Proposed Advanced Learning Policy

Let's give the proposed Advanced Learning policy some thought and see where it leads us. Schools had better start thinking about it and right quick because School Board policies become effective immediately upon approval by a majority vote of the Board. That means that any services promised in the Advanced Learning policy will have to be delivered immediately after the vote on December 3. Those services are supposed to be provided in every school and they will be required to be in place on December 4. The Kindergarten services will have to be in place at the start of the second semester, Monday, February 2. Has anyone asked if the schools are ready to deliver?

The policy is surprisingly specific about what they have to provide: "Advanced Learning instructional programs will include differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities." The policy says"will", not "may". It says"and", not "or". These are all required elements for every school.

And these services will have to be provided at every school because, as the policy notes,
"The Board also recognizes, consistent with the definition of basic education under state law, that students capable of performing at significantly advanced academic levels require specialized services in order to meet their basic educational needs."
So advanced learning services are part of basic education and therefore need to be available at every school as part of the basic education program.

I think it's kind of interesting that the policy and the procedure often use the word "program". That's a word that the District was trying to get away from using. But you know how the District's lexicon works. They redefine everything. Currently the definition of "program" can be found in policy 2200:
"Program: A program may offer educational opportunities that are not mandated by federal, state, or local law or regulations. While schools offer a variety of approaches to instruction, using a particular teaching strategy does not create a program under this policy. Students access programs through an established assignment process consistent with the student assignment plan.Students mustopt in and/or qualify for the program,"
Since the Board has determined that advanced learning services are part of basic education, they are, in fact, required by state law and, therefore, they are services, not programs. Of course, the District is not very good at remembering how they have defined words and they are not careful about how they use them. If the staff had ever done any real work on their Equitable Access Framework (as they promised to do) they would get these things straight, but that's not likely to happen.

Families with advanced learners might want to put their principals on notice that, effective December 4 they will be required to provide differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities. Families should warn the principals that, on that day they will be back to ask how those services are delivered and they will expect an answer or contact the Executive Director of schools for their region and, if necessary, the Ombudsman. With this policy families finally have something they can demand and demands that they can enforce.

I wonder if the Board knows that. I wonder if the school staffs know it. I wonder if anyone knows it.


Jon said…
But the question is: Or what? If a school fails to do this, what happens?

I suspect the answer is nothing. Will the staff, Executive Director, Ombudsman, Superintendent, or Board do anything if a school provides no differentiation, acceleration, or deeper learning opportunities? If the basic educational needs of advanced learners are not being provided, will anyone care, be penalized, or do anything to fix it?
Anonymous said…
What Jon said. Just because there's a policy, doesn't mean it will happen--or that there will be any consequences if they don't.

And I disagree that the language is all that specific. "Advanced Learning instructional programs will include differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities." It doesn't say all teachers or even all sites need to provide all three of these, so it could be more a menu of options. And what do these really mean? I suspect you'll be able to give a kid a few extra worksheets and call it "differentiation" or "deeper learning opportunities"--or heck, why not check both boxes!

The Supt Procedures associated with the policy don't provide any further clarity--if anything, they add to the confusion. Whereas the policy requires content acceleration, the procedures require accelerated pacing--so it seems this could mean going faster/deeper, but not further ahead. (And this seems to be consistent with some of the HCC middle school LA/SS scope and sequence work, which has as a "benefit" that using if for non-HCC groups the kids can be studying the same things at the same time--so HCC not accelerated.)

I doubt there are very many gen ed classrooms today that provide absolutely NO differentiation or opportunities for deeper which case, don't they meet the requirement already? I suspect there will be a few teachers and schools who will take this seriously and try to better serve these kids, but I really don't expect a lot of meaningful change. Maybe SPS has just worn me down too much for optimism.

HalfFull (and still trying, but feeling more half empty these days)
Anonymous said…
I'd expect an effort to try to keep parents from going to HCC sites as the sheer number of kids is beginning to overwhelm the system. What happens when Garfield can no longer accept all the HCC kids who want to attend? Will it go to a lottery?
Charlie Mas said…
Supposedly, schools will be required to describe their advanced learning services in their CSIPs starting this year.

I'll believe that when I see it.

Schools don't ever really have to do anything, they only need to claim that they are doing it.
advlearningmom said…
No mention of what it takes to determine what merits content acceleration? Is this teacher discretion? Tests? How do we measure how much acceleration is going on?
Greeny said…
Does this just open the window for the district to lose (by intention, or as a newly weakened "line" in the capacity shell games) perhaps the clearest measurable educational benefit remaining (for reasons Jon, HalfFull,advlearningmom allude to) offered to these outlier 98%+ kids...a required cohort together?
Anonymous said…
Or... WORKSHEETS. That's differentiation, kids. At least in SPS, where the letter of the law can be followed, and the spirit completely ignored.

--Multiple Rodeos
Anonymous said…
It's probably time to be careful when using "outlier" in relation to APP qualified in Seattle. 15% (or whatever it is now) doesn't fall within the definition of "outlier".

The parents in APP who do have outlier students continue to decry the watering down of the program.
It's been clear for a few years now that the program is allowed to exist at such inflated levels in order to alleviate the lack of space/overcrowdig in north-end schools.

Also, I'm not a worksheets advocate but 28 children in a primary classroom is a travesty for everyone involved. Putting your energies into making sure the lower class size/student-teacher ratio law is enacted will be the best guarantee that HC and all other students will receive real and significant differentiated instruction. Student numbers for special education teachers are capped for a reason--they must have an individualized plan for each student (IEP). Classroom teachers who have 28 first graders are being asked to do the same thing--with no help or support.

Please be careful when bemoaning that your HC student's needs aren't being met, as though that is a HC isolated threat in General Ed. MANY students' needs aren't being met in such a set-up-to-fail environment. Most importantly, don't jump on the blame-the-teacher bandwagon--SPS class sized are simply outrageous.

--enough already
Charlie Mas said…
Let's consider a few different scenarios for the new policy.

1) A plot to destroy Advanced Learning. Starting with this one because it's the one of greatest interest (and regarded as the highest probability). With this policy, every school will have to describe how they serve advanced learners in their CSIP. It can be a complete fiction with no connection with reality, but it has to be there. Lots of families who have experienced A.L.O.s can attest to this. Once these "services" are in place, it will be perfectly reasonable to ask why the District should bother to create any kind of programs like APP or Spectrum. After all, every school - they claim - is ready with a plan to serve advanced learners and they all do it adequately. Hence, no need for any additional effort. Shut down the programs.

2) MTSS replaces Advanced Learning. This, to my reckoning is the most likely outcome. Students who are found to be ill-served by the standard curriculum (Tier I) because diagnostic testing shows that they need more challenge will get an alternative curriculum (Tier II) delivered to them in their neighborhood school and, in many cases, in their general education classroom. Whatever solution the school chooses (from the occassional additional worksheet to small group instruction to grade skipping all the way to parallel instruction) the District will deem adequate. That's whether it actually happens or not. For a few students, however, for whom even Tier II is inadequate, there will be a Tier III program at a selected site in their middle school service area. This will look like Spectrum for a fraction of APP students, A.L.O. for the rest of the APP students and most of the Spectrum students, and nothing for everyone else. And, since a lot of A.L.O.s are nothing already, it will really mean nothing for almost everyone except a few students at schools that actually support advanced learners and those few students in the Tier III programs.

3) Something real at every school. I only include this here out of a sense of fairness. It's too unlikely to ever occur. Let's remember that A.L.O.s are voluntary right now. So only schools that claim an interest in serving advanced learners have them, and even then most of them are nothing. There isn't going to be any kind of effective program at schools that are openly hostile to the idea.
Anonymous said…
OrnamentedHCC is going to implode. As the % of north end students reaches 20, it will be obvious we have a two tier system of select vs regular school. Not in terms of money, but of FRL ans SpEd and reduced range of ability. It's becoming clear that kids who are HCC and stay in genes programs are getting a more comprehensive education, are performing as well or better on Amplify and getting the socially diverse experience lacking in HCC and will be getting into better colleges as a result.
That's the bottom line, better college choices because they have a more diverse experience. Teachers mostly dislike HCC, they're an egalitarian bunch, and are doing a great job of challenging those HCC kids who stay genes, as they find those parents and their kids are more socially aware and don't want to be isolated in the HCC.
The smart parents are pulling kids out of Lincoln or forgoing HCC middle school.
A student can take two years ahead math at any middle school and other classes are aligned so each middle can group and diffentiate to provide challenge for any student except actual outliers. The only difference is science. No biology at gened middle schools and maybe if that is dropped from HCC, for alignment purposes, HCC will no longer be attractive, academically.
I think parents should consider how it will look when two kids with similar SAT scores, similar grades in the hardest classes at their high school, similar extracurricular activities, yet one opted for HCC and one opted for gened; which student is more attractive to a university? It seems "well-rounded" is the key to a scholarship and good offers and admission offices know our district and our HCC program.
Anonymous said…
Sorry for the typos, spell check on my tiny phone and ornamented was the the cap ha word, not the beginning of my comment.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
While I understand where you are coming from with your comment, I think you forgot one important thing to consider:
the truly HCC students, you know the ones who learn differently, will be bored to death in the gen ed classroom and will check out from school completely in a few years.
Even if it is true what you say about the college admission office, most of these students won't be there in high school to apply to a good college (because of earlier behavior, social, etc issues) because of those unchallenged years.
- HCC mom
Charlie Mas said…
Let's please try to remember that every single student in APP (or HCC) was in a general education classroom.

Let's please try to remember that no adult responsible for a child's education willingly disrupts that education, changes the child's school, takes the child away from friends, adds to the child's daily travel time, complicates play dates with classmates, or invites the ire of their community unless they have to.

All APP (HCC) students were in general education classrooms and, if those classrooms had worked well for them they would still be there. Every single APP (HCC) family has a story about why they had to take their child out of the general education classroom and a lot of those stories are heartbreaking tales about how the child spent months if not years without learning anything.

Let's not have any more ridiculous talk about how general education classrooms do a perfectly fine job educating advanced learners because we all know that is false. Yes, some advanced learners are happy and successful in general education classrooms, but that is rarely due to any virtue of the classroom.
Charlie Mas said…
Now, let's consider the high percentage of north-end middle school students who are APP-eligible. It is close to 20%.

What's up with that?

There are a number of possible reasons, but I'm not sure any of them matter.

The thing that matters is that our middle school classes need to be a lot more rigorous academically than they have been.
Lynn said…

I don't think that 20% number is correct. Last year 598 of the 4,652 (12.9%) middle school students in the north attendance areas (including McClure) were APP-eligible.

In the Central (WA) region, it was 167 of 1,226 (13.6%).
In the SE, it was 84 of 2,336 (3.6%).
In the SW, it was 92 of 1,879 (4.9%).

Do our middle schools need more rigor for every student, or do they need to provide more rigorous classes for the students who need that? (That would likely require more self-contained classes.)
Anonymous said…
I think Charlie is wrong about parents moving to HCC solely because there are problems at their assigned school. Many that I have talked to about their reasons say it's about college. Their kids are happy, the parents are not. They see gened as a potential roadblock to success and move their kids to give them a better opportunity.The kids frequently suffer until new friends are made and never recover the sense of being in a neighborhood with school chums. Same for private school kids. I find it's the rare child who wants to move to private either.
As for the benefits of going HCC, read the college admissions blogs like this one:

It makes it pretty clear that a happy well-adjusted student who takes on challenges in and out of school will succeed in getting into a good college no matter where they attend, in fact relatively weak high schools can be a bonus.
The argument that kids will drop out if not in HCC is pretty specious, also that schools don't do a good job with AL kids across the board. It's just a rational to keep this academic apartheid continuing. If teachers and staff don't care about AL students, then do they also not care about SpEd students and ELL students and gened students? Why are they in education if they don't want to teach anyone. Talk about ridiculous .

Anonymous said…
Another thing that is really sad and really makes HCC kids less likely to get into their school of choice. Parents can be seen, rightly or not, as trying to keep their kids away from poor, SpEd, ELL and other gened kids. Elite schools do not want elite kids necessarily, they want well adjusted kids experienced in dealing with all kinds of peers, not just kids like them. Read the stories of admissions officers, they like kids who have overcome obstacles, who've made lemonade out of a lemon of a school or district, not just the ones who get to go to school with their own kind in a segregated program.
Look it up, don't take my word for it.
Anonymous said…
I don't know who you have talked to, but many parents of APP students have been in exactly the situation Charlie described: their child was very bored in class and therefore getting into trouble or hating school, many students couldn't make friends or fit in with others, as well as not learning anything.

Actually, I didn't want to send my son to Lowell APP because I heard that the kids were often quite different. But then he kept getting into trouble, partly because he was bored even in his Spectrum class, and his teachers repeatedly recommended he switch to APP. He also went into a total meltdown the first time he didn't get a perfect score in spelling and the other kids made fun of him.

I did not want him to expect to get perfect scores. I want him to be challenged and have other students who do better than him, so he will actually develop a more balanced self-esteem.

It hasn't been perfect, but it's definitely been the right decision for him both academically and socially. He's among peers who have similar abilities as well as challenges, which is helpful.

Many other parents feel the same way. Some even report that their kids say that they finally feel "normal" when they go to APP, instead of being the class prodigy who's different from everyone else and has no friends.

Also, FYI, there are many students with 504s and even IEPs in the APP program. Qualifying for HCC can be accompanied by some significant learning disabilities.

Anonymous said…

You say that "Parents can be seen, rightly or not, as trying to keep their kids away from poor, SpEd, ELL and other gened kids."

Actually, many of the APP students come from neighborhood schools that are wealthy, with few poor, SpEd, or ELL students. Many of the APP schools are located in much higher-poverty neighborhoods than many of the kids come from (Lowell-previously, Thurgood Marshall, Jane Addams MS and Garfield). So actually, in many cases, parents are putting their kids in more contact with diverse student populations, not less.

Anonymous said…
Unfortunately mom of 2, it's still separate even though the students are in the same building. There are more opportunity to cross over, but for whatever reasons, there is a divide.
Anonymous said…
Megan, college applications don't ask about elementary and middle school, so I don't know where you get the idea that participation in HCC is somehow a turn-off to college admissions officers. And there isn't really much of an HCC program in Seattle high schools--most of these kids are integrated with the gen ed population at Garfield. Ingraham IBX is the exception, but that's part of the larger school, too.

I'm not following your logic on this one.

Anonymous said…
I'd like to look at another angle. Gifted ed got it's foothold in US education as a result of the arms race with the USSR and the "need" for for more brainpower to compete vis-a-vis the military-industrial machine. It still works that way except it's also just plain old business who wants brainpower.
They don't care about your child's well being beyond the bottom line.Gates et al is harangued on this site yet HCC is the kind of program they love in public schools. It's a charter school disguised as a gifted program. Entry is primarily for the already well-educated, no distractions from the less fortunate and less prepared masses.Prep school for university with the same crowd and then off to Boeing or Raytheon to make cruise missiles.
It's like the math adoption. Who likes the "discovery" math? It's the theoretical physicists and pure math professors, the real cutting edge men and women who see that the way to find new truths is by teaching kids that there are many ways to see things. To look for and tease out those ideas that will solve the true mysteries of existence.
Clif Mass is a great guy and he's right about student being under prepared for university, but his focus is on practical applications of math, meteorology. Used by business and government for very practical things, like energy, farming, transportation, military, commercial space exploitation. He's not a cosmologist or theoretical guy. He's teaching engineers.
I guess our board decided we need to focus on giving this world more engineers and less theoreticians and visionaries.
Oh well.

Anonymous said…
Im confused mom,
Why is Garfield a guaranteed spot for all 8th grade HCC students if there nothing there for them? They are put in gened classes at Garfield, really? I think perhaps you are misinformed. Colleges are well aware of SPS and it's HCC program and the fact that a child is in the program is part of their transcript. Did you check out my link?

Anonymous said…
I'm not confused. There really isn't anything for them at Garfield other than AP classes--which are open to anyone with the prerequisites. The Garfield guaranteed pathway is so that, by virtue of a larger HCC population, there can be a larger array of AP offerings. That also means increased likelihood of having an HCC kid in your class, but they are by no means segregated. Freshman entering from HCC take the same LA and History classes as most everyone else. Math is not part of HCC middle school, so all kids take classes based on their levels. Science is the only difference-- and HCC kids don't get a special class, they are just able to access some classes earlier because prereqs are already met.

Anonymous said…
So if a few more AP classes were added to the other HS's, there would be no reason to offer Garfield to the HCC?
Would that be OK with you?

Lynn said…

Can you share with us the personal experiences with APP that have informed your opinion(s)? I suspect you are all the same person. If not, I'd like to hear from all of you.

If you're going to spout opinions about the program and specific schools, kindly take a moment to do some research first.
Megan, unfortunately I could not follow your train of thought.

"The argument that kids will drop out if not in HCC is pretty specious,..."

Who said HCC kids would drop out if there was not a program?

"It's just a rational to keep this academic apartheid continuing."

Did you mean "irrational?"

"..not just the ones who get to go to school with their own kind in a segregated program."

That is a very loaded statement that has no basis in reality. Every child is different even ones who test well on HCC tests.

Megan, you need to go back and read Charlie's post about cohort. It's NOT just about classes. If that were true, then no, you wouldn't even need a program.

Anonymous said…
Megan, I believe the district understands the value of HC kids having access to other HC kids, for social reasons in addition to academic. If you take all the HCC 8th graders and disperse them across all the district's multiple HS sites, some schools will have very small HC cohorts. Since these HC kids end up in classes with non-HC kids, it may be very challenging for these kids to find their peer group in such situation.

As far as what would be ok with me, that's irrelevant. I was just clearing up info that didn't make sense from your original post. If I were designing AL services, they would not look like our current approach.

And by the way, are you suggesting SPS has done some analysis of HCC- enrolled vs. HCC-eligible and how they differ on the new Amplify assessments??? I'm skeptical. But if you have data to share, please do!

Anonymous said…
Sorry for the confusion Melissa, I know you have a lot to do and keeping track of every comment is impossible. I was responding to the statement "will be bored to death in the gen ed classroom and will check out from school completely in a few years. " by a poster and I dropped the "e" an the word "rationale".
Old keyboard, don't you know.
What's your problem with "own kind"?
HCC is a group that fits a tested criteria, by definition it's a group of the same kind of students.
Anyways, to mom's point. With so many kids in the HCC, as well as HC kids who will be at local high schools already, there will be enough to form peer groups(whatever that means to you). And it is important what you think, you apparently have kids in the program, in the cohort part of the program, and you have ideas on how it works best for your kids and, I would hope since you post here often, Ideas on how the program works for all kids. I have HC kids who do not want to be in the cohort and are not and will not be in the cohort, so I have a different perspective. I see the cohort as limiting my children's possibilities and horizons and am just sharing my ideas and thoughts as well.

Anonymous said…

I don't know any actual mathematicians who like Discovery math. I know a few mathematicians and they all use Singapore-style curricula to teach their own children, because they know that kids need sound fundamentals in order to do pure math. It would be like teaching kids to be poets without ever teaching them how to spell or the difference between an adjective and an adverb (you may think this is a good idea, but ask any successful writer if they think this is a good idea). The people who prefer discovery math (in my experience) are people who are uncomfortable with math.

-married to a "real" mathematician
laurenbaa said…
You have HCC kids who don't want to do APP. Great. Many people with HCC kids find APP (even with all of its problems and shortcomings) a better fit for their kids than a gen ed classroom. You say that you are only providing your POV, but frankly, you're coming across as very defensive and judgmental. Everyone has a different experience and every child is different.

My child (who is currently a 9th grader at Garfield) didn't join APP until middle school. He was happy in his elementary school, but by 5th grade it had become apparent to us and to his teacher that he was lacking challenge from his peers in the classroom. This was changing him. He was reluctant to participate unless he knew he had the right answer, the kids looked to him as the "final word" so there was no one to challenge him, and although the teacher tried to provide differentiated instruction (especially in math and science where my child is quite strong) that often ended up taking the form of worksheets in the library, because he was the only child working at that level. He didn't want to change schools for 6th grade, but I promised that he could return to his old school (which was k-8) if Washington didn't work out. He loved it. Yes, most of his friends are APP, but many are not. I was worried that putting him in a cohort of "like" kids in the middle of a diverse school would cause divisions, but that didn't happen. It helps that he's in the music program and he's made lots of different types of friends through that. There is no APP cohort at Garfield, but because of the prerequisites he got at Washington, he is taking math, science and social studies ahead of where he would have been able to if he had stayed in gen ed. Just my experience, for what it's worth.

Lauren (GHS mom)
Anonymous said…
@ Lauren,

Quick question: you said "There is no APP cohort at Garfield, but because of the prerequisites he got at Washington, he is taking math, science and social studies ahead of where he would have been able to if he had stayed in gen ed."

Has GHS allowed your son to skip into AP World History after all? We were told this was no longer allowed (effective this year), and that all HCC incoming freshman would have to take the Honors World History class first like everyone else. Is that not what's happening?

Anonymous said…
Megan -

Just my two cents on colleges preferring kids who attend a "regular" gen-ed high school vs. an "HCC" high school...

Colleges love kids from Garfield because it is a school that offers a wide variety of opportunities for students to pursue: Music, Post Outdoor Leadership, ASB, Service Clubs, Theater, Sports...etc. (same as any other high school in the city).

Plus you have the most diverse population of kids in the district, in an area of the city that provides a social environment that teaches the kids about living and participating in an urban, global world.

That in addition to the large variety of AP classes + the HCC cohort provides a fantastic learning environment for our HCC kid.

It may not be the best fit for all kids, but suggesting that colleges will "ding" kids for attending an HCC high school is ridiculous and completely wrong based on the college list of schools that accept GHS graduates every year.

-GHS Parent

laurenbaa said…
HIMS mom... You are correct about the Honors World History for 9th graders instead of AP World History, although several of my child's previous elementary school classmates were unable to get into that and had to take garden-variety World History instead.

laurenbaa said…
An additional word on World History... Originally, I was very annoyed that APP 9th graders were no longer permitted to move directly into AP World History, but I no longer am. Honors World History has been very interesting and certainly rigorous and my son loves his teacher. So... all is good.

It is true that sometimes we have to remind ourselves that it's not important in and of itself how quickly our kids can accelerate up the high school path!

Anonymous said…
Wouldn't a solution to your child's problem have been to keep other HC students at the local school and therefore provide a peer group? I feel you and other HCC parents adopt a sinking ship mentality and just want to get on a boat with your own kind. You appear to judge other children(gened) as detrimental to your child's education and seem defensive about your decision to go the HCC route.
I admit I am very disturbed by the burgeoning HCC, it threatens the fabric of fairness and diversity of this district and, yes, I'm very defensive, as the pro-HCC stance of the blog owners and majority of posters is very intimidating.
I know dozens of HCC students and parents and I don't give them any grief in person, as I respect their choices and they respect mine. However, as this blog is about the district and it's policies, I feel OK criticizing what I see as a flawed approach to serving the majority of students in the HCC. I feel it is appropriate to comment as the HCC is part of the district, a substantial % in the northend, and the issues we are discussing are going to be acted upon eventually. I feel you and Lynn and others just want to shut down any dissenting opinions and maintain the status quo.
That's not how public school works, I'm afraid.

laurenbaa said…
I am not at all defensive about deciding to go APP. It was an extremely hard decision for us because we were very happy at our elementary school. I am simultaneously very pleased that we decided to stay at the elementary school through 5th grade *and* that we decided to move to Washington for middle school. That was the right choice for my child. If a truly differentiated program had been available in my son's k-8 school, we may have made a different decision. It depends on what that program looked like. The school does differentiate in math in middle school, but not to the extent that Washington does.

Honestly, by 5th grade, my son's class of 70 kids had already lost 3 or 4 kids to APP and Lakeside and the next year the class lost 3 more kids. It is true that when the more academic kids peel off, the remaining kids lose the opportunity to be challenged by and challenge those kids. This is in no way a rebuke to the non-APP kids, several of whom my son is still close to.

One of the reasons why I refused to consider APP before middle school is that I worried about surrounding my son with only APP kids and -- as I told my husband -- there are more important things to get out of elementary school than how fast your child can learn calculus. Frankly, I worried that putting my child in a very diverse school like Washington with only a bunch of white kids from well-off families in the academic classes. But my son made friends across the APP line. And you keep talking about "our kind" but the APP kids my son is friends with are actually pretty diverse. Less racially diverse than I would like, but they are socio-economically diverse as well as my interests and personality. I'm not trying to shut down discussion at all because I found myself having to change my own mind and re-assess the assumptions that I was hanging on to about what APP was like. Everyone is better off my asking questions and challenging the status quo if need be.

laurenbaa said…
*sigh* Sorry for the typos. I wish I could edit after the fact!

Charlie Mas said…
Megan, are you laboring under the delusion that the HCC curriculum is somehow "better" than the general education program?

You're troubled by the "segregation" of HC students, but you don't appear bothered by schools keeping third graders in separate classes from the first graders or the fifth graders. Why not? Surely our teachers can differentiate instruction well enough to meet the academic needs of third graders in either the first grade classroom or the fifth grade classroom, right? And people don't work exclusively with others their same age, do they? So why do we allow schools to persist in this age-based segregation?

Isn't it unfair that the third graders, by luck of their birthdate, get better instruction than the first graders? And isn't it also unfair that they don't get the same instruction as the fifth graders?

Oh, right. Because third graders are working on different lessons that first graders and fifth graders. Because it would be better for the students and the teachers if classes were taught at one grade level and not up or down two grade levels in addition to that one grade level.

And let's remember that the third grade instruction isn't better than the first grade instruction. It is, however, appropriate for third graders and would be inappropriate for first graders, just as the fifth grade instruction would be inappropriate for third graders.

What, exactly, is your beef? It appears that you are troubled that students who need a different lesson get that different lesson. More than that, you're troubled that the classrooms are divided by the lessons they are giving.

If you approached this from a pedagogical perspective instead of a political perspective, you might see it differently.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for being so civil.
It does seem that you agree that having HC students remain at their local schools would benefit children such as yours.That's pretty much my point in a nutshell.It's that panic-selling mentality that drives up the HCC numbers, I think.
I'm very happy yours is doing well and I appreciate your kind tone.

Charlie Mas said…
Megan wrote: "However, as this blog is about the district and it's policies, I feel OK criticizing what I see as a flawed approach to serving the majority of students in the HCC."

HCC may be flawed, but it is a clear improvement over trying to serve these children in the general education classrooms. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the data and the real life experiences of thousands and thousands of families.
Anonymous said…
I'm starting to think a pathological perspective might be in order.

laurenbaa said…
Sometimes I think that we all have pathological perspectives!

Lynn said…

I'd like to understand your point of view. It sounds like your children's school is working for you. What then, is the source of your distaste for the HCC service delivery model? How do you feel the existence of the cohort is limiting opportunities for your children?

I agree that a child who is a high achiever might stand out more at a non-HCC school and that is a benefit in the college admissions process. That potential advantage doesn't outweigh the cost of having unhappy teenagers in our case.

My kids attended a school that was much more economically and racially segregated than the (south of the ship canal) APP schools and we don't miss that a bit. They were not happy there both because they didn't connect with their classmates and because the classroom pace was not appropriate for them. I don't think trying to solve those problems makes us elitist. I also agree with your statement that "a happy well-adjusted student who takes on challenges in and out of school will succeed." My problem was that my kids weren't happy or well-adjusted and they weren't provided with challenging work in school.

As for there being a cohort at every school if the HCC were disbanded, you're assuming every neighborhood is like yours. The cohort isn't there in mine.

The HCC isn't necessary for every eligible child. The good news is that the district now believes it has to serve those students wherever they are. Are you encouraged by that? What are you hoping/expecting your school to do differently?
Anonymous said…
Megan, I really take issue with how you are generalizing your kids’ experience and saying it should apply to all HCC kids. I have two HCC eligible kids. Our oldest, we kept at her local elementary school and then switched to APP/HCC in middle school. This worked great for our oldest kid. Our youngest kid went to the same elementary school and was miserable. Lincoln has been a life-saver for him. And Lincoln is actually more diverse than his neighborhood school.

That’s great if your neighborhood schools work for your kids – but why do you want to take away the HCC/APP program for kids that don’t fit into their neighborhood school? It is truly a life-saver for some kids. I can’t tell you how much it means for my kid to get to feel “normal” and like a regular kid. And no, returning HCC/APP kids to the neighborhood school wouldn’t change that dynamic. His neighborhood school actually kept a lot of the HCC/APP kids (like my daughter) through 5th grade. It’s one of the top-scoring schools in the district. But it was not the right fit for my son.


Anonymous said…
Thankfully Jane, it's not up to people like Megan. She can complain and stir the pot all she wants but it really comes down to what the district decides to do, and they have made it clear in their presentations to the board that self-contained HCC will be a continuing program. Hopefully increased service to the students who decide not to go the cohort will occur across all schools, but regardless, self-contained is here to stay.

"'s a group of the same kind of students."

No, they are students who tested similarly but they are different people from different backgrounds. You want to lump them together, you can, but not me.

And fyi, please don't use that "status quo" nonsense here. NO one is advocating it and, in fact, most people DO want changes in HCC.

I can only say that if this district served HCC kids in all schools, there would be no need for a program at all. They don't.
Charlie Mas said…
The people who support a self-contained model for advanced learning have never tried to deny access to an inclusion model for those who prefer it. You don't want to put your advanced learner in Spectrum or APP? No problem. That's your choice.

In contrast, a lot of the people who support the inclusion model want to remove the option of the self-contained model. They not only don't want it for their own children, but they also don't want it available for any other children. That's not your choice.

Why can't you be happy with your own choice without the need to force others to make the same choice when it isn't right for them?
Anonymous said…
Melissa, the kids in the program are mostly from "the same" demographic in terms of income and parent educational attainment.

I always found it ironic how much Melissa puts down charters for the same reasons people are concerned about the exclusive and segregated program called APP. Yet she has been a staunch defender of APP and encouraged its growth (though she's backtracked a bit in the past year or so), even while it turned into the huge behemoth that now even APP parents admit is hugely watered down and hugely inflated.

Charlie's arguments and diatribes against sincere posters like Megan remind me of his support for DeBell and his ilk. I stopped taking his verbal assaults seriously a long time ago.

Christian nailed it--"charter school disguised as a gifted program." At some point in the near future, it will be viewed as a shameful excuse for public and gifted education.

Melissa and Charlie, along with the parents who are benefitting from this "charter", need to remember that you can be against the Vietnam War and still be patriotic. Many longtime advocates of gifted children (myself included)continue to be thoroughly appalled by this program.

--enough already

Anonymous said…
Like clockwork, @enough already, you are here to denounce APP. We get that you don't like it.
Anonymous said…
@Megan: I get it. You have HCC qualified kids, but decided to stay put, because what you have works for your kids. Great. That's all anyone with kids in HCC ever wanted, but could not get in their local schools, despite years of promises.

But you need not rationalize and justify your decision so publicly by advocating to foreclose the opportunities to others that you have enjoyed and exploited yourself.

And what's worse is your "best-colleges" nonsense that smacks of desperate social climbing on your part. It is extremely telling that despite your children being well-served at their local school, you can't be happy knowing that another road exists that you might have taken, which might have yielded a better, more advantageous result, which is obviously your chief concern.

We all second-guess the choices we make, but why you aren't satisfied with the choices you've made enough to let others enjoy the same peace-of-mind is pathological indeed. It's time to live with your decisions and let others live with theirs. In other words, get over it, Megan.

Anonymous said…
@Enough Already: The same thing, i.e. Charter-in-Disguise, can be said of every Alt and K-8 in the district.

Hell, the same thing can be said about several well-heeled neighborhood schools where everyone is freakishly similar!

It just never is. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
@ enough already,

I'm curious to hear what you, as a self-professed "longtime advocate of gifted children," would like to see our district move toward in order to appropriately serve highly gifted children without being "exclusive and segregated." Unless a gifted program is open to anyone of any ability, it is exclusive. Just like our our neighborhood schools, with their boundaries. Or SpEd, for which you have to qualify--exclusive!

Your comment that the current program is "hugely watered down and hugely inflated" suggests you'd prefer a more restricted, smaller program, one admitting only a more select group of kids. Would that somehow be less "appalling"--even if more exclusive?

As an "advocate of gifted children" surely you understand that these children learn differently, and surely you know that in-class differentiation isn't the what's YOUR magic bullet?

Half Full
Anonymous said…
The IEP model would work well for gifted children, with self-contained being at the end of a continuum of services, not the beginning. HC and gifted are not the same, by the way, and should not be treated like they are.

Modeling schools on formerly redlined neighborhoods, which still bear the consequences of that practice, was a pathetic response to the Supreme Court case. Louisville, a bastion of the south, took a much more enlightened approach, and actually carried out the wish of the justices to hold integration as a goal and not a mandate.

Saying that "everyone else is doing it" to justify APP is shaky ground indeed. Calling a program "highly capable" that excludes entire demographics, and that can only be "tested into" makes the segregation that much worse.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
@ enough already,

Thanks for following up. This helps.

If I'm hearing you correctly, first off you'd like to see a change in the entry criteria, such that only those id'd as "gifted" qualify, not those you consider to be "only" HC. I assume you're applying some level of giftedness as the cutoff. If the prevalence of "mildly gifted" is 1:6 to 1:44, it does seem like Seattle numbers might not be off at all, if including mildly gifted.

If we tighten up and require qualification at the "moderately gifted" level instead, we're talking about a prevalence of 1:44 to 1:1000. That means not much chance of a peer in your class, or even your grade level, unless you're in a self-contained program. Is that where you'd draw the line for self-contained? Or would you require kids to be at least "highly gifted' (1:1000: to 1:10,000) in order to get self-contained services? If that were the case, numbers would be pretty small--as would the likelihood of finding peers within the small group. It seems like a self-contained program would need to include moderately gifted kids in order to provide that key social component, don't you think?

So if self-contained is for those not-very-common kids meeting the "moderately" gifted criteria or higher, that must mean the IEP version would serve those at the "mildly gifted" level, as well as those who qualified for but didn't want to go self-contained. With a prevalence of 1:6-1:44, that might mean a lot of IEPs for some teachers and very few for others. Do you see these IEPs as basically a way to ensure that gen ed teachers are providing the necessary differentiation? My understanding was that IEP implementation isn't so good, and given that we know in-class differentiation is also often lacking, I have a hard time believing that these IEPs would result in much. Are you thinking more about what you envision as the ideal, or what you see as feasible in the current, high class size reality?

Re: racial disparities in participation, I'm unclear on what you would propose. When it comes to underrepresented groups, do you suggest the IQ testing requirement not apply? Or that the cut-offs actually be different? Ot that the criteria differ by school (an administrative nightmare)? Or??? I'm curious.

Just to add, I have a kid not well-served by APP. This kid would have loved a more rigorous program, and craved peers who shared the same level of intellectual curiosity. So I definitely see the appeal of tighter eligibility criteria and something that feels more like a gifted program. At the same time, I understand the need for something more appropriate for those who are mildly gifted--something feasible, sufficiently rigorous, and socially appropriate. If you're a 1 in 44 or even 1 in 20 type gifted kid, to what extent will a regular classroom with IEP really meet your needs? It could be a pretty lonely experience.
apparent said…
Enough Already & Megan/Cheryl/sad

"HCC is a group that fits a tested criteria, by definition it's the same group of students."

My two APP kids are from our mixed race family with one immigrant parent and another first-generation ethnic minority parent; one of our two kids happens to have a Section 504 plan due to a disability. So I'm not sure what you mean when you refer dismissively to "the same group of students"?
app dad said…
I agree with Apparent, I have daughters in APP and they are mostly all different. We do have an iep kid too. They probably could have made it through GenEd (except the iep kid who wouldn't have been identified at a neighborhood school) but maybe not after elementary and then they would have been playing catch up. My kids are part American indian and mostly european. Having been at APP for nearly a decade though there is a ton more $/Race/Ethnicity at our schools than any other.
Anonymous said…
A continuum of services for gifted and highly capable means a range from in-class support to pull-outs to self-contained--just like in Sped.

There are students who struggle in school without IEPs who also receive assistance through pull-outs, in-class supprt, etc. This would not be limited to gifted children only. It sounds like the tiered approach being considered is modelled on Sped and RTI.

The current test in SPS is not an IQ test, and a poster named ZB and others have written numerous times about how it is not being used correctly in SPS.

At no time have I said that self- contained isn't a good model for those who truly need it. Using it as the go-to approach with zero monitoring for the duration of schooling in SPS defies research, commonsense and fairness.

By the way, I have taught many students over the years, including Somali girls who were the only one with a hijab in the class. I'm sure they felt very alone, scared, out of place, etc. despite our best efforts. Their parents never requested a classroom full of other Muslim girls so they could feel more comfortable.

--enough already
Anonymous said…

I said the students are "mostly" the same in terms of income and parent educational levels.

The statistics bear this out. I certainly didn't say what you said I said.

--enough already
apparent said…
"HCC is a group that fits a tested criteria, by definition it's the same group of students."

enough already,

the above sentence in quotation marks was written by the poster named Megan.

Melissa disagreed and said "No, they are students who tested similarly but they are different people from different backgrounds. You want to lump them together, you can, but not me."

You then disagreed with Melissa's rejoinder by borrowing Megan's words to reaffirm Megan's view that the HCC students are mostly from "the same" demographic. Those quotation marks emphasizing her statement are indeed your own.

For the reasons already given, I must again respectfully disagree with you and Megan/Cheryl/sad, and on this point I do agree with Melissa instead.

P.S. Melissa, as this thread is winding down, just a quick thank you here for adding the new HCC definition to your helpful list of Education Acronyms posted on the right hand column of your blog.
Lynn said…
There is no tiered approach under consideration. The HCC continues to be available to every identified student. The change is that children who do not enroll in the HCC will be (in theory) offered services wherever they choose to enroll.

Highly capable services are not analagous to special ed services. The hope in sped is that a student's needs can be remediated so that they can be successful in a gen ed classroom. What kind of services would result in a highly capable student being prepared to return to the general education program?

You're claiming that offering placement in a self-contained program is unfair. Which students are harmed by this? If you direct me to the research, I'll read it.

HC Parents send a clear message with their enrollment choices - their children's academic needs aren't met in the general ed classroom.

Of course public schools aren't segregated by religion. A family's religious identification doesn't affect their child's academic needs. Providing seperate classrooms based on those choices would be ridiculous. Providing access to seperate classrooms for children with unusual academic needs is (in my mind) common sense.
Anonymous said…
MTSS is the tiered model I was referencing. I am in agreement with such a model.

Placing a child who is not a true outlier in a separate program without intervention is an unfair as doing that to a student with an IEP. Public schools should work in a general ed model first. This has typically been upheld by the law in terms of students with disabilities. I believe gifted ed. and HC should follow a similar moded.

The Somali girl was brought up as an example of a student who might feel uncomfortable in a general ed. classroom. Of course, her mother would be savvy enough to not suggest a separate class because of separation of religion and state in public schools. We have also had an integrated policy in other matters, including intellectual abilities, until the extremes warrant other placement.

You missed my point which was this:
Many children are uncomfortable, not just yours, when they aren't in the majority or are alone by some attributes. Those students learn to cope. That is not a reason to put them in a special program until many supports have been tried. SPS currently does not use supports first and that is a systemic problem, not a parental one. That is why the current program is shameful.

--enough already
Lynn said…
Your arguments are based upon your personal beliefs about how public education should function.

I did not miss your point. Your example of a Somali student is irrelevant because the district doesn't provide access to a self-contained program to make highly capable children more comfortable. The program exists because it is the most effective and efficient method of educating them.

While it would be lovely if every general education teacher wanted to try to support HC children and had the time and resources to do so, there is no evidence that most HC children would benefit from such a system.

We don't automatically enroll HC children in the self-contained program. It is not shameful to provide their parents with this option. (Which the vast majority do choose.)

The highly capable children who are not well served by the current program are the ones who are outliers in the HCC. I believe they should be provided with gifted IEPS and their teachers should be provided with the resources to meet their needs.
Anonymous said…
Public school should be fair and HCC as it is now is unfair. It skims off the top kids and gives them the advantage of schooling without middle or low performers. There are ways to serve them reasonably well in schools with gened students sans self-contained. I agree that it may not be as good, but it would be better for my kids if they all had classes of 10 with only PhD's as teachers., but if I got that treatment for mine, it wouldn't be fair. So if you want special treatment, I don't begrudge you, I just think you should pony up and go private.

Lynn said…
What exactly is the advantage of "schooling without middle or low performers?" And how are those students harmed when the "top students" aren't in their classes?

You clearly don't understand the point of self-contained gifted programs. The point is providing different instruction - not different classmates. And yes - it is different instruction - not better. Is it unfair to teach multiplication to eight year olds but not to six year olds? Why aren't you complaining about that?

What exactly are the reasonably effective methods of teaching highly capable children in general education classrooms? Here's a Seattle Education Association Position Paper on teaching kids just one grade level ahead in the general education classroom. Clearly they don't agree with you. Do you have some research that backs up your claims?
Anonymous said…
It seems perfectly reasonable to take advantage of HCC, it is a good way to teach kids. If the district would group all kids by ability, there would be gains for all kids. Send each 10 percentile group to their own school.Transportation costs are the only problem.
Short of that, all students need to share the burden of an inclusive system, not just the 90% who aren't in HCC.

Anonymous said…
Or the district could be split up by learning style. Into ten different programs each with their own self-contained cohort. That would be interesting. And fair.

Lynn said…

Do you understand how a bell curve works? The vast majority of children can and should be working at grade level. The general ed classroom and curriculum are designed for these children.

As for the burden of an inclusive system, can you describe which children you find burdensome?

Contrary to your assumption, HCC families aren't trying to avoid other children. They recognize the fact that a single classroom cannot meet the needs of every child. A first grader with reading skills equivalent to those of the average ninth grader would present quite the problem in a general ed classroom.
Anonymous said…
My son has been in the APP/HCC program from 4th grade. He's now in 8th.

There is actually a wide variability in the ability levels of APP students, often more than in a gen ed classroom. The APP program includes students who are solidly two grades ahead in math and verbal skills as well as those who are 5-6 (or more) grades ahead (these kids are often known as "outliers").

Two of his classmates have been accepted in the University of Washington's Early Entrance Program for next year. Instead of going to high school, they will start college.

So no, APP/HCC students are not all at one level making them easier to teach.

Lynn said…
As for learning styles, here's some info on the research on that idea.

Anonymous said…
The "wide variability" of levels is evidence for a program that is bloated and doesn't have any checks and balances, which I continue to reiterate.

Those students who are true outliers are being held back by students who could and should function in their neighborhood schools with support provided by the district.

Lynn, I think you may have missed another point here. I got the sense that the writer was using hyperbole to make a point about separating kids. However, if you take the rationale of some of the defense for the current program to its logical conclusion, you get hyperbole.

--enough already
Lynn said…
enough already - you do continue to reiterate that.

Please share how you have successfully met the needs of 26 elementary students whose ability ranged over nine grade levels. If that isn't possible, how many grade levels would you have to cut off the top (or bottom) to make it work?

There are 6 year olds in APP with reading scores equivalent to those of a ninth grader and general education students in the ninth grade with reading scores lower than the average fifth grader. Please explain how this situation can be managed without a self-contained program.

An IQ of 130 is the cutoff I've seen most commonly used for self-contained programs. What research can you point me to that shows that's inappropriate?
Anonymous said…
Googled "IQ cutoff for gifted programs" and got this article(#2 result)) which is pretty similar to our situation.

From St. Louis, no less.

Anonymous said…
Another study just out today claims academic success is 75% attributable to genetics and only 25% to home environment, teacher quality, income,etc.

Of that 75%, heritable traits such as personality, behavior problems, well-being and self-efficcy, accounted for about half, the other half being intelligence.

Research continues.


Anonymous said…
There have been a lot of interesting "studies" about how intelligence is inherited over the years...

Epigenetics is interesting, too.

--enough already

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