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Monday, June 17, 2013

Spectrum Thread

This was requested as finally some Spectrum parents are understanding that Spectrum is very much on the chopping block.  Who knows?  As we speak Shauna Heath and Michael Tolley may have already done away with it (it seems they will be creating whatever Advanced Learning will be). 

If the district had allowed the Advanced Learning Taskforce to continue its work, we might have gotten to Spectrum and ALOs.  But maybe that was the point of NOT continuing on.

It may be too late and trying to organize and get any attention in the summer is a big lift.  But I would do it if I cared about Spectrum (no matter what its form at your school). 

93 comments:

Po3 said...

I am starting to think that APP will be placed in all schools - which will eliminate the need for Spectrum and ALO as well as set aside any building to house APP.

I think the district believes that there is room in the attendance area schools for APP students to return to.

Charlie Mas said...

From the BAR for the annual Highly Capable grant application:

"The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs were discussed with representatives of an Advanced Learning Taskforce. The taskforce completed their work and made recommendations to the Superintendent in the Spring of 2012. New taskforces will be convened in the Fall of 2013. Each taskforce will consider and make recommendations around one issue related to Highly Capable Services. The initial task force will consider how we qualify Highly Capable Students. The second task force will focus on the specific delivery model."

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a link to the BAR.

Charlie Mas said...

Po3, Here's what I'm hearing:

Advanced Learning will be re-visioned as a manifestation of MTSS, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support.

MTSS will offer two tiers of support for advanced learners.

Tier II (Tier I is the regular core curriculum) will be an intervention provided within the attendance area school and probably within the general education classroom. There will be a menu of choices for schools that will include pull-outs, walk-tos, differentiation, and push-ins. This will be essentially identical to ALOs, which is to say that it will be nothing at all at most schools.

Tier III will be for the students who are not adequately supported by Tier II. This will be a program offered regionally, like APP but with smaller cohorts.

It's not exactly correct to say that the new system will have just ALO and APP because they won't be approached from the same perspective or have the same eligibility criteria, but they will be essentially the same thing.

The new eligibility criteria, I fear, will be less objective and determined more by teachers and their assessment of student abilities. This has not been a reliable referral source to date.

Anonymous said...

Are they making program decisions without a head of Advanced Learning? What the? Wouldn't the delivery model and identification need to go hand in hand? Without knowing the delivery model, how do you decide identication criteria?

be afraid

Charlie Mas said...

There won't be just one delivery model.

Schools will be able to select from a menu of delivery models for their Tier II support for advanced learners just as they can now select from a menu of delivery models for ALO.

The delivery model isn't the important point. The important point is how the District will assure that the service is actually provided. It doesn't matter if the school claims to be serving students with delivery model A or delivery model B if they aren't actually serving students at all.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any information or thoughts on when this would be implemented? Would Shauna Heath and Micheal Tolley try to dismantle the current advanced learning system for the 2013-2014 school year? Or, would the changes be tabled until 2014-2105?

Also, does anyone have a sense of whether APP is likely to survive in its current form in a place a like Washington, with all currently qualified APP kids from West Seattle still qualifying to go there? Or, would they try to move APP out to the other middle schools by 2014-2015?

BTW, if anyone is still wondering whether Banda A)cares about students/families in the district, or B)is in any way in charge over the likes of Heath/Tolley/Dellino, this should leave absolutely no doubt. He might be a nice guy, but he's completely worthless in his role. No leadership whatsoever. If he allows this to happen, I expect that there will be a max exodus of advanced learning families from the district over the next couple of years. Maybe that's what the district types want, but if Banda allows that to happen, he should be ashamed of himself.

-Frustrated

Anonymous said...

What can we do to have an impact on these decisions, or is the goose already cooked?

-Spectrum and APP parent

Anonymous said...

I know the principal at our Spectrum school has responded to a petition from some families interested in changing spectrum at our school that she is working with someone from the district and waiting for direction from them on how/whether to change the spectrum model, and expects this to happen for the 2014-15 school year/leave things as it is for the 2013-14 school year. If there all these changes being made as suggested in this thread, it is unbelievable that it hasn't been more transparent with the community.

NE Mom of 3

Anonymous said...

Spectrum parents, this is our last chance at trying to avoid the last nail in the spectrum coffin.

Spectrum has been meaningful to my kids, spectrum matters. Spectrum works. Spectrum is effective. There is no reason to dismantle it. It's not perfect, but it matters.

All of us, in our different schools, in different regions across the city, need to sign up and testify at the June 19 board meeting and speak regarding the strategic plan. We need to tell them that our kids matter, just as much as everybody else's kids, and we put our kids into the schools for learning, not for lessons in political correctness. Evidence is clear about which teaching and learning practices are the most effective in supporting kids, and kids need challenges to grow academically, and they are not getting those challenges in any meaningful way outside of a spectrum classroom. Differentiation doesn't exist, differentiation doesn't work, differentiation is meaningless. It just is. Teachers are too burdened with too many different students who have too many different needs in order to be able to address all of those needs at one time in one classroom. It is an unrealistic expectation, one that is doomed to fail. My kids were given different math worksheets then the kids they were sitting beside, and do you think this is what differentiation is? It isn't. They were still made to sit through the same reading lessons, the same math lessons, for materials they had already mastered.

Spectrum parents, this is our last chance to rally, to work together, to demand better for our kids, for everybody's kids, spectrum is a service that should not be killed by new leaders with no knowledge of how important this advanced learning program has been to students in the system!

- spectrum dad

Po3 said...

"Tier III will be for the students who are not adequately supported by Tier II. This will be a program offered regionally, like APP but with smaller cohorts."

So one could say that APP will be the new Spectrum,available in some schools and will be labeled Tier III, thus eliminating APP.

I would guess that this Tier III will be offered at under enrolled schools like and Madrona and McClure. And there will be no Tier III at the high school level.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Really, Charlie? Because that's not true and I will call OSPI and tell them that. Bad move on the part of the district because if they used the Taskforce to get the grant, that's a problem.

Spectrum Dad is right; sign up to speak at the Board meeting.

I've been there said...

I have taught Spectrum. I often say that I can argue both sides when the subject comes up; but, in truth, there is a difference. Teachers of Spectrum can move much faster. Regular classrooms stretched to include highly capable will spend precious time sending kids off to other classrooms for so-called enrichment or acceleration. I am in favor of walk-to-anything when a child is shown to be in need of significantly higher-level challenge. That should be a no-brainer and is a principal's decision. Many principals fail to be decisive enough to make that decision and let teachers talk them in-or-out of it. There should never be a limitation on walk-to-anything if it benefits the child.

However, grouping kids who are high achievers and test into ranges between 90% and 99% truly makes a difference in terms of the ability of the teacher to accelerate and enrich them. Yes, some slide through with private testing and others score 97% in one area and 84% in another and with teacher recommendations are included. I've had them. They rise to the challenge in most cases. And no one test is perfect to target any student completely accurately.

To think ALO's will work is to lose sight of the reason we test: to provide appropriate teaching and to group children. The wider the range in any classroom, the more difficult - actually impossible - that goal becomes. Why do we still argue about all this? Why is there still dispute about the research that shows grouping works. This is simply grouping to benefit a population of high achievers.

Circles. The District keeps running in circles and I don't know of one principal for which I've worked that actually knows the research on child development and the brain. I really have not had one. I guess it is the Peter Principle.

We have a real dearth of information and intelligent decision-making at the school level. And, it seems, at the District level.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Another comment regarding spectrum - I heard at my kids' school that many of the teachers don't like the way the school has self contained spectrum classes (so I hear through the grapevine). You have to wonder how much teacher evaluations tied to test scores tie to the want to not have a self contained model.

I'm no expert on the subject other than witnessing my older child having the best taught year of his time in school this year with a self contained class with a teacher committed to advanced learning. He actually learned and was excited about school. This is in 4th grade. He has spent multiple years spending way too much time silent reading while the teacher works with the students who are struggling. Those students deserve that extra time to help bring them up, but does my kid deserve to learn nothing in the mean time????

NE mother of 3

Anonymous said...

NE mom of 3, I've asked about this but never gotten a clear answer: Are teacher evaluations tied to MAP scores even in early elementary?

--TC

Melissa Westbrook said...

My e-mail to the Board:

I just read the BAR for the Highly Capable grant and, as a member of the Advanced Learning Taskforce, was distressed to read this:

"The Highly Capable Student Programs Grant application and the management of programs were discussed with representatives of an Advanced Learning Taskforce.
The taskforce completed their work and made recommendations to the Superintendent in the Spring of 2012."

This is NOT true. I don't know if it was a misunderstanding on the part of Ms. Heath (who is new) or Mr. Tolley not understanding what Dr. Vaughn said but:

- the grant application and management of programs WAS not discussed at any of our meetings. Not by us. We only managed to talk about one subject and that was APP.

- You'll note it says "programS", not program. We did not discuss Spectrum OR ALOs. Now neither of those are part of this grant but it is wrong to state that the programS were discussed.

- We did NOT complete our work - and the charge given to us by Dr. Enfield - by Spring 2012. We made one recommendation to the Superintendent.

I note that the definitions around taskforces and committees has been redone. It's fine if the new definition says "one issue" but that was NOT what was in place at the time our Taskforce convened nor was it our charge. I have the document that was given to us if any of you want to see it.

I will not stand by and have SPS history rewritten especially when I was part of it.

I sincerely hope this is a mistake and that it will be corrected. Meaning, that it is clear that the Taskforce only considered APP, did NOT complete its charge given to us by Dr. Enfield and we did not talk about the grant application.

If this is not corrected, I will go to OSPI and explain the problem to them.

I will also note, again for the record, that our Taskforce was never publicly credited nor thanked for our work. Ms. Heath sent me a personal e-mail which I appreciated but the rest of the committee deserves public acknowledgement.

Charlie Mas said...

Another funny thing about the BAR for the grant application - the grant application itself is not attached.

How, exactly, is the Board supposed to review and approve the application if they never get to see it? How, exactly, is the public supposed to be able to offer input on it if we never get to see it before it is approved?

Anonymous said...
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n said...

I'm not sure there is a consistent answer to those questions, tc and mom of 3. In my case, MAP scores were used to measure student achievement and my kids did meet my goals. However, the Danielson does not really include such a correlation and it seemed like my eval was more dependent on my ability to prove myself using the rating scale on the Danielson rubric.

Not sure what would have been my eval had my kids not met the achievement goals I set at the beginning of the year.

Confusing? Yes, even to us.

Wilson said...

No more self contained except for the kids who cannot make it without. That is what least restrictive means, same as for SpEd. Do kids learn more stuff in self contained? academically, maybe, although a well operated walkto could match it on test scores. Socially is where self contained fails. It creates snotty kids at its worst as well as frustrated, demeaned kids. IMO there can be challenging, advanced work for kids who need or want it and a social melding that facilitates understanding about the differences between kids along the entire range of ability and achievement. Self contained should be only for those who are unable to stay in a regular classroom.
Parents of AL kids will find themselves in a situation not unlike SpEd parents. Social interaction with a wide variety of kids but poor instruction.

n said...

I'll trust your word if you let me know you've had time in the classroom, Wilson. Your argument makes me think of home school. The argument against home schooling is the "social" one. Yet, I've met and even taught some kids who have come from home schools or left to attend them. My experience is that sans the unfortunate experiences that a lot of our playground politics offers students, they actually do better socially when they go on higher ed. The "social" aspect isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's my take on twenty-plus years of watching kids in elementary anyway.

Anonymous said...

What social issues? The only social issues I have ever seen in this school district have been with parents and staff, with the worst bullying and name-calling coming from those who do not like AL programs. I have *never* seen such active vitriol directed towards AL programs (and parents too), in any other city.

Seattle is such an odd, insular place at times, especially on this topic.

- SMH

Anonymous said...

And by "those", I mean the adults, not the kids.

- SMH

Anonymous said...

Can we just replicate the Paradise Valley Unified School District's gifted education department? It looks wonderful - and includes self-contained classrooms from preschool through sixth grade and a separate program for twice-exceptional gifted students. All this in a district with 33,000 students.

Seriously, do we have to reinvent the wheel every few years? Our district administration's problem is that they don't produce anything useful - it's all Strategic Plans and Academic Assurances. Solving problems that don't exist - like increasing access to APP by breaking it up into smaller groups that are more geographically widespread. Who asked for that? Seats are already guaranteed to every qualified student.

Finally, does anyone seen studies on successful differentiation in the classroom? How wide an ability range is it possible for a teacher to work with successfully? Doesn't each group get less instruction time for every additional group formed? Doesn't successful differentiation require smaller class sizes?

Lynn

Anonymous said...


Charlie, Melissa and you other great district watchers, any chance that future splits are to dilute the chance and voice for future advanced learning charter schools. I haven't been paying too much attention to them but it seems that L@L would certainly get >50% if offered another split or multiple splits.

APP Dad

Anonymous said...

The Paradise Valley Unified School District (using the Brulles gifted cluster model) requires that teachers of self-contained and gifted-cluster classes either have, or are working toward, an endorsement in gifted ed. They also have a larger gifted ed department, with positions specifically geared toward coaching teachers and developing curriculum. Additionally, they have a gifted focus group made up of school principals from each region, with the goal of strengthening gifted services throughout the district.

http://www.pvschools.net/gifted/pdfs/GiftedScope&Sequence.pdf

parent

Charlie Mas said...

I have an email from Shauna Heath that says that the Task Forces won't be formed and won't start their work until the District has a new Manager of Advanced Learning and that person is ready. They hope to have the person in place in August and start the Task Force work in the Fall.

Charlie Mas said...

Wilson wrote:

"Socially is where self contained fails. It creates snotty kids at its worst as well as frustrated, demeaned kids. IMO there can be challenging, advanced work for kids who need or want it and a social melding that facilitates understanding about the differences between kids along the entire range of ability and achievement. Self contained should be only for those who are unable to stay in a regular classroom."

Is there any data anywhere that supports this contention?

All of the studies that I have heard of and all of the stories I have heard report the opposite.

Charlie Mas said...

The Charter School law would not allow a charter school to set eligibility conditions for students, so there is no risk that APP @ Lincoln will become a charter school.

research said...

From meta-analyses on ability grouping:

An Analyis on the Research of Ability grouping

...The programs certainly do not lead talented students to become self-satisfied and smug, nor do they cause a precipitous drop in the self-esteem of lower aptitude students.

...These conclusions are obviously different from the well-known conclusions reached by Oakes (1985) in her book Keeping Track. According to Oakes, students in the top tracks gain nothing from grouping and other students suffer clear and consistent disadvantages, including loss of academic ground, self-esteem, and ambition. Oakes also believes that tracking is unfair to students because it denies them their right to a common curriculum. She therefore calls for the de-tracking of American schools. De-tracked schools would provide the same curriculum for all, and they would not offer special educational opportunities to any on the basis of ability, achievement, or interests.

Oakes's conclusions, however, are based on her own selective and idiosyncratic review of older summaries of the literature and on her uncontrolled classroom observations. Objective analysis of findings from controlled studies provides little support for her speculations. Whereas Oakes believes that grouping programs are unnecessary, ineffective, and unfair, the opposite appears to be true. American education would be harmed by the wholesale elimination of programs that group learners for instruction by ability.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sounds like it's pretty much a done deal. And getting up in front of the Board and saying "[W]e put our kids into the schools for learning, not for lessons in political correctness" is a losing strategy at best. It only confirms the stereotypes about AL parents, and it makes the assumption that you can't have both.

I have seen my son benefit from self-contained Spectrum. But I have to admit, I'm a little relieved he'll get a break from his cohort next year and get to branch out a little. As a parent volunteer, I've noticed the quality of instruction varies from room to room -- not based on Spectrum vs. Gen Ed, but based on the classroom teacher's style. There's one grade where I actually thought the Gen Ed class *was* the Spectrum class. But it turned out the teacher was just that awesome at differentiation. It is possible.

I'm keeping an open mind about it.

-- Annie

Anonymous said...

Just going on my own experience, selection for gifted programs should be a combination of teacher recommendation and testing. I would have never been placed in a gifted program without testing because I was bored beyond belief in my 40 student 4th grade class and got mediocre grades because I was bored, bored, bored. Going to a gifted program challenged me and suddenly made school much more worthwhile. I do not believe that I would have ever achieved what I have achieved if I hadn't been placed into a separate gifted program. It did not make me snotty or entitled.

HP

Anonymous said...

Where was FACMAC when spectrum was getting hit 2 years ago? There were parents at these buildings looking for answers as a group and despite all the pleas, postings on this blog, no guidance from FACMAC, AL, or the board. It became a building issue not a program issue. There were some effort to flesh out changes, but really it became just what staff and the parents in charge want to make of AL. There has been no follow up either.

Once students are in MS, I'm fine doing away with spectrum or APP self contained classes as long as MS and HS offered honors and AP/IB classes. Like Annie, I agree it's the quality of the teachers that makes the class extraordinary. We already have 6th graders sitting in algebra with 7th and 8th graders. My siblings went to large MS with similar grade mixing for some classes 30 years go including walking to a HS 4 blocks away for even more advanced classes. We have high schoolers taking college classes now.

Quirks, odd sense of humor, sensitivity, temperament, and different learning styles can be found in students of all abilities. Attaining advanced learning is really about opportunity. SPS' responsibility is to provide that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Annie in regards to wanting to mix the kids up more and that a teacher's talent in differentiation teaching can make all the difference. The reason I prefer self contained now is a direct result of having those teachers that don't differentiate well Pre-self contained spectrum and seeing how much my one of my kids suffered academically as a result. In most cases, if a teacher is not good at differentiation teaching, the advanced learners are the ones who suffer. I'm not sure if proper training would help in this regard, or if it is more an innate skill some teachers have and others don't. I have witnessed more kids moving out to APP after a year with certain teachers at my kids' school. It is frustrating because these are kids twho should be served well in their neighborhood school (not off the charts gifted).

NE Mom of 3

Anonymous said...

Sorry forgot to add a pseudo for 8:08 post.

Seattle mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

"It creates snotty kids at its worst as well as frustrated, demeaned kids."

I'm with Charlie; what's your data for this? If you have none, don't name-call here and especially don't say unkind things about other people's children.

To clear up this issue about APP at Lincoln, it COULD go charter BUT could not require testing.

What they could do is open as a school for gifted kids, accept all comers but set the bar very high for academics so that those who could not keep up would flee or be exited (a la KIPP). There are certainly charter schools for gifted kids around the country and nothing in 1240 precludes that from happening here.

I doubt it could happen early on as it would seem most authorizers would want to stay with the "preference" for serving at-risk kids but if the cap gets lifted, I'm certain we will see all types of schools. (And, to note, 1240's definition of "at-risk" includes gifted kids.)

Anonymous said...

My experience is same as NE Mom of 3. There is a huge exodus from a certain grade level this year at our elementary school into APP, and these kids should absolutely be well-served at our school. The peers argument simply doesn't apply, either. It is spoken to very eloquently by long-time posters on this blog (Lori) but I really doubt its validity across the board. As the previous poster said, "Quirks, odd sense of humor, sensitivity, temperament, and different learning styles can be found in students of all abilities." This is very true. And kids we've watched leaved our school over the years (who make up a big number of kids in APP north) are absolutely normal as any other kid. Maybe one or two or them have been real outliers.

Getting frustrated

Anonymous said...

If he allows this to happen, I expect that there will be a max exodus of advanced learning families from the district over the next couple of years.

Where do you think this "huge exodus" will go. Priave schools are full beyond capacity. AL students don't always get in even now.

-Parent

Anonymous said...

Seattle Mom,

Learning at an accelerated pace (definition of advanced learning in this district) is not all about opportunity. A combination of ability and opportunity is required for success. If you're surrounded by kids who have that ability (in your family or in your neighborhood) it can be easy to view it as the norm. Doesn't make it true though.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

My kids attends a school with self-contained Spectrum classes, and I'm not convinced the program is sustainable or fair. Every year, more children qualify then there are places for (including my kid). Last year there were 22 kids on the waitlist for her grade level, many of whom attend the school. This year there are 12 kids on the waitlist. Children don't get in unless they win the golden ticket for First Grade entry. The school is already over subscribed, not like we can add more self-contained classes. I would rather see advanced learning opportunities where needed, or groups of kids who are working together at the same level. There are many, many bright kids at that school, many working beyond grade level for sure.

North End Parent

Anonymous said...

So your solution is that none of the kids working beyond grade level get a curriculum beyond grade level? At least now some of them are getting it, and where the resource is scarce, there is a lottery for the resource.

I agree that at many schools the number of children who could do the work is very high, and kids leaving aren't getting a hugely different peer group. But they are getting an accelerated curriculum, which matters too(a lot) and there are plenty of schools where the peer group isn't there. I have seen a few teachers try to differentiate(none very far, though that is maybe more about APP than Spectrum), but I don't think it's any more fair to say you only get an appropriate education if you happen to luck into a superstar teacher, with a class who requires below average time from the teacher, so they happen to get to the advanced kids more often.

Good luck Spectrum parents. I think you should agitate, too. The advanced kids are never going to be anyone's first priority, and that is fine and right. But those kids do have the same right as anyone to learn new things at school, and I hope you win your fight for it. A robust advanced learning program is a boon for every child in the district, and a part of basic education. I think what you have to fight against is the district telling you they will differentiate, showing you "metrics," all the while, everyone knowing there will be zero differentiation in real life. They are very tricky about this stuff.

-sleeper

Charlie Mas said...

It's funny, but the obvious solution to the problem described by North End Parent would be for the school to create an additional Spectrum class. Why isn't that option on the table?

NW Parent said...

Very frustrated at the District's lack of support for Spectrum and now, seemingly, its intent to do away with it altogether. None of this has been communicated to parents except those who seek out the information and attempt to keep on top of the ever-changing situation.

These advanced learning administrator also need to understand that a good number of Spectrum students qualify for APP but choose to stay in their own schools. And if they do away with Spectrum, many of them will likely forge ahead with APP, thus crowding those programs more. Presumably they will accommodate, since APP or Tier 3 kids supposedly all get into the program.

I very much concur with the parents and the teacher on this board who say that differentiating for every kid in the classroom is neither a realistic nor fair expectation of teachers, who already have to deal with and deliver so much in 6 hours. So I am very skeptical of the District moving to more and more of an ALO approach.

Lori said...

Charlie wrote, "I have an email from Shauna Heath that says that the Task Forces won't be formed and won't start their work until the District has a new Manager of Advanced Learning and that person is ready. They hope to have the person in place in August and start the Task Force work in the Fall."

This is interesting because Lincoln families were told a few weeks ago that the district would form these taskforces ASAP because their work will inform the boundary changes that the Board must vote on in November for the 2014-15 school year.

Obviously, if the taskforces don't form until fall, they cannot possibly have input into the boundary change discussions; they will have to fit the new AL model into whatever new boundaries are created, at least in the short-term of the next few years.

Or maybe the Board vote on new boundaries and new AL models will also be delayed now? How will this all align with open enrollment and Board turnover come January?

It had sounded to me that they wanted to wrap up major decisions this calendar year with the current Board members who have been privy to all the issues the last several years. If all of this is delayed until early 2014, we'll have 2 brand new Board members having to make major decisions right away.

I'd love some clarity around when the boundary changes vote will be and when these new AL taskforces will be charged to produce their recommendations.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"These advanced learning administrator also need to understand that a good number of Spectrum students qualify for APP but choose to stay in their own schools. And if they do away with Spectrum, many of them will likely forge ahead with APP, thus crowding those programs more."

Absolutely and it's a gamble for the district if they pull Spectrum.

Lori, the last I spoke with Tracy Libros, those boundary decisions will get a vote late Nov/early Dec. (They have to in order to get the enrollment guides ready for early winter.)

I think your assessment that the new taskforce won't have time to take it all in is correct. I personally think boundary decisions shouldn't be driving program placement. It should be about what are the best models and then how to get them into schools.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is that, with all the problems the school district faces - capacity, math curriculum, etc., why have they chosen to attack and dismantle two highly popular programs? What problem are they trying to solve? Couldn't resources be more effectively focused on problems with real benefits?

If APP would be dismantled, my kid would be sent back to a neighborhood school completely focused on bringing failing kids up to a minimum standard.


Disgusted with the district

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Spectrum Families:

If your children have benefited or are benefiting from Spectrum, then, stand up and show up!

YOU are all that stands between the wrecking ball smashing what is left of Spectrum.

Spectrum's demise is eminent, standing by and wringing our hands won't help. The mythical 'differentiation' replacement wherein all teachers everywhere can deliver everything to every student with absolute aplomb is silly.

So, show up and stand up, peacefully and orderly, to this Wednesday's Board Meeting at the JSCEE at 4pm. Bring a sign, something along the lines of "Real Spectrum for Real Students" or "All Children are equally deserving of learning everyday: Spectrum YES".

It really matters. Mr. Banda seems to care about politics a LOT; if the room is packed with Spectrum parents, all proud supports (and 'yes' levy voters) of all of the offerings of Seattle School District, including Spectrum, maybe he will get his (new) team to reevaluate their ardent desire to 'reformulate' the 'service delivery model'.

Spectrum for the elementary setting is a vital component of SSD; it has been essential to children who are ready and eager to learn, and gets them 'turned on' instead of 'turned off' so that they, like all children, can blossom into life-long learners and be ready for college, career, and citizenship.

If you think I am not talking to you, that I am talking to some other parent, you are wrong. I am talking to you, LaFayette, John Muir, Wedgwood, Jane Addams, Lawton, Viewridge...

I vote yes to the City's Families and Education levies, even though those funds won't touch my kids or my kids' schools because I care about ALL families and all students. I hope some of you non-Spectrum families reading this now similarly care about ALL students, about every child having their learning needs met.

One could say this is a philosophical issue, but, I respectfully disagree: rhetoric does not matter to a child, learning does. If the alternative to Spectrum, a 'pretend' ALO-like model, is what the District thinks will work, those of us who have been there know it won't work and can't work and will be totally inconsistent, and, in a District this size, that has got to be unacceptable.

Every child deserves a great teacher and a great principal and great text books. The math text books right now are problematic, some buildings have principals that are not a fit, and every building has good teachers and some terrible ones. The District needs to do better, and, it can start by NOT starting to put asunder a program that is working.

Come to Wednesday's meeting; make your voice heard. Let them know Spectrum is not going down without a fight.

If we don't show up, then, it will be partly on us...

-spectrum dad

Anonymous said...

What happens to Spectrum affects all of AL, APP included. This is not just about Spectrum, but AL services as a whole.

parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I would echo those last comments. Spectrum should matter to APP parents as well.

"I vote yes to the City's Families and Education levies, even though those funds won't touch my kids or my kids' schools because I care about ALL families and all students."

FYI, nearly every school DOES get benefit from F&E money so don't feel it only goes to high needs schools. For example, every comprehensive high school has a health center that is open to ALL students.

Charlie Mas said...

The attendance area school boundaries will be set BEFORE program placement.

This will, of course, repeat the errors of the past when the presence of programs in the schools were not considered when setting the size of the attendance area.

If School A has a capacity of 425 the District will set the attendance area for the school so that it captures 425 students. If School A is the home a regional program with 150 students from outside the school's attendance area, then the school will become overcrowded as 575 students try to squeeze into the building.

It seems a pretty simple and obvious adjustment, but it's one that the District refuses to make.

Anonymous said...

No one seems to want to address the issue of least restrictive environment as it applies to AL kids.If MTSS is applied to AL this will happen, the needs of AL kids will have to met; but if possible, without self-contained. As said earlier, AL kids will be in the same boat as SpEd. Sounds fair enough.

W

Anonymous said...

As it relates to SpEd, "least restrictive environment" is about having the opportunity to be educated with non-disabled peers and having access to the standard curriculum to "the maximum extent appropriate." For AL, they already have access to the standard curriculum, so "least restrictive environment" in terms of serving gifted students means grouping students of similar abilities so they can access something beyond the standard curriculum. For SpEd, it's about inclusion, but for gifted students, full-time self-contained groupings are the least restrictive in terms of maximizing year over year growth in learning.

NAGC position statement on grouping

parent

Anonymous said...

To reiterate, "...the least restrictive environment, or LRE, should represent less time in the regular classroom, since that environment is actually more restrictive for the GT student."

More discussion here, Tiered approach for gifted education, as it relates to the RTI model (or whatever they are calling it now). The tiered services they describe are similar to what the district has (or had) with ALO, self-contained Spectrum, and APP.

parent

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Right on parent! If we remove as many students as possible from general education - we could leave general education completely for the SpEd kids! (And of course, for the poor kids.) Isn't that the goal? In that case, there would be no problem providing LRE for students with disabilities! (By the way, LRE is only a requirement under IDEA - so there is no requirement, or even meaning, for anybody else. LRE means the fewest possible restrictions FROM things students without disabilities get. Any type of "self-containment" represents a "restriction".) Imagine an "LRE" that was just a self-contained classroom special ed kids. Remove all the typical kids (because they're all gifted), and behold, a general education classroom that is all disabled, or largely disabled. If this seems rhetorical, it isn't. By secondary school, many so-called "general education" classes are majority disabled.

-another parent

Anonymous said...

Or...not, it's a relatively small proportion, and keeping kids in a class when they have mastered all the material indefinitely because a someone on the internet sets up a strawman of elitism is completely unconscionable. All kids deserve to learn at school. The kids ahead of standard deserve to learn at school. We have to find a consistent way to make that happen, urgently, and differentiation is not it, system wide, with the class sizes and standards we have. Torpedoing one of the few programs that does reach some kids is a bad idea.

The LRE language comes from upthread, and the MTSS framing advanced learning in the same way as SpEd. It's the district doing this, appropriating the language and framework, not parents. I think we'd all agree they are not really the same thing, should not have the same goals, will never have the same resources, and cannot be implemented in the same way. Unfortunately, "we all" do not work at JSCEE.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The Albuquerque handbook requires an IEP for each gifted student and requires cluster-grouping. As for size of groups it states,

"Best practice indicates that groups of no
more than 8 to 10 students are recommended for
students in elementary schools and groups of 10
to 12 are ideal for middle and high school students."

This sounds like the Brulles model adopted at Viewridge and Lawton.
You might not like that recommendation but the document is quite comprehensive and I wish we had one like it for SPS AL.

W

Anonymous said...

someone asked:

" Anonymous said...

According to 2011-12 OSPI numbers on Seattle Public Schools, 14.4% are SpEd and 1.6% are Section 504. Based on those numbers, how can serving gifted students leave the remaining classrooms "majority disabled," as another parent suggests?"

Pretty simple really.
200 7th graders at middle school X

6 LA classes of which 4 are honors.

2 gen ed classes of 33 kids each with the 15% SpEd kids(30) distributed evenly.

Sounds like about half to me. Some schools could easily have majority SpEd in a gened classroom.

W

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

A lot of good comments were deleted because they were unsigned.

Anonymous said...

The Albuquerque handbook states, in bold, a full-time general education setting is not usually considered the LRE for gifted students. Albuquerque specifies various service levels – maximum or extensive (services more than half the day), moderate (10 - 49%, typically pull-out), minimal (less than 10% of the day, generally curriculum compacting or differentiation), and twice-exceptional. It further states, one service delivery option will not serve all gifted learners equally well. To ensure an appropriate education, a continuum of services and placement should be designed to address specific needs of many different types and levels of giftedness from kindergarten through grade 12.

As far as the grouping suggestion, it is prefaced with:

4. Gifted students should be placed in a cluster group instead of being assigned evenly to all classes. When teachers try to meet the diverse needs of all students, it becomes extremely difficult to provide adequately for everyone.

It sounds as though students are primarily served as groups within their school, within as few classrooms as possible, with specially trained teachers. It should noted that their gifted criteria fall somehwere between APP and Spectrum, with a cognitive threshold of 98%, but an achievement threshold around 92%. Albuquerque serves around 90,000 students.

Albuquerque Public Schools Gifted Handbook

-signing in

Anonymous said...

And more about Albuquerque...they have schools with gifted programs for students who are "C level gifted," as they put it, which exceed thresholds for APP.

The C level programs for children who are gifted are designed for students whose intelligence is in the top .3 % of the population (three standard deviations above the mean), and whose academic skills in both reading and math are in the advanced or superior range, as demonstrated by scores in the advanced range on the SBA, or 99th percentile on an achievement test. The instructional emphasis is on the presentation of academic content at a pace and level suitable to children whose academic performance is substantially above average and whose academic needs are not able to be met in any other setting.

-signing in

Anonymous said...

They also have a way to get underrepresented groups into AL programs. Seems like the same issues we have here, they are way better addressing them, but maybe there is a reason for that fact.

W

Anonymous said...

@W, it may sound simple, but I don't believe the math works the way you suggest...

If about 15% of kids in the district overall are SpEd, that doesn't mean that if you have a lot of "honors" LA classes in a school--and I assume you mean APP and/or Spectrum classes, since there are no "honors" LA classes in middle school--then the rest of the classes are suddenly more concentrated with SpEd kids.

For example, if you had a neighborhood school with a 15% SpEd population, and then you were to double the size of the school by adding an "honors" program that did not include any SpEd students, you would not suddenly double the number of SpEd students to keep at the 15% total SpEd population, resulting in twice as many SpEd kids in the GenEd classes. Rather, your school's overall SpEd percentage would decrease by half, while the number/percentage in those GenEd classes remained constant. It would seem that schools with larger populations of advanced learners likely have smaller ovearll proportions of SpEd students, unless there are special programs impacting the distribution.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

@ Time To Join the 28.6%
posted 6/19/13, 10:47 AM on other thread

" We are deeply torn as a family by the latest developments in the administration's clear efforts to dismantle the advanced learning programs. This district's frequent last minute changes has made planning nearly impossible for us. And the blatant distain for AL students has made us feel very unwelcome. Some of the behavior directed at AL families has been bullying in nature and even overtly hostile on occasions. We chose not to pursue APP but to place our child in a neighborhood Spectrum program, and we deeply regret that decision. For all the talk of "equity" that floats around this city, I have never, ever felt so discriminated against and so marginalized. Equity is apparently for other people's children and not mine. At least the APP families have a community to buffer them from this instability and antagonism. No such buffer exists for Spectrum and ALO families.

We do not want the moon for our child. We just want her to have a chance to learn something new at school, and to be with friends (and staff, sadly) who do not mock her for being different. There is zero indication that these basic needs are even on the radar for district staff. We *ought* to stay and fight for her to get that in a Seattle public school, but we are so, so tired, and so drained as a family, I am just not sure we can do it anymore. We can get most of those simple needs met, and a FAR less hostile environment, by switching to the private school system or to a nearby public school district. We are examining options this summer.

I cannot tell you how incredibly sad this makes me. Public education should be transparent. It should be for all children. It should strive for stability. It should not be this hostile. And I should do my civic duty and stay and fight for access for all children to the education that is appropriate for their needs. But I am so tired and worn down by it all. I just cannot do it anymore.

I wish the people who are so actively antagonistic towards AL would stop for a moment and consider, really consider, just how anti-equity their actions actually are for students like mine. I just want a safe place for my kid to learn new things most days. Really, that is all I want. But the ever-changing programs and the hatred and the vitriol directed at a subset of kids and families with documented special needs has created such a hostile environment that we feel we have to leave just to get her basic educational needs met.

I applaud those who stay and fight and those who are actively seeking to establish real dialog with the anti-AL crowd. I will continue to support those efforts. And I have no illusions that we will be missed, or that administration really cares that yet another family has been driven out of Seattle's public schools. But we are too tired to fight this battle anymore, and there are other far more welcoming options available to us. We surrender."

Please, come tonight to the Board meeting and share your experience publicly? The Board should hear this first hand BEFORE they allow staff to implement wholesale changes to AL which will fail to educate students. I am assuming educating students is a Board policy.

-spectrum dad

Melissa Westbrook said...

"This sounds like the Brulles model adopted at Viewridge and Lawton."

Just to that point, the Brulles model was a starting point at View Ridge (I don't know about Lawton) but even Brulles, when she visited, said View Ridge was NOT following her plan. If they were, I would have said it was a good idea.

Anonymous said...

@HIMS mom,
At our MS there are no Spectrum LA classes just Honors and not all the kids in them are AL qualified. They are very rigorous and it is not an added program, it's just the assigned area kids. So gened classes DO get a much higher percentage of SpEd students, 2E kids being rare. Spectrum-only classes are going away at Whitman next year, as well. My opinion is that this is good as more kids will get the harder work, but the SpEd issue will become evident there too, as more honor classes are created. This is a tough nut to crack and I don't have the answer, but we should at least face the facts head on.

W

Anonymous said...

SPS AL doesn't follow the weird 1 thru 5 level part of Brulles plan, but it does explicitly offer cluster-grouping as an alternative to self-contained. And that model, of a group of 8-10 AL kids per classroom, can alleviate the problem of over-concentration of SpEd students.

W

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget one major component of Albuquerque's delivery of gifted services involves teachers that have gifted ed certification. They also appear to have smaller average class sizes than Seattle.

-signing in

Anonymous said...

But if you are cluster grouping, it only works if you do the 1-5 thing. She says over and over that teachers cannot be expected to teach at all levels at all times. They can differentiate- some- but you have to keep the range narrow enough that they can do their job. They can't teach to every level at once. So self contained Spectrum classes, especially at already high performing schools, really end up only being Brulles clusters. Narrowed ranges.

-sleeper

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

W - the weird levels 1 - 5 part of Brulles' system is necessary for it to work. Keeping the bright kids separate from the gifted ones gives them a chance to be leaders in the classroom. Limiting the number of levels in a classroom allows a teacher to more effectively meet their needs.

Lynn

NW Parent said...

spectrum dad,

Thanks for your passion and your thoughts on Spectrum and the District. I will try to make it to the board meeting.

Anonymous said...

SLeeper,
I don't think that is an accurate portrayal of Brulles' model. All it does is place high achievers in classrooms that include far below average while gifted kids are grouped with low average, the range is the same- 4 out of 5 levels. Having a level 1 student with level 5 is not going to break the model. The Brulles model is also predicated on at least 3 classrooms per grade level and schools like View Ridge may very well be following the model without explicitly labeling kids with a number.
Her presentation is viewable online

http://www.ctgifted.org/website/publish/newsroom/index.php?Schoolwide-Cluster-Grouping-Model-Presentation-41


W

dw said...

W,

Sleeper and Lynn's descriptions are pretty good. I talked with Dr. Brulles at some length when she was in Seattle, and with her partner prior to the visit. There are some specific issues that make identifying and separating the 5 groups important, if you're going to do clustering, but the biggest thing is narrowing the ranges of kids in a given classroom.

Something else to remember, clustering is considered best practice when there aren't enough kids to do self-contained classes. The educational model that best helps kids from top to bottom, is self-contained for the advanced learners, since it allows all teachers to focus on a narrower range of achievement levels no matter what level they're teaching.

Some teachers are better-suited to working with gifted kids, some teachers have a knack for helping struggling kids, and most teachers just fit in with the typical kids. But the problem right now is that teachers are being assessed in part on how well their students do on standardized tests, which means that teachers and local administrators are going to try to make things "fair" for teachers, which really means not fair to the students.

The system is broken, and the kids are the victims.

Anonymous said...

http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=17446

The cluster group of gifted students (Group 1) is placed in a classroom with the designated gifted cluster teacher for that grade level. High-achieving students (Group 2) are then evenly placed into the classes that do not have the gifted students. Students from Groups 3 and 4 are then placed into each class, and students in Group 5 are placed into all classes the except the gifted cluster class. With this placement method, no teacher has the full spectrum of abilities. Narrowing the range of achievement levels in every class allows teachers to focus their efforts more productively (Winebrenner & Brulles, 2008).

Of course no one child is going to break any educational model. But her method is predicated very, very, explicitly on keeping the range of abilities a teacher must teach to narrower than we currently do, and also placing all or most of the gifted kids in one or two classrooms, and none of them in another one. I don't know if it is the best way for SPS to deliver Spectrum services, but the Brulles method is definitely not an endorsement of ALO evenly spread out gifted kid "differentiation" that we have in schools now. It is a possible solution to that problem. I've heard her speak before; she was very passionate on this point.

(And I was saying that what View Ridge is doing is basically following the model, without numbers. But, say, an ALO school or Wedgwood is not.)

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

@dw,
I agree that self-contained is the best academically for gifted kids, however,exactly how much better than a well designed and run cluster group model? Also, if ALL factors, social interaction, teacher and parent issues and the SpEd concentration (you didn't address that issue BTW)are taken into account,it seems a good compromise.
it seems reasonable that clustering could, with strong support from parents, provide an academically equivalent or better outcome and a social education of a more comprehensive nature.
As far as range, staff needs the leeway to make those decisions, IMO. They can divide the kids as they feel best as long as the clusters remain for that "critical mass". Now if the Spectrum school parents would embrace clustering and make it as effective as possible, it could more easily spread to ALO schools where, unfortunately, one often finds the biggest waste of young people's time who could do more and/or should.
We all can see something is changing and it's probably not towards more self-contained. Clustering is not without problems, but if that is to be the model, I think it can be made to work for gifted kids and everybody else.

W

dw said...

W,
I like that we're civil here, so I'll try to respond to your questions.

I agree that self-contained is the best academically for gifted kids

What I wrote above (and what is supported by research presented by Dr. Brulles, which is some of the only properly/randomized research done on this topic), is that self-contained classrooms for advanced learners are best for all kids, top to bottom, not just the advanced learners. The results were, of course, based on academics, which are relatively easy to benchmark, so let's continue.

however,exactly how much better than a well designed and run cluster group model?

This is a good question, and likely the key phrase is "well designed and run", which is NOT what we're seeing in Seattle. I refer to Dr. Brulles' work because she and her partners were the originators of the model, and at least in theory the basis of what was supposed to be implemented here in Seattle. However, the model at Wedgwood, in particular, was an abomination, countering almost all of the recommendations and research that Dr. Brulles presented when she came to Seattle.

- The year of planning, explaining, getting buy-in from teachers and parents, for example, was NOT optional. It's an absolute requirement according to Dr. Brulles.

- In response to: As far as range, staff needs the leeway to make those decisions, IMO. They can divide the kids as they feel best as long as the clusters remain for that "critical mass". This is NOT the case. The clusters must have critical mass, but the 1-5 groupings must also be matched as they have laid out as well. At Wedgwood, they basically just sprinkled the Spectrum kids equally throughout the classrooms in a given grade level. Again, Dr. Brulles specifically said this didn't work. In fact, it's the worst case scenario, because now you have the widest range possible in every classroom, and the advanced kids are spread out as thinly as possible.

- I don't know if any of the so-called cluster grouping here in Seattle is "well designed and run", let alone most or all of them. That's the problem with something like cluster grouping, it's like ALO, it works on paper and in presentations, but it's almost impossible to make it work in a real world setting. Self-contained classrooms, on the other hand, while they tend to upset some parents and teachers, are much harder to screw up.

- continued next post -

dw said...


But back to the other non-academic factors you bring up:

- Social interaction: this is interesting, because there are pluses and minuses. Self-contained classrooms can work great if the parents and teachers keep their mouths shut. When the kids are young, if this is managed well, they don't even need to know there's anything special (or not) about their classroom. However, cluster grouping (and differentiation in general) means that the kids have their faces rubbed in it every day when the "smart kids" get to do advanced work (or get pulled out), and the "not-so-smart kids" are working on simpler assignments or getting extra help. We all saw this growing up, and it totally sets up kids that might have potential to feel like they're dumb. It's "classroom tracking", and it sets up kids to see themselves in a poor light, when simply putting the gifted kids in their own classroom allows other kids to shine and limits the chances for the kids who are farthest ahead to make other kids feel bad (either on purpose or accidentally). There's a reason the 1-5 groupings need to be adhered to.

- Teacher and Parent Issues: yes, this is a big problem. Here's where a smart and strong principal makes a huge difference. Some principals that ran Spectrum programs were able to keep most of their parents and teachers in line, either by education, intimidation, or whatever worked, like Julie Breidenbach and Veronica Gallardo. Others, like Chris Cronos just stir the pot and cause antagonization between the parent groups and teachers, poisoning the environment, ruining the oneness of the school community. You're right to be concerned about this, but I don't know how to fix this except through strong leadership.

- SpEd concentration: seriously, this should be a non-issue in most buildings if things are managed correctly. The Spectrum population in our district should be roughly 8% or so (no, it's not evenly balanced, but overall), with necessarily less actually choosing to participate in the program. Spectrum was supposed to be (historically) placed in one or two buildings in each region. The other buildings lose, on average, about 8% of their population; somewhat less in the south end, somewhat more in the north end. Removing those kids is hardly going to cause a huge concentration of SpEd kids. The tiny bump in percentage of SpEd kids should be more than made up for by the fact that the teachers no longer have to also juggle the daily needs of gifted kids, who have severely different needs. In most buildings, this is not going to be an issue at all. It could potentially be an issue in the handful of Spectrum buildings if a disproportionate number of GenEd to SpEd kids were bumped to other buildings to make room for the Spectrum classrooms, but why would that happen?

Anonymous said...

@dw
Thank you as well. 8%? Whittier has 29% AL and I don't know if that includes wait-listed. Lafayette is 25%. Lawton is 18%. This translates into 1/3 or more AL by 4th grade. That make one out of three classrooms off-limits to SpEd unless 2E.
Now if you use Brulles 1-5 scale that puts all the 1's in one classroom and the other two classrooms have level 1 thru 4 and all the SpEd except 2E. If one made the other(non-Spectrum) classrooms based on ability, you could have a level 1-2 classroom (with most SpEd kids) and a 3-4 classroom. As I see it those are the options unless we cluster group.

W

Anonymous said...

In Brulles' district, a student qualifies for gifted services by scoring in the 97th percentile or above on one or more of the verbal, quantitative or nonverbal sections of an ability test. (COGAT/Explore/PSAT/SCAT/SB-5 ard quite a few more are on the list.) No achievement testing is required. These are the kids she considers level one in a cluster-grouping system. Our Spectrum kids would be the bright, high-achieving students in level two.

Her district has self-contained classrooms for Pre-school through sixth grade for students who are performing two grade levels above their current grade and a kindergarten through eighth grade program for 2E students. Students not working two years above grade level (but still in at least the 97th percentile) are cluster-grouped in their neighborhood school.

I think W has a point. Taking the four or five percent of kids who qualify for APP out of neighborhood classrooms doesn't make much difference to the students who remain. Taking another ten to 15 percent out (Spectrum) does. If we had reasonable class sizes, and the ability to provide extra help to the students who are not meeting standards, I think everyone but APP could be served in the general education program. Self-selected honors classes starting in middle school would be necessary.

I don't think we're going to fix many of the problems in our district if we don't get more money into them. What can we do to apply pressure in Olympia to get that done?

Lynn

Melissa Westbrook said...

DW, excellent points (if not slightly sad - "kids keeping their mouths shut).

How to get principals and teachers on-board? I've said this for years - it starts with Superintendent and down through leadership.

"This is a district-driven program that has been placed in schools throughout the district. Here are the parameters you need to work with and we will give you support as needed."

Meaning, you WILL provide and support this program. If any principal goes off script or pushes back, he/she gets a call/visit from their Ex Director.

That's it. But when you have a weak AL director and no real support from Super/upper management, well, it's a recipe for what we now have.

n said...

@DW:
"Spectrum programs were able to keep most of their parents and teachers in line, either by education, intimidation, or whatever worked, like Julie Breidenbach and Veronica Gallardo. "

I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you talk about keeping teachers in line. Or parents for that matter. Julie works in a very AL friendly environment. Spectrum is a little different. I'm not sure teachers need to be kept in line . . . a principal's philosophy is always the most important factor in the success of any program.

Perhaps I'm being a little nit-picking here. I never felt as if I had to be "kept in line." Shall I chill out a little bit?

Anonymous said...

Spectrum dad - Until we have a firm plan for our child, we are flying under the radar so as not to make a difficult situation any worse. When we know where we'll move her, we'll send our letters.

n - I wish someone would talk to both the parents and staff at our school about the rude and sometimes outright hostile comments that are made about and to the AL community. I am glad to hear other schools have a more civil discourse, and that you find such comments perplexing. At our school, I have heard teachers and staff say the AL students are coached, have pushy elitist parents, are no different academically, are seeking special treatment, are snobbier than the other children, and they would be just fine in the classroom if their parents would stop making them "perform like trained monkeys" (yes, I actually heard that exact phrase). One teacher even told me that she did not think it was that terrible for a student not to learn anything academically since elementary school was more about getting along socially. The parents who are anti-AL make similar comments at times, and some simply refuse to talk with parents who have kids in a program. I have had grown adults refuse to meet my eye and walk away from me when I ask a question about school related activities.

That this sort of thing is tolerated, and sometimes instigated, by people who spend a lot of time talking about "equity" is beyond me. I was prepared for reasonable discussions and for district level apathy, but I was not prepared for this. I know that some of the stronger AL families are better able to tolerate this, and I am very glad that some have the strength to persevere. We have finally decided that there has to be a saner, less hostile place for our child, now that it looks like there are active efforts under way to further break up the AL students. The small amount of buffering that my kid gets from this sort of think is very likely to disappear. And frankly, we've just had enough of the vitriol.

Time to Join to 28.6%

Anonymous said...

28.6%

I am sad to hear of your experiences. For your child to experience this in elementary school is rotten. My kids are at grade level and I fully support all children being supported to learn and excel to the full extent of which they are capable. If your child is brilliant and exploring and reaching their boundaries it takes nothing away from my child. The desire to limit or hold back someone else’s child, and even be mean about it, is the part of the equation I find so confusing as well as maddening.

My kids are in the general ed. classrooms and had a phenomenal academic year. I suspect in part because a super majority of our grade at the school is designated as Spectrum and in contained classrooms. Leaving small classes of 20/21 students for general ed. We experienced exceptional and devoted teachers and our grade level children flourished and even had Spectrum level MAP scores this spring. This is the smallest class size we have ever experienced at the school and I really think it made a big difference for my kids. I am not going to complain about that at all!

It has not been a year without blemish. There have been the mean kids that won’t play with the “non-Spectrum” kids, but that is the minority. As a family we have moved to adapt and use this as a learning opportunity. There are always going to be the mean kids and their mean parents. In addition to my kids great academic advances we also celebrated my kid’s areas of natural strength’s such as the arts and sports. I just will not idly sit by and let a school district determine what is valuable about my kid based on what is tested. In life they will not succeed based on their MAP scores. They will succeed by believing in their own abilities, knowing their strengths, and learning to persevere.

For me the biggest downside has been the mean adults. There have been way too many mean words, surly and quite frankly childish behavior. The actions of the mean adults are tearing the school apart. For the first time our school did not meet its fundraising goals and is having a very difficult time obtaining volunteers. I place this at the feet of the mean adults. Who wants to contribute over 500 hours of volunteer time with not even a thank you, or risk volunteering to work with adults who are being mean and demeaning to kids and fellow parents? Not me. And apparently not many others either.

Again, I am sad to hear of the terrible treatment your child and family is receiving.

-Anon Parent

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the meanness is not something new. We experienced similar behavior some 5 years ago at our neighborhood elementary (which we really liked for many other reasons). The principal was the most disparaging of APP students and parents, and one teacher actively persuaded parents not to have students tested for AL programs. Needless to say, we left the neighborhood school once we found out about AL and the testing process.

been there

dw said...

@n,
Perhaps I'm being a little nit-picking here. I never felt as if I had to be "kept in line." Shall I chill out a little bit?

I doubt you're part of the problem (I hope not!), but I think some of the stories related by others here show that it's not just kids and parents, but sometimes teachers and principals that can make things miserable for some kids and families as well. In this case it's Spectrum families, but I can easily imagine other groups having similarly bad experiences.

As for AL-friendly environments, long before Thurgood Marshall, and before Lowell, Julie was at Viewridge, which had its own flavor of pull-out Spectrum. Similar demographics to Wedgwood, which has had extreme ups and downs as far as community cohesion. Some principals are able to keep their communities tight and working together, sometimes simply by leading by example and absolutely not tolerating any kind of badmouthing between groups. Julie, in particular, looks out for ALL her kids, whether Spectrum, SpEd, GenEd or APP. Just try to go into her school with an agenda that harms ANY of those groups.

Other principals, like Chris Cronas, allow obnoxious parents (both sides) and teachers that don't understand gifted kids, to dictate policy based on their own personal feelings. He cares about adult issues, leaving the kids without a strong advocate in the building, and destroying the community cohesion that building had just a few years ago. Principals make a huge difference. AnonParent's comments above are so sad.

@AnonParent,
There have been the mean kids that won’t play with the “non-Spectrum” kids, but that is the minority

I'm glad to hear this has been the minority, but from my many years of experience I'd say it's more common to see it happening the other way around (things like that push parents to choose APP).

My kids are in the general ed. classrooms and had a phenomenal academic year. I suspect in part because a super majority of our grade at the school is designated as Spectrum and in contained classrooms. Leaving small classes of 20/21 students for general ed. We experienced exceptional and devoted teachers and our grade level children flourished and even had Spectrum level MAP scores this spring. This is the smallest class size we have ever experienced at the school and I really think it made a big difference for my kids. I am not going to complain about that at all!

It's fantastic that it's worked out this way at your school. Sometimes the numbers work out the other way around, though, with conflict/jealousy/complaining, leading to pushback against self-contained AL classrooms. Personally, I think that Spectrum classrooms could be slightly larger than GenEd, in general, but regardless, whenever a principal can make (likely permanent) programmatic changes based on temporary classroom size inconveniences, it's a huge problem. Hope you have a similarly great year next year.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to this discussion, but here are my thoughts. My daughter is in Spectrum at Hamilton, which exactly right for her.

That said, what I don't like is the social stratification of our schools via these AL programs. The APP kids are absolutely taught that they are better than the others. I think it mainly comes from the parents. But I've heard the APP kids talk this way. Separate classes from everyone else and special trips (the Hamilton APP kids are going to Greece this summer) feed this perception.

Also, as a former professor at university, I know that there are very few truly gifted students. What I have seen is that parents, in their anxiety to make sure their kid is on top, push their kids to work at more accelerated pace in order to make sure that their kid doesn't have to mingle with the great unwashed. And this creates the social stratification.

I think that AL designations should be done as a result of some testing and some teacher recommendation. And I think it should be a year by year thing.

Hamilton mom

dw said...

Hamilton Mom,

I can't sit by and let your comment go unanswered.

I'm late to this discussion, but here are my thoughts. My daughter is in Spectrum at Hamilton, which exactly right for her.

It's never too late to join discussions like this, which are more or less ongoing. The best part of your comment is that your daughter has found a good fit, which is great.

That said, what I don't like is the social stratification of our schools via these AL programs. The APP kids are absolutely taught that they are better than the others.

This is "absolutely" BS. You somehow think you know in absolute terms what other people's kids are taught? By their parents? Give me a break!

I think it mainly comes from the parents. But I've heard the APP kids talk this way.

While I don't doubt that you may have heard something that triggered your ire, to extrapolate or generalize those attitudes is complete BS. I've personally spent hundreds of hours around these kids, both in and outside the classrooms of multiple schools for over 10 years, and I can count the number of comments that might possibly have been classified as derogatory to non-APP kids on one hand. There are always a few bad eggs in any group, whether students, parents or teachers.

Yes, they talk to each other, and whether or not the kids are in separate classes, when you have a huge range of achievement levels in any building or classroom it's quite obvious who the "smart kids" are. We all saw that growing up, it's just frickin' life. While I would never claim the kids never, ever say anything inappropriate, you're making it sound like it's typical, and it's just not.

Worse than that, you're saying that they're taught this by their parents. Unless you have some kind of evidence to support this, you're just blowing smoke. I've known many parents, including my own family, who made it a point when the kids were young to not even discuss the kids' APP status. They hear it from other kids eventually, but what you're not understanding is that the few discussions that do happen are almost all matter-of-fact, not insulting or derogatory. Most of the kids are too busy living their own lives, working on homework, etc., to pay attention to crap like this!

I will say that in my own personal experience, the worst behavior I saw in this regard (in elementary) was the Spectrum kids/families. When you have a mixed-program building where parents are jealous that some kids are placed in advanced learning classrooms and other kids are not, that's when lots of bad words are exchanged, and the kids definitely pick up on that attitude. It's sad and destructive, but I've heard relatively little of that at HIMS (and what I have heard has been from non-APP), although with APP growing by leaps and bounds the past few years, I'm sure many of the new APP kids came up through those Spectrum ranks, so perhaps that's what you're hearing?

This was the benefit of Lowell, prior to the split. Those kids had no such social distractions. They were no longer the "weird ones" that other kids made fun of, and because there were no GenEd classrooms in the building, many of the kids didn't even realize they were in a highly gifted program. It was just school, where you learn and grow, without worrying about adult issues like which program you're in.

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dw said...

Separate classes from everyone else and special trips (the Hamilton APP kids are going to Greece this summer) feed this perception.

What on earth are you talking about? Special trips? There are no special "APP trips", HIMS has always been very careful about that. Trips are either classroom-based or all-grade. Of course if a teacher wants to put together a trip outside of school, based on what his or her students studied, any teacher can do this, it has nothing to do with APP.

Also, as a former professor at university, I know that there are very few truly gifted students.

I find it funny that you think a general credential like "former professor" would give you credibility as to understanding gifted students. Was your degree in gifted education or psychometrics? Or perhaps cognitive psychology? Or do you think just because you taught classes in a university that you understand this particular population?

There are plenty gifted kids around. Yours is probably one of them. There are far fewer highly gifted kids, and very, very few profoundly gifted kids, which is perhaps what you meant to say. But unless you taught in certain departments at MIT, Stanford, Harvard, CalTech or the like, you didn't see many of these kids, not because they don't exist, but because many of them end up in places like these, looking to work with peers. Ah yes, peers. This is why APP is grouped in classrooms. So the kids have academic peers, and the classes get to move along at a pace that is more appropriate for the students, especially in elementary. I hope you don't have a problem with that.

What I have seen is that parents, in their anxiety to make sure their kid is on top, push their kids to work at more accelerated pace

All in agreement with this comment so far, and I too don't like to see parents push their kids when they would be perfectly well suited to a typical or Spectrum classroom.

...in order to make sure that their kid doesn't have to mingle with the great unwashed. And this creates the social stratification.

But then you go off here, with the uncalled for, antagonistic comment. Do you really think any APP parent wants to make sure their kids "don't have to mingle with the great unwashed"?!?! It's comments like this where your true colors come through. NO ONE thinks that way, it's absolute bullshit. In middle school all kids mix in language, art, music, PE and other electives. In high school all students mix everywhere except a few IBX 9th grade classes.

I think that AL designations should be done as a result of some testing and some teacher recommendation. And I think it should be a year by year thing.

Would you like to be the teacher that's expected to recommend a student for AL placement, but the kid really isn't well-suited, in your opinion, for such a program? In a high-performing school, there's nothing more highly charged and likely to cause huge problems. In low-performing schools, how would a teacher be able to either recommend or not recommend their student for a program like APP? And what about new teachers with no experience to guide them on such a decision. I don't discount the ability of some teachers to provide good input to this decision, but it's really tricky in a full-city scope.

And year by year? So you think if elementary kids don't cut it one year they get moved back to their local school? Then the next year they test better and move back to APP? Really?? I'm sorry, but comments like this show a lack of understanding of AL programs in general.