Goodbye APP - Hello Highly Capable Cohort

I'm not complaining about changing the name; I think people were forever getting APP and AP mixed up.  But why is Spectrum now "Advanced Learner or Spectrum."  Pick a name. 

Uh, I see this about the webpage: "...remove unnecessarily repetitive or outdated material,.."  Meaning, we got rid of a lot of historical information that might have explained many things.  Don't worry, we're still here at SSCF.

From SPS Communications:

SEATTLE-As school begins and the nomination window for Advanced Learning services opens, the Advanced Learning Office has initiated several enhancements to benefit Seattle Public Schools families: changing some service and program names and streamlining its series of web pages.
These changes are designed to help the Advanced Learning Office more effectively communicate with families of current and potential advanced learners. Strengthening school, family and community engagement is the third goal of the District’s five-year Strategic Plan.

The Advanced Learning nomination window for eligibility testing opened Sept. 1, with an information packet, including required forms, available for download at

The parent permission form deadline for eligibility testing is Oct. 2.
 Service and program name changes
Advanced Learning is rolling out several name changes, transitioning over the course of this school year. The most prominent change is the phasing out of the name Accelerated Progress Program, or APP, which is frequently confused with the unrelated Advanced Placement (AP) program of college-level coursework offered at District high schools. Name changes and additional rationale include:

Highly Capable (formerly Academically Highly Gifted)
Highly Capable is the designation assigned to students whose achievement test scores are at or above the 95th percentile and whose cognitive test scores are at or above the 98th percentile. The renamed designation more closely matches language used by the state in reference to these learners. 

Highly Capable Services (formerly Accelerated Progress Program)
These are the services offered to all students who meet eligibility criteria for a Highly Capable designation, including but not limited to enrollment in self-contained classrooms. The new name more effectively conforms to Seattle Public Schools superintendent procedures that define “services” as required offerings and “programs” as optional, and it reflects recent Washington Administrative Code regulation updates that require districts to serve Highly Capable students at all schools.

Highly Capable Cohort (formerly Accelerated Progress Program)
The Highly Capable Cohort (formerly APP) refers specifically to the self-contained classrooms offered in a limited number of schools and providing a rigorous curriculum for students who meet the Highly Capable criteria. 

“This new name demonstrates our commitment to maintaining the self-contained delivery model which has long been the centerpiece of our services for Seattle’s most highly capable students,” said Stephen Martin, supervisor of Highly Capable Services. 

This commitment has been affirmed by the Advanced Learning Task Force, a group of educators, parents and community members who met over the past school year. The task force, in its August 2014 recommendations, unanimously supported the continuation of self-contained classes and the name change to Highly Capable Cohort as a way to distinguish the self-contained model from other Highly Capable Services offered Districtwide.

Advanced Learner or Spectrum (formerly Academically Gifted)
Advanced Learner is the designation assigned to students whose achievement and cognitive test scores are at or above the 87th percentile but who are not eligible for Highly Capable Services. This is the eligibility threshold for the District’s Spectrum program. (The name Spectrum will remain in place.)

Web page enhancements
The Advanced Learning web pages on the Seattle Public Schools website have been streamlined to reflect the program and service name changes, remove unnecessarily repetitive or outdated material, and improve access and understanding for all readers as the District strives to enhance family outreach as part of its Strategic Plan.

The Advanced Learning Office will continue to update and enhance the web pages. The office welcomes feedback from the entire Seattle Public Schools community.

More information on the District’s Advanced Learning services and programs may be found at


Jon said…
The problem is that a name change is often done in the guise that it is actually accomplishing something, and usually in lieu of doing things that are harder or more expensive.

Renaming things is shuffling deck chairs. It's not actually getting anything useful done.
Anonymous said…
Agreed with the Titanic analogy.

So we have a couple cleaned up Web pages. Total effort what - a day? There's a new name. Wow. There will still be self-contained APP. Contain the restless masses.

BUT BUT BUT the program itself is weak and Spectrum is worse. It is non-existent.

Where is the help for twice exceptional? Where are the resources for highly asynchronously gifted? Where is the curriculum promised years ago and never delivered? Where is the commitment to diversity of economics and race?

And the one that particularly sticks in my craw, why is last year's MAP still the criteria when the district is throwing out the test? MAP was not designed to be a threshold test for access to services of any kind. Bogus that SPS did not change the criteria for testing prior to this school year. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of kids will be left behind again this year when they should be academically catapulted ahead.

Highly Unimpressed
(vs. Highly Capable)
3inAPP said…
Jon, I am actually surprised by the amount of change going on (even before the Board's vote on the task force's recommendations?).

The name change/website are not the only things that have changed. I see in my first day elementary packet a flyer on testing for advanced learning translated into 7 languages. I am pretty sure they have never sent out flyer let alone translated it.

I believe the district has found that the program requires change to be more scalable and inclusive. I welcome more school development and oversight especially as they are committed to keeping what works well in place.

Anonymous said…
I don't understand, what is the difference between Highly Capable (formerly academically highly gifted) & highly capable cohort (formerly APP)?

Anonymous said…
That's awesome about the flyer! and especially translated :)

New HCC parent
"I am pretty sure they have never sent out flyer let alone translated it."

Yes, they have had sent out flyers before but I don't know if they were translated.

CCA, the difference is Highly Capable is the designation for those students who test at that level. Highly Capable Cohort are those students at that level who are IN self-contained classrooms.
Anonymous said…
It's not just a name change, Jon. The name change actually reflects another change, the reduction in "acceleration" as a component of the program. It's now really just about the cohort providing the benefit, since the curriculum is lacking.

Charlie Mas said…
@CCA, the difference between Highly Capable and Highly Capable Cohort is that Highly Capable describes the eligible students and Highly Capable Cohort describes the service delivery model offered at specific sites. The students and the program are not synonymous. Highly Capable Services, which is the new part here, describes efforts to address the academic needs of Highly Capable students outside of the Highly Capable Cohort in addition to the HCC delivery model.

Highly Capable Services is the new element.
Anonymous said…
Thank you Melissa and Charlie, I'm confused because my kids' schedule has some of their classes listed as AHG (which I guess is now called Highly Capable?) instead of APP, so I can't tell if they're still in the APP program or not. They got As last year in the APP classes so they didn't flunk the program or anything. Also got assigned to repeat last year's math class which they got good grades in and passed the EOC with a 4 so don't know why the repeat. Guess I get to spend tomorrow trying to see a counselor. Oh joy!

syd said…
None of the 3 elementary schools my kids attended sent home flyers - ever - in any language. In fact the forms were "stored"behind the admin desks in the school office. Flyers, if they are being sent to all students, are a good sign.
3inAPP said…
Yeah Syd, I don't remember fliers either. I am not sure where they were stored but they weren't distributed.
So yes, flyers have always been available in school offices and yes, many schools did little to promote the programs.

But I recall when my kids were in SPS in elementary, receiving one in the mail. Of course, that was a long time ago.
Charlie Mas said…
In some schools people were told. In other schools the flyers were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard".
Anonymous said…
I wasn't told last year.... But, I did tell other parents after I searched for the nomination process and found information. I think our fliers were posted to the bottom of a filing cabinet.

Deadline is too early. Parents of youngsters are just trying to assess if the current classroom is meeting the needs of their child, and have received no report cards, when they need to decide to nominate.

Too Early.
Anonymous said…
My son just joined APP at JAMS as a 7th grader. I can't tell from his schedule if he's actually in APP or gen ed. Someone above said the APP classes are designated AHG, and my kid does not have any "AHGs" on his schedule. Can someone confirm for me that APP (HCC?) classes at JAMS have any special designation on the schedule? Thank you.

~new and confused
Anonymous said…
I think that you are seeing the manifestation of the dismantling of the advanced learning program throughout the district. At this point we have spent approximately $6000 to supplement the nonexistent curriculum in the APP program. Maybe by assembling the kids into a cohort the parents can more effectively file a class action suit against the district. I for one, would be on board with that.

~old and cynical

Anonymous said…
If you log on to the Source and view your child's schedule you will see the designation "AdvancedLearning - AHG Eligible" listed at the very bottom of the page.

Class wise, your APP (now HCC, though Source uses acronym AHG) student should have Physical Science and Language Arts with an "H" designation. I think Spectrum and APP are mixed for LA/SS this year at JAMS...

Math is supposedly ability based and not linked to APP designation, but the default APP math pathway is Algebra in 7th.

Anonymous said…
We have not found that math placement is ability-based. Instead arbitrary cutoffs are imposed based on MAP scores that conform to the classroom capacity. In other words, if there is not enough classroom capacity to serve able students at a certain level then they are labeled as unable to perform and placed at a lower level where there is classroom capacity.

Anonymous said…
Thank you, ap. I think his schedule is appropriate, but he is not listed as "AdvancedLearning - AHG eligible" on the source.

~new and confused
Anonymous said…
Unfortunately, our experience supports "old and cynical." The last few years of APP middle school have felt like a sham. Overall, we have seen a regression of skills and a growing deficit in general content knowledge. So much time has been spent on posters, projects, and powerpoints. We're already heavily supplementing math. I don't even know how to begin making up for the other deficits. I would love to know what others are doing.

But I really don't know if this is just the way it is in Seattle schools, or if APP is especially messed up and we've entered at a time of serious decline.
Anonymous said…
From the Weekly News by Principal Watters (HIMS):
"Last spring as we were developing the master schedule we were forced to “unblock” our Language Arts and Social Studies classes (students no longer have those classes back to back – usually with the same teacher) to meet the needs of our students.
Hamilton has both the luxury and the challenge of offering students a multitude of options in our elective programs. We offer five (5) levels of Spanish and Japanese (from traditional language classes to immersion continuation), five (5) different levels of band and orchestra, three (3) different choirs, drama, art and PE all in addition to three distinct core academic tracks and six (6) levels of math. We have several students who take classes that are only offered once a day and it became impossible with the constraints of a blocked Language Arts and Social Studies class to create a schedule that also permitted students to pursue a world language, music and in some cases advanced math studies.
As the principal, I made the difficult decision to “unblock” those classes so we could continue to offer the rich electives and advanced math classes for students to take."

Mom, heard any reaction at HIMS to this announcement?
Anonymous said…
As far as HIMS and "unblocking," I'm not sure how big of a deal it is for students as long as teachers coordinate the content in what used to be blocked LA/SS classes. For the past few years at HIMS there has been at least one blocked LA/SS class with two different teachers - each teacher has 5 class periods, 2 LA/SS blocks and 1 shared blocked class. If "unblocking" also means LA/SS are no longer integrated content wise, well that's another story.

I'm guessing schedule flexibility is more important to some students - with separate LA and SS classes it is easier to schedule the language and music you want. There might be more scheduling issues at JAMS because the LA/SS classes are blocked.

For teachers, blocked schedules mean fewer students. You have 90 some students instead if 150 some students. That means a lot fewer essays or tests to grade at one time.

Anonymous said…
Honestly, I don't think people care that much, as the LA/SS program there was already such a mess. No curriculum, just a hodgepodge of what teachers pull from the internet or wherever, pointless group projects, little to challenge and inspire kids, overemphasis on teachers' own interests at the expense of what should be core subject area coverage, etc. It's hard to imagine that things will be any worse with the change, but who knows? I think parents are going to need to pay close attention to how things shake out this year. (HIMS is also "aligning" SS across all three services/programs this year--HCC/APP, Spectrum and GenEd--so that everyone in the same grade is covering the same topic. The idea is that the classes will be differentiated, but there's a real risk that this wont happen.

Anonymous said…
Parents received the Weekly News this morning.

Curious to see if HIMSmom is right about people don't care that much any more about LA/SS because it was already such a mess before.

Anonymous said…
...the LA/SS program there was already such a mess. No curriculum, just a hodgepodge of what teachers pull from the internet or wherever, pointless group projects, little to challenge and inspire kids, overemphasis on teachers' own interests at the expense of what should be core subject area coverage, etc.

This is what we experienced at HIMS as well. We are more concerned about what is getting taught (or not taught in many cases) than if the LA and SS are scheduled back to back. I think one concern is once the classes get intentionally separated schedule-wise is that on a program level the integration of LA/SS material may also be lost.

Anonymous said…
@ ambivalent, I'm not sure the intent is necessarily there for LA and SS material to be integrated at all. It's possible LA is completely separated from SS. Hard to say. The new scope and sequence for SS was previously released, but how that fits with what's covered in LA is a mystery. I know LA and SS content weren't linked for all grades at HIMS last year... There has been talk of an overall Humanities scope and sequence, but I haven't seen it.

Anonymous said…
I'm sorry. Watters says they were "forced" to unblock LA/SS? She has wanted to do that since she came to HIMS.

How does that address the fact that the 8th grade "curriculum" had NOTHING to do with what APP should be?

That's why parents don't know what to say about the change. It didn't do anything to assuage the actual problem. Blocking at younger ages, especially 6th, is really important for the transition to MS.

open ears
Star Girl said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
I'm a parent of a new kindergartener who plans to test for AL. I have been aware of the program and tuned in for a while, so I was looking for the flyer that went out and knew about the early deadline. I feel bad for those who aren't so tuned in.

While it's great a flyer went out, I found it to be a joke personally. It's poorly presented since it references the need for high MAP scores, which of course kindergarteners don't yet have. The deadline to apply isn't very obvious. And the need to go online to download the form is an unnecessary barrier (I wish they would just print the Parent/Guardian Permission Form on the reverse side of the flyer). And last but not least, the URL on the flyer only works if you include the www in the URL. If you type in you get a 404 page error. Minor maybe, but a block nonetheless.
I hate that the testing is opt-in on a short timeline in the first place. I am doubtful that this flyer catches many families who weren't already tuned in to the AL testing process.
change is coming said…
I recycled mine but it does have a number to call, no?

I understand no email / computer / not up to your liking URL... but no phone?

Most experts aren't even convinced that k testing is relevant. The state believes it is, so to my understanding a concerted effort will be made to bring all K teachers up to speed on identification so that those students can receive services that school year. A big change but still dealing with 5/6 year olds so IMHO you need to think about this in perspective.
newby insider said…
If you have a kindergartener who taught themselves to read at 3 and discovers chapter books in Kindergarten, watching them carry home daily sheets of work, with ONE LETTER on them and pictures that start with the letter that they need to color - its confusing, disturbing, and - as days turn to week turn to MONTHS - heartbreaking. (Of course we spoke with the non-SPS teacher. Multiple times) Lead to my point? I don't know what part of the "testing of Kindergarteners" is unreliable, but we must have a way to prevent this mind-numbing, profoundly discouraging mental imprisonment for our youngest learners that DO NEED such a lifeline. To me, all this going on about getting a flyer, or not, or translated, sounds ridiculous, given the relatively much larger barriers of a VERY RIGID AND EARLY DEADLINE plus additional parental signup requirement (how many of the other SPS tests do parents have to sign up for?) If you are trying to get into SPS, a $90 testing fee was required - though I see no mention of fees this year - if it's free for all taxpayers now, I commend AL and SPS. I'd rather see this testing as the default for all students - then AL's job would be outreach to the appropriate parents/guardians, translator at the side as necessary. Cost you say? I say, the raison d'etre of our schools is...academic education of our children.
madbeast9999 said…
I just would like to point out the blatant racist and offensive undertones this name entails. Most of the students in the Highly Capable Cohort are white and Asian. "Highly Capable" suggests that students in the General Education classes are therefore LESS capable, many of whom are students of color. The Advanced Placement Program was a much more neutral name. For a school system that prides themselves on being tolerant, it seems there is still a lot of work to do.

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