Advanced Learning Policy

The District last adopted a policy about Advanced Learning in September of 1993. That policy, D12.00, Highly Capable Student Programs, is not in force. It is still the Board policy, but it was suspended on January 29, 2009. In the same motion in which the Board voted to suspend the policy they also voted to direct the superintendent to review it and recommend revisions. She did not do that. This failure to follow a direction given to her with by a majority vote of the board was, by itself, grounds for dismissal. The Board was aware of the situation and refused to act. The interim superintendent who followed also failed to follow the Board's direction. Again, the Board was aware of the situation and refused to act. When the Board scheduled their policy review they gave this policy no special urgency despite the January 29, 2009 Board vote.

This is simply further evidence of the utter purposeless of Board policies and how the District's culture of lawlessness is directly attributable to the Board's unwillingness to enforce policy.

The Board's Curriculum and Instruction Policy committee fumbled around with the idea of an Advanced Learning policy this week. Exactly as they did in July. They had a draft policy from Dr. Robert Vaughan, program manager of Advanced Learning, but they didn't have much to say about it. Exactly as they did in July. Dr. Vaughan came to them seeking guidance on what the policy should say, but, once again, the Board couldn't offer much guidance. Exactly as they couldn't in July. The Board's inaction and the committee turnover has extended the delay from three and a half years to four years. Congratulations.

What's the problem here? Why are we stalled and how can we move forward?

We are stalled because no one has any idea of what the policy should say. No one has any idea of what the policy should say because they have no idea of what the policy should do. No one has any idea of what the policy should do because no one can articulate a Vision for advanced learning. They can't say whom it should serve, why they need the service, how they should be served, or how we can determine if they have been served adequately. Once they have a Vision that addresses those fundamental questions, then they can write a policy to require it, and then the superintendent can be charged with implementing it.

So we need a Vision first, then we can have a policy. There's no point in trying to draft a policy in the absence of a Vision. That would be shooting an arrow without a target. Dangerous. You don't know what you might hit.

I will offer a sample Vision for Advanced Learning. It will appear familiar in some respects, but with significant differences. We need a document like this before we can have a policy.

Research indicates that students with cognitive abilities about 1.7 standard deviations above the mean not only think faster, but think differently from others. We will have a program, the Individual Progress Program, specifically to serve these students without regard to their level of academic achievement or preparation. We recognize that highly capable students come from all cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds, and have diverse abilities. The District will make a specific efforts to identify these students by training teachers and counselors to recognize the indicators. The instruction in the program should not be keyed to any specific grade level expectations but be individualized. Pedagogical strategies that allow for a high degree of differentiation should be used to accommodate the broad range of knowledge and skills these children will bring to the classroom. Teachers in this program should have, or soon acquire, training specific to gifted education and training in the pedagogical strategy used in the program. IPP will be a 1-12 program with elementary and middle school program sites located across the District for accessibility but not so many that any site lacks the critical mass necessary to form a program. A number of high school programs can be designated as IPP pathways if they offer an extraordinary number and variety of AP classes, an IB program that leads to an IB diploma, or individual or project-based instruction that allows students to be supported as they work beyond the grade level expectations. These programs are subject to policies F21.00 and 2200 because they will require specially trained staff. Participation in this program is optional for eligible students. IPP will be the District's Highly Capable Students Program for the purposes of the state grant.

Our experience has shown us that high performing students cannot be reliably served in our general education classrooms. Standards, intended as a floor become, in practice, a ceiling. We will have a program, the Horizon Program, to provide an appropriate academic opportunity for high performing students, regardless of their cognitive ability. They may be high performing due to high cognitive ability, excellent preparation and support, a high degree of motivation and diligence, or some combination of these. These programs will use the grade level expectations of one grade above the students' age-based grade level (as developmentally appropriate) as a minimum standard, but the program teachers should give specific care to remove any ceiling on progress or acceleration and encourage and support students to go beyond the Standard. Students in the Horizon program should experience a compacted curriculum, an accelerated curriculum, and curriculum that calls for greater mastery of the concepts - an equal mix of faster, further, and deeper. Teachers in this program should have, or soon acquire, training specific to gifted education and training in the pedagogical strategy used in the program. Horizon should be a 1-10 program with a designated site for every attendance area. These programs are subject to policies F21.00 and 2200 because they will require specially trained staff. Participation in this program is optional for eligible students.

All students, regardless of cognitive ability or their current level of academic achievement, should have the opportunity to challenge themselves to higher achievement. Advanced Learning Opportunities should be open to all students who are willing to accept the challenge. These opportunities can follow a variety of delivery models or formats so long as they are research-based. A.L.O.'s can appear in schools of any grade level that choose to create them. No special training is required of the staff that teach in an A.L.O. Participation in this program is optional for all students.

Schools can have more than one of these programs.

The creation, location, relocation, and closure of IPP and Horizon programs are determined by the Superintendent per policy F21.00. The programs should be sized appropriately to meet the demand and placed in accordance with District policy 2200, Equitable Access to Programs and Services. Because the District creates these programs, the District retains the authority to dictate the delivery model or models, must accept responsibility for their quality and efficacy, and must make an assessment of the quality and efficacy of each program site. A.L.O.'s are developed by the schools that choose to create them. The schools determine the delivery model. A.L.O.'s are not programs for the purposes of policy F21.00 and they are exempted from the requirements of policy 2200 because they do not impact budgets, staffing or use of space in schools. To continue to receive district recognition, however, A.L.O.'s must be distinguishable from ordinary practices and must meet district standards for quality and efficacy.

The principal of each school with an advanced learning program will be accountable for meeting benchmarks for quality and efficacy for their program(s). A description of each schools' advanced learning programs and plans for the improvement of these programs must be included in the school's Continuous School Improvement Plan as a disclosure to families. The school principal shall be accountable for implementing the program as described.


Jan said…
IPP and Horizon? Charlie, is this what the old (pre-APP and Spectrom) policy said -- with the addition of ALO language and updated references to District policy? Or what was your thinking in using the old SSD names?
Goofy Gus said…
Someone, please, take the policy manual away from Charlie.
dw said…
Jan, you do recognize Charlie's "voice" in the post, don't you? ;-) I suspect it's loosely based on the old standards, and uses their names, but it's Charlie, I can hear his voice loud and clear when I'm reading it!

There are some great ideas here with a few minor flaws, but overall this policy would be a lot better than what we have.

IPP will be a 1-12 program with elementary and middle school program sites located across the District for accessibility but not so many that any site lacks the critical mass necessary to form a program.

I'll nitpick at this one example: The 1993 policy was written very carefully so IPP would not get split up and sprinkled around the city. The policy Charlie suggests here could potentially work in an ideal world with advanced learning supporters throughout (and real -cough!- accountability), but it's too vague. It's this kind of policy that has led to the splits, dilution, overpopulation and general downward slide of APP over the past few years, not to mention the destruction of Spectrum.
dw said…
Goofy Gus, why? Do you feel there's something wrong with parents and citizens keeping up with district policy? How odd.
Anonymous said…
I think this is perfect, actually. I think our district does a shameful job on advanced learning, especially considering our relatively extremely educated population. I also think that both advanced and cognitively gifted children deserve a public education as much as anyone else, and that their needs are different.

I really wish we had a working Spectrum type program in my neighborhood. It would ease pressure on APP and let so many families stay in the neighborhood who want to, plus there is a segment really not being well served right now who doesn't quite qualify for APP but still needs advanced work so they have something to learn. Bring back Spectrum!

-Resurrect Spectrum
Anonymous said…
No, Goofy Gus,

Charlie needs to bust this thing wide open because the programs are at significant risk and have been diluted and dismantled since they were called IPP and Horizon. Thank god someone has a longer historical view of what these programs once were. Teachers with the institutional memory and deep understanding of advanced learners were drummed out.
There should be no ceiling (unless you are a high math kid at HIMS, snark). AL teachers are increasingly being asked to align their content with gen ed (EDM, science kits and more).
Go Charlie go!

open ears
Anonymous said…
" The 1993 policy was written very carefully so IPP would not get split up and sprinkled around the city."

Nope that's not the reason. Director Ellen Roe added that language. She did not like gifted programs at all and would have rather eliminated them. She thought the kids in them got big heads - her words by the way.

A new policy was proposed by a task force -Superintendent Kendrick was big on task forces- but likely tweaked by the district's legal dept and the board. This is that product... By that time IPP was already APP and the programs were under an umbrella designation called Spectrum. Spectrum Self-Contained was the old Horizon Program.

I was there and yes I am old.


Anonymous said…
Oops one clarification -the task force that proposed the new policy came up with the umbrella designation of Spectrum but IPP was already APP by that time.

Anonymous said…
Individualized instruction for advanced learning? How does that work in a class of 28? I count myself lucky that my APP kid gets instruction 2 years ahead of grade level even though his MAP tests indicate he is ready for Algebra in elementary school (per the advanced learning office's policy on readiness for algebra). Regular Ed kids don't get individually catered instruction. Why should APP kids be treated any differently? While all kids could benefit from individualized instruction, the resources available could never support it.
- just a pipe dream
Anonymous said…
See Seattle Times:

Charlie Mas said…
I'm not saying that this should be the Vision for advanced learning in Seattle Public Schools. I'm saying this is one possible Vision.

Either way, we need a Vision BEFORE we can write a policy. That's my main point.
David said…
I like Charlie's vision as stated. A lot.

I hope the Board picks it up as a draft and works from it. It would be a fast way to make progress on something that has been way too long delayed.
Anonymous said…
I was in IPP back when that was the program. The question about differentiation and how that works in a class of 28 kids is, it just did. I know that sounds crazy, but at the elementary level, we just all worked at our own pace, and somehow we all learned. Example: When I was in 2nd grade, I was working out of the 4th grade math book, my friend was working out of a third grade math book, and my other friend was working out of the 5th grade math book. All in the same room, just doing our thing. If we had a question, we raised our hand, teacher came by and helped. I know it sounds crazy, but honestly it worked just fine. Same set up with spelling.

For reading, we did walk to reading, so it wasn't quite as individualized, but it was still very differentiated.

Middle school I remember being more project based. Like we did a really cool project in 7th grade on the constitutional convention where we each played a delegate and had to negotiate with each other to develop a constitution. Or, we did a thing in LA where we had to read a book written before Shakespeare, our choice of book. Math had projects too, I remember one where we had to make complicated geometric shapes out of card stock.

I was in I think 7th or 8th grade when the program shifted to APP. I didn't see a huge change in the program with the name change, but I remember my parents being angsty about it.

For high school, I went back to my neighborhood school and took honors and AP classes, so I can"t comment on what the program looked like at Garfield.

For anyone curious about what the program was like back then, I highly recommend Mishna Wolff's very funny and moving book, I'm Down. We were in the program at the same time (but weren't in the same grade). I literally laughed out loud at her description of our gym teacher, which was extremely accurate.

Charlie Mas said…
There are pedagogical strategies that allow for greater individualization of curriculum, Montessori for one. They tend to rely on student motivation, but I don't think that would be a big problem with this population.

Motivation, as studies have shown, comes from autonomy, the opportunity to achieve mastery, and a commitment to a greater purpose. Schools should, therefore, motivate students by allowing them greater control over their work, the opportunity to stay on task to mastery (rather than just familiarity or competence), and a sense of how their work contributes to a larger goal. All of that actually REQUIRES more individualization.
" If we had a question, we raised our hand, teacher came by and helped. I know it sounds crazy, but honestly it worked just fine. Same set up with spelling."

Yeah, totally crazy for kids to work at their level with teacher guidance. Lucky you.
SecondThatMotion said…
Like Charlie said, it's about creating a vision, whether or not the one articulated is 100% right isn't the point. However I think it's an amazing start and individual points could be debated surely. But thank you for showing that someone with subject matter expertise can sit down and document thoughts such as these in what I imagine is far less than 4 years. Key condition: subject matter expertise + motivation. Refreshing. Feeling gratitude.

What about a letter writing campaign where we all copy and paste this to the district?
Anonymous said…
Ipp/app alum, this is just how I recall lower grades too in Seattle, if you finished the 4th grade holt book at your own pace, you got to move on to 5th - and thus was not even a horizon/ipp school. In middle school, horizon was a class, and project based, working on a play, then planning and implementing a school assembly. I've been REALLY disappointed with spectrum in this regard. ALL it is is same old EM, same old reading groups, just with a +1 grade report card. So much for big thinking and digging deeper

Charlie Mas said…
Before enrolling my child in Spectrum I went around and asked people what it was. I had to ask dozens of people before I got a coherent answer.

That answer, from the 4th grade Spectrum teacher at Lafayette, is that Spectrum extends along four dimensions. It goes faster by compacting the curriculum and because the children learn quickly. It goes further by teaching material usually taught in a higher grade level. It is also supposed to go deeper. There's an expectation that the students will gain a more profound understanding of the material. Finally, it should also go broader, so the students can apply the concepts in a wider variety of contexts.

Now, however, it has been reduced to little more than grade-skipping.
Charlie Mas said…
Why did I use the old program names?

When I think of a program designed to serve students with high cognitive abilities - regardless of their exposure to material - I think that's a program in which students enter at all points and need to be free to move at their own pace. They need to be free to explore an idea for as long as it holds their interest. It is, by necessity a program designed for individualized progress - an Individual Progress Program.

And when I think of a program designed to support the academic needs of high performing students - regardless of their cognitive ability the key element of that program is to provide a very high ceiling and to support students as high as they care to go. These are the students who are working beyond the Standards, beyond the horizon, so Horizon seemed a good name for that program.

The key to advanced learning opportunities is that they are an opportunity - one that is open to each and every student. I'm not only discouraged, but actually angry that some schools only allow Spectrum-eligible students to participate in their ALO. That's dead wrong. Any student should be allowed to self-select into the program. Again, the key is that they be opportunities for advanced learning, so advanced learning opportunities seems a good name for them.
Anonymous said…
Now, however, it has been reduced to little more than grade-skipping.

This has been our general experience over the past few years. Additionally, they are prevented from skipping too far ahead. Eckstein students actually have more access to higher level math (Algebra II, taken independently under the oversight of the Geometry teacher) than do APP students at Hamilton (no Algebra II).

Granted, there are only a small number of students working at this level, but the overarching policy seems to put a ceiling on advancement.

There needs to be more clarity about the intent and delivery of AL opportunities throughout the District.


Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools