Equitable Access Framework Explained
It begins with the differences among schools, services, programs, and curricular foci. The distinctions are based on the definitions provided in the Superintendent’s Procedure 2200SP. This document should have ended the confusion about what is a school, a service, a program, or a curricular focus. Unfortunately it did not - mostly because few people took the time to read and understand the procedure. That includes the people who purportedly wrote it. Some of the confusion lies in the legacy names for things or our habitual way of speaking about them. Some of the confusion lies in the historical trespasses on authority. Some of the confusion is rooted in the large amount of overlap.
Schools are registered with the OSPI as schools. They are reported to the OSPI and appear on the OSPI web site as schools in this district. This objectively discernable criterion leaves little room for confusion about whether a school is a school or not. APP at Lincoln and K-5 STEM at Boren, for example, are schools, not programs. Interagency and Middle College are each one school though they both have multiple locations. The Cascade Parent Partner Program is a school, as is the Skills Center, despite the absence of “school” in their name.
Services are mandated by law to address the special academic needs of specific students. There are only three types of services: Special Education, Highly Capable, and ELL. Nearly all schools provide one or more of these services, though most of them do not have a specific program as a delivery model for the service. The majority of students receiving special education services, for example, receive them in a general education classroom. When the program is a delivery model for the service, such as APP for highly capable services or B.O.C. for ELL services, people become confused about the difference between the program and the service provided.
The distinguishing features of a program from the procedure are that the student must opt-in to the program or qualify for it and the student must enter the program through the student assignment process. There are two different kinds of programs. There are programs which are delivery models for services. These include APP, bilingual orientation centers, medically fragile programs, and other special education programs. There is only one program that falls outside that category: Spectrum. Spectrum is the only program that is not a delivery model for a service. It is, however, a program because it requires qualification and opt-in and it is accessed through the student assignment process. Though people sometimes speak of "the general education program" at a school, that is a misnomer. General education is not a program; students do not qualify for it or opt-in.
The superintendent’s procedure states “While schools offer a variety of approaches to instruction, using a particular teaching strategy does not create a program under this policy.” A distinctive approach to instruction constitutes a curricular focus instead. A curricular focus is an instructional approach offered at the local school level and not directly accessed through the district student assignment process. Option schools provide the clearest examples of curricular foci. Other examples include language immersion, International Education, STEM, Montessori, and Advanced Learning Opportunities. These are all instructional strategies like the distinctive qualities of option schools. Other curricular foci include International Baccalaureate and CTE courses, which are classes at a school which are accessed after enrollment.
There is definitely room for confusion between a program and a curricular focus when it comes to Montessori and language immersion at attendance area schools. They look like curricular foci because they are a teaching strategy, but they also look like programs because they require opt-in and they are accessed through the student assignment process. The superintendent has provided the needed additional clarity for language immersion by specifically listing it as an example of a curricular focus in the procedure. Montessori is analogous to language immersion.
These distinctions between school, service, program, and curricular focus may seem esoteric and trivial, but it is very important to know and be able to distinguish among these entities because each is under different authority. The Board has sole authority to create or close a school. The superintendent, under policy F21.00, has the sole authority to create, relocate, expand, contract, or close programs. The superintendent also has the sole authority to determine where services will be offered. School leadership teams have the sole authority to determine a school’s curricular focus, if any. It would be improper for the Board to dictate the site of a program or service, for the superintendent to dictate the creation or change of a curricular focus, or for school leadership teams to decide to create or close programs or services on their own.
Even after this explanation some areas of confusion may remain.
Is APP a program or a service? APP is a program which acts as the delivery model for highly capable services. APP is a program because it meets the definition of a program. Students must qualify for it, they must opt-in, and they enter it through the student assignment process. It is not synonymous with highly capable services because the District can and does provides highly capable services through other models as well. There are students receiving highly capable services in Spectrum programs, ALOs, and general education classes. In addition, there are twice exceptional students who are receiving special education services within an Accelerated Progress Program.
Is Spectrum a program or a service? Spectrum is a program. It meets the definition of a program because students must qualify, opt-in, and access it through student assignment. While there are highly capable students in Spectrum receiving highly capable services within that delivery model, most Spectrum students do not qualify for highly capable services as Seattle Public Schools has set the criteria. Also, Spectrum isn't an instructional strategy or teaching approach; it is, among other things, teaching to a different set of Standards.
Is ALO a program or a curricular focus? ALO is not a program because students don’t need to qualify for it and it isn’t accessed through the student assignment process. Also, schools have always been allowed to start or stop an ALO at their own discretion. Or at least that's the story that the District has consistently told.
Are Option Schools programs? No. Option schools are schools. Each option school has a distinctive curricular focus or instructional strategy, but, as the procedure states, “using a particular teaching strategy does not create a program under this policy.” Although students must opt-in to option schools and they access them through the student assignment process, they do that to gain access to the school, not to enter the specific instructional strategy used at the school, so the strategy is not a program. ORCA K-8 is a school with an arts-based curriculum. The school is not a program and the arts focus is not a program. All of the option schools are in control of their constantly evolving instructional program. The district does not dictate the instructional strategy to option schools. When the District creates new option schools they can and should support the teams planning the schools but should not dictate the school’s curricular focus.
Is language immersion a program or a curricular focus? Language immersion is a curricular focus. Just in case there was any doubt, the procedure specifically cites language immersion as an example of a curricular focus. That's because language immersion is an instructional strategy. This means that school leadership teams, not the superintendent or the Board, should decide which schools, if any, offer language immersion.
Are language immersion and International Education synonymous? No, they are not. There are a number of students at International Education schools, like Denny, Hamilton, and Chief Sealth, who are active participants in the schools’ International Education focus but receive all of their instruction in English.
What about CTE? CTE has also been specifically cited as a curricular focus in the procedure. Students do not enter CTE classes through the student assignment process. So it is up to schools to determine what CTE they will offer. Same goes for International Baccalaureate.
What about STEM or Montessori? STEM and Montessori is an instructional strategies and therefore not programs. They are each a curricular focus. This means that any school that wishes to become a STEM school or offer Montessori is free to do so on their own authority and that the superintendent cannot direct a school to either start or end either of these types of classes.
What is the impact of the different areas of authority? Once this policy and procedure are understood, they will clarify areas of authority for the Board, the superintendent, and school leadership teams. The Board will no longer determine the location of programs or curricular foci as they did recently with the Growth Boundary vote when the Board took back the authority to determine the site for middle school APP. The superintendent will regain that authority as well as the authority to dictate the size and composition of Spectrum programs. School leadership teams will no longer be allowed to exercise the authority over Spectrum programs which they have usurped, but they will be free to decide whether to offer ALOs for themselves. In addition, any school that chooses to do so may adopt a curricular focus or instructional strategy including choices like STEM, International Education, ALO, arts-based curricula, or blended learning.
How can we assure equitable access with so much under local control? The District promises only equitable access to programs and services, not equitable access to curricular foci. Stop. Read that sentence again. Programs, like APP, Spectrum, ELL, and special education programs, will be equitably accessible. Same for highly capable, special education, and ELL services. By restricting the promise to programs and services and by narrowly defining them, the District has drastically pared down its commitment to equity. The District is not promising equitable access to Montessori, STEM, language immersion or a certain type of option school instruction. There has never been equitable access to TOPS, ORCA, Montessori, or language immersion and the district does not promise it now. Nevertheless, district leadership can and will encourage and support schools to provide popular instructional offerings in areas where they are not currently accessible. The District does commit to offering equitable access to option schools, but not the style of instruction offered in them.
The distinctions between schools, services, programs, and curricular foci have been unclear for a long time. As a result, the proper areas of authority have been repeatedly violated. The Board has improperly dictated sites for programs, the superintendent has mandated the creation of a curricular focus at a school, and school leadership teams have decided to shrink or eliminate programs. The revised Policy 2200, the superintendent’s procedure 2200SP, and the Equitable Access Framework represent efforts to restore order to the system and clarify the areas of authority. Bringing order to this system and setting the boundaries of authority will not be a comfortable transition for everyone. Some will sharply miss the authority they have previously (improperly) exercised. The previously unmanaged, unaccountable, and opaque system sorely needed this reform.
“A school is an OSPI-registered school defined by state statutes.”
Adams, Aki Kurose, Alki, APP at Lincoln, Arbor Heights, B.F. Day, Bailey Gatzert, Ballard, Beacon Hill, Birth to 3 Contracts, Broadview-Thomson, Bryant, Cascade Parent Partnership Program, Catharine Blaine, Center School, Chief Sealth International, Cleveland - STEM, Concord International School, Daniel Bagley, Dearborn Park, Denny International, Dunlap, Eckstein, Education Service Centers, Emerson, Experimental Education Unit, Franklin, Frantz Coe, Garfield, Gatewood, Graham Hill, Green Lake, Greenwood, Hamilton International School, Hawthorne, Head Start, Highland Park, Hutch School, Ingraham, Interagency Programs, Interagency Detention School, Jane Addams K-8, Jane Addams Middle School, John Hay, John Muir, John Rogers, John Stanford, K-5 Stem at Boren, Kimball, Lafayette, Laurelhurst, Lawton, Leschi, Lowell, Loyal Heights, Madison, Madrona, Maple, Martin Luther King Jr., McClure, McDonald , McGilvra, Mercer, Middle College, Montlake, Nathan Hale, North Beach, Northgate, Nova, Olympic Hills, Olympic View, Orca, Pathfinder, Pinehurst K-8, Private School Services, Queen Anne, Rainier Beach, Rainier View, Residential Consortium, Roosevelt, Roxhill, Sacajawea, Salmon Bay, Sand Point, Sanislo, Schmitz Park, Seattle World School, Skills Center, South Lake, South Shore PK-8, Stevens, Thornton Creek, Thurgood Marshall, TOPS K-8 , View Ridge, Viewlands, Washington, Wedgwood, West Seattle Elementary, West Seattle High School, West Woodland, Whitman, Whittier, Wing Luke
“A service is a supplementary support to basic education that is required .by federal, state, or local law and/or regulations.
“Required services are Special Education, English Language Learners, and highly capable students, as defined by the state.”
“Required services are Special Education, English Language Learners, and highly capable students, as defined by the state.”
Special Education Services, Highly Capable Services, Bilingual Education Services
“A program may offer educational opportunities that are not mandated by federal, state, or local law or regulations. While schools offer a variety of approaches to instruction, using a particular teaching strategy does not create a program under this policy. Students access programs through an established assignment process consistent with the student assignment plan. Students must opt-in and/or qualify for the program.”
Hard of Hearing program, medically fragile programs, bilingual orientation centers, ELL programs, Accelerated Progress Program, Spectrum, SM4 classrooms, and disability-specific special education programs.
“A curricular focus is a teaching or an instructional approach offered at the local school level and not directly accessed through the district student assignment process.”
STEM, International Education, language immersion, Montessori, Advanced Learning Opportunity, distinctive option school approaches and instructional strategies, , various CTE programs (Maritime Science and Engineering, Academy of Finance, Project Lead the Way), International Baccalaureate