and to develop and harden their talents. School should not be a isolating, demoralizing experience for girls who want to be engineers. Not in the 21st century. Why this district seems hell-bent on discouraging them is beyond me.

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

I'm so sorry to hear that this is still happening, and may even be accelerated. It's appalling, and I don't even have a kid there. I have a few questions:

- Was there any real assessment of how the dissolution of (self-contained) Spectrum has affected the kids that stayed? There was supposed to be a gathering of data to see if the (faux) clustering was working. This would ideally be not just based on test scores, but kid/parent satisfaction and psychological/emotional states of the kids.

- Has there been any kind of data gathered to see how many parents "ran away", to APP or elsewhere? Difficult to get precise data, but shouldn't be hard to get enough data to make a point.

- When this issue was run up the flagpole in the beginning, was it ultimately determined that a principal can basically do anything they want with placement of students and mixing of programs? Phil was involved to some degree, right? Is there anyone overseeing the principals on these matters today? Are the attitudes any different?

- Is there anything we can do as a community to prevent this disaster from playing through to its completion? This is actually a question for others as well; I'm happy to gripe to administrators on behalf of others, especially because I don't have to take any fallout crap from a misguided principal like Chris.

What a disaster.
Anonymous said…
What I do care about is that my child be academically comfortable and safe at her school as well as be academically challenged. That is her right, ...

It's a "right" to have that? According to who? I think everybody can agree with safety. But "academically challenged" is both highly subjective and is nowhere specified as a right for anybody. "Floor of opportunity" is the actual right children have, according to courts. And Melissa, the court (not me) have already said specifically that you are not entitled a "Cadillac". I know you want one, it's simply not an entitlement because you want it. And no, we definitely aren't done with that conversation. Geeky girls are doing well is SPS, they aren't the ones falling through the cracks. Sitting with 6 people just like you, or 30 people just like you - isn't something we should even attempt to provide.

-just saying
"One West Seattle school is piloting Jump Math, at no cost. It's a Canadian Curriculum, developed by a Non-profit organization. Much of the materials are available for free."

Great and I'm posting this again but Anonymous, you must have a moniker to post here.

"Other school districts are able to provide these advanced learning/gifted/talented/honors/accelerated/nom-de-jour opportunities with far less sturm and drung than SPS. There are a variety of best practices out there."

Yup, it's a mystery.

Just sayin', YOU are calling APP and Spectrum a "Cadillac". Is that what the court said?

Every single child has the right to have their academic needs met. All of them.
"Sitting with 6 people just like you, or 30 people just like you - isn't something we should even attempt to provide."

Really? So why the anger over the make-up of APP? Advanced Learning has known for decades that many minority parents will simply not enroll their child because there is no other child or teacher that looks like them.
Anonymous said…
I'm saying - when people assert that "They are entitled to challenge"... in fact, there is no legal requirement for the district to provide "a challenge"... to anybody. There is no standard for "needs met" either. Is there a legally recognized forum for determining "needs met" beyond GLE's, ELRs, etc? Your idea of a "need" - is or is often really, simply a "want". Students also need to learn to challenge themselves. Consider parents who already provide the breadth of any given grade level's worth of education for their child. Is the district obligated to give them something else? Or more? No, it is not. (though we might all want that, and maybe sometimes we get it) The parents might want it, but they aren't entitled to it. And, given that we have trouble providing for the the things that are indeed legally required, it's hard to justify non-required things for some people, but not required things for others. As I mentioned before, segregated learning for minimally gifted children - creates a segregated environment for everyone, at a loss to everyone. That is a cost to other people. I'm just saying... it isn't an entitlement.

It no, it isn't actually anger, it's just another view point. Why are other NON-AL viewpoints always called "angry"?

-just saying
mirmac1 said…
The courts have clearly ruled that students with disabilities are entitled to a "fair and appropriate" education but "not a Cadillac" quote unquote. In many schools across this nation, that means a self-contained classroom that is essentially a babysitting service (even though the students can do much more), all in the name of what is convenient and efficacious for the administration.

I agree with just saying
Anonymous said…
I am the parent of a child in a Spectrum program. I'm not a fan of labels or segregating children, but i do know that the Spectrum program fulfills a need for many students. My child, who also has Aspergers and thus has many learning challenges, spent two years in a general education classroom at a school our family loves. It was a disaster for him. He hated school, stopped working, was disruptive in class, suspended frequently for his behavior, and regressed significantly in academics. Yes, he lost a lot of ground academically, especially in writing and math. We moved him to a Spectrum classroom at a different school where he is now working one grade level ahead. There were other differences between the schools (not going to address here the cultural differences between the two schools in their delivery of special education services), but it is clear to us that the added academic challenge in the Spectrum classroom is a key component to his success at the new school. No behavior problems in his classroom. No suspensions. He's writing again. He's doing advanced math and acing it. I know for a fact that he is not the only child in that classroom with the same story. That isn't a Cadillac, that is just meeting kids' academic and social needs.

Spectrum Parent
BB said…
just sayin,
your point is accurate also very utopian. What society will spend excessive resources on goods(student) that will only produce diminishing returns? The best and brightest, or at least brighter, are a very good investment for the future of all of us. The question is, in my mind, the dehumanization of the disabled student, or the elderly or mentally impaired; doesn't that degrade our culture more than anything? To talk about what a group deserves is irrelevant, we can all have cadillacs, a humane and caring environment that teaches kids both compassion and understanding of other types of people and academics to teach them how to manage and improve our world. we need advocates from all groups to work together and find the answers. put the SpEd parents who are pissed at the district with the AL parents who are pissed and some progressive teachers and principals and let them try out a program at a school. That what happens at elementary schools, or it could. if parents make a noise to their principal, get some staff who wants to try something new' it can happen.
Anonymous said…
All students have a right to an "appropriate learning environment," which for students with disabilities is also the "least restrictive environment." And yes, we get federal money for our advanced learners- transportation is a big one- and generally federal education documents like the 98th percentile number, though I don't know if it's required for that or any other federal money we get for advanced learners.

For advanced learners an appropriate educational environment absolutely has to include accelerated curriculum, and has every time it has been litigated, mostly at the state level. I am a little shocked by philosophy being espoused here- do we actually consider education just a memorization of a collection of facts? That is actually where you think the law stands? Good heavens I am so glad you are wrong. Students who are sufficiently advanced have zero facts to learn within general education classrooms, is that just supposed to be it for them? Because they know the facts so are at "standard" they are just supposed to sit there all year? How could that not churn out a bunch of disaffected, underachieving, disengaged high school graduates? Aren't we trying to avoid that with all our milestones and strategic plans? Of course not- they have the right to learn SOMETHING at school. I have no desire for my children to be sitting "with children like them." I specifically do not send them to private school to avoid that fate. Except, of course, insofar as we as a nation group educate our children I prefer that the group be educated in a way that is helpful for that group. Which is going to mean a group with similar enough educational levels that they can benefit in some way from one curriculum. That's not complicated or malicious. It is just what we have to do since we don't have individual tutors for every single child.

-yes, it's true, students other than yours have rights
Anonymous said…
The fact is - there is no forum for determining "appropriate learning environment" for advanced learners, nor is a district obligated to do it at all. You can't go to any court and prove the following: "My kid is entitled to a self-contained Spectrum class because that's what's appropriate" under any law, or for any reason - it would have been done by now if it could have been. And, when you start having 20, or 30% "gifted", there really is no obligation at all to that wide swath of "giftedness". Right. The law is pretty weak on what is actually required. Learning is more than a collection of facts - but I'm sure you could teach some kids everything they need to know, including the skills beyond rote memorization, outside the school, and at a much more rapid pace. But that reality doesn't create an obligation for schools to "keep going" and maximize. Who would decide "appropriate education", a bunch of entitled parents? There's no legal requirement for that, though we may wish for it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's a very well defined mechanism for students with disabilities for determining "appropriate" and "appropriate environment", (the IEP process) and a legislated mandate to provide that, under both IDEA and ADA. (and funds incidently at both the state and federal levels - beyond transportation).

Exactly right Spectrum Parent. Getting your child into a spectrum program constituted a less restrictive environment - because it isn't disproportionately disabled, like the non-Spectrum remainders. That's the point. Disproportionately disabled classes tend to become more challenging behaviorwise - because they are disproportionate. That disproportionality is inevitable when you increase segregation.

-just saying.
Anonymous said…
What society will spend excessive resources on goods(student) that will only produce diminishing returns? The best and brightest, or at least brighter, are a very good investment ...

BB, I guess I just don't understand this viewpoint at all. Lots of the "bottom" performancewise are the best investment of all. Failure to educate them constitute the largest drain to the society. Why wouldn't you want to turn that around? Why would you want to continue investing in groups that have already benefitted? In that case, you only provide a marginal increase with more investment? Imagine the large percentage of jail-bound students we have now. Wouldn't turning that around be a good investment? Continuing to "benefit the well-benefitted" seems like the smaller return, if you have to quantify it and look at from an "investment" perspective.

-just saying
Anonymous said…
2nd attempt to post to clarify about the JUMP math program in West Seattle.... I assume this comment is referring to Gatewood Elementary. On a recent school tour, the principal explained that they had tried out using JUMP Math in 2011-12 as the main curriculum for one grade level. I don't know what funded that but it was only at one grade level (maybe 4th?) although I think she said it was already being used as an intervention for some students struggling in math other grades. The principal said everyone liked it and the results were good and other grade level teachers wanted to switch as well. The whole school starting using the JUMP Math as their main math curriculum beginning in 2012-13. She explained that they were able to fund it through a generous gift from an anonymous donor. Not exactly equitable, but I hope such changes can hasten a math change district-wide by showing results in a diverse school. The official Gatewood tour handout says they use the JUMP Math curriculum and supplement “with Everyday Mathematics, DreamBox and various problem solving techniques taken from mathematicians such as Dan Myers and Marilyn Burns.”

-I was there.
Anonymous said…
Just saying, you and I really see this differently. My child is disabled and at his old school was the biggest behavioral problem in his class. At his new school, he's not a problem. His old class at his old school is now less disabled, and I understand has far fewer behavioral issues, because he left. His disability, coupled with his boredom at his old school, caused his bad school behaviors. His new Spectrum class includes quite a few kids who are just like him; indeed, I would venture to say there are more kids in his new class who have a learning disability than there were in his old class. From where I sit, I don't see disproportionality; I see an option that enables certain kinds of kids to be successful when they otherwise wouldn't be. Isn't that what we want for all kids?

Spectrum Parent
Anonymous said…
"The fact is - there is no forum for determining "appropriate learning environment" for advanced learners, nor is a district obligated to do it at all."

Sure, it is, if that district takes federal money. Not for Spectrum, but most districts either have more differentiation than Seattle does or a program like Seattle's. But they don't have to. They just do because every iota of research on educational practices out there says unequivocally that children need to be grouped by ability sometimes, and occasionally, if not often, the district does use research based practices. Self contained programs is a philosophical way of delivering education (which is more generally defined as teaching learners how to learn and meeting children where they are- including, almost always- advanced learners- everywhere except NCLB).

But for the top 2.5% there are absolutely guidelines and strings on money that we receive, same as for special ed, though it is not nearly as well fleshed out as special ed. There is not a self contained requirement, of course, because districts provide advanced learning in as many different models as districts provide special education (some of which do better than others on both accounts. Don't worry- Seattle already does terribly on advanced learning compared to its peer cities.), but plenty of parents have sued and won because their child was denied a grade acceleration, for example, or denied access to gifted programs (and on educational grounds, not discrimination ones). An appropriate learning environment is one in which the student can progress, not maximize, but progress, which for some children is not a general education classroom. McCleary requires ample, not just adequate, funding for these programs, so even within our own state there's plenty of precedent and rights.

-yes, they do have rights
Why would you want to continue investing in groups that have already benefitted?

And your proof of that is...?

What a big and sweeping assumption you make here. Especially for those who, like one reader, struggle with a twice-gifted child.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, the investment model is not one I broached, nor do I agree with it, fundamentally. But, even if you do apply an investment mentality to resourcing schools - I do not draw the conclusion that "gifted" education is the superior investment compared to other ones. That was the claim.

-just saying
Anonymous said…
Gen Ed. Done that. Spectrum. Done that. APP. Doing that.

IMHO much too much is made of children's perceived rank and abilities instead of whether they are happy and learning at a pace that keeps them interested. Too much is also made about how the "other group" has it so much better, is privileged, or already has what they need, etc. Whether my need is for a plumber or a heart surgeon, I want the best educated one I can get.

And we didn't go APP because of the perceived better school. We were in a good school, but my kid was suffering in her class because she was bored, misunderstood, and had enough preK and family reading experience that it was either that, or grade-skip. Fortunately her 1st grade teacher informed us that APP might be good for her, and it was. She was happy again and felt like she belonged. About 50% of APP's kids are like that, btw, going the APP route for social/adjustment issues, versus academics.

What I'd really like to see is parents ably and creatively advocating for their own child without making sweeping generalizations about others' children. With all this talk about what's morally right and fair, there's a lot of tone deafness and willingness to impose suffering on other groups, as if that satisfies equity or fairness by somehow spreading the pain around. How exactly is that going to improve the lot for anyone?

The argument was made that Spectrum is supposedly free from burdens of other classrooms, so they are educated better. Isn't that an argument not against Spectrum, but rather of how ineffectively the education is being offered in the non-Spectrum classroom?

Are the ALO's serving kids as well as self-contained programs? Not even close.

It's easy to throw other groups under the bus, and it may call some attention to inequities, but I have never seen one child's educational opportunity improved by lessening that of another child elsewhere.

That philosophy also provides the district with an easy cop-out from its own responsibilities to the most needy and under-served groups. Don't fix anything, just blame it on another group, then wash their hands of it as if there's nothing they can do. Great.

Anonymous said…
Oh, the myths and antipathy directed towards Advanced Learning (AL)...

You can still go ahead and hate it, or denigrate it, or call it a Cadillac or whatever, but, know this: APP and Spectrum both have a HIGHER rate of 504s than general ed, and, of the students in Seattle School District who have MAP scores at the 95th percentile for BOTH reading AND math, the majority of them with IEPs or 504 opt in to APP, compared to those who don't opt-in. In other words, AL is comparatively disproportionately representative of students with accomodations.

Just the facts. Now, if you still want to complain about that, go ahead. But, you are not speaking about reality when you say:

"the fact is that this type of segregation ALWAYS results in the illegal clustering of special education students together. When some classes have 0% (or close to 0%) disability rates, the remaining classes will be disproportionately disabled - and very often other classes are highly disproportionately disabled. Especially true when the number of minimally gifted population (ie... not very gifted as in Spectrum) reaches a high percentage at any given school..."
-just saying 2/23/13, 8:52 PM

It really is about meeting students' needs, all students, every single one. And, what they need is to learn. That is the primary duty of education: to educate. I expect our academic institutions, AKA schools, to do just that.

I am not trying to convince you, I am not trying to win an argument, just injecting some facts so that there is a level playing field of background information.

-bowing out
Just Sayin,, I really don't get what you are saying. I asked you about something YOU said and then you say, I didn't say that.

You say that gifted kids are already benefitting. What did you mean?
Anonymous said…
In case anyone is interested, the IFB for the BEX III work at Columbia was released by SPS today. Work includes, but is not limited to:

Classroom and library improvements, toilet room ADA upgrades, kitchen upgrades, general interior repairs and refurbishing, limited exterior repairs and painting, miscellaneous electrical, mechanical and plumbing upgrades. Work will take place in both the main building and the adjacent portable.

Complete plans and specifications can be found here.

--Future BF Day Dad.
Anonymous said…
Melissa - students in the gifted programs already are in programs that meet federal guidelines (check). They have already benefitted from education. Achievement is evidence of that benefit because is a requirement for admission. (check). Those are measures of having benefitted from investment in education. Not everyone is in a public school environment where they have yet benefitted from the "investment".

(Bowing Out - 504 plans are not special education.)

-just saying
Anonymous said…
Bowing out, would you share the data source for your info. I've been looking for it and have had little luck. It was one of the things to look for when you look at staffing and school budget. Higher number of special ed kids (and the different need levels) can mean more $$ for a school.


Anonymous said…
Just Sayin: The legacy of your rant is not good in this district. During the '08 closures, if you recall, DeBell and the Board used the "fairness & equity" rationale that the prior school closures had occurred the North End, so it was only fair that the South End got it this time. Displacing Cooper, closing Summit and splitting up APP were all done under the "everybody needs to sacrifice and suffer a little for the greater good. So I ask, where was/is the "greater good" from that?

Peter Maier was quoted as saying MGJ was an SI who was "finally going to do something about APP" whatever the hell that meant. But the fact that APP was "getting theirs too" enabled that board to look the Cooper and Summit folks in the face and say, "too bad, everybody is giving up their pound of flesh, even APP" to quash dissent.

Throwing people under the bus doesn't remedy your situation, but it does make it that much easier for the district to look you in the face and smile as they screw your child out of yet another need or opportunity, saying, "Everybody has to feel the pain. You said so yourself."

Think about it.

Lori said…
RCW 28A.185.020 passed maybe 2 years ago and states, "The legislature finds that, for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education."

Now, it goes on to say that districts have leeway in how to identify students and how to design accelerated programs, but at the very least, it is codified into state law that in order for gifted kids to get a basic education, learning must be accelerated and enhanced.

Just saying may not like this or agree with it, but that's the current law.

Spectrum and ALOs aren't part of any federal program. I don't follow your argument at all except that you want all kids in the same classroom.

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