New Advanced Learning Policy

At the May 1 Board meeting we will see the introduction of the new Advanced Learning policy.

There is a LOT wrong with it. A LOT. This is the public's chance to speak up and ask the Board to fix it. It is time to get active.

Let's start with the Board Action Report.

"Policy D12.00 was adopted in 1992 and describes services and options for highly capable students that are out-of-date in 2013. A review of Advanced Learning programs conducted in 2007 by nationally recognized experts from the University of Virginia recommended convening School Board Briefing/Proposed Action Report an Advanced Learning Review Committee to reconsider our district’s mission for serving advanced learners. Members of that review committee and the mission statement they wrote support the new proposed Board Policy No. 2190 (see attachments)."
No such "Advanced Learning Review Committee" was ever formed. Not ever. This is a bald-faced lie and a feeble, transparent, and clumsy one. Moreover, it is an unnecessary one. This lie isn't needed to make a case for writing a policy.
"Revising the advanced learning policy is also part of the Phase II policy review process."
Yeah, and let's not forget that the Board voted on January 29, 2009 to direct the superintendent and staff to review and recommend revisions to the policy.

But, whatever. Let's face forward and focus on the work before us instead of the history.

Here is the proposed policy. Read it and you'll see the problems that I see. They are obvious.

Fault #1: The policy commits the District to providing instructional programs to meet the needs of "highly capable students of school age". Except that we don't provide any such program for kindergarteners, who are certainly of "school age". Can you imagine a student family demanding service for a kindergartener based on this policy? I can. The policy should be revised, as described, to reflect our actual practice. We provide highly capable services for students in grades 1-8.

Fault #2: The policy requires the superintendent to provide:
"specialized instruction that is responsive to students'... individual learning rates and styles"
I don't see the District doing that - actually accommodating individual students' learning rates and styles, but I can see a family demanding individualized service for their child based on this policy. Can't you? With this language, how could a superintendent deny it? Yes, I suppose that one could rely on the "within budgetary limitations" language in the policy, but the focus of the policy is clearly to provide individualized instruction, which is NOT our district's practice or focus at all. For the superintendent to follow this policy the focus of Highly Capable instruction would have to undergo revolutionary change.

Fault #3: The policy includes this section, which is not in any way specific to Highly Capable students. This set of objectives would apply to any student in the district:

"The framework for such highly capable services shall encompass, but not be limited to, the following objectives:
     A. Expansion of academic attainments and intellectual skills;
     B. Stimulation of intellectual curiosity, independence and responsibility;
     C. Development of a positive attitude toward self and others;
     D. Development of originality and creativity; and
     E. Appropriate professional development to assure equity of access."

This section is not only entirely superfluous, it suggests that non-Highly Capable students are not entitled to these things. The section should be stricken in its entirety. Better yet, this section should be cut and pasted into the Instructional Philosophy policy A01.00 to apply to all students.

Fault #4: The policy includes this requirement:
"The Board will annually approve the district’s highly capable application to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction."
I don't think a policy can obligate the Board to vote one way or another on a motion brought before them. This robs future Boards of the option to disapprove the grant application - regardless of its contents. It should be revised to require the superintendent to make the application annually rather than to require the Board to approve it.

These four faults are easily corrected and, once corrected, the policy would be fine. It would be benign and unenforceable, but at least it wouldn't make trouble.

What's lacking here, of course, is any real sense of what this policy is supposed to accomplish. The Board is moving forward with a policy for Advanced Learning without first setting a Vision for Advanced Learning. That should have been Step One. Instead, the Board has ducked that responsibility once again. Disappointing.


Anonymous said…

What about our twice exceptional students????

Anonymous said…
* Words matter. The original policy is "Highly Capable Student Programs" and the proposed policy is "Highly Capable Services." Why the change?

* The phrase, "within budgetary limitations" is concerning, since they have also resolved to "differentiate resource allocation."

* The APP review also recommended defining the curriculum. Will that ever happen, or they will ignore that directive?

* In the section on costs, it mentions possible "expenditures for professional development and purchase of new identification insruments." Will they require gifted ed training for those teaching the highly capable students? This should be added to the policy. Also, will MAP no longer be used, or will there be tests in addition to the ones currently used?

* All in all, it seems backward to revise the policy without first defining the services the district intends to provide. It's all quite vague. Is the district moving away from a defined APP program, and writing a policy that will allow such a change?

Anonymous said…
Strangely enough, some of the policy reads almost word for word like Bellevue's.

check it out:

Bellevue Highly Capable Program

It's Bellevue's policy, with "diversity" and "equity of access" language added, and language about professional development, program description, program evaluation, etc., removed.

If they had copied Bellevue's policy in its entirety, it would be a lot stronger.

Anonymous said…
Remember that Washington does not require kindergarten. So School aged really does mean first grade through 12 grade, not kindergarten through 12 grade.

Anonymous said…
A description of what's required in a district's annual plan for the highly capable program, from WAC 392-170-030:

Substance of Annual School District Plan - Highly Capable Program

Chapter 392-170

Why not simply state, in the policy, that the Board will ensure that WAC 392-170, "Special Services Program - Highly Capable Programs," is followed.

Also, in OSPI's FAQ section, they address the possibility of being highly capable in a single area of acceleration, or being twice exceptional, neither of which is addressed in the district's proposed policy.

Highly Capable FAQ

This is your chance to get it right, SPS. Why do I think it's going to go all wrong?

fact finder
Anonymous said…
And more from OSPI, evaluation criteria for highly capable programs:

OSPI Criteria for Excellent Programs for Highly Capable Students

Why not start here, SPS? A self-evaluation using these criteria will highlight areas of weakness and allow for a more robust policy.

fact finder
wondering said…
Re the switch to the term "Highly Capable Services," from "Highly Capable Programs": If the recent history of changes to special ed in SPS provides any insight into changes ahead for AL, then this terminology change may indicate that SPS plans to start providing AL "services" in regular neighborhood-school classrooms, to students who qualify (rather than to continue providing programs at particular locations).
Charlie Mas said…
If the policy reminds you of the one in Bellevue (or other Washington districts), it is because the policy is based on a model policy from WSSDA.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Charlie. So the following language,

The board will annually approve the district's highly capable application which describes the number of students served by grade level; the district's plan to identify students; program services; instructional program description; professional development; program evaluation and fiscal report; performance report; and assurances that the district is legally compliant.

is also part of the WSSDA model policy, but for some reason, SPS is excluding it?

Charlie Mas said…
Since the WSSDA sample policies are for subscribers only, I can't say with certainty which elements of the draft Seattle policy or which elements of any other district's policy is from that WSSDA sample policy.

Here are some representative samples:



Lake Washington


Renton (skip to page 126)

I think this shows that the WSSDA sample policies aren't very good as the two most common elements are the superfluous section that would apply to any student and the part that requires the Board to vote to approve the grant application.
a parent said…
If you look at Puyallup, they have a similar policy for Highly Capable, but they also have an accompanying policy similar to SPS' Superintendent policies. See Policy 2190 and Policy 2190R.

Policy 2190R includes a mission and vision, along with specific program options and delivery models.

Shouldn't the new Board policy be developed in conjunction with the Superintendent policy?
tk said…
WSSDA's sample policies used to be posted online. Since they removed them, WSSDA will send individual chapters if requested, even to non-subscribers. I've just said I'm a public school parent and it has helped get through.

Anonymous said…
We better look at the qualifying factors for advanced learning opportunities. NWEA said MAP should not be an exclusive gatekeeper EVER.
- assessment task force member
Anonymous said…
With "Highly Capable" are they only referring to APP? Now with IBx there is highly capable services provided for APP until 12th grade but no such pathway is provided for Spectrum students, whose high school may not have the needed AP/IB/Honors classes.

Promises matter said…
The district better get funding up to Ingraham.

The district has IB at Ingraham, and added APP to help fill a building that had a lot of capacity, and it is working . Many middle school students will be choosing Ingraham over their local high school next year due to program placement.

Ingraham already has 40 students in a class. It is time for the district to make good on it's promises.
Charlie Mas said…
@Questions - Yes, "Highly Capable" only refers to APP.

Spectrum, ALOs, early entry kindergarten, IB, honors classes, and AP are not included in this policy. There is no governing policy for them at all.

@Promises matter - As for the District fulfilling a commitment, I can only assume that you are new here. The District has never fulfilled any commitment made to students or families.
Anonymous said…
Highly Capable
WAC 392-170-090
End of year report.
Districts shall submit to the superintendent of public instruction at the close of each fiscal year an end of the year report on forms provided by the superintendent of public instruction which includes:

(1) Number of students served by grade level (K-12);

(2) Student demographic information;

(3) Data to determine if students who are highly capable met the goals set and if the programs provided met the academic needs of these students;

(4) Number and content of professional development activities provided for special teachers and general education staff;

(5) Program evaluation data and, if needed, program changes that will be made based upon this information; and

(6) Final fiscal report that reports on activities and staff funded by this program.

How is the district determining if they met the needs of students? What data is being used in program evaluation? Also, the state language uses "program," not services.

-curious parent
Promises matter, funny you should ask.

At the Work Session on Teaching & Learning, right at the end, there was this brief notation about needing funding for STEM at Cleveland and IB at Ingraham.

I believe the issue is that they perceived that both would become somewhat self-sustaining (probably through grants especially local ones).

But that hasn't happened and now those programs may suffer.

It is nonsense to start programs the district can't sustain. First it's no IAs for JSIS or McDonald unless the parents raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and now they worry over STEM and IB.
Charlie Mas said…
curious parent asks excellent questions.

The answers, of course, are that the District isn't doing these things that are required by law.

That prompts questions about enforcement, and leads directly to the answer that there is none.

There is no attempt to determine if students who are highly capable met the goals set - there are no goals set.

There is no attempt to determine if the programs provided met the academic needs of these students.

There is no program evaluation data.

Without the data there can be no program changes made based upon information.

But no one in authority cares. Not the superintendent, the Board, the State Board of Education, nor the OSPI. They just don't care. They will get irritated if you ask them about it.
disgusted said…
MGJ's entire Strategic Plan was built on the promises of sustainable grants. That was a bunch of scrap.

I'll add that Carr, DeBell and Martin- Morris went along with this non-sense.
I finally got around to reading this Action item.

Charlie is half-right about the committee. It was only made up of SPS staff. No parents, no experts.

Three things this report fails to mention:
- the audit done when MGJ was here and what it said
- that this "committee" ONLY covered APP (says it right in the corner)
- hello, what about the Advanced Learning Taskforce? (Oh right, our group has been consistently ignored and kicked to the curb by staff so why stop now?)

I note the use of language "highly gifted, academically gifted and high-achieving" students. What? What are the definitions for those and will you deal with each group?

This is half-baked nonsense.
Charlie Mas said…
I will be speaking at the Board meeting this week about the highly capable policy.
Charlie Mas said…
My thinking on this has really changed over time.

First I thought that they need to fix the flaws in this policy.

Then I started to think that they need to just vote down the new policy until they have articulated a Vision for Advanced Learning.

But now I have realized that their Vision for Advanced Learning is to do away with it and I'm not sure what I want.
Future SPS parent? said…
As a parent of a 4.5yo who I suspect will be APP I find it hard to get quality information on SPS advanced learning options (APP and otherwise) and what I do find is disheartening. The gap for K is an issue to start with since I don't want her to start at her neighborhood school and then move again for the next year, but it's overwhelming to sort through the options (APP, ALO, Spectrum, reference school, option schools..) and get a *real* sense of things. Then the undercurrent of lack of support for and general discontent of parents of advanced learners is unnerving. Would you all jump to private schools if you had the money? Or am I missing something?
Anonymous said…
I was also faced with having a child who I was quite sure would be APP entering kindergarten - and not wanting to move her after one year. I chose to put her at JA K-8 option school and have been very pleased. They have a cluster-based spectrum program, so I knew she'd at least be able to do that. She did qualify for APP, but JA K-8 has done a very good job at addressing the needs of advanced learners in general. Some grades have a higher % of advanced learners (the current 2nd grade being the largest), but there's been a good cohort with the entering K students the last couple of years and JA is now attracting high numbers of prospective APP/Spectrum students at all grade levels.

That being said (and the principal told me this), there may come a time when the school cannot meet the needs of specific APP students - and, if/when that time comes, we may need to move her (and they'll let us know if they think she's reached that point) - but that isn't the case now and one of her teachers (who used to teach in Lowell/APP)said that JA could likely accommodate her until middle school. Because there are about 10 APP students in my daughter's grade, we have the critical mass necessary so there can be group instruction at a higher/faster level.

I will say that one thing that has helped tremendously is to get to know the other parents in your child's class and talk about needs and issues. We've done that and have been met by a responsive principal.

Good luck!

~JA Parent of APP student

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