Advanced Learning: Where is Seattle Schools Going?

Some updates:

- according to the AL webpage, as of yesterday, 1,637 eligibility letters were sent (out of a possible 4024).  So if you were looking for one, it may be in the mail.  They started mailing them out on Jan. 31st.  Scores and eligibility decisions are NOT available by phone or e-mail. 

- testing is continuing thru early Feb.

- all eligibility decisions, including appeals, will be done before Open Enrollment ends on March 7th

- E-mails sent to the Advanced Learning e-mail ( are answered in the order they are received.  Responses to e-mails will be faster than phone calls.

- the next scheduled meeting of the Advanced Learning Task Force was postponed to Feb. 13th at 9:30am in Room 2776 at JSCEE.  The last meeting they had was December 17th so nearly two months have gone by.  You can see the lack of urgency for the district in this.  The minutes from that last meeting are not available.

- I note in an article in The Issaquah Press that they, too, are changing their highly capable programm based on the new state law requirements.  They are not changing the two programs they have, MERLIN and SAGE, but will now offers them for K and 1st graders.  (MERLIN serves the top 2% and SAGE serves the top 4%.)  The article also notes the state is offering no additional funding for the requirements.  They also say this:

Districts throughout the state are interpreting the new law differently, and the Issaquah is waiting to receive final instructions from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction before it can finalize its plans.

So what you see play out in SPS may be just Seattle's interpretation of the new law AND, apparently, there is more information to come from OSPI on implementing the new requirements.

One thing I heard at the Charter Commission meetings on charter application is the word "inclusion."  Many applicants also said they would not "track" their students.  (I'm assuming they by tracking they mean separate classrooms based on aptitude and not track students via data which I sure they will be doing.)

I also want to note the changing landscape nationally.  Several articles have crossed my radar.

Education News had an article, "Are Gifted Students Being Challenged Enough?"

A survey from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute asked teachers which students were most likely to get one-on-one attention.  More than 80% of teachers in 2008 said struggling students would versus 5% who said advanced students would.

A 2011 Fordham Institute study found that between 30 and 50 percent of advanced students descend and no longer achieve at the most advanced levels.  There are about 3 million students in the U.S. who are considered "academically gifted."  There is no federal funding for gifted programs.

An older article comes from the NY Times entitled, "Pulling a More Diverse Group of Achievers into the Advanced Placement Pool."

Every year, more than 600,000 academically promising high school students — most of them poor, Latino or black — fail to enroll in Advanced Placement courses, often viewed as head starts for the college-bound. 

Some may not know about these courses or know but think them too difficult.  But often, it can be the perceptions of teachers and administrators.

“Many teachers don’t truly believe that these programs are for all kids or that students of color or low-income kids can succeed in these classes,” said Christina Theokas, director of research at the Education Trust, a nonprofit group. Ms. Theokas said that if those underrepresented students had taken A.P. courses at the same rate as their white and more affluent peers in 2010, there would have been about 614,500 more students in those classes.  

Humberto Fuentes, a senior here at Freedom High School taking his first A.P. classes, in English literature and economics, said they were the first time he had been around peers who enjoyed school.
“In regular classes, people are trying to distract you with music videos or saying, ‘Hey, look at this cat playing a piano’ on their phones,” said Humberto, 17, who emigrated with his parents from Ecuador when he was an infant and hopes to be the first in his family to attend college. “Whereas in an A.P. class, they will show you something from the text and say, ‘Hey, this is fun.’ ” 

At Freedom High School, teachers offer tutoring at lunchtime, after school and on Saturdays. Starting this year, their district, Orange County Public Schools, allocated $12,000 to $14,000 to each high school to pay for extra instructional time for A.P. students. Many students are also enrolled in study review classes sponsored by Advancement Via Individual Determination, a nonprofit group that works to help prepare disadvantaged students for college. 

This year, close to half the students in A.P. classes are Latino, 12 percent are black, and nearly half are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Schoolwide, 70 percent of students are Hispanic, 6 percent are black, and more than two-thirds qualify for lunch aid. 

Some educational experts are skeptical that pushing more children into A.P. classes will help them. In research that has shown positive links between students who score a 3 or higher and their college performance, it is difficult to disentangle the factors, said Kristin Klopfenstein, the executive director of the Education Innovation Institute at the University of Northern Colorado. 

“The things that cause kids to enroll in A.P. classes and do well in them are the same things that cause them to go to college and succeed in college,” Dr. Klopfenstein said. “Supportive families, a college-going culture at home, a high school with a college-going culture.” 

The article noted Washington State passed legislation encouraging district to enroll any student who met state standards or the preliminary SAT threshold in advanced courses.

Andy Smarick, a partner at the non-profit Bellwether Education Partners and author of the guidebook, “Closing America’s High Achievement Gap,” states that the American public school system’s policies support focus on struggling students to get them up to speed, but leaves high achieving students without a challenging education.
Smarick argues in his guidebook that by not providing students who are capable of high achievement with challenges, these students won’t meet their full potential — and this would serve as only a detriment to the country at large in the aspect of international competitiveness.
Alison DeNisco writes in District Administration that a survey from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute asked teachers which students were most likely to get one-on-one attention. More than 80 percent in 2008 said struggling students would get more attention, while only 5 percent said advanced students would.
- See more at:
Andy Smarick, a partner at the non-profit Bellwether Education Partners and author of the guidebook, “Closing America’s High Achievement Gap,” states that the American public school system’s policies support focus on struggling students to get them up to speed, but leaves high achieving students without a challenging education.
Smarick argues in his guidebook that by not providing students who are capable of high achievement with challenges, these students won’t meet their full potential — and this would serve as only a detriment to the country at large in the aspect of international competitiveness.
Alison DeNisco writes in District Administration that a survey from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute asked teachers which students were most likely to get one-on-one attention. More than 80 percent in 2008 said struggling students would get more attention, while only 5 percent said advanced students would.
- See more at:


NW Parent said…
What is the new law? Thanks!
-NW Parent
What I believe is new is that previously highly capable only had to serve 3-12 and now must include K-2. As I mentioned in the thread, apparently OSPI has not told districts everything that should/must be done yet.
Lynn said…
The requirement to provide any services is new - and now districts are required to identify and serve students in grades K-12. The law now says that for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education. So, not optional and not something you can put off until the following September.

I don't think there are that many questions left unanswered. Districts are mostly struggling with the requirements for 9th through 12th grades. Nobody was identifying students at that point. There are several PowerPoint presentations by the OSPI available here.

The identification task force seems to be focused on finding more highly capable students in underrepresented populations. I guess we'll just use the CogAT for high school students next fall.
Charlie Mas said…
I think I know where Seattle Schools are going with Advanced Learning. They intend to fold them into MTSS, Multi-Tier Systems of Support.

If the Tier I curriculum proves insufficiently challenging for a student then that student will be switched to a Tier II advanced curriculum. Tier II will be delivered in the student's school and, depending on the model selected by the school, probably within the student's classroom.

If the Tier II curriculum proves insuffiently challenging for a student then that student will be referred for testing for Tier III. If found in need of Tier III, the student will be assigned to the school in that service area that provides the Tier III advanced service.

This is a new system, but to student families it will look like ALOs in every school and APP all over the District like Spectrum - one elementary program in each middle school service area and one in every middle and high school.

There won't be annual testing using the CoGAT like we have now. Instead, there will be continuous testing - as MTSS calls for frequent assessments. Access will not be determined by cognitive ability but by achievement - that is, a need for greater challenge than the Tier I or Tier II curriculum.

This shift will mean some big changes.

There will be no problem delivering services in every school.

There will be no problem delivering services in every grade level, K-12.

All of the state Highly Capable Grant money, now spent on testing, will instead be spent in the classroom on curricular materials and professional development.

Both the Tier II and Tier III curricula will be eligible for funding by the state grant.

Students will not be self-identified and nominated. They will not be selected by their teachers. They will be identitified by their performance on regular assessments.

Students will be able to move in - or out - of Tier II and Tier III advanced curricula at any time. The need for the placement will be continuously assessed.

Schools won't have finite capacity for Tier II as we see now for Spectrum. Every student who needs it should get it. This is particularly relevent when you consider the fact that about 12% of Seattle middle school students are in Spectrum or APP. Many of these students probably would have (or did) qualify in elementary school but either the family chose not to change schools or they got waitlisted.
Lynn said…

The WAC requires each district to ...adopt procedures for the nomination of students to participate in programs for highly capable students. Such procedures shall permit referrals based on data or evidence from teachers, other staff, parents, students, and members of the community..

The definition of highly capable students is: As used in this chapter, highly capable students are students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments.The state and the district are hoping to identify a more diverse group of highly capable students. They are likely to make it an either/or qualification process - either high cognitive ability (potential) or high achievement scores will qualify a student.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, you've posed this before. When do you think it's going to happen? I can't leave my high-achieveing kid in our neighborhood school for another year and we're finally going to make the jump to elementary APP next year. Do you think parents should bank on these tiers as you're presenting them?

Meg said…
Keep in mind that Washington is a local control state.

The old way OSPI handled it was to provide a some additional funding (in SPS, much of that was used for testing. There was also transportation money, to keep GETTING kids to an advanced learning program from being a financial burden) to districts that adequately demonstrated that they had an advanced learning program.

The problem with making it a requirement in a local control state is that no adequacy really needs to be demonstrated. Every district can interpret this differently, and simply come up with a justification. For example: "We here in SPS believe that students perform better when attending a school closer to their home address, and that classroom differentiation provides an excellent education for our highly capable students while providing them with a suitable setting with their peers."

Cynical? I would say it's not if you've been paying attention.
Age base it said…
I sure hope if it is continuous achievement testing that it is age based. My kid in APP who started on time with a summer beau is 10-14 months younger than most kids. If you're kid is a high achiever in K because you held him back with a late spring or summer bday, he's not necessarily gifted. Heck, my APP kid isn't gifted, either, just a smart, good test-taker!
Age base it said…
Oops, typos. Blaming the iPad. Sorry.
Benjamin Leis said…
@Charlie - I've read your theory now several times and while I agree its certainly a possible direction do you have any evidence that it is what the staff are planning to do?

Charlie Mas said…
I have been told that this is the plan by Shauna Heath while Michael Tolley was in the room.

This is the plan, but they won't be able to implement it until maybe 2015-2016.

This scheme will comply with the WAC. But even if it did not, they can do what they like. There is no one who will enforce the law. Do you really think that the OSPI will make any real effort to evaluate programs?
Lynn said…
Do you really that the district will implement MTSS? It's just another grand plan that will eat up the time and attention that should be dedicated to flipping bell times and evaluating and replacing outdated/useless curricula. It's going to be a replay of the equitable access framework and the strategic plan. Nothing but meaningless words.
Charlie Mas said…
I think that they really will move forward with MTSS.

It is different from the Equitable Access Framework and the Strategic Plan because it came from the Senior Staff rather than coming from the community, the Board, or the State. It's their project, so they will try to do it instead of trying to find ways not to do it.

That said, it is going slowly. They have a pretty conservative timetable for the roll-out. They did some pilot schools last year. This year they are working on implementing Tier I. Next year they will work on implementing Tier II. They won't get to Tier III until the year after that - if not later.
Anonymous said…
Where were the pilot schools? How did it go? Anybody experience it?

Charlie Mas said…
Check out document.

"The MTSS team kicked off this work on August 8, 2012 at the School Leadership Institute. Principals and Assistant Principals received introductory training on the MTSS framework that included completing a self assessment to identify what is in place and next steps toward implementation. Additional trainings will be provided to principals and assistant principals on DLT days. The MTSS team has also identified 10 cohort schools that will begin implementing targeted and intensive intervention supports in literacy and math at the elementary grade levels. ST Math, Imagine Learning literacy intervention (K-2) and System 44 literacy intervention (3-5) were selected through a rigorous RFP process completed in June 2012. The 10 initial cohort schools include: Jane Addams K-8, Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Daniel Bagley Elementary, Arbor Heights Elementary, Orca K-8, BF Day Elementary, Sacajawea Elementary, Madrona K-8, Broadview-Thompson K-8 and Beacon Hill Elementary. The Curriculum & Instruction Department will provide ongoing support to these schools in developing systems and structures to support collaborative data-driven decision making and implementation of the interventions. A program evaluation plan for the project is being developed."
Jon said…
Some of this could be good. Many more kids qualify for Spectrum than APP. If MTSS means reviving a strong Spectrum, that would help a lot of kids.

The problem is that the district has a horrible track record with actually getting this stuff done. They tend to just rename things (like ALO) but never actually do them. And there is no reason to believe this name change of Spectrum to Tier II MTSS means that we'll get a better Spectrum-like program.

I wish I wasn't so wary and cynical about everything the district did, but experience has taught me to be cautious. After all, if they wanted to offer more kids strong Spectrum options, they could just offer more kids strong Spectrum options, no name change necessary.
Anonymous said…
Thurgood Marshall Elementary?

Really? How is that going, and what does it really mean?

curious said…
I wonder how kids are going to really be eligible for the various tiers? Lots of assessment? That worries me. Data and assessment are overrated and are killing instructional time to a large extend esp. with the really youngsters.

At our school, there are many children in advanced programs who really can't keep up. Teachers are working incredibly hard trying to teach accelerated curricula when the students they have are really not appropriately placed. Spectrum and even APP are status symbols for many families who privately test to get admission.

I'm sorry to say it. I believe in accelerated programs but I've seen too many students improperly placed who slow down the ability of the program to really make the difference it should.

I'd be interested to hear from parents who have volunteered in classrooms where they expected all kids to be ready for rigor only to find a lot who would do just as well in a regular classroom.

Is that just me? Or have some of you seen that as well? I teach at a school with advanced placement I hear and see those teachers working just as hard to get kids up to speed as I do. Their range may go higher but the range is just as wide. Or perhaps I'm misreading what I see and har.

Lynn said…

I can't figure out what level of school you're talking about. You mention both Spectrum (grades 1-8 only) and Advanced Placement (high school only.) Is it elementary, middle or high school where you've observed this problem?

As a classroom volunteer, I wouldn't presume to judge the fit of an advanced learning program for a particular child. Obviously their parents (who have some experience in the matter) don't feel they were doing just as well in a general education classroom. Children join the programs every year - and it often requires some extra effort for them to get up to speed. They have all passed relatively high achievement testing thresholds to be eligible to enroll in the programs. I assume they're capable enough.
Charlie Mas said…
If our advanced learning programs are exclusively about acceleration - working one or two grade levels ahead - then I don't see much point to them.

Their focus should be on delving deeper in the concepts and applying them to a broader range of contexts.

I don't really care if my child leans long division in grade 5 or grade 4, so long as she learns it. I do, however, want her to really understand it and how it works.

Also, it would be unwise to draw parallels between the current advanced learning offerings and what will be available through MTSS. Tier II will be a lot like ALO, but it won't be ALO. There is no reason to believe that Tier III will be like APP. There won't be anything like Spectrum (whatever that is).
Benjamin Leis said…
@Charlie - On my read of the document the MTSS piloting is aimed at interventions for struggling students and doesn't apply to advanced learning yet. I'm all for this piece of it having seen some of the ST Math work in action last year.

On your broader point while I generally agree that only acceleration is not a comprehensive strategy, acceleration certainly plays an important role for some kids. In Math for instance working through sequence at a faster pace may keep kids challenged and allow them to reach higher level courses they wouldn't normally get to by the end of high school. This is possible even if the class material is exactly the same. "Developing Math Talent" by Susan Assouline had an interesting section where it talked about acceleration being the proper fit rather than artificially trying to created depth. Ideally there should be some kind of balance: Moving forward where appropriate and enriching along the way. However, defining extra depth/rigor is trickier than just talking about how many years ahead to accelerate. In the absence of a formal curriculum this is still going to happen on the ground but not in a systematic way.

teacher said…
I'd like to add that I teach Spectrum and we certainly do have a pacing guide that emphasizes acceleration. Sorry, Charlie, but that's what parents demanded under Vaughan with so much complaining. Now APP puts kids into third grade math and Spectrum teachers must do one-and-a-half to two years in one year.

That's the plan. Look on the website and you'll see pacing guides although they are a few years old.

I prefer enrichment. I've been outvoted.
teacher said…
I'd like to add that Lynn makes assumptions which are not necessarily based on fact. Curious is correct. What do you think keeps private testers in business? Retesting at lucrative rates children who didn't pass the District-based tests.

Lynn's answer did not discuss rationally the problem of kids in special programs who may not belong there. It affects the challenge we teachers can provide. Of course, there are those who still believe differentiation is easy even though no one seems to be successful at it.

Dream on.
Anonymous said…
As a classroom volunteer, I wouldn't presume to judge the fit of an advanced learning program for a particular child...I assume they're capable enough.

I agree. An AL classroom still has a spread of abilities, just like any other classroom. There are a handful that might be struggling to keep up, and a handful that are still working beyond the classroom expectations. They are not some monolithic block of equal ability.

A little struggle is ok. If everything came too easy, then I'd argue the program isn't providing enough challenge. If a child feels continually overwhelmed, then maybe they need to reconsider the appropriateness of the placement.

As far as acceleration vs enrichment, it's supposed to be both, not an either/or. For math, it makes sense to accelerate and compact the curriculum since many students can cover the material at a faster pace. There is only so much enrichment you can do with elementary math and it's by nature pretty linear. Acceleration through elementary and middle school allows them to take higher level math come junior of senior year of high school - math they wouldn't be able to take if they stuck with enrichment only.

For LA/SS, it's a bit different. You need to take into account the developmental appropriateness of acceleration. Covering high school material that encompasses more mature themes may not be appropriate in a middle school AL classroom.

Students still need to cover basic skills. It's frustrating if teachers assume students don't need explicit instruction in the basics because they are in a gifted class.

Lynn said…

Do you really believe there are Psychologists in the area who are willing to risk their licenses for a couple hundred dollar fee? This is no more reasonable than suspecting that there are teachers who can be bribed to help a child cheat on the MAP test.

Why would a professional or parent go to those lengths to place a student in an inappropriate program?
Anonymous said…

"Why would a parent go to those lengths to place a student in an inappropriate program?"

Possibly to get the kid out of another inappropriate setting? It crossed my mind when my kid was in a completely inappropriate classroom with very few peers "What do I have to do to get this kid out of this horrible and inappropriate situation where she is miserable and learning nothing? All of the girls seem to be in Spectrum, can I figure out a way to tutor her and do private testing and push her to get her there?" Of course, there was a waiting list in her class for the program so that wasn't going to work even if I had been crazy enough to try it. But I had never thought about any sort of accelerated learning program for her until the year she spent being babysat instead of taught because she wasn't in the AL program at her school.

Gen Ed Mom

Charlie Mas said…
@teacher, I never heard a single student family member say that they wanted acceleration exclusively. Not ever, not once.

Gen Ed Mom makes it clear why it sometimes appears that AL families are working to support the program more than the services. It's because in the absence of a program there is no assurance of any services. The District refuses to support services outside the programs then they squeeze access to the programs.
Anonymous said…
I'm curious as to how effectively you can really pilot a multi-tier program by implementing it only one phase at a time. Are there no kids in need of T2 or T3 services at these schools? Or do they make you try T1 fir a full year before they're sure you need T2, and then another year to access T3?

And are they piloting interventions for kids who need more advanced work, or only those who are struggling?

Looking forward to seeing that formal evaluation plan, and the ultimate results. :)

Anonymous said…
It's not illegal to test kids as long as it meets a certain standard, but if one reads the websites of local testers and test prep companies, it's pretty clear that you are buying a service and that service includes giving a child every possible advantage towards achieving the required scores. I don't believe the AL dept releases the number of kids who get in on private tests after an appeal so it's anybody's guess.
Anonymous said…
"I don't believe the AL dept releases the number of kids who get in on private tests after an appeal so it's anybody's guess. "

Oh please, all one needs to do is ask. But do try to wait until the near 5000 eligibility letters are sent -they are a bit busy right now.
What you suggest is ridiculous. There are no secrets.

n said…
Why the disdain, JB? I would find it interesting to know the percentage. Especially given your number of 5000. I'm not that interested to go down and ask. If anybody else does, post it please.
Anonymous said…
Information on the relative success of students once in the program, based on whether or not they appealed with private testing, would be more useful in my mind. It would help answer questions around the validity and usefulness of the current district testing procedures. Suppose there is little to no difference? Maybe the majority of those appealing had scores very close to the cutoff. Who knows? Just knowing the number of those appealing, without knowing why they appealed or what the district testing results were, would make it hard to draw meaningful conclusions.

Lynn said…

How would you measure the success of students in the program?
Charlie Mas said…
The fact is that there is no measure of a student's success in any of the Advanced Learning programs. Moreover, there is no measure of the success of the programs.

Despite a long-standing Board policy that requires annual evaluation of all academic programs, there has never been any assessment of the quality or efficacy of any of the advanced learning programs. Not ever.

This was explicitly acknowledged When the Board held a Work Session for "Management Oversight" of Teaching and Learning a year ago. At that time Shauna Heath promised the Board that she would conduct an evaluation of the Advanced Learning programs. But no such evaluation was made at the end of that school year. It remains to be seen if she will make any such evaluation at the end of this school year.

I'm not sure how she can conduct a performance evaluation of the Manager of Advanced Learning without any measure of the success of any of the programs.
n said…
How would you measure the sucess of Spectrum and APP, Charlie?
Anonymous said…
One measure of the program could be to align APP students' MAP scores with 2 grade levels above their current grade. SPS could also align the MAP scores of APP-eligible students in neighbhorhood with 2 grade levels above their current grade. This alignment would show whether APP and APP-qualified kids are working at two grade levels higher than their current grade levels.

It's one easy way, but not necessarily a good way that would provide the kind of data that I suspect we would all like.

-just an idea
Anonymous said…
I'd guess that my child is one of those that struggles in APP. We didn't go private for testing, the district suggested we test based on her MSP(?) score.

That said, she struggles less in APP than she did in Spectrum. I believe she just has a hard time in a classroom environment. She is a 2e child and has a hard time expressing herself on paper.

- didn't pay for the test
n said…
The Spectrum classrooms I've known tend to be structured much like regular classrooms. I know when I taught Spectrum, I kept a pretty structured and demanding routine.

Perhaps people will take a different perspective but my take is that APP has the crème de la crème academically as student populations go and can afford to be more lenient. Good teaching . . . but fewer demands on the learning behaviors of students. Thus, if a student bridles under too much structure, APP will be a better fit for that person. (I have some knowledge as at one time I did quite a few co-lessons at Lowell.)

Also, unlike Spectrum teachers who often have students who test in the high eighties percentile in one area or anther, APP really does have kids who are in the top, top tier.

Just my opinion of course.
Anonymous said…
There should be annual testing for all APP at the end of each school year. Any APP student that fails to score above a minimum threshold would not be allowed to enroll in APP the following year. Non-APP students satisfying the minimum criteria would also be allowed to take the test and enroll in APP if they qualify. No private testing option. It's the only way to keep APP from being diluted by underperforming students.

Disappointed in Advanced Learning Dept said…
Dear School Board (cc: Superintendent Banda),

I write to request attention to the poorly run process of the Advanced Learning Department in conducting testing evaluations and communicating evaluation results to families in a timely fashion. Communication is poor and delayed. Test results have repeatedly been delayed. We have not yet received results that were supposed to have been received or sent by 1/31/14. It is now 2/12/14. This impacts families who need to attend school tours and make decisions about fall in a timely manner. It is stressful to wait. I would appreciate an explanation from Advanced Learning as to the delay and what is being done in future to improve this poorly run process. This especially affects families who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch or for whom English is a Second Language as these families may need to contact Advanced Learning to request free additional testing for their students. I understand these are the students that Advanced Learning is intent on including in their programs instead of excluding. To shorten the timeline for all families, particularly disadvantaged families, to navigate the system for an appeal is unacceptable and entirely against the supposed intent of inclusion of underserved populations.

Testing occurs at times without notice to families or the wrong date is given to a family for the testing and the actual testing occurs prior to the date stated in the letter. Last year, we received a call late in the evening prior to the testing morning. Not adequate notice.

It is disrespectful to require families to adhere to district deadlines while the district repeatedly revises its own timeline to respond.

Thank you for your attention to this. And thank you for the fine work you continue to do on behalf of the district's students.
Anonymous said…
What is causing the delays in the Advanced Learning Department? Does anyone know what is going on there?
Wondering about AL said…
Melissa and Charlie -
Any insight as to what is going on with Advanced Learning? Tried to email you directly but alas, my email is not set up to work with links.
Thanks for any news on this!
Lynn said…

APP exists to meet the basic education needs (accelerated and enhanced instruction) of highly capable children. It's not a reward for high performing students.

Would you approve of a grade-sorting process where all students take achievement tests at the end of each year and those scores determine their grade placement for the next year?
Anonymous said…

You’re missing the point. Periodic testing will weed out students who aren’t highly capable. Are you suggesting that a student that tests as highly capable in first grade is entitled to remain in APP for the duration even if later on that student no longer meets the standard of highly capable compared to his or her peers? Draw the line wherever it needs to be (top 2%, 3% . . .), but then test periodically to make sure that the students enrolled in a program for highly capable students are still highly capable. How can you possibly object to that?

Lynn said…
It's actually really easy to object to suggestions that we "weed out" children. Look, the state defines highly capable students as those who perform or who show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels. (We don't have to have any achievement score requirements.) The WAC also says that once services are started, a continuum of services shall be provided to the student from K-12. Our district requires 98th percentile ability or IQ scores to be identified as highly capable. Barring a really unfortunate injury, those students remain highly capable. Iif their test scores slip one year, there arre many possible reasons. Maybe they were not well the day of testing. Maybe they did not receive adequate instruction that school year. I think people forget that APP is a service delivery model, not a prize.
Anonymous said…
It's not an entitlement either. If a student qualifies as highly capable, they get the service. If not, they don't. Your argument about anomalies in testing cuts both ways. A student may not be highly capable, just a good test taker. Heck, maybe they just got lucky.
Anonymous said…
Right. Or maybe their parents are just really good at manipulating the system. Might work once. Hard to replicate again and again. Unless, of course, the student is actually highly capable.

Prop 3
n said…
I concur with the notion that a first grader doesn't always test accurately either way for highly capable APP or Spectrum. Early readers tend to test well. Also, my experience with Spectrum proved the Malcolm Gladwell hockey-player point that age makes a difference. You would find in my classes that collectively the group was older than peer classrooms. There were a few young ones but in the main older and bigger.

Odd to me that the State is requiring highly capable testing starting at K. I know Seattle does it but I don't think you get an accurate measure. Someone should research how many first-grade enrollees in Spectrum actually go on to do well in middle school and high school honors classes.

I won't presume to judge but I'd like to know.
Anonymous said…

Great point. Hadn’t considered the “Outliers” factor in early testing. Makes the whole APP methodology seem a little misguided. Remind me again why this is important.

Prop 3
Anonymous said…
Looks like the regs already contemplate a process for eliminating ineligible students. WAC 392-170-045 requires that “[a] district's nomination procedure for students who are highly capable may include screening procedures to eliminate students who, based on clear, current evidence, do not qualify for eligibility . . . .” Anyone know if the district has policies or procedures for eliminating students that no longer qualify as highly capable? Or is this a situation where once you’re in, you’re in for the duration?

Prop 3
Lynn said…
Prop 3,

Maybe I'm not understanding the problem. Is your child in an APP classroom where the pace is too slow because classmates can't keep up? In elementary APP about 30% of the students are new to the program each year. There are always going to be children who are going through an adjustment period.

Here's the discussion on exit procedures on the OSPI website:

What is meant by “exit procedures?” What criteria should be
used for exiting a student from the program?

Reasons to exit a student from the HCP include: student
graduated, student is no longer enrolled in the district,
parent/guardian/student withdrew from program, student no
longer qualifies for program based upon multiple object
assessment results, and/or parent/guardian/student declined
services for the year.
Students cannot be exited from the program based on
underachievement or poor behavior.
Districts must develop “exit procedures” and provide these
procedures to parents/guardians in the permission to test and the
permission to initiate services/place student in the HCP notice.

Are districts required to evaluate students for continued
services? What if there are concerns about a student’s
placement in the program?

Once a student is placed in the program, a continuum of
services is to be provided. Districts do not need to
reevaluate students at later grade levels.
Districts need to have an exit procedure in place for using
when concerns about eligibility arise or for when
parents/guardians/students want to exit or take a furlough
from the program.

I think most parents would not want their children in an accelerated program where they can't keep up. A discussion should take place between the parents and teacher if the results of multiple objective assessments indicate the program isn't right for the child.

Being an early reader isn't sufficient to test into Spectrum or APP. There are no required math or reading scores for K students to test into Spectrum and APP students have to have qualifying math and ability/IQ scores too.
Anonymous said…

Here is the problem. School districts may access basic education funds, in addition to highly capable categorical funds, to provide appropriate highly capable student programs. Using basic ed funds to pay for APP means less funds for basic ed (i.e., less funds for students who are excluded from APP). Don’t you think the District has a responsibility to make certain that APP is reserved for the truly highly capable students? If it’s allowed to become merely a refuge for above-average students, aren’t you doing a disservice to both the truly highly capable students and the general ed students?

Prop 3
Lynn said…
I think any child with an IQ in the 98th percentile is truly highly capable.

Highly Capable categorical funds in our district pay for the testing process and support the advanced learning office.

Of course if you pull kids out of general ed into APP basic education dollars go with them. The cost of educating them goes along with them too. This has no net effect on basic education.
n said…
This whole notion that tests tell the whole story is kind of funny to me. I remember almost flunking Algebra in ninth grade until I took a standardized test that included trig and calculus. I missed the two weeks before the test (I was off on a remarkable trip) when they reviewed and taught some of each.

In a nutshell, I tested in the top one percent on that math test. My teacher, Mr. Tuscher, took me aside and said he didn't know how I did it but it saved my arse and I passed the class.

I just laugh when I hear righteous parents defending tests because their kids did so well . . .
Lynn said…
That is a funny memory. I'm sure you realize that a ninth grade Algebra exam is not exactly equivalent to a professionally administered IQ test!

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