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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Further thoughts on Highly Capable Policy

My thinking about the proposed Highly Capable policy 2190 has evolved.

At first I just wanted the Board to fix the obvious flaws in the policy. Clarify the "school-age" language and the language about "individual learning rates and styles", remove the superfluous second paragraph that isn't specific to highly capable students, and change the third paragraph so it requires the superintendent to submit a grant application rather than requiring the Board to approve it. Once fixed, the policy won't do any good, but at least it won't do any harm.

Then I thought that this policy, even when fixed, will, in fact, do harm. It will create the illusion that the topic has been addressed and stall the action that really needs to be taken. I believed that the Board should reject the proposed policy until the proper process has been followed. The Board needs to first articulate a Vision for all of Advanced Learning before drafting any policy to implement it. Then the Board should adopt a policy that speaks to all of Advanced Learning - not just APP. That's what I used to think.

Now I dread that possibility. I thought about what Vision the Board might have for Advanced Learning. Given the indisputable fact that the entire district leadership hates Advanced Learning - at all levels - and wants to dissolve it, perhaps it is better for the students if the Board does not articulate that Vision or write a policy to implement it. That has brought me full circle back to my original position - fix the obvious flaws in the policy and adopt it. The Board should not articulate their Vision for the dissolution of Advanced Learning.

Spare me any protests or claims that district leaders support advanced learning. They might say that, but where is there any evidence of this support? There is not a single action taken by anyone in the district leadership that demonstrates any support for the students or the programs at any level. Maybe you're thinking of the creation of APP @ Lincoln. Really? Does anyone want to suggest that the best thing the district leadership ever did for Advanced Learning was to stuff elementary APP into Lincoln with no notice at the end of the school year? Take a moment and consider whether any other school would have been subjected to that treatment. If View Ridge, Bryant, or Eckstein were over subscribed would they move half of it to John Marshall in June? Would they move half of Schmitz Park into the Hughes building over the summer? Please also remember that the District rejected a proposal to do exactly the same move as part of the normal program placement process just three months earlier.

Would the District toy with the idea of splitting a school with grades 1-3 in one building and grades 4-5 in another? Was this suggested for JSIS? Would the District consider creating a "6th grade academy" for students leaving any other elementary school? Would they consider putting rising 5th graders from Bryant at John Marshall as a solution for overcrowding at Eckstein?

The district leadership has:
  • allowed the creation and continuation of false Spectrum programs
  • allowed the dissolution of once legitimate Spectrum programs
  • waitlisted students for access to half-full Spectrum programs
  • allowed ALOs to be a fiction from the start
  • subjected APP to almost intolerable instability
  • broken every promise ever made to advanced learning students and communities
    • no APP curriculum
    • no higher math available after the split
    • no collaboration among teachers between sites
    • no advisory committee formed
    • no program descriptions available
  • placed programs inconveniently for students and families
  • refused to form promised advisory committees
  • dissolved existing advisory committees
  • dropped advanced learning from the strategic plan
  • used inappropriate eligibility criteria
  • never responded to the APP audit
  • kept the programs secret
No wonder there has never been any assessment of the quality or efficacy of these programs - they don't care about their quality or efficacy. Given their clear animosity it is probably better for the students served by these programs if the Board does not codify their intention to dismantle them or direct the superintendent to accelerate their dissolution. Of course, you would want the Board to codify that intention if you agree with the district leadership and think that the programs should be dissolved.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Would the District consider creating a "6th grade academy" for students leaving any other elementary school?"

Wasn't this proposal floated for the overcrowding problem at Eckstein?

And, isn't some school in West Seattle being moved mid year?

I agree that the district vision for advanced learning programs is not supportive, that a substantial contingent believes they do more harm to the overall system than good, and that they are maintained for political reasons. You might be right that an expression of vision isn't a good thing, but I think it's misguided to imagine that advanced learning suffers more injustices than many other programs (from special needs, to option schools, to a variety of neighborhood programs).

zb

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh for God's sake, no one is saying AL has been mistreated any more than other programs.

If anyone proposes to use this thread as a fight over AL, please don't.

Ditto on everything Charlie said with the addition of having weak AL leadership and the disrespectful manner in which the Advanced Learning Taskforce was led and then ignored (despite being asked to continue on last May).

Anonymous said...

Would the District toy with the idea of splitting a school with grades 1-3 in one building and grades 4-5 in another?

Yes absolutely. This was a proposed solution for overcrowding John Hay Elementary a few years ago. Plus, they could all just walk to the library at one school a half mile away. Let's all cry a big river for AL - they get so little and deserve so much.

-parent

Anonymous said...

See how even just mentioning some of the issues Advanced Learning faces brings out the vitriol. It's not just the district management that doesn't support advanced learning! Funny I don't hear of this animosity toward advanced learning programs in Bellevue, Lake Washington, Shoreline etc school districts. Why has Seattle got a chip on it's shoulder about it? Why the lack of support and vilification of any effort to set goals that are appropriate for their abilities, and provide the teaching/resources needed to achieve these in a stable, consistent, supportive setting. What alternative is there - they languish in general education, going over concepts they mastered 2 years ago, and losing all interest in education (is that how to close the achievement gap!?). Or should we all just f off and go private -is that it? Well, sorry, but AL serves public school families - i.e those that can't afford or have no desire for to enter the private system (and not all private schools cater to these kids anyway).
There are a lot of other populations that are hard done by in this district, but it seems like AL is the one everyone likes to kick when it's down.

Sniffy

Jon said...

I think there are mixed incentives for the district.

On the one hand, having advanced learning around raises average test scores, which is good.

On the other hand, having advanced learning worsens measures used to track the achievement gap, which doesn't really make the achievement gap worse, but it looks bad.

Depending on which one the district is being measured by at the moment, that probably changes the level of support for advanced learning.

And, yes, I realize that, in an ideal world, district staff would be trying to have our public schools serve all the children of Seattle and maximize educational opportunities for all of them. But they aren't rewarded for that and don't try to do that.

At the moment, from what I can tell, the district is measured and rewarded for maximizing the number of children that pass minimum standards and for minimizing the achievement gap. If those are the only measures, you're dealing with capacity problems, and you don't care about being evil, wiping out anyone scoring much higher than the standard is a lot easier than actually helping those scoring lower.

The lesson here is be careful what you measure and reward. District leadership, and people in general, respond to incentives, and not always in ways that make the right thing happen.

Anonymous said...

While it's nice to think the grass is greener on the other side, it may not be so. Shoreline highly capable is more like spectrum and only at 2 ES. Beyond that, it's honors in MS and AP classes and honors in HS. Bellevue program is multi-tiered, but its Prism program is offered to limited number of students and admission is competitive. Lake Washington changed their testing policy this past year and the gifted program starts in 2nd grade now. Their Quest program continues to 8th grade. HS cousework is through advanced courses and/or AP classes.

Many of these districts are changing their highly capable policy too. So it's not just SPS. In some cases, the self contained classes stop at MS, in other cases there are limited seatings with wait lists or multi-grade classes. When you start looking around, APP looks pretty good.

another parent

Anonymous said...

Also for the Bellevue PRISM program, it split into 2 elementary schools to deal with capacity issue (like many other districts, not just in SPS). There were push back by some parents on blog similar to this one discussing Bellevue district's poor handling of concerns (selection criteria, capacity, quality of program and fidelity to implementation) and some parents regarded the district's handling as attacking its "highly gifted" program, etc. There were issues between PRISM parents (APP) and enrichment parents (spectrum/ALO). And on it goes......

another parent

Charlie Mas said...

Yes, the District leadership treats all programs badly. But they are actively dismantling Advanced Learning programs. Most galling is their claims that they support them. Did the Board claim to be great supporters of John Hay when they proposed splitting it?

The hypocrisy and lies add insult to the injury.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like APP has been thrashed here already - and Melissa said don’t do it - but I’ve always wanted and have never taken the chance to say how much I dislike it. The longer I live here (we moved from the East Coast and sundry locales), the more I learn about it, the less I like. And it’s always struck me as bizarre how angry and defensive the parents are. Why? (Sniffy?) Your kids are getting one of the best public educations in the country. You’re receiving the primary, priceless benefit offered by private schools, student selection (“self-contained”). Oh, and they just gave you that nice program all to yourselves up at Ingraham. I would think you might be a bit more gracious about all of it. Life on the other side of the fence isn’t particularly hunky dory - but you know that or you wouldn’t be so dagger-keen to keep away.

For the record, in the physical realm, I’m friends with a lot of APP parents. They’ve got straight-up good kids who are (mostly) as normal as all get out - though clearly, over time, better educated (or subject to better osmosis, or whatever) - and most of whom got in to APP on appeal through private testing. Bless them for knowing how to advocate for their kids, but… well, you know. Shoulder. Chip.

There. That feels better. I’ve been wanting to let that out. Sorry, Melissa. Y'all can ignore it and keep on with the regular thread, whatever exactly it is. Love the site.

Mom

Anonymous said...

Your kids are getting one of the best public educations in the country.

That is the perception, which perhaps leads to the resentment, but I would hardly consider our children's experience as the "best in the country." If SPS didn't have such a program, I'd guess there would be many more kids doing grade skips. The program is based mostly on acceleration of curriculum, not greater depth. They use the same curriculum - Everyday Math, CMP, Readers and Writers Workshop - just accelerated and compacted. By allowing acceleration, without grade skips, they get to go to school, learn, and feel as "normal as all get out."

And this - "most of whom got in to APP on appeal through private testing." There are around 2000 students enrolled in APP programs - yes, some have gotten in on appeal - anyone is able to submit an appeal - but, you can't make the assumption that most have gotten in all appeal, based on your circle of aquaintances.

And really, so what? Why begrudge a parent for doing what is allowed by district rules? The district even provides free appeals testing for those with limited income.

whatever

Anonymous said...

That is some chip. Another parent who has the ability to diagnose academic capability just by "knowing" some parents, kinda, and decides that since the ones she knows don't appear so special to her magical eyes(you should put those to use for the public good! Walk into classes around the country and pick out the kids who will have trouble. I sure couldn't, even from knowing the parents and kids very well. Same goes the other way.), there are really no such things as difference in learning capability or self contained programs to the benefit of all students. If it's so great, why on earth aren't your children in it? Oh, what's that, because it's not so special and has all the same problems as every neighborhood school plus program instability plus same dumb curriculum plus no local community plus board animosity plus random stranger animosity, but it has one thing going for it- it's a couple years ahead, so some of it will be a little new to a kid who learns fast. That's all you get. Nothing else. It should be basic for everyone everywhere. I certainly did not get to pick the kids in my kid's class. A random test did, and the primary, priceless benefit of public schools is that any one who qualifies gets in.

I don't understand what people want to do with kids who are way ahead. Just make them sit there and wait? For how many years? Or just feel bad about the apparent privilege that allowed them to be academically successful? I have seen valiant attempts at in class differentiation, and it is a complete farce, especially after about third grade. Maybe if there were 17 kids a class, but I've never lived in an sps universe where that was possible. I don't expect any answers- I just get the feeling on here that we are supposed to take any kind of academic success as proof positive that that kid has gotten too much out of the system and so should get no more, instead of trying to get all the kids in the system to learn something new, even the ones who are ahead. Send 'em back to the neighborhood schools, so they can pump up scores. Who cares if they were done with all the stuff in that class years ago? Sit and say thank you sir.

And that is why I am defensive.
-sleeper

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand the insinuations about appeals. You cannot just walk your child into an office and simply request a 98% on a private IQ test. You can't! In many ways the private test is more thorough and rigorous than the district Cogat.

Is it because it costs money -- and anything that costs money must be inherently unfair -- or is it that people do not trust or believe the results these children receive?

Parents pay for many services/evaluations/diagnostics for their children.

Signed, Sincerely confused

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what people want to do with kids who are way ahead. Just make them sit there and wait? [...]Send 'em back to the neighborhood schools,

There you go! You answered your own question. And the beauty of the ballooning, ever expanding APP - is well, sooner or later it will be folded back into their neihborhood school and the problem solved. If SPS is indeed way outside national norms, eg (has 5X the super gifted) then gifted becomes the new normal! And neighborhood schools are just as able to serve the super smart as anywhere else. Indeed, that appears to be exactly what is happening. Gifted classes for all! Hooray!

I just don't understand the insinuations about appeals. You cannot just walk your child into an office and simply request a 98% on a private IQ test.

Of course you can! You can take the CogAt many times from different providers! Does wonders for your IQ, even though the test in not really valid since it is not supposed to be given more than every 6 months. But hey! There's no way to know about the other results is there? There's no way to know that your kid has taken this IQ test 5 times in the last year. Then there's test prep for the CogAt. You can buy books that increase your score. Here's one http://www.mercerpublishing.com/cogat.html?gclid=COzEg76C9LYCFceDQgodWioA7w. And here we thought it was all a matter of talent!

Yet Another Parent

Anonymous said...

I don't think the leadership of this district hates AL. There's money for APP from the state, but doesn't appear to be money for spectrum/ALO. Why not? I don't know. Is it because of how we defined highly capable? APP has grown tremendously as a program. So I don't see that as a sign of the district wanting to do away with a program. It has made room in schools for APP to grow. That's a positive thing. It has been hurly burly. But that's true for school closures/reopenings, SE intitative, math text selection, special ed, native american students (you dont really want to see their stats if you want to talk about neglect), etc.

The probem I see with APP is the very nature of the program. Its self containment and rapid growth collided with capacity issue, especially as most of its population is toward parts of central and north end schools. The self contained nature of the program creates issues for where to place it. I can't see how we can blame the district completely for this as it keeps outgrowing its spaces.

The solutions are out there and have been discussed. Limit seatings. Tighten entrance criteria. Entry at 2nd grade. Re-evaluation at MS. Do away with self containment after elementary schools. Have multiple program sites to offset one school balancing multiple programs. None of these solutions will satisfy many. But I think given capacity, budget, and the political balance of needs, the APP community has to face some tough decisions. As far as curriculum, I would argue better to advocate for overhaul of C & I or teaching & learning or whatever it is now for all students. Once you improve the quality of C & I and alignment among the schools, then APP itself will be better served as well. I would also argue it's better to make friends and acknowledge flaws and the imperfection of gifted identification & learning in a world full of inequity which all our kids live and learn in.

another view

Anonymous said...

4% of the kids in the public system meet the top 2% scoring nationally criteria. 2000 out of 50,000 kids. About twice the national average. Which actually is exactly what you would expect in a highly educated urban area.

Whether they are getting the right kids is a open question, but the numbers are not wildly wrong.

Numbers

ramalamadingdong said...

" Oh, and they just gave you that nice program all to yourselves up at Ingraham."

Whut?

Anonymous said...

I don't get the constant harping on the appeals process. If there weren't an appeals process, there would be claims that parents prep their kids for the tests (like in New York). If there were a finite number of slots with a ranking for admission, there would be similar outcry. If they tightened the criteria, there would be more cries of elitism. It seems no matter what, there would be complaints because a program simply exists.

Parents are pushing for better curricula for all students. We've been screaming for better math for years. And? Have parents been able to affect any change? If it were only that simple.

tired

Anonymous said...

Take the IQ test repeatedly...hmmm. I can't imagine any scenario in which a parent would do that to their child.

If there are a few cases of this out there, APP is the least of their problems.

I know some 97%ers that are rightfully frustrated at the lack of options for any rigor for their kids. Maybe they could be seduced into repeating the test. Which goes to the point that the real problem is that all-important "floor": the one that morphed into the ceiling. (NE schools, I'm looking at you.) There are so many bright and/or well-prepared kids (many without AL even on their radar) that go through a whole year without seeing material they havent already mastered.

Sincerely confused

Anonymous said...

@ mom

You're saying APP parents are "angry and defensive" at the same time as you're claiming "most APP kids get in on appeal (and therefore what? - do not deserve to be there?), that they are "getting one of the best public educations in the country" and "the priceless benefit offered by private schools" which is according to you "student selection via the self-contained model " (hello, let me tell you APP is NOTHING like a private school -I've got the same old SPS curriculum, crumbling old building with inadequate playground, and class sizes to prove it! ) and "a nice program all to ourselves up at Ingraham". Wow!

Glad you got it off your chest - and you're right: why, I'm feeling angry and defensive just now reading your comments. This is what I feel we are up against - a community that seems to actively despise us, and district management that wishes we'd just go away.

I think we are fortunate to have an APP program in the district despite the issues with it. I'm not demanding something better than everyone else for my kid because of it - I just want the same things everyone wants, which is for their kid to go to school and, you know, actually learn new stuff, master new concepts, do the best they are capable of academically/socially, and have a good experience during their time at school (it is a huge part of their life). APP isn't perfect by any means, but I don't want to see it eroded via this longstanding mismanagement and use as some sort of edu-political football.

" Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you"

Sniffy

Anonymous said...

What? Angry parents? Just mention private testing... and the outrage comes out of every crack in the wall! What? Take the test twice??? Never! Can't imagine it! Doesn't happen. I'm so sick that people imagine stuff like that.

We just want the same things everyone else does. To go to school with a group of mostly well-off white kids from the same neighborhood, and without disabilities - so that our kids can excel without the teacher having to differentiate or deal with behavior issues or anything else like that which the rest of public schools have. Of course poor kids and minorities that meet the bar are welcome too. But, so far, so good - not so many of those.

Paranoid Also.

Jon said...

Here we go again. Any discussion of APP immediately turns into attacks on APP.

I understand why the district leadership might want to dismantle APP as a twisted way to manipulate the metrics, but why do some parents want to kill it? Killing APP doesn't save money. Killing APP doesn't make more resources available to other children. Killing APP doesn't help anyone's kids. If anything, it will be the opposite, killing APP will remove money, parents, and support from the public schools. Why do you want this?

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

"We've been screaming for better math for years. And? Have parents been able to affect any change? If it were only that simple."

True, that. It takes more then screaming. It takes a mix of opportunity, planning, and motivation. We finally have opportunity, with a new Supe, a math-supporting board, and a K-8 adoption process starting RIGHT NOW. JSCEE staff are planning the process and committee to choose the next math textbooks for your our kids as you read this. The motivation (screaming) needs to be focused now.

Share your concerns with Shauna Heath (slheath@seattleschools.org) and Janet Zombro (jkzombro@seattleschools.org). Tell them NOW what you want and don't want in a math textbook. Share how important it is as an instructional resource for your family. Highlight the urgency. Tell them how the current books don't serve your students.

Excellent textbooks will float the whole boat!

Rick Burke
Seattle Math Coalition
www.seattlemathcoalition.org

Anonymous said...

Rick is right on the money.

It is true that we have watched as Advanced Learning in the SPS has been dismantled right out from under our feet in the last six years. Now in APP mu kid is receiving the worst math education I have seen in any school district in 30 years. Is this the fault of the advanced learning program (or its threads and remnants). No. It is the district's choice in math curriculum.

I think the time is ripe to try to fix that first. It would benefit all the students in the district.

-Ready for change

Melissa Westbrook said...

"It sounds like APP has been thrashed here already - and Melissa said don’t do it - but I’ve always wanted and have never taken the chance to say how much I dislike it."

Feel better? Feel empowered?

This is not my thread to kill but sometimes people are very disrespectful.

And it's sad that every discussion of AL just has to turn into an argument instead of discussion.

Anonymous said...

I've had kids in many schools including TM APP, a diverse low-income neighborhood school, alternative schools, and an affluent neighborhood school. I volunteer in classrooms. The reality is this: APP kids are not getting anything special--they are getting a combination of two things

1) a pta demographic that is able and prepared to pony up some dough--there are many of these communities across the district, and I would love to see those resources more evenly distributed.

2) classes of kids who are able and willing to go through the curriculum quickly.

That's it. The teachers were just as high quality in the Title 1 school we attended. The affluent neighborhood school had at least as many bells and whistles. The classes sizes and personal attention are no different. As a parent, I'm attached to APP only because it's the only viable delivery model in which these students may actually get their baseline needs met. Sprinkling them across a million schools taxes classroom resources (which generally means that those who are "ahead" languish) and disadvantages the kids whose neighborhood school have lower populations of peers and fewer resources--creating a further inequity across socioeconomic backgrounds rather than fixing it.
--periphery

Anonymous said...

@ Paranoid Also
Actually the goals for my kids are not "To go to school with a group of mostly well-off white kids from the same neighborhood, and without disabilities - so that our kids can excel without the teacher having to differentiate or deal with behavior issues or anything else like that which the rest of public schools have".

1. APP is an all-city draw, so kids come from all over - not just one neighborhood (originally all at one school until the split (which parents vigorously opposed). If I wanted all the kids to come from the same neighborhood we would stick with our neighborhood school.

2. I would actually prefer a bit more diversity in terms of ethnicity (and certainly would not get that at our very homogenous neighborhood school either). SPS is trying to improve its identification of children from underrepresented groups.

3. In the good old days of APP it was great that kids were part of a community at Lowell with high-needs special ed kids - this really gave them something unique. While we no longer have that (blame SPS not the parents) we still have '2E" kids - who have special needs in addition to being advanced in some areas.

4. I don't know where you get the idea that APP kids are some perfect 'stepford children' - they have fights, emotional issues, get called into the principals office, and some have ADHD or social difficulties. Qualifying for APP does not eliminate all these things. Maybe many of them come from populations that tends to struggle less with these issues generally, but no more so than any public school in relatively affluent neighborhood. They are all just kids.

Maybe these are all things you secretly want in a school but don't try speak for APP parents.

And come to think of it, what you describe sounds many ways sounds just as much like one of the more affluent neighborhood schools, with their highly organized uber-fundraising PTA, motivated, supportive parents and high-scoring homogenous population. In which case, a kids ability to attend that sort of school is not determined by certain intellectual/academic criteria and the need for acceleration beyond grade level (as in APP) but by the financial means of their parents that allow them to live in a specific neighborhood.

Snffy

Benjamin Leis said...

To change the subject a bit back towards Charlie's original post, do people really think the broad vision statement is a major problem?

Yes you can quibble about wording here and there but at the end of the day its a single page that is so broad that it can be interpreted to fit most practices on the ground. I just don't see the board as the primary lever for improving AL or at least not through this level of policy making. From my perspective, the more concrete policies being decided upon by the staff and the effectiveness of what they're doing is much more crucial. I'd much rather have the priorities for the AL staff clarified and in fairly concrete measurable ways. (I don't much care who directs the change, it could easily be the superintendent.) For example, I'd pick goals like align the curriculum across the district and form working groups from the various schools to monitor implementation or investigate where kids are not being served and look into spinning up additional seats etc. Those are just examples and in real life I'd want to see the staff survey the parents and teachers to identify areas to concentrate on.

Ben

Anonymous said...

@ Ben, I agree that the proposed policy, when fixed to correct the biggest issues Charlie identified, is probably fine. It doesn't seem to say a whole lot, but I guess it leaves the door open for whatever. And since the policy likely won't really drive programming or planning anyway, it's hard for me to get too worked up about it.

I would like to see something in the policy re: a requirement to do some sort of outcomes evaluation specific to AL, though... (And isn't there an evaluation reporting requirement to the state?)

HIMSmom

kellie said...

Oh the joys of a thread on APP. At some point, we should just make a list of the stock comments and just add them to a side bar. That said, I can really only address the growth and capacity concerns that are persistently raised about APP.

The bemoaned growth at APP has little to do with anyone gaming a system or a system that is out of control and is an entirely expected and predictable consequence of the NSAP. This amount and type of growth for APP is a direct consequence of assignment policies, not testing policies.

Simply put, the old choice plan was not well aligned with the demographics of Seattle as a whole. Because of the way a choice plan worked, you typically were either lucky and got a good assignment or unlucky and did not. As such, large swaths of middle class families opted out and made choices other than SPS. The net result was that Seattle Schools demographics did not look like Seattle. SPS was poorer and more diverse than Seattle as a whole.

The geographic assignment plan means that the demographics of Seattle Schools are moving towards the demographics of Seattle as a whole. In other words, the bulk of the "growth" of the last few years is predominately White and non FRL households. Therefore it is not surprising in any manner that significant non-FRL growth would have a greater impact on advanced learning.

The opportunity gap is real. I think we are finally at a place and time where the evidence of poverty's devastating effects on learning is clear.

If I had it all my way, a policy like this would address the success of programs like Rainier Scholars and attempt to replicate that model within an advanced learning framework. The failure of SPS to implement multiple models for advanced learning, is in no way an indication that the current model is wrong, it simplu incomplete.

It is no surprise to anyone that kids that are well fed, have access to lots of enrichment and arrive to school ready to learn, do better in school. I believe the APP enrollment numbers are an accurate reflection of city like Seattle, with its well documented love of libraries and books.

AND there is room to do better.

Anonymous said...

kellie-I had heard that Rainier Scholars is not supported by SPS AL, that students who test into APP through RS are told they need to start APP one grade behind the one they are in currently because the students struggle too much when they get to APP. DO you know anything about this? I had always heard that it was very successful in placing minority students in APP and private schools.

Wondering

Melissa Westbrook said...

"do people really think the broad vision statement is a major problem?"

Well, I always say words have meaning BUT, in this case, they only have meaning if they mean something to the people in a position to create change.

We can argue over the words (which, as Charlie says, they could use however they like) but it means little if no one acts on them.

Yes to Kellie's imput and I still think Bob Vaughan is the biggest problem. Because we don't have anyone on the Board who cares (and never have) nor has any Superintendent given more than lip service BUT if we had a strong "manager" (he's not a director as was pointed out at the C&L Work Session), it could make all the difference.

What's tough is that this issue is not even about money - and in education it usually is - but about how the programs are rolled out.

kellie said...

I do not know anything about Rainier Scholars and APP and admissions.

I will also admit that I can be overly simplistic about problem solving at times. But it seems to me that if a goal is to have more rigorous advanced learning for students of color, then it would be helpful to implement a model or program that is designed to provide more rigorous advanced learning for student of color, with Rainier Scholars being a shining example of a program that succeeds at just that.

It may just be naive for me to think that if you want to solve a problem, you should identify what you are solving.

I think APP is a great example of classic advanced learning and is an important part of school district like Seattle. But I also think that APP doesn't have to be the only program.

Anonymous said...

Oh, OK Melissa. You don't want us to fight about AL on this post...you just want us to bash the district officials instead? Sounds productive!

~teacher

Tami said...

I think that SPS hasn't explained why they use the system they do to identify Advanced Learners, and what they want to do with them once they are identified. It has always seemed to me that SPS has responded a lot to parental input, but hasn't had a clear vision of what AL should be in SPS.

I wish SPS had a clear vision for AL. I think the focus on acceleration has been at the expense of greater depth and mastery. I certainly feel that writing has been given short shrift. 8th grade, and my student's LA class has had something like 4 writing assignments this year, and none of them have been particularly challenging.

Anonymous said...

One thing any thread about AL is guaranteed to demonstrate: Haters gonna hate; Trolls gonna troll.

Whatever makes 'em feel better. WSDWG

Tami said...

I should also say, I've never felt that SPS articulated a clear vision for K-12 education or any specific program. 13 years as an SPS parent, and I've always felt the ground could shift under my feet at any moment.

Anonymous said...

Re: Yet Another Parent
4/30/13, 9:09 PM
"Of course you can! You can take the CogAt many times from different providers! Does wonders for your IQ, even though the test in not really valid since it is not supposed to be given more than every 6 months. But hey! There's no way to know about the other results is there? There's no way to know that your kid has taken this IQ test 5 times in the last year. Then there's test prep for the CogAt. You can buy books that increase your score. Here's one http://www.mercerpublishing.com/cogat.html?gclid=COzEg76C9LYCFceDQgodWioA7w. And here we thought it was all a matter of talent!"

Chill out! Why are you so cranked up? I doubt that many people even know about such test prep for a cogat test; I certainly didn't. My kid tested into APP via the district's test, taken one time in kindergarten. He loves it and is getting a pretty education. APP is an asset for the district, just as many other special education programs are. There's nothing wrong for parent's of students in various special education programs advocating for them. Similarly, there's nothing wrong with advocating for improvements in the basic education program that most students get. Seattle voters do a reasonable job at approving school funding. The district has big city issues that suburban districts usually don't share, so there is a little bit of a zero-sum game going on. But, it's also usually true that a rising tide floats all boats. Making general education better helps APP and vice versa.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Teacher, I didn't bash anyone. I calmly explained that there has never been anyone in leadership that has really supported AL. Bob Vaughan is a pretty weak leader. I didn't call anyone names.

This is my opinion based on a very long timeline of experience for my own children and through the work of this blog.

Anonymous said...

@Kellie, you wrote:

"The geographic assignment plan means that the demographics of Seattle Schools are moving towards the demographics of Seattle as a whole. In other words, the bulk of the "growth" of the last few years is predominately White and non FRL households. Therefore it is not surprising in any manner that significant non-FRL growth would have a greater impact on advanced learning."

Kellie, can you clarify your stats. This is what I found looking at Seattle stats for 2010 as a city (from seattle.gov):
whites 70.1%, African Americans 8.4%,
Asians/PI 13.6% American & Alaska Indians 1%
Latino (any race) 5.3% Mixed race4.5% Other race 2.5%

SPS stats for 2012 (from SPS site)
Whites 44% African Americans 17.7%
Asian/PI 18.1% Latino 12.6% Multiracial 6.6%
American Indian 1%


In 2010 SPS whites 42.7%, African Americans 19.4%
I do see a slow growth of whites in the last several years and slow decline among African Americans, but I don't see SPS demographics coming anywhere near Seattle city demo.

Total SPS FRL from 2008 till 2012 has been hovering around 42%. FRL doesn't appear to be changing as a percentage of total student populations in the last 4 years.

When I look at these stats, I don't see a huge sea change in SPS demographics to reflect the city's demographics. The city has a white majority at around 70%, SPS has a white minority around 43%.

I think all that NSAP has done is to reflect far more clearly the gaps in housing, income, and education.

another parent

Anonymous said...

As far as Rainier Scholars goes. It's a great program, but its mission is not to replace actual seat time in schools. It is an enrichment program that starts at grade 6. Its mission is to recruit underrepresented minorities who face the greatest barrier in getting a college education. You also have to meet their low income requirement. We looked into this for us and a few other families. The program recruits from Seattle, Renton, and Highline school districts. It is not an alternative to advanced learning in SPS. It is supposed to complement it!

another parent

Anonymous said...

My child has been in classes several times over the years with Rainier Scholar students and each time they have had a difficult time keeping up.

I think this illustrates the difference between testing into APP with innate strenghts and studying up to catch up with those who have entered APP by via testing in.

The same is true of kids who's parents keep pushing them until they squeek by.

*there is nothing racial about my observations or reporting of them- yes you must be of color to be in RS-and yes most kids in APP are white and asian, these are facts and are in no way my fault*

in APP and hating every minute

Anonymous said...

@ In APP and hating,

That's quite a statement along with your disclaimer*. But we get it. Being such an innate person that you are (so of course you you are in no way at fault as you can't help but be who you are), suggest you look to your moniker to what you should do.

mayday

Freddy F. said...

APP gets two important things from its cohort,

Narrow range of ability, all kids are in the top 2% of ability. No other classrooms contain such a narrow grouping. This makes teaching, all other things being equal, much easier and allows the kids to move faster through material.

Second are the parents. They are better at making their kids work outside of class, in general and offer enrichment at home, again, in general.
These two factors, while not gold-plating the educational experience, certainly polishes it to a noticbly shinier degree.

Is it fair? It's really not the issue. The Feds, the state and the district want high ability kids to get harder work to try and maximize their benefit to society. That will help us all, our leaders feel. Parents trying hard to meet the threshold for entry by playing by the rules? How can they be criticized for trying to get what they feel is best, at the price, for their kids?
The only thing I don't like is the constant harping on the district and Bob V. In particular. APP parents have decent deal and should be grateful as we all should be to have a fairly well-functioning, fairly non-corrupt and fairly transparent district with fairly good public oversight by folks like this blog, the Stranger and many other parents, teachers and staff. The bickering about who has it the worst is unseemly at best and usually pretty annoying.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to read a poster had such a negative experience with Rainier Scholars in the classrooms. All I can say is, it's such a wonderful program and the kids who makes it through end up at terrific universities and colleges such as Dartmouth, Stanford, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, UW and many others. I know this year several got early acceptance to Yale, Harvard, Occidental and West Point.

Through a lot of hardwork and belief in themselves, these students were able to overcome challenges and move on to better places. For me, that's what education is all about. Learning to be better and do better.

another parent

hschinske said...

Actually the kids at the top sometimes have a much wider spread of abilities than a midrange class would have. The difference between moderately gifted and profoundly gifted can be huge, much bigger than you'd often see in a regular classroom.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a teacher survey about that bigger range of abilties between moderatley and profoundly gifted students and the wide variabilities of students in a regular classroom. Though what is a typical regular classroom in SPS? Is this a classroom in Laurelhust vs. Lincoln? or to make it easier, Whittier vs. Northgate? APP HIMS vs. Denny, Eckstein, or even McClure?

another parent

Anonymous said...

Of the two Rainier Scholars I know, one was already in APP when they joined RS, so it wasn't a matter of helping them "squeak by" into the program. The other is working three grades ahead in math and is taking a college course on the side. How that student would struggle in APP is beyond me, but that seems to be the implication of "hating" and if true, the district's requirement that new APP students coming in from RS drop back a grade.

And we wonder why minority students in APP are scarce?

Also wondering

Melissa Westbrook said...

"They are better at making their kids work outside of class, in general and offer enrichment at home, again, in general."

Freddy, you know this how about APP parents?

Anonymous said...

Helen is right about the spread of abilities, too bad she has to get beat up for saying what is factually sound.

There are so many things to be said about advanced learners but the claws come out the moment AL is mentioned, so reasonable people don't speak up.

Mayday, you miss the content in your rush to make personal attacks.

if you don't have something nice to say...

Anonymous said...

If you don't have something nice to say ....

(can you pick a shorter name?) I can understand that you think Helen is right about her comment. But I don't understand? For me it's not a question about right, but when and why is that true. Bigger, huge difference than regular classrooms. That's a big leap for me. I can see this if a student attends a school with more homogeneous population, fewer special ed, ELL, FRL populations, you may have a classroom with less range. But those schools don't make up most of SPS schools. Also a regular classroom takes all basic ed kids, which means they can be advanced learners, including APP, ELL, special ed, regular general ed kids (for lack of better term) and these kids may have unidentified learning needs such as dyslexia or even advanced learning ability). At least with APP, you have screening for abilities including if your child is 2E which is great, because a teacher has a better idea what the learning needs are in an APP classroom.

I know it's parsing out words, but I think it helps me understand more what non APP parents- parents of spectrum/ ALO and regular gen ed parents are saying. I hope that explains what I'm thinking better.

another parent

Anonymous said...

Do you have to find something to pick on? Really? You don't like my name? This is exactly why I picked it!

The statistical reality is that the upper boundry of the iq range is considered to be boundless.

In the US, the bell curve is cen­tered on IQ 100. At the extremes, about 3 percent of our population falls below the threshold for borderline mental retardation (roughly IQ 70) and 3 percent above the threshold for being gifted (IQ 130).

This accounts for those that fall under 130. Within APP there are kids with iqs up to 170, this creates a range that is double the range of the average iq(70-130.)

If you don't have something nice to say ....

Anonymous said...

Another parent, that is because the growth is more at younger grades, and that gets muted whe you include high school and middle school. I don't know if we have a grade by grade distribution, but I would bet you a shiny dollar first grade now is whiter and richer than first grade 7 years ago. I think this because of where the growth has occurred- white, relatively wealthy elementary schools. And given the recession, you'd have expected FRL to skyrocket, but it did not. I'm not trying to parse, but I think kellie is right that the particular kind of growth district wide has affected our learning population ratio

It is true that gen ed classrooms have to take app kids, but they don't have to teach them anything new. They teach to the middle, middle plus, which is great for my kid who is mostly middle. Plus, and probably more relevantly, there will probably only be one or two APP kids in a gen Ed classroom, as opposed to 27. The research says that the higher ability a child is, mostly, the more disparate/asynchronous their development. So they would be 6 grades ahead in math, on grade in reading. Behind in fine motor skills. Or 5 grades ahead in writing, 2 in math, behind in social skills, and there are 27 of these ranges in one class. So of course they aren't getting most of thier needs perfectly met, either, but maybe some of them, maybe closer. As opposed to a gen Ed class where most of the kids would have a smaller range, within say 2 or 3 grade levels, closer to grade level,and so would hopefully be in range more often than not, because of course you can only differentiate so far. Everybody is going to be bored and stalled sometimes, in any program, but hopefully not all the time. That's the idea anyway, and it does seem true to me so far, with my kids mostly in gen ed classrooms, and one in app. I do wish we still had a real spectrum program and meaningful alo's because it's not actually like sps kids are app, sped, or other in terms of learning ability; there's so much more variety, and we could keep kids engaged so much more often with some thoughtfulness.

I don't think I understand why an APP teacher would have a better idea of the learning needs- just because they have all already qualified for APP? I guess I don't think that says any more than the MAP scores of a gen Ed class (not a lot).

Anonymous said...

Shoot, that was me, sleeper, above to another parent , but I can't cut and paste on my iPad.

Help?

Sleeper

suep. said...

Reposting for Sleeper:

Anonymous said...

Another parent, that is because the growth is more at younger grades, and that gets muted whe you include high school and middle school. I don't know if we have a grade by grade distribution, but I would bet you a shiny dollar first grade now is whiter and richer than first grade 7 years ago. I think this because of where the growth has occurred- white, relatively wealthy elementary schools. And given the recession, you'd have expected FRL to skyrocket, but it did not. I'm not trying to parse, but I think kellie is right that the particular kind of growth district wide has affected our learning population ratio

It is true that gen ed classrooms have to take app kids, but they don't have to teach them anything new. They teach to the middle, middle plus, which is great for my kid who is mostly middle. Plus, and probably more relevantly, there will probably only be one or two APP kids in a gen Ed classroom, as opposed to 27. The research says that the higher ability a child is, mostly, the more disparate/asynchronous their development. So they would be 6 grades ahead in math, on grade in reading. Behind in fine motor skills. Or 5 grades ahead in writing, 2 in math, behind in social skills, and there are 27 of these ranges in one class. So of course they aren't getting most of thier needs perfectly met, either, but maybe some of them, maybe closer. As opposed to a gen Ed class where most of the kids would have a smaller range, within say 2 or 3 grade levels, closer to grade level,and so would hopefully be in range more often than not, because of course you can only differentiate so far. Everybody is going to be bored and stalled sometimes, in any program, but hopefully not all the time. That's the idea anyway, and it does seem true to me so far, with my kids mostly in gen ed classrooms, and one in app. I do wish we still had a real spectrum program and meaningful alo's because it's not actually like sps kids are app, sped, or other in terms of learning ability; there's so much more variety, and we could keep kids engaged so much more often with some thoughtfulness.

I don't think I understand why an APP teacher would have a better idea of the learning needs- just because they have all already qualified for APP? I guess I don't think that says any more than the MAP scores of a gen Ed class (not a lot).

5/2/13, 11:04 AM

Lori said...

This article does a pretty good job describing the differences among gifted children and the mistakes people generally make thinking it's a homogenous group.

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/underserved.htm

The article describes a child with an IQ of about 133 who is able to work 2-3 years ahead versus another child with an IQ of about 170 who's cognitively about 8 years ahead of his chronologic age. Yet, these kids would be in APP together.

I don't want to get caught up in which class is "harder" to teach (APP vs. gen ed). That's not really relevant. But it is true that APP classrooms are heterogenous, sometimes highly so. An anecdotal example, but I talk to parents of other APP 4th graders and can tell you some feel math is just right for their kid, some think their kid is struggling a little, and others have kids who need a lot more challenge and are bored. In that regard, it's pretty similar to a general ed classroom.

Lastly, for those who simply can't understand why APP get defensive or fight so hard for their program. please also right the article. Then picture yourself as Alex's parent.

Picture watching your previously happy child withdraw and become angry, bored, and rebellious at school. Picture your child socially isolated and without friends. Picture day after day watching your child question why he even has to go to school when they teach him nothing and no one likes him. Picture standing on the playground with him one morning and seeing a classmate hand a birthday party invitation to every single other kid in the class except yours. Picture having late night talks with him where he asks how to make friends with people that he has nothing in common with. Picture being at a loss for how to handle the situation, and you're the grown up!

Then picture putting that child into APP, where he makes friends and start to like school again, where he gets appropriate challenge and starts to build up some self-esteem and confidence because he's no longer rejected by his age peers. Picture him coming home from school one day and saying, "Mom, remember how no one liked me last year? Well, Mom, I'm friends with everyone in my class this year, and they all like me!" said in a tone with as much joy as incredulity.

Keep imagining. You've now seen first-hand what an appropriate school placement has done for your child, academically, socially, and emotionally. Your kid is "normal" in this environment and thriving. You're so happy that moving schools is all it took to get your kid on the right track.

Yet, you're called an elitist and mocked and ridiculed by fellow parents. Anonymous blog posters say hideous things about you and your child that they would never say about other kids. They want to dismantle your child's program and send you kid back to the very neighborhood school that put him on the path to clinical depression, social isolation, and lifelong underachievement.

Now imagine that even educators and school board directors want to dismantle the program because they, too, do not understand that for certain kids, self-contained APP is actually the least restrictive environment. They look at capacity issues and transportation costs and the throngs of angry parents who want Advanced Learning dismantled. And they respond to them. They don't hear your story about your kid Alex; they don't understand the profound impact the program has had on him.

So, yeah, you fight. And you get defensive. And not just for your kid, who will age out of the program perhaps before it's dismantled. You do it for the future Alexes out there and for the parents who don't even know yet that this program is going to be crucial to their child's social, emotional, and academic development. You do it for them because it's that important.

Melissa Westbrook said...

If you don't, no one is picking on you. It's a rule here; no names longer than two words.

"At least with APP, you have screening for abilities including if your child is 2E which is great, because a teacher has a better idea what the learning needs are in an APP classroom."

What are you talking about here? There's some special screening in APP classes for disabilities?

Anonymous said...

I don't think I understand why an APP teacher would have a better idea of the learning needs

I'm not sure of the context of this question, but it brings up an issue we've confronted in APP in middle school - there are some teachers that seem to have an outward dislike for the very qualities that highly gifted kids might exhibit, yet they have accepted or chosen an assignment to an APP classroom. Kids are belittled and put in their place, so to speak. They learn to not speak up and ask questions. It's exactly opposite of what we expected. The point is that the district doesn't require any special training or experience to work with AL classrooms.

MSparent

Freddy F. said...

What surprises me is the poor quality of the arguments by APP parents and supporters, these folks are supposed to be smart.
While it is true there are kids with 170 IQs in APP, there are as rare as a diamond in a pile of sand at the beach. The range of a classroom at a regular school is far greater in that there are many more kids from say 90 to 110 IQ than APP where most kids are 125 to 130.
Are APP parents more motivated? In general, I think most of us who know other parents of all types would say, yes.
I don't understand why it raises hackles when it is pointed out that parents want to get their kids in APP.
It is a more rigorous program and the kids who go through do well. It has a cache, despite the resentment.
My biggest problem is that sometimes it seems the parents want it and the kids don't, and that can be a mistake. Many, many kids with APP qualifications do just fine at regular schools and go on to fine universities and great careers.
The real silver lining to the popularity of APP is that the kids who who desperately need the self contained and/or ├╝ber rigorous work(I.e. those that end up taking classes at UW), they get exposed to and work with kids who are actually very mainstream. It turns APP into an inclusion program for the highly gifted who are socially dysfunctional. That is a very good thing and should assuage any guilt by and allay any critism of parents who "squeak" their kids into the program. It's really a win-win.
Remember ..., but words will never hurt me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Lori for stating that so eloquently.
It is true that it is a statistical fact that there is wider variation in IQ scores in the top and bottom (to some extent) 2-5% than the large bell shaped middle portion of the IQ curve.
An APP class is still a heterogenous class setting - with teaching, like general ed classes, mostly aimed at the middle - it's just that in APP the 'middle' is a much more appropriate target for most of these kids than the 'middle' of a gen ed classroom. As in a gen ed class their will be some APP kids who are way ahead of even their APP peers, some who will find the work a bit of a stretch, and some who will find the level and pace just about right. APP is just replicating the classroom experience a typical kid gets in a general ed class.
It seems like there is a lot of misperceptions about the APP classes/curriculum and kids/families out there. Freddy F- I'm looking at you.

Sniffy

Lori said...

So many typos in my post! I should hire an editor before posting again. Sigh.

But seriously...

Freddy, I wonder if you're confusing correlation and causation when you say, "It is a more rigorous program and the kids who go through do well."

The kids who go through are eligible based on their *potential* to do well with an accelerated curriculum. It doesn't mean that the *curriculum* is what's causing them to do well or that the results are generalizable to other student populations. There is nothing magical going on in APP classrooms; it's the same curriculum everyone else uses, just administered more quickly.

So I guess I really don't understand this claim (which I've seen many times in the past as well) that getting your kid into APP is some sort of aspirational goal or something to be proud of.

The fact that it's "popular" or perceived as somehow superior to general education suggests that the district needs to do a much better job meeting all kids' needs. I absolutely support strengthening Spectrum and ALO and general ed to better serve all kids.

And I guess that takes us back to the original point of the post: What is the district's vision for Advanced Learning? And I'll add, how do we get back to a place where APP is not viewed as the place to go for rigor but instead as a special needs program for children who can't be served in general education classes? Because that's what it was supposed to be. If we want an aspirational program that anyone who desires more rigor can opt into, let's create it. But let's not dismantle a program that's proven effective at meeting the needs of a particular population. Slicing and dicing it up into the 5 geographic quadrants of the city is NOT going to meet these kids' needs.

Anonymous said...

"While it is true there are kids with 170 IQs in APP, there are as rare as a diamond in a pile of sand at the beach."

As rare as they may be perceived to be, SPS/APP has a handful of these kids-and just as the district has an obligation to customize an educational program to accommodate their counterparts, kids with IQs of 30, there needs to be an effective way to deliver education to a kid with a 170 IQ too.

(sorry about the name thing)

signed: If You...

suep. said...

I highly recommend that genuine APP parents and those who support advanced learning not waste their time with the obvious APP-baiters on this thread and elsewhere. (The unabashed snarkery and the insincere monickers are a clue.)

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

My biggest problem is that sometimes it seems the parents want it and the kids don't, and that can be a mistake.

Freddy, this is the second comment you have made that makes me wonder how you could possibly know this. The answer is, you don't. It's your opinion and that's fine but it would be more useful to state it that way.

I did try to keep this thread on topic but apparently some see the words "AL" or "APP" and think it gives license to express their dislike when that was not the topic at all.

I will end the comments here. Any further comments will be deleted.

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