Advanced Learning: Crumbling Faster and Faster

Remember that Leonardo DiCaprio movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?  The SPS version is, "What's Going on with Advanced Learning?"  

What appears -to me - to be happening is that Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath are quietly making a lot of decisions behind closed doors and quietly spreading them out through the schools.  Spectrum principals, either on their own or thru Tolley and Heath, seem to be dismantling every single Spectrum program, whether popular and/or working well.

It is now late April and at the time of year that staff loves because the end of the school year is nigh, you parents get distracted and the staff has the entire summer to continue to roll out whatever they are doing.

That much of this is happening all the while the district has not one, but two AL taskforces, both dedicated only to APP makes it quite clear what is happening.  (The Taskforce that Charlie and I served on?  All APP, all the time.)  This district does not care for nor does it want to continue with Spectrum and ALOs.  There is zero evidence to the opposite.

So I have one piece of advice for parents and one for the district.

Parents, there's a lot of hand-wringing.  That will not change anything.   Spectrum parents, especially, you might want to rise up now.  (Of course, we all know that many Spectrum students are eligible for APP and if there is no Spectrum, then APP will only get larger.  I have no idea what the district's plan is if that happens.)

SPS, at least have the common decency to NOT hide behind your taskforces and closed doors and just tell the truth about what you are doing.  If you are so sure you are right (and, given their behavior, staff surely believes its their right to change the program, no matter what) - then explain yourself and do it before the end of the year.

Lastly, don't expect to go to the Superintendent or the Board - Advanced Learning has no champions (maybe save Sue Peters but even she has said little) and never has.

Parents, it's on you to create the change YOU want to see.

Here's the charter for yet the second of the AL Taskforces:


The Highly Capable Services Delivery Model Task Force (hereafter, Task Force) is charged with making recommendations regarding the organization and service delivery model of the Accelerated Progress Program, which serves Seattle Public Schools’ academically highly capable students.

Note that it's just APP because they are only considering what is mandated by the State.


1) Summary of the APP’s strengths and opportunities (including, but not limited to, a review of the 2012 Advanced Learning Task Force family survey results and input from APP educators)

2) Summary of best practices for academically highly capable learners

3) Recommendations that address the following issues:

- equity of program service delivery 
- integrity of the program across the District
 -alignment of a rigorous curriculum across sites
 -curricular materials to support pedagogy
- minimum cohort size
 -teacher qualifications 
- teacher professional development
- self-contained classrooms
- program placement at co-housed or stand-alone sites
- parameters of site-based management and implementation

This is all good and well BUT this district has two other parts to its AL program currently.  Neither are being discussed.  Not their "equity", not their "curriculum alignment", and certainly not the "integrity" of the program.

I have been hearing some pretty disturbing stuff from parents in the schools that have Spectrum and APP.

There was a Whittier meeting recently (that I had hoped to attend but couldn't make) about their Spectrum program.  Apparently, it is going to be summarily gone with differentiation and Walk to Math now covering it.  It is NOT a parent-driven move but seems to be mostly at the behest of the new principal.  I was told there were some tears at the meeting as parents tried to understand what was happening and why.

From what I am hearing about APP from an APP parent:

It appears that the middle school APP scope and sequence for SS has been changed--and apparently teachers have yet to see the new curriculum, per Shauna Heath--and APP students entering Garfield will no longer be eligible to go directly into AP World History. Instead, they'll have to take the same general history prerequisite as everyone else. Given that they already take the same LA classes at GHS as everyone else, the ONLY* remaining benefit of APP is the completion of Biology in 8th grade and thus the ability to move to a subsequent science class at GHS (although they still don't receive HS credit for passing the EOC).

Recent AL Task Force 2 minutes suggest that not only has the HS course eligibility changed, but that there may be some changes coming re: science as well. There was a mention of blended classes, and non-APP students taking Biology in middle school.

All in all, it sounds like middle school APP is getting weaker and weaker by the minute. Not only is there not really more depth, it's now clear there also isn't much acceleration, either. While it's too late to go back and change enrollment preferences at this point, or apply to private schools, there may be folks out there who still have some options for next year and could use this info in their final decisionmaking.  It may also be of interest to those thinking about middle school APP in the upcoming years.

The APP blog open thread has a link to the new scope and sequence doc , as well as a link to the AL Task Force 2 4/2 minutes.


Po3 said…
What this mean for the IBX pathway?
Po3 said…
Sorry, that should have said,

What DOES this mean for the IBX pathway?
Anonymous said…
The "new" APP 6-8 scope and sequence is simply the WA Sate grade level learning standards for social studies 6-8.

Are MS classes moving toward single subject qualification in Math, Science, and LA, with SS being a grade level mixed ability class?

curiouser and curiouser
Anonymous said…
I'm a Whittier parent and attended the Spectrum meeting. There are many, many parents at Whittier who are very supportive of walk-to-math and the differentiated approach, including myself (so I disagree it's just a principal led initiative). Many children qualify for Spectrum who don't get in at that school, and there are also many children who are advanced in math/reading/writing who don't apply for the Spectrum program but would benefit from the extra challenge. (We gave up trying to get in because nobody ever gets in after 1st Grade). Because Spectrum only takes x amount of kids, it is really not a sustainable program, especially with growing enrollment at that school. I don't believe any decisions have actually been made yet about the Spectrum program itself though? I do agree that making changes after open enrollment is not a great approach though.
North of 85th.
Anonymous said…
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Jamie said…
Have to say as a former Whittier parent whose child was on the Spectrum wait list for four years, I hope this provides more kids with a true "advanced learning opportunity." I can see how people will be disappointed that it will no longer be completely self contained but every time I read about how great the Spectrum program at Whittier was I think "yes, it was great for those who actually got in." It was pretty awful how exculsionary it was. If you got in for 1st grade, it was great for you, for the rest of us, too bad.
Anonymous said…
I have been reading the APP blog with interest on this topic. Here's the URL:

It sounds like the program needs a redo for a lot of reasons. The question is whether what comes next is (hopefully) better or whether the district tears down what little advanced learning is left. I tend to be Pollyanna and think that better times are always ahead, but the current situation with advanced learning does worry me.

Here's one particularly disturbing quote from the APP blog's current thread about the decline of APP:

Again, look at the thread below on the difference between a gifted program and the not-even-accelerated SPS APP program. A gifted program addresses the needs of profoundly gifted kids with socio-emotional challenges. SPS APP most certainly does not. How many kids on the autism spectrum do you see in APP classes? How many kids with emotional-behavioral issues? How many homeless kids?

Oh, you see none or just a handful? That's because the current APP program isn't prepared to handle a significant number of kids that don't fit the "bright with noncomplicated profiles" that largely fill out the current program.

We can repeat the whole previous thread conversation here for newcomers, or not. But bottom line is that APP is not a gifted program, is barely an accelerated program, quite clearly discriminates against students with disabilities and is only marginally addressing kids with complicated socio-emotional needs.

Gifted education MUST have a place in SPS. Our kids need and deserve it. But APP as currently offered ain't it. It makes a lot of parents and kids happy. Great. But it simply cannot continue the way it is because it is mediocre at best and unlawful at worst.


Anonymous said…
I'm happy for ANY middle school students who qualified by ability and achievement the opportunity to take biology. This is what learning is supposed to be about. I want the district to improve the level of rigor and depth across all core subjects and deliver that in all schools. So if there are enough middle schoolers to fill a biology class in Whitman MS or Denny MS, then there needs to be one. That should be the goal and dovetails for a more aligned and rigorous APP!


Anonymous said…
But unless it's a good biology class, what's the point of taking it in middle school? My HIMS 8th grader has found the class to be way too easy. It's possible that it's not much better in high school, but it's also possible that the middle school teachers aren't as qualified to teach it with sufficient rigor. (There was a reference to this in the last AL Taskforce 2 minutes, for which Melissa included a link.) Getting kids to pass the EOC is a pretty low bar, so it's hard to really assess the effectiveness of teaching it earlier. That's not to say there aren't kids ready for it sooner, just that, in our experience, it's not a class to be too excited about. The same rigor lacking elsewhere in middle school APP is evident in the Biology class as well.

Anonymous said…
The APP situation looks a lot like the Republican public school philosophy: When not ignoring it (first tactic) criticize it without offering a path forward (second tactic) and starve it (third tactic).

When it becomes so sorry that the current participants hate it as much as the critics who didn't like it in the first place, seize the opportunity to rebuild it just as you wish.

With public schools in general, as well as the APP program, it seems to be an effective, if extremely upsetting to me, strategy.

Anonymous said…
And to continue the analogy, one of the end goals is "privatize it".

Despite the mandate of state legislature to provide comprehensive gifted public education, I have little doubt that SPS will end up doing the bare minimum to comply while happily letting the robust private offerings in the city take on the dissatisfied. Makes life easier for SPS.

Of course that philosophy is really, really inequitable for so many of Seattle's families. But...."oh well"...

Eric B said…
@Po3, It's hard to envision APP going away entirely, at least in name. IBX is also very useful in drawing students to the only high school in the north end with space (Ingraham can add portables, unlike most others). Finally, IBX isn't really that different a program than the IB program already at Ingraham, so there's little added burden to the school. For all of those reasons, I have a hard time seeing IBX go away, at least in the near term. If anything, it may be expanded to Rainier Beach to try to bring more people to that underenrolled school.

Longer term, it's theoretically possible that the split up middle school APP in the north end will result in the program decaying. I'd hazard a guess that the earliest that could happen is out 10 years, so there is much that could change between now and then. In any case, I don't see it as a likely scenario any time soon.
Anonymous said…
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Charlie Mas said…
Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath have made no secret of their intent to dismantle all advanced learning in Seattle Public Schools and replace it with the myth of differentiated instruction.

I can certainly understand how the promise of differentiated instruction would sound pretty good to those folks who are getting nothing right now, but you should know that it's a lie.

If the District or the school is telling you that they can meet the academic needs of your advanced learner in a general education classroom, then you have to ask them why they aren't doing it now. Let's see them do it for the advanced learners in the general education classrooms they have today, and then I'll believe that they can do it for the ones in Spectrum or APP classes.
suep. said…
"maybe save Sue Peters but even she has said little"

Melissa, on what do you base this statement?

Unless you have been to every meeting I have attended, including one today in which I spoke with a principal about plans for that school's Spectrum program, and unless you have read my communiques with staff and colleagues about the direction of AL in SPS, my request for a work session on AL, my conversations with staff about what happens when APP is split into multiple locations, how can you claim to know what I have or have not said about AL?

You are correct to question what is going on with AL in SPS. Clearly it is in flux, and I am very troubled by that fact and trying to address it. But you are incorrect to assume that just because you didn't happen to witness a conversation about an issue, it didn't happen.

Even Charlie and I discussed this the other day. You can ask him.

Please feel free to call me anytime and ask my views on this or any issue.
Greg Linden said…
That's great to hear, Sue. Sometimes it's hard to see what's going on, and updates like that one are helpful. And, more generally, thanks for fighting the good fight and trying to make sure the right thing happens. I'm sure it's often unpleasant work, and it's definitely appreciated.
Anonymous said…
Sue, do you think Lincoln next year will be safe with 850 students? Do you think north APP should be the biggest elementary in the city at 700 kids?

Lynn said…

Why doesn't the board have an advanced learning policy in place? It is so infuriating to watch teaching and learning leadership make whatever changes they like to programs - with no oversight from the board. They don't listen to parents, they make changes after the open enrollment period. Their response to increased requirements by the state is to dismantle the programs we already have. What can parents do short of leaving the district?
juicygoofy said…
The Spectrum situation at Whittier is unfortunate and complicated. Only a few years ago, Spectrum families accounted for more than a third of the school's enrollment and attracted students from all over the NW. Now Spectrum is less now than 25%, and the voices of Spectrum teachers and families are diminishing. Because the district didn't clearly define a plan for advanced learning that aligned with increasing enrollment and the NSAP, parents, staff and teachers have to debate solutions themselves. It is my opinion that the new principle is driving a change by seizing on the perception that self-contained classrooms are inequitable. The reality is that Whittier needs to deal implement an ALO plan or walk-to-math or some stable split-grade classrooms in ADDITION to maintaining the self-contained model. The principle had the community meeting to discuss walk-to-math as a first step, but her effort was criticized by some teachers, alarmed current Spectrum families, and started rumors. No formal changes have been announced, but it's widely assumed there will be some.
Sue, it is very unlikely that I would read your communications with staff unless I got a public disclosure order. I normally don't do that often as it takes weeks or months to get that info.

I will say - again - that I rarely, if ever, hear a Board member publicly speak out in favor or support of AL.
I was speaking of public support, not behind the scenes which I assume is what you are talking about.
Anonymous said…
Melissa has a big fat point here and Peters needs to get off a horse that seems awfully high in tone and intent.

If there were a lot less "we leaders have it covered" behind the scenes conversation at JSCEE at the upper staff and board level and a lot more public discussion, 80 percent of the CRAP that blows up REPEATEDLY in SPS would not happen.

APP is the current crap blowing up.

I'm not talking about more public blow-by-blow of protected personnel matters. I'm talking core FUNDAMENTALS AFFECTING STUDENTS and FAMILIES. You know: ACADEMICS for (@*&#@ sake. And BUDGETING. And CAPITAL PLANNING. And TRANSPORTATION. And DISABILITY SERVICES. And FAMILY ENGAGEMENT AND SUPPORT.

Yes, Melissa and parents have every right to call out Peters, the rest of the board, Banda and T&L on the state of Advanced Learning because it is a full fledged mess that has only trended downward in the past decade and there is zero evidence that it will improve.

Peters assuring us that she has had many behind the scenes communications and meetings with colleagues means nothing. In fact, it means less than nothing.

Anonymous said…
Seriously Sue, your tone is really offensive. How about you do something? I would agree with DistrictWatcher. It really doesn't mean anything to have conversations unless there is some action. We all see things going from bad to worse, so your conversations don't mean much. How about you issue a statement? Announce a new plan? Show us a new policy is going to be implemented. A curriculum is being adopted. Time is passing. Our kids who are currently in school don't have years to wait for progress. Seems like just yesterday you wanted our support in the election.
Anonymous said…

I have talked to you many times over the years at school, and I believe you are fighting for AL as a whole. I know your kids are in the program, too, so it is in your interest to have a working program.

I just ask you to please remember what it is like to be a non-insider when writing about what you are doing. My child started at Lowell before the first split (at the beginning of the dismantling if the program), and I was there when MGJ suggested closing Lowell. The parents were told nothing about what was happening and the district staff was dismissive to parents. The distict is still secretive, dismissive and patronizing to parents.

I am sure I am not the only APP parent who feels beaten and bruised. I don't believe a word the district says because we have been lied to so many times over the last few years. Please do and say things publicly so that we can see it.

Again, I do believe you are working behind the scenes, but I need to see it to believe it. As the saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

-beaten and bruised
suep. said…
Lynn, I agree there should be policy that clearly states the district's commitment to and vision for AL. This is something I'd like to address, in my role as a member of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, and informed by my own experience with AL in SPS, my conversations with colleagues, staff, principals, parents, the superintendent and others (which DistrictWatcher is mistaken to claim don't matter).

beaten and bruised, I hear you. I know firsthand that the APP community is understandably tired of surprises, insecurity and being split apart or uprooted.

Everyone -- I find that suggestions from readers and commenters here (and via e-mail to the board) on what needs to be done for AL (and other issues) are much more helpful than knee-jerk criticism based on presumptions.

suep. said…
p.s. Btw, this is not all behind the scenes. The public is welcome to attend C&I meetings, work sessions and board retreats where AL and other issues are discussed. Please check the district web site for the calendar. Melissa is also good about posting meeting info here.
And send me your questions before the meetings so I can bring them up in discussion. -- sp.
Charlie Mas said…
At the root of the current trouble in Advanced Learning is the fact that the Board voted to suspend what little policy they had on January 29, 2009 and the District has been operating without a policy for the past five years.

In the absence of policy from the Board, policy has been made elsewhere.

An advanced learning policy needs to articulate what kinds of students are advanced learners are, what kind of service they must get, and why they need these services. Those are policy questions - not administrative, management, or pedagogical ones.

The state law allows the District a lot of flexibility on identifying students for a Highly Capable program. They can choose students on any number of criteria including cognitive ability, academic achievement, creativity, even leadership. The decision of what kind of students we will identify as highly capable is a policy decision.

The law is equally liberal in allowing districts a broad range of services to provide, requiring only that the students shall be provided "to the extent feasible, an educational opportunity which takes into account each student's unique needs and capabilities and the limits of the resources and program options available to the district". So it's easy to see that the type of students selected and the type of services provided have to match. Will we offer acceleration? Will the service focus instead on going deeper or broader instead of faster? Will it be a balance of all three? Will it offer something else entirely? Again, this is policy decision.

Finally, it is critical to explain why we even need such a program (or programs). Why can't these students be served in our general education classroom? Or can they? And if they can, then why is it even necessary to identify them for service?

An Advanced Learning policy should speak to more than just the Highly Capable program because surely every student is an advanced learner in some way. How are their needs to be addressed?

Again - the policy should stick to policy and not dictate implementation. It should state the goals and the rationale and direct the superintendent to develop procedures for identification and service delivery. But how can the superintendent move forward to set identification procedures or service delivery models when he hasn't been told what kind of students to identify or what kind of services to provide them? The fact that the superintendent is moving forward with that work in the absence of a policy is evidence that he is usurping the Board's authority. Or, more accurately, that the Board is abdicating that authority.
Charlie Mas said…

Director Peters, if you are reading this, consider it my urgent call to you to insist on an Advanced Learning policy without further delay. And the Board needs to write it - not the staff. When you do, I hope you will make it inclusive. Make it clear that we have students with high cognitive ability and they need services that respond to their academic needs. In addition, we have students who are consistent high performers in one or more domain - and they may not be the same children as those with high cognitive ability - and they need services that respond to their academic needs. We also have students who may not be consistent high performers, but are episodic high performers and they need to be served as well. And they need to be served intentionally because our classrooms are focused on the Standards, which, although intended in theory as a floor, function in practice as a ceiling.

One more thing. The policy has to be written in such a way that it is enforceable. A student or that student's family needs to be able to use the policy to require appropriate action by a school.
Charlie Mas said…
Here's the sort of policy I'm thinking of:

It is the policy of Seattle Public Schools that we provide an appropriate academic opportunity for our advanced learners to the extent that our resources allow.

Research indicates that students with cognitive abilities more than 1.7 standard deviations above the mean require a significantly different style of instruction from their typical peers. The superintendent is directed to establish a procedure for the identification of these students without regard to their level of academic achievement, English Language Skills, or disability and to establish a procedure for providing these students with an appropriate academic opportunity. This will be the District's Highly Capable Student program for the purposes of state law (RCW 28A.185).

In addition, there are consistently high performing students throughout the district, who may or may not meet the criteria for the Highly Capable Student program, who are consistently working beyond the Standards and Grade Level Expectations in one or more domains. The superintendent is directed to establish a procedure for the identification of these students, without regard to their cognitive ability, English Language skills, or disability, and to establish a procedure for supporting their academic progress beyond the grade level expectations. We have every confidence that our general education classrooms will teach students to the Standards, but specific attention needs to be paid to the academic needs of students working beyond the Standards.

All of our students are capable of working beyond the Standards and Grade Level Expectations at some time. The Superintendent is directed to establish procedures for supporting any student working beyond the Standard in any domain or grade.

A policy like that could foster the creation of a very small IPP sort of program with no focus on acceleration at all, a very large group of students (in some cases the majority of a school) in a Spectrum-type program in every school with a balanced approach of acceleration and work down the deeper and broader axes as well, and the creation of ALO-type opportunities for differentiated instruction for every student in every class.

Families should be told that acceleration is definitely NOT an objective of the IPP program. That should make it sufficiently unpopular to allow for some real independent study and individualized instruction for the students who really need it. Maybe the bar should be kicked up to 2.0 standard deviations above the mean.

The second program is what Shauna Heath claims she will create with MTSS. So she should be delighted with this sort of policy. Since it won't require any funding or additional testing to identify students for this program (they will use existing assessments as screening tools), it won't require any parent permission to put students in it (no cognitive ability test and it isn't for the HC program), and it is exactly what the District claims they were going to do anyway, this should be very welcome in the JSCEE and the schools.

As for the third type of student, it will simply become common for teachers to be asked "What are you doing for your advanced students?" and for the teacher to have meaningful answer ready.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, acceleration may not be the GOAL, but let's be sure whatever policy and procedures that may be developed at Lear ALLOW for acceleration when appropriate. Not a ceiling, remember? For some of those quick-and deep- and broad-learning kids in the tail of the curve, they are already significantly accelerated, and/or have the passion to be more so. For some AHG kids, education is like a hobby--the thing they focus on in their spare time. Let's make sure we don't hold them back. A neighborhood school-based program isn't going to cut it.

Anonymous said…
And Sue, any time you want to hear from parents--especially those who have kids in different grades, schools, programs, etc. than your own, and parents who have kids with different strengths, challenges, interests , etc., you know where to find us. If you're holding a meeting, discussion, brainstorming session, etc. re: AL, I'm sure there would be parents ready to volunteer their time if they thought it would help.

Anonymous said…
Oh, and one more thing re: drafting an AL policy. It seems like any policy should specify that these services need to be available elementary thru HS, and that there has to be horizontal and vertical alignment.

Greg Linden said…
Charlie raises a very good point, an advanced learning policy is long overdue. What about putting an Advanced Learning policy such as the one Charlie suggests in place immediately?
"..knee-jerk criticism based on presumptions."

Of all the people to say this to, I'm the last one it should be directed to but okay.

While some are talking, others are doing. And those others are Tolley and Heath. So parents can have meetings and discussions with Board members but staff is moving on. My purpose in this thread was to point this out.

This is one reason why I am rethinking the blog because I am very tired of this district and its lack of interest in parents' concerns and wants.
That Charlie and I, two of the longest lasting, hardest working district activists, have not been able to see change in the AL department should tell you something.

I won't hold my breath waiting for change to come based on what parents care about for their children.
Anonymous said…
For emphasis I would like to repeat some key parts of Charlie's policy draft in more words than his eloquent sentences:

Any AL policy should very specifically say that Twice Exceptional students will be accommodated. (It's the law after all, even if SPS breaks it routinely in the area of gifted kids with disabilities).

It should specifically say that ELL students will be accommodated. ELL students who are put into remedial classes when in fact they should be in gifted classes are a heartbreaking story here in Seattle.

It should specifically recognize and accommodate the fact that learning potential and classroom achievement are not the same things. This is a a big key to reaching the gifted population not at all served by the current APP program.

It should recognize asynchronous giftedness. Hello - many of the "genius" breakthroughs in human history have been made by people with lopsided verbal/language or mathematics/spatial/processing skills. If it's good enough for history, it's good enough for SPS.

Finally, I would like to add, with gentle emphasis, that the history of advanced learning in this district is so haphazard, if not completely lacking, that it seems perfectly reasonable that parents are not soothed by the formation of two new task forces nor by the assurances of one board member, even if she does have a personal stake in the outcome. A whole section of downtown HQ has their salaries tied in some way to advanced learning, but that hasn't gotten SPS nor students nor families very far in many, many, many a year.

Anonymous said…
How about an AL-wide test boycott NOW ? Testing season is just upon us--if all the APP and Spectrum- qualified kids were to boycott the MSP, maybe that would at least help get the attention of staff?

I know we've already opted out, but I'd be happy to redo it so I could say its in support of AL.


Robyn said…
Melissa, I could be wrong, but I am guessing Sue was saying knee-jerk to District Watcher and disappointed who were pretty inflammatory in their comments. If a Board member has the courage to post here, you should have the courage to use your real name when slamming them.

Personally, I think it is great that Sue has the spine to post on this blog. That means she's reading it, and if people can keep comments constructive instead of nasty and ridiculous, maybe important topics will motivate her to act.

I imagine if Sue keeps reading anonymous slams instead of constructive feedback she will stop posting or even reading this blog.

The SPS Board should be paid. It's insane to see what they are responsible for on top of possibly having to have full-time jobs.

One other thing: I heard at a community meeting a couple weeks ago that if a Board member gets conflicting information from the community, even if they believe it, and the staff, they have to act on what is provided by the staff. I really hope I misunderstood that, but I don't think I did.

Please keep reading Sue. I don't know you, but it seems you are tough enough and smart enough to weed through all the crap posted here to find some truth.
Robyn, I did mention Director Peters - in my original post - by name. I answered one of her statements.

I have repeatedly and often said Board members should be paid to anyone who would listen (including legislators).
Anonymous said…
@Robyn: There is no need to give Peters a pass if she is as tough as you think. She advertised herself as a non-ed-reform activist wanting a place on the board. She can take the criticism and if she doesn't agree that there is a complete lack of true community engagement in planning in all areas of our district then she is not the board member I assumed she'd be.

She also tends to be prickly from the interactions I've had with her. Smart, but sharp-tongued. So if she's going to use that tone, it can go right back at her in the spirit of communication everyone understands.

I too applaud her interaction on the blog. But the criticisms stand, the ones aimed at the district in the forefront of course.


Anonymous said…
And another thing. 'Nice and constructive' rarely works with this district. I don't mean rarely today, I mean historically in at least the last decade. Only when parents get outraged is a fire lit, let alone parents noticed. Take APP for Example #1. Fill in your own program of interest for your very own example. One of my other favorites is The Martin Floe incident.


mirmac1 said…
Sue's been on the board...what...five MONTHS!? I have heard her ask more probing and challenging questions than any directors over the last seven years.

Besides that, it is my firm belief that she must represent the interests of all 50K students. And must perform oversight over a dysfunctional district administration.

Sue was not elected the APP director. She is one of seven on a board that continually struggles to get action and truth out of staff.

Thanks Sue for your diligence and hard work.
Anonymous said…
Can we talk about AL?
Hers my take.
SPS has rigor issues for many families and these need to be addressed at all schools. Gifted kids , and let's be clear, there is no clear line of demarcation here, need extra help to reach their potential. Centralizing service at APP is not working for many kids. Many can't or won't go, many are not testing in for various reasons, whether language or single subject or 2e.
Neighborhood school offerings are all over the map,with no clear direction from downtown.
Transparency and communication from the AL dept are sorely lacking.
There's inequity and under representation in APP.
APP is becoming more and more a sought after program forr parents who see it, rightly so, as a pathway to better high school programs and better colleges. There's more and more test prepping and appealing every year and the program keeps,growing. This reflects not on parents who want rigor and the best for their kids, but the district that creates such insecurity and anxiety about kids getting lost in a sea of low expectations.
Every school must offer challenges to kids who rank in the top percentile of national norms and keep APP as a program for extreme outliers.
By giving an outlet to schools for their gifted in APP and not creating a policy and requirement to serve these kids in neighborhood school, the district perpetuates the problems.
Walk to and grouping are needed at all schools and must be flexible and done in a positive way that helps all students.
One huge problem is teacher attitude, I feel. Gifted kids are smarter than your average teacher and I would like to see training. It's not hard to teach smart kids, but it's a skill that needs to be learned. Otherwise these kids can drive a teacher crazy. They can needle a teacher to insanity. So many teachers are happy to move them to APP. It's almost bullying.
I don't want a district with parents jockeying for APP slots and the resentments that follow. I want kids served to parents satisfaction at neighborhood schools and APP turned into a small program for the super, super smart.
Anonymous said…
I will try this again so if I said something similar in another thread sorry... APP may be doomed because of a failure of leadership. The last two hires at WMS and TM have the least experience as a school administrator that I have ever seen. But lets discuss their charge: the entire gamut +/- $ or ability in these schools.

tired of reposting this....
-please keep
Anonymous said…
RE: the AL Policy...

At the Board Retreat a few months ago, staff presented a long list of policies that were to be re-written/updated and presented to the Board for approval in the coming year.

On that this was the AL Policy, with the target date of the September/October 2014 BOD meetings.

Additionally, at one of the APP Program delivery model Task Force meetings Shauna Heath indicated that the reason that this task force needs to finish it's work by the end of May (in about 30 days) was because they needed to submit the new AL Policy to the C&I committee in time to get it to the full board in the fall.

I think that staff is planning to submit/present a draft of the AL policy to the C&I committee at the June C&I meeting. With that time line, staff must already have some idea of what they plan to write into that policy. I would imagine that they will be incorporating the recommendations from the two APP task forces, but neither of the two task forces are charged with making recommendations around Spectrum or ALO....

From the conversations going on in the APP Program Delivery Task Force, and the fact that it is focused only on APP (or "most highly capable") and the fact that there isn't a parallel task force for Spectrum/ALO, and the fact that most (all?) spectrum self contained class rooms have or will be disbanded in favor of walk to's, I wonder if Spectrum will even exist in the AL Policy (or perhaps the associated super intent procedure)

Long story short: Unless I'm confused, I'm pretty sure that staff is already working on writing the new AL Policy, and it will be sent for board adoption within the next 6 months.


Anonymous said…
I see a program that's operating without oversight, a T&L department that doesn't seem to believe in gifted education, and an AL department that has been given no authority. Teachers have an excessive amount of academic freedom within some classes to the point that they aren't even covering grade level standards, in what are supposed to be advanced level classes. The principal may or may not care. Parents have little recourse as the program is so loosely defined.

It will be very interesting to see what develops from the AL task forces and the new APP programs at JAMS and Fairmount Park. Whatever evolves, I hope they work on creating some flexibility in programming without further restricting opportunities for students.

-hoping for better
Lynn said…

Can you tell us when and where the next task force meeting will be held?

Do you know if the task force will cover services to be provided to highly capable students in high school? Shauna Heath recently confirmed my impression that each school can choose whether or not to provide any acceleration to these students. (Witness Roosevelt's requirement that they retake their 7th grade science class in the 9th grade and Garfield's recent decision to deny WMS students access to the history class their teachers have prepared them for.) Apparently she doesn't feel it's her department's responsibility to ensure highly capable students are provided access to a basic education.
Anonymous said…
I'm interested in parent comment on a style of classroom assignments our children are experiencing in APP classrooms.

The teachers will assign a group of students a particular topic or time period to "research" and present to the class. The learning is then based on summaries presented by other students (from random sources) and not from the teacher or a class text. They take assessments based on notes they've taken from student presentations (right or wrong). We see our that our children aren't learning as much since the reading and research is limited to one subtopic or time period and they don't get enough exposure to the material not covered by their group. The teachers are essentially letting the students teach the class.

Anonymous said…
please forgive my typos, btw...

"on that this" was meant to be "on that list"...

Additionally, Charlie, I would agree with much of what you are putting forth about what needs to be in the AL policy.

However, I'm confused why you are suggesting to lower the threshold of "most highly capable" or the kids that need what you are now calling IPP.

Whatever the program is called for what the state calls "most highly capable", HOW we define that threshold is not just a minor detail.

1.7 standard deviations from the mean is the 95%ile, right? Currently APP kids are identified when they score in the 98th%ile and above on the cognitive tests and 95th%ile and above on the academic achievement tests.

Dropping the threshold to the 95%ile on cognitive tests will increase the population of kids served. I don't know that is on it's face a bad thing, but it will more than double the number of kids that are considered "most highly capable"

Further, 1.7 standard deviations from the mean =95%ile. There are differences in what that means on the various cognitive abilities tests. In "IQ" as measured by the main tests used, that is somewhere around a score of 120-125 (mean IQ =100). On the coGAT, I'm not sure what it means in terms of score. But the testing instrument used also matters...

But my main points is that 1.7 standard deviations is 2+% points below what is currently used, and therefore will more than double the number of kids who qualify as "most highly capable". I think it is also different than what most other districts use to identify...

I don't know if the threshold "should" be the 95th%ile or the 98th%ile for the "most highly capable" but any policy that states a standard deviation definition should be transparent about what it actually means. And, in this case, it dramatically increases the number of kids.

Right now, the APP task force on identification is maintaining the 98th%ile threshold recommendation, not recommending that it change to the 95th%.

Anonymous said…
Other districts use a 99% threshold for gifted education. See a description of Portland's program below. "ACCESS Academy (students) come from all over Portland, and from all walks of life. They have in common: (1) exceptional performance (99th percentile+) on one or more nationally-normed, standardized tests, and (2) a demonstrated need for an alternative educational program". --RR
Anonymous said…
State funding for highly capable is 2.314% of FTE. Assuming a normal distribution, 2.314% corresponds to 2.0 SD above the mean, or 97.7%, hence 98%.

Anonymous said…
It's interesting that Portland's criteria for their highly capable program specifies performance (99th percentile+) on one or more nationally-normed, standardized tests.

According to projected numbers for next year, the 1-8 school will have around 300 students, which is almost exactly 1% of Portland's 1-8 enrollment. Not all qualified applicants gain a spot, but are put on a waitlist.

Lynn said…
Oregon law requires identification of talented and gifted students - defined as a student who has scored at the 97th percentile or above on a nationally normed test of intellectual ability or reading or math achievement. Most TAG students in Portland are served in the general ed classroom (with about 300 receiving services in self-contained classrooms in the Access Academy.)

Portland public schools surveyed parents of identified students in 2012 about the services their children were receiving. The results are published on the district website.

While the overall tone of responses generally varied among schools, those from ACCESS Academy parents stood out as uniformly positive on all 14 questions. No other school’s responses were positive for more than 8 questions and the average was just under 4 questions.

Once again, parents find that their children's academic needs are not met through differentiation in general education classrooms.
Anonymous said…
Without a policy in place, why are two AL Task Forces even meeting let alone making recommendations? What is informing their work? Certainly not Board Policy because there isn't one. It's backwards. Charlie is right. Good grief.

Anonymous said…

The next APP program delivery Task force scheduled is this coming Thursday:

May 1, 2014
4:00-8:00 pm
JSCEE 2765

I also find the information you posted about Portland's program to be interesting. I've gotten the impression that most experts and parents believe that self contained classrooms (and maybe even self contained schools, though there is tons of difference of opinion in Seattle on the self-contained school model) serve gifted kids better than "differentiation" in the class room.

Hopefully, IMHO, they will see fit to at least recommend self contained classrooms for "most highly gifted" kids in Seattle.

However, what I'm most worried about at this stage of things is the reality that we have a major facilities capacity challenge, particularly in the North. APP @ Lincoln will be 700 kids next year, already larger than the capacity of Wilson Pacific elementary when it opens in 2017.

And all of the other North end schools are full too, so if they wanted to try to split up elementary APP and put it back into neighborhood schools to co-house like Thurgood Marshall's elementary model, there is no where to put 700 elementary kids back into the neighborhood schools.


FFlL, I'd say you have it about right.

Yes, there are capacity problems looming ever larger and larger that are NOT being addressed. AL is at the bottom of the list and yet it helps neighborhood schools not be so over-crowded but yes, let's disband Spectrum and see how that works out.
Anonymous said…
Some teachers do that too in regular general ed classes, WTH. It is more of a pedagogy issue and the exception rather than the rule. Think of it as the latest educational trendy exercise, grit building... They luv that in the Harvard admission essay.

Anonymous said…
Whatever the intention, the reality is my children are not learning as much with this model/pedagogy/trend or whatever one calls it. My child sarcastically remarked that they should get paid for doing the teacher's job.

Anonymous said…
portlands program, which has only 243 kids k-8 in it this year,is very hard to access yet in ways less restrictive than ours. 99+ percentile required in math achievement OR reading achievement OR cognitive ability Plus a letter fro both a teacher and an administrator or counselor.
It's described as a program for the extremely gifted. i hope the district is considering such a plan for SPS as it would force delivery for more kids at local schools and increase rigor for many more students and it would actually serve those few kids who are far out on the curve.
It would get this whole APP and Spectrum issue taken care of and there would be no more fighting among groups, just parents at each neighborhood school pushing for more rigor while learning to live with the gened parents and students.
It seems hard but I think it would solve many problems and raise the bar for all kids.
kellie said…
I am pretty late to this conversation but there is one key part missing here.

The district is running at well over 100% capacity. School districts are designed to run at about 90% capacity. 100% capacity means that academic decisions are made for operational reasons. The legal obligation for the district is to provide a seat and that legal obligation trumps everything else.

At its foundation, the spectrum program was based on having more demand than seats. In order for spectrum to work effectively you needed to have the ability to fill the class to capacity and not-one-student more AND not-one-student less. As students do not come in nice neat little packages of the teacher contract per grade, this created all sort of problems for the folks who couldn't get in.

Once the NSAP started, all "programs" began to suffer. Without the ability to turn away general education students, to protect program space, this meant that special eduction, ELL and Spectrum were getting squeezed out of all the crowded schools.

IMHO, Spectrum died with the NSAP, we just never held the funeral.

At the moment, there really isn't any extra space in the district. There are some places where the crowding is less bad or where it looks like there is space on paper but ... system-wide, there just isn't. To really have advanced learning programs, there would need to be a commitment to add substantial capacity district wide in order to provide those services and there isn't. There is a pervasive fear of over-building and that fear is what will really kill advanced learning.

Without the extra capacity, it really doesn't matter what the policy says, When you have an over-crowded classroom, in an over-crowded school, there really isn't any space for advanced learning.
Lynn said…

I'm not following you. What are you hoping the district will do? And how would it improve the services provided to highly capable students? (They are only considering identification and service delivery methods for that group.)
Charlie Mas said…
The presumption, that the presence of a number of students working beyond Standards in a general education classroom will automagically lead to increased rigor in that class, has no basis in fact. The observed result is that the general education classroom treats the Standards as a ceiling rather than a floor and caps the academic growth of all children to preserve horizontal and vertical alignment, to preserve fidelity of implementation, and to re-allocate resources to struggling students.

I know that there are individual teachers who are able to differentiate instruction and support work beyond Standards, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Even they cannot do it as often as they would like.
Anonymous said…
A new Spectrum program was created at Lowell for 2014-2015. My child was wait listed for Spectrum at Lowell. The principal said that he had only two children at my child's grade enrolled for Spectrum. Is this enrollment planning? It looks like despite high-demand Spectrum programs throughout the city and overenrolled buildings everywhere, Lowell will again be under enrolled with an empty Spectrum program.

Go Figure
Anonymous said…
@Go Figure

With only 2 seats for Spectrum in your kids grade, is it correct to assume that these
Spectrum classes are not self-contained and instead are offered as "differentiated instruction" and "walk-tos" in the general ed classrooms?

I'm sorry, but really, what is the point of starting up a new "Spectrum" program that isn't self contained and wasn't actually advertised? Whittier and Whitman are disbanding spectrum self contained, and Lowell is starting it up?

Or, is this prepping for the future where they say that all of SPS schools are providing Advanced learning even when they really aren't?

ooooooooooH! This is brilliant. They are setting it up so all schools either have "spectrum" or "ALO" even though the names mean nothing.

I think as Kellie said, Spectrum as an actual "program" died a while ago, and all that is left is a name that people think means something.

Anonymous said…
It's the chicken vs egg. Will the services for kids working above grade level be there waiting or do the kids need to show up first?
I disagree with Mr Mas, many schools provide for above grade level work in SPS. Look at schools with high numbers of APP eligible students. Look at John Hay or Eckstein. There is more to do, but it's happening and has been for some time.
If we had Portlands model we'd have 500 kids in self contained k-8, total, district wide. A small program like that for the most gifted would stamp down all this appealing and scrambling and resentment. It would also really help those single subject and 2e kids.
Kids can get the service at their neighborhood school, it won't happen as long as there's the easy way out of going to an APP site.
Lynn said…
Did you read what I posted about Portland's survey? Here's a link.

If we used Portland's model, we'd have 500 kids in a self-contained program - probably receiving more appropriate services than they are now. We'd also have 1,500 kids languishing in general ed classrooms. 80% of the parents of gifted children who responded felt that their child does not receive appropriate learning opportunities and challenges.

Parents in the Eckstein attendance area don't think the school provides appropriate opportunities for it's APP students. There are 209 Eckstein students enrolled in APP this year - and 25 APP students eligible at Eckstein. John Hay might be doing better - they retained 19 APP students this year and sent 32 to APP@Lincoln.

When has SPS offered services to students that they weren't required by law to provide? Do you see language immersion coming to neighborhoods that want it? Where is TOPS 2? It just wouldn't happen. Every APP-enrolled student started out in a general ed classroom. Their schools didn't recognize their needs and meet them. Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath are going to make them start doing it. Is retaining these kids a goal of the staff at your school?
Anonymous said…

As a parent of a 1st grader with high cognitive scores and math ability, and lower reading scores, this is so very frustrating to read. I had hoped that some sort of APP program for gifted kids would be available for my son, but he is just out of luck.

In kindergarten he tested into Spectrum because he tested at 99+% cognitively (141 FSIQ). He also scored a 99+% math, but only 7% in reading, so he didn't qualify for APP. He ended up attending a school without either an ALO or Spectrum program, and without a focus for advanced learners.

In the Fall in 1st grade he tested at 99+% cognitively, 99+% math (this time for the 2nd grade level), and 75% in reading. So, while he has made great strides in reading, he does not qualify for either APP or Spectrum. Worst of all, he is learning NOTHING at his school in math. He is still in a 1st grade class, they just started walk to math a few months ago and the kids in his "advanced" 1st grade class are learning multiplication of 1s, 2s and 3s, while he knows basic algebra.

I know he needs something more challenging, but it feels like the school is focused on teaching to standards and since he is doing quite well, there's no need to give him anything else. And, if this is what's happening in all schools, it's even more frustrating.
Anonymous said…
I'd suggest doing math at home, in a methodical way, with Singapore books or something similar. There's a lot of math to cover before algebra, and it may keep your son interested in math until he tests again. It will also prevent gaps should he end up in an accelerated class at some point. It doesn't have to be much, just a few pages a day.

You don't say why you didn't choose Spectrum...but I don't think you can expect them to offer work beyond grade level. That's just the reality.

Charlie Mas said…
Y, you may have some stories, but the data shows that I'm right and you're wrong. There is no reason to believe that any general education classroom will reliably provide an appropriate academic opportunity for students working beyond Standards. If that were true then no one would enroll their child in APP or Spectrum and there would be no need to distinguish ALOs as anything different from what would happen anyway.

There may be some schools or teachers who choose to differentiate instruction and support student work beyond Standards, but that will evaporate the moment there is a change in personnel or the teacher is pulled to other priorities.

As Bruce Sprinsteen wrote in The River: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true / Or is it something worse" When school or district officials try to pawn off the empty promise of differentiated instruction in a general education classroom as the equivalent to real, appropriate instruction for advanced learners, they are not only providing a poor quality of education for the student, but robbing the student of a better education that they could have had.

Don't do it. And, more to the point, don't come on this blog and spread the lie that it can be done. That's what it is: it's a lie. All of the evidence proves it false. Even in the best scenarios students are getting part-time education instead of full-time education. In the most typical scenarios students are getting no education at all.
Anonymous said…
It's interesting that someone mentioned Hay as serving their APP kids particularly well. The other night at Lincoln, when someone asked if the 100-student growth coming in the fall seemed spread across the north end or if any schools seemed to be sending a higher-than-usual number of kids, Hay was mentioned as one that appears to be sending a large number to Lincoln next year.

I hate to start rumors - I haven't seen numbers to confirm this, and I don't know anything about that school. Are they another site that is dismantling Spectrum? Any Hay parents out there want to comment?

Anonymous said…
it's too bad more schools at the elementary level don't do walk to math and walk to reading. The schools that do seem to provide better opportunities for AL kids.
Middle schools all seem to group kids into honors or different levels of math, based on ability. I know several that will move kids three years up in math.These kids who skip three years, at the non APP sites, are all coming out of non APP neighborhood schools, maybe some from Spectrum schools, and they are evidently prepared, so that shows it is possible.
Now the inconsistency is another problem and the district needs to implement policy that assures kids get appropriate challenge at all schools not just some.
to say it doesnt' happen is incorrect, to say it is currently hit or miss is accurate but to dismiss the efforts and results achieved already is countr productive for all kids.
to deny that the current model leaves hundreds of kids who can't pass two areas of ability testing or achievement out in the cold is wrong as well.
The AL delivery system works for some but fails hundreds if not thousands of kids. APP delivery sa it is creates a two tier system which can be gamed. It';s just plain wrong and something like Portland would be a good way to go.
from my phone, sorry

Anonymous said…
John Hay does not have a spectrum program to dismantle. It is an ALO school. The spectrum program in the region is Lawton and that was dismantled several years ago.

My child left John Hay several years ago for APP because of lack of opportunity. They do try to differentiate there, but the principal told me my child was beyond the range they could differentiate for in the classroom. I was told the differentiation range was about a year. Teachers have too large of class sizes. I don't even see how they would have the time to differentiate.

It does sound like there are more QA parents opting into the program now. When my child was in APP elementary, I was always surprised at how few QA parents chose to send their kids to APP. Lowell and Lincoln were actually fairly easy to get to from QA. I would imagine that the bursting schools have something to do with it. Although, Lincoln is bursting, too.

- former John Hay
Anonymous said…
@ Nicklefront, so you're saying that because some kids graduating from neighborhood elementary schools end up in math 3 yrs ahead in middle school, that's proof that differentiation is alive and well in elementary schools? I'm not buying it. How many of those kids do you think have been getting outside enrichment? I'd guess most, if not all. Parents buy additional workbooks, send their kids to tutoring, enroll in online educational programs, find free videos or resources, etc. If you have a kid who loves and excels at math, you do these things yourself, because the school won't. And as a result, kids tend to move ahead even more quickly--because they "get" the material quickly, the enrichment is likely a better curriculum, they are inspired, they get individualized instruction, etc.

Lynn said…

Stephen Martin is recommending that every elementary and K-8 school be required to implement an ALO program - possibly as early as next fall. Do you think that will meet the needs of more students and reduce future APP enrollment?
Anonymous said…
Nicklefront makes one good point. Without walk to's and effective differentiation at all schools, thousands of kids are under or not served.
Assuming those at APP sites are being served, that is a huge inequity. The two area requirement is also hugely inequitable. So, Charlie, if differentiation is impossible then every gifted kid needs to go to a self-contained school or self-contained classroom within a school to get a decent education.
Is that what you are proposing?
Anonymous said…

My child was placed in algebra in 6th grade coming from a spectrum program. It wasn't because of differentiation in the spectrum program. It was thanks to Khan Academy.

I think differentiated instruction is great in theory. Our experience at the elementary school level was it didn't happen very often. My youngest had a teacher at Whittier who was incredible at it, then we moved to another school and she had to repeat the math she learned at Whittier for half a year before moving on to new material.

Anonymous said…
A follow up thought about differentiation at Whittier. In addition to being a great teacher, she had parents tripping over each other to volunteer in the class. She was able to offer reading groups at several levels because she had so many parents willing to lead a group. I'm sure this made the job easier.

Anonymous said…

This line of reasoning is so frustrating. Why are varsity public school sports ok but "varsity" education not? My child will never make the varsity football team (not that he'd want to), but it would never occur to me to go around talking about how everyone should get the same sports experience.

A child working at grade level and a child working 2+ years ahead do not need the same things. And really, where do you expect the teacher will focus their attention?

Maybe I should call for it. My child is not being served by varsity high school football, so all varsity football players should be mixed with the other football levels at every high school school. The varsity football players should not get the opportunity to play with the kids of similar abilities. Makes a lot of sense, huh?

- former JH
Anonymous said…
not sure we want "varsity" education, JHR. Sports, music, and drama are different from math, science and language arts.Very different.

Anonymous said…

No. I disagree. Everyone has varying degrees of skill in everything. Believe me, no one wants to hear me do a trumpet solo (I have never played) or see my paintings (I can only imagine the horribleness). Still, it would be misguided and ridiculous of me to say that Garfield should not have an elite jazz band because they won't take me.

Pretending all kids have the same academic requirements in a misguided attempt at "fairness" doesn't serve anyone. Why do we have to pretend all kids have the same needs when it comes to education?

I really don't understand this. I know perfectly well that any adult around me is better at doing some things than I am. I also know that I have skills that other adults around me don't have. Why is it different in education? Not better or worse, just different.

-former JH
Anonymous said…
Lynn, It all depends on what ALO means. If it's attractive to prospective APP parents and kids, they'll most likely give it a try. They can always move.
The April 10 minutes of the TF have recommendations including the ALO requirement at all schools, including option schools.
It recommends keeping self-contained for the "most highly capable students". Sounds to me like a smaller APP. single subject service is also mentioned. Walk to math and reading are discussed earlier in the minutes.
Looks like the TF is doing a lot of work and covering a lot of ground.are those their final recommendations?
AL student
Anonymous said…
We had walk to math at our old school and several good teachers that did provide differentiation for reading and math. We also had a strong PTA and volunteer cadre. For walk to math, the teachers had to agree to mix up their classes. Things were going great until we went through the principle shuffle. During which, we lost teachers to retirement and transfers. We had several who were brand new to teaching so it was a steep learning curve. The walk to math got messy. The principal shuffle also took away any consistency and the constant changes big and small just added to the confusion and messy building politics. The end result, several bad years.

The good news is I hear things are improving with a principal who has been there 2 straight years (miracle!) and newbie teachers gaining confidence and skills.
Anonymous said…
Oops, forgot to sign. 3:20 was "another parent"
Anonymous said…
How many levels do folks really expect for walk-to-math? Say you have 5th graders working at 4th grade level, some at early 5th, some mid-5th, others late 5th, plus others at 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, etc. How many different levels can--or should--walk-to's serve?

Lynn said…
The task force won't be defining an ALO program. It will continue to mean whatever each principal prefers.

Most highly capable is the state's terminology for students who require access to accelerated and/or enhanced instruction. Each district decides how these students are identified. Seattle currently identifies students with 98th percentile ability test scores and 95th percentile achievement scores as our most highly capable students. Those qualifying scores might change - but I've seen no indication that is being considered.

Single subject identification does look likely in middle school.


Your child's reading scores seem unusually low given his IQ. Have you considered having him privately evaluated to identify the source of the discrepancy?
Anonymous said…
HIMS mom, From my children's experience, the school had 3 levels: working about 1 year ahead, at grade level,and a smaller pull out group working with PTA paid P/T math tutor, a P/T volunteer who was a retired MS/HS math teacher, and a classroom teacher. There was one cohort group which had some real mathy kids and a couple of the teachers did go beyond the EDM year ahead text with that bunch.

The teachers worked quite hard to coordinate all of this.

another parent
Anonymous said…

@Bestofluck - We started on Singapore Math with our son this past summer. He LOVES it, so we use the intensive practice at home and slip in the advanced work from the higher books. Even though his school also uses Singapore Math, his teacher has actually told him that it is not ok for his parents to give more advanced work at home this because he shouldn't learn more than the rest of the class. However, we persist and also use Kahn Academy (which he also loves). :)

@Lynn - Thanks for the info - we also thought his reading scores were abnormally low considering his cognitive abilities. We are in the process of having him evaluated since we have dyslexia in the family. However, while the evaluators haven't yet ruled out dyslexia, they think it might be an instructional problem rather than a disability.

We received his 7% reading score in December 2012 when we had him tested for APP. At that time, he was in a private school K-2 class. We talked to his teacher about the score and learned the school didn't provide formal reading instruction for young, summer-birthday boys. Rather, they let them play and do art during reading instruction. We immediately started intensive reading instruction, which we continued over the summer, and transferred him to a public school in the Fall. And, we now insist on extra tutoring at school (which we had to fight very hard for since he tested at the 75% in reading in the Fall).

We are still having him assessed periodically - every 3-4 months - because they haven't ruled out dyslexia. He still flips words and letters, and has trouble with some vowel combinations, but can breeze through longer more complicated words. But, the good news is that he recently scored in the 99% on the CELF-5 (Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Fourth Edition) on sentence comprehension, word classes, recall, receptive language, core language, expressive language, etc. So, the evaluators think that as soon as he gains basic word decoding skills he is going to be reading several grade levels ahead.

Just goes to show - not even a private school offers the best education. We had to supplement both while he was in private school and in public to make sure that he is properly challenged.
kellie said…
The question about schools with disproportionate APP enrollment gets examined every year.

Shockingly! The disproportionate enrollment comes from the most over-crowded schools / the adjacent schools. It is not surprising to me that Hay is now on that list. Previously, Bryant, Wedgwood and View Ridge were very disproportionate and not surprisingly those three schools have severe capacity issues. There was also a big uptick in enrollment from Greenlake which is very convenient to Lincoln.

The ONLY way over-crowded schools can try to manage class sizes is to encourage APP qualified students to move to APP. Just a few years ago, many schools worked hard to hold onto their APP qualified kids for a variety of reasons but that is just not the case any longer.
Charlie Mas said…
On 4/29/14 at 11:21 AM joe asked:

"So, Charlie, if differentiation is impossible then every gifted kid needs to go to a self-contained school or self-contained classroom within a school to get a decent education. Is that what you are proposing?"

Here's what I am proposing:

1) The Board sets a policy on Advanced Learning that clearly states who the service is for, the purpose of the service they will get, and why the service is needed. The Policy would direct the superintendent to develop procedures for identifying students and providing the service.

2) I propose that the policy strongly suggest three types of students getting three types of service:

a) A service for students with high cognitive ability (without regard to their academic achievement) focused on independent work - without any specific focus on acceleration, though, of course that will happen. In practice, I envision this as a small (about 500 students K-12) self-contained program working with little or no attention paid to the Standards or Grade Level Expectations. This program should not focus on any of the popular measures of success like test scores, pass rates, or how many years ahead the students are working. Think IPP. This will be the state HC program. There will be a lot of money available for this program because we will not be squandering our state grant money on testing as we do now and we can put it into the classroom instead. The money will go to small class sizes and non-standard instructional materials. The absence of popular measures and a culture that dismisses them should keep the program small.

Charlie Mas said…
... continued

b) A service for high performing students without regard to their cognitive ability focused on supporting work beyond the Standards. In practice, I think this is where the District claims to be going with MTSS. This will be the Tier II advanced intervention available at every school. Because high performing students do not come in convenient 30-packs, it will mean that every elementary and middle school will provide some kind of small group instruction for these students. Full classes may be possible when the numbers work out serendipitously. In high school (and, in middle school in some cases) the service can be provided through placement - students will be placed in classes based on their abilities, not their age. So an incoming freshman may be placed in a junior Language Arts class if the placement is appropriate. The students will, of course, be eligible for high school credit for their work in middle school if it was high school level work. Students will qualify separately in each domain (reading, writing, math, science). Students will qualify for this service through standardized test scores and/or teacher confirmation of skills. There will be clear, objective, and uniform criteria for eligibility across the district. This is not the state grant supported HC service, so those rules (parent/guardian permission, appeals, etc.) will not apply and no additional testing or cognitive ability testing will be required. All qualified children will be automatically get the service. Because this is the MTSS Tier II advanced intervention, the costs will simply part of the cost of implementing MTSS. This service will focus on providing instruction that delves deeper into concepts, applies them in a broader range of contexts, and as a specfic mandate, has no ceiling on acceleration. The focus will be on supporting student work beyond the Standards and Grade Level Expectations. Across the district I expect this program will be huge. In a number of schools the majority of students will be getting this service. I believe that most families with advanced students will prefer this service to the HC program because it will give them what they want most: a no-ceiling program in their neighborhood school. The popular appeal of this service will keep the HC program small.

c) Some kind of opportunity in every general education classroom for every student to be supported in work beyond Standards without meeting any eligibility criteria. This won't cost anything, but it will require a culture change in the district. A School Board Policy is the place to start that culture change.
Anonymous said…
Even though his school also uses Singapore Math, his teacher has actually told him that it is not ok for his parents to give more advanced work at home this because he shouldn't learn more than the rest of the class.

Very, very wrong. I would get my child out of that class ASAP.

As per Charlie's idea: I envision this as a small (about 500 students K-12) self-contained program working with little or no attention paid to the Standards or Grade Level Expectations.
Um...this is what's happening in some classrooms now...and it's horrible. They absolutely need to cover the standards and GLEs just as everyone else. There still needs to be some coherent curriculum. Students still need to be taught basic skills. My child just wants to learn stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. The idea that high cognitive ability means you don't need to be taught or don't need to cover the same general knowledge is mind boggling to me. Perhaps some segment of students are self directed prodigies...but that's a pretty small segment.

The above ideas about students, 1) that you shouldn't work ahead at home (even if you really truly love it) and 2) that high cognitive ability means you don't need to be taught, come from a place of ignorance and bias. Both can be damaging to a student's learning.

Anonymous said…
To add to the conversation (and perhaps touch on some of what Charlie is suggesting for the type "a" service he envisions):

Challenging the Gifted

Anonymous said…
The difficulty I have always had with Charlie's plans is that I know a few profoundly gifted children. They learn very quickly and are in almost every case very advanced. They need both acceleration and access to each other. Neither of those programs would fit their needs- I would not place a very gifted child in a program that did not have a plan for acceleration, so would reluctantly probably choose the one scattered around the city, but then he profoundly gifted child would not have access to peers. I think Charlie's plan would much, much better serve moderately gifted kids, and probably more 2e gifted kids, in the small program, but it seems like such a loss for profoundly gifted kids that I can't get behind it.

I still think more advanced learning options at neighborhood schools is he best way to shrink app down to a size that can allow for more individualized instruction. Nobody leaves a school that is working for them. But it has to come from the district. Parents are completely powerless to make this happen- we have tried. A lot.

Anonymous said…
I second sleeper's concerns. As I have said every time Charlie's proposal arises, neither program would be a good fit for my kid--and I'm sure there are more kids like him out there.

A gifted program that poorly serves kids who are both highly gifted and very advanced/accelerated? Seems like it defeats the purpose.

Lynn said…

If the self-contained program meets children at their level and is focused on independent work, it would allow for more radical acceleration for those students who need it. (As opposed to the current system which denies those kids access to meaningful work.)


I think more families would choose Charlie's program than you think. If the principal and teachers were trained in and enthusiastic about gifted education, I'd trust them to cover the necessary material without rigidly following the CCSS. I would love that actually.
Anonymous said…
If the principal and teachers were trained in and enthusiastic about gifted education, I'd trust them to cover the necessary material without rigidly following the CCSS

Lots of ifs there.

In the current SPS culture, I simply don't see it as a reality, nor do I see CCSS in and of themselves as holding back students or imposing rigidity. The CCSS for ELA are so broadly written and actually encourage increased text complexity (see Appendix A of CCSS). CCSS are not antithetical to gifted ed. CCSS are not the curriculum, but SPS is implementing them without defined curriculum.

CCSS on text complexity

Students are being held back by a culture that does not value gifted ed and by a T&L department that is failing to strengthen the academic program for all students.

Anonymous said…
There are schools that have very good ALO programs. Walk to math with a math block when the whole school has math at the same time. Kids move to the classroom where the level they're at is taught, Test assessments done several times each year, and kids can switch to diff levels when needed. Our school served kids from remedial to advanced calculus & differential equations When we were there the kids who were doing the most advanced math were 3rd &4th graders so they are probably doing even higher level math now. They were not doing extra math outside of school. School hired tutors for most advanced levels with PTA funds. Reading differentiation was done in classroom, classes had bookshelves set up grouped by levels and kids read books of the level they are at & discussed in groups with a class helper (parent, teacher in training, interns) under main teacher's directions. It can be done, but need principal and PTA and parent support. Schools did have a math commitee to set it up originally. Then there was a science committee to set up the science program. Arts committee for music dance drama visual. And the assistant principal started a robotics program with a teacher and a couple of parents a few yrs back. It has been very successful at several competitions. Unfortunately only has enough coaches for two teams so long waiting lists.
I think it depends a lot on the principal and assistant principal and teachers at the school being willing. And parents who have time & money to help. Which unfortunately not every school have. There is a lot of inequity in this district.

Anonymous said…
CCA, care to share which school that is?

Anonymous said…
Mom1stGrader said . . .

@CCA - Yes, what school is that? It sounds like it could work for many, many kids - especially since not all learn math and reading at the same rate. Our school is planning on adopting a school-wide walk-to-math for all grades next year. So, students eligible for upper grade math would go to that classroom - regardless of grade. My only concern is that they have a plan for upping the ceiling for advanced students - as your school seems to have done.

@aghast - My son is now out of the "advanced" 1st grade math class as of this week and back to his primary teacher's class. She is an amazing teacher and is going to do curriculum planning just for him during the math block. He will start on Monday and do 3rd grade math.

I am disappointed that the school gave the "advanced" 1st grade math students to the more mediocre teacher who has seniority. Plus, I learned yesterday that the "advanced" class was made up of kids who passed the final 1st grade assessment at 70%-90%. My son passed the 1st and 2nd grade assessments at 100%, and the early 3rd Grade assessment at 74%. So, he really should have been sent to a higher grade to take math, but they thought he was too young. :(

Reading this thread, it looks like a LONG road ahead to advocate for my son's education. I've had a really disappointing experience with SPS this year and have learned that I have to advocate really hard for my son.
Charlie Mas said…
I don't understand the presumption that independent study would not allow for acceleration. Where would anyone get that idea?

One of the big problems with APP right now is that it is defined as "two grade levels ahead". When that is true, there is a hard ceiling imposed at two grade levels ahead. When that isn't true, which is often the case, there is little or no acceleration at all.

Of course guided independent study would allow for acceleration. And, of course, the students would be taught. They would not just be released in the library to free roam.

Before you jump to conclusions about what you think I mean, please give me the courtesy of at least framing your presumption as a question, rather than as a statement.
Anonymous said…
Because you said the focus was not on acceleration, but instead on independent work. No standards, so no plan for moving faster through them in addition to depth. It sounds like nova, only for the younger grades. I don't think that's the best way to serve the majority of very gifted kids, though I think it is a way to very well serve some of them. I have heard you talk about it a lot before, so I feel I understand it somewhat, but I would love to hear more. My outlier kid was in a project based program billed like that for k- not a good fit. He wanted to have more more more, faster faster faster, in addition to depth,but doing it on his own was isolating. And I find there are some kids like him, though they are outliers even at app.

Of course if the program had amazing teachers who could deftly weave acceleration with depth, it would be great. But you can't plan for a program to have only amazing teachers. Some of them will be mediocre, and what would a mediocre teacher do with that mandate? Spend a long time on projects, low direction for the kids.

That sounds like a much better fit for self directed sort of autodidacts than necessarily very high IQ students. I agree that app, at least at Lincoln, should be allowing more students to go further ahead. It bothers me that it does not. I think if more people who only reluctantly leave their neighborhood school after it flatly refuses to educate their kids for years on end, even small, neutral accommodations, even though it could and really should, could be served there, app could be better. So I like part b of your plan. But I am not sure about part a. I do think it would better capture 2e kids, and I do wish we could better do that now, besides the mild/504/behavior problems app seems to do an especially good job of. But it would do it at a cost to too many other students, and I am not sure it has to be zero sum like that.

TechyMom said…
Does anyone know the history of why IPP was changed to APP?
Charlie Mas said…
I don't have the necessary expertise to address sleeper's valid concerns in detail.

Like the Board, I would only be able to set the frame and I would have to rely on the superintendent and the staff to fill it in.

What could be done - with the available funding if it were not pissed away on testing - is different from what has been done historically.
Anonymous said…

I wonder what your policy would say about how eligibility is determined. There is a LOT of private testing that goes on to determine AP eligibility now. Many of the students DO NOT score high enough of the district-administered CogAT and are qualified through private testing. Would you continue to allow private testing, or say it must be based on the results of district-administered tests? Would you suggest that the district change the test being used?

Lynn said…

Individually administered intelligence tests are generally understood to provide more accurate information than group ability tests - particularly for younger children and twice exceptional students. Because of this (and because state law requires an appeal process to be in place) the district allows families to present private IQ results (obtained at their own expense) and provides individual testing to students who qualify for the FRL program. A better question might be - should the district continue to require families to pay for private testing - or should it be provided free of charge to any family who requests it on appeal?

While I realize that people are suspicious of private test results, it's hard for me to imagine that a professional could be bribed to provide false scores. Is that what you think happens?

Anonymous said…
Many of the students DO NOT score high enough of the district-administered CogAT and are qualified through private testing.

Only the district has this information, yes? The appeals process can be whatever the district decides and it could even choose to not recognize private tests. The law is pretty vague.

WAC 392-170-076 Process for appeal

happy reading
Lynn said…
Yes - the district could probably choose not to consider any new data in the appeal process. Is the goal though to identify the students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments? Or is the goal to identify a random sample of those qualified students - but not so many of them that they can't be served conveniently?
Anonymous said…
You have 1) what is considered best practice and 2) what the district actually does. Sometimes they are the same, but sometimes the district is at odds with best practice or simply incapable of implementing best practice.

If the goal of the district is to follow the law at the bare minimum level, whether they optimize the identification process or not, then it's anyone's guess as to the policy implications.

What is the district's goal?

Charlie Mas said…
anon, the District goal should be described in a policy. In the absence of any policy it is fruitless to make conjecture on the District's goal.

The evidence, such that there is, suggests that they have no goal with regard to advanced learners.
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