Advanced Learning: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

SPS put out a press release about Advanced Learning and testing.  The Board is due to vote on acceptance of the latest AL plan to OSPI at the Board meeting tomorrow night (and it's not even being discussed - it's on the Consent Agenda).

After you read this thread, my recommendation if you are an AL parent or prospective parent, is to send an e-mail to your own director (or all of them or really just Director Peters who seems to listen on a regular basis) and ask that this item be REMOVED from the Consent Agenda.  That will put it on the path to being actively discussed.

Write to:

Reader Lynn has been reading and asking questions and it seems that Advanced Learning will be changing policy almost at will (and without much notification to parents).  From AL:

Now that we have formal Superintendent Procedures it will be necessary to update them periodically as do most other programs and services. The current 2190SP was presented to C&I last fall and was made available for public comment prior to being signed in January 2015. The same process will be followed with any revisions to the procedures.

The most recent Advanced Learning Task Force (2013-14) made its recommendations through the equity lens, and these recommendations found their way into 2190SP. Any subsequent adjustments will be made through that same lens, that is, increasing the number of historically underrepresented students able to access our programs. The eligibility criteria remain intact, but access and representation are improving.

Did you follow all that?   As Lynn points out (emphasis mine):

The current policy was signed in June 2015 (not January.) If (as AL says) the procedure will be presented to C&I and made available for public comment before being signed, why are the updated rules posted on the advanced learning page now? 

Why is AL presenting them as current policy - and will the board allow this? Why is the nomination form due October 8th when parents won't know if their child has qualifying math and reading scores until mid to late October?

Advanced Learning Info from the press release:

 Testing for student Advanced Learning is right around the corner. Applications for the 2015-2016 Fall/Winter Testing Session are now available. The fall/winter testing determines if children in grades K-8 are eligible for the 2016-2017 school year. Applications are due by Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Applications for students in grades 9-12 will be available in January.

Also, check out this series of videos on advanced learning.


Anonymous said…
I noticed a few weeks ago major changes on their website:

Major changes to Spectrum qualification (Math OR Reading needed, as opposed to both, and K-2 kids only take a Cogat "screener" -- but which K-2 kids get to take the full Cogat, as that is still needed for HCC?

Parents no longer choose current or last year's teacher to fulfill the recommendation

Probably major changes to appeals.

~Paying attention
Anonymous said…
Curious why you have been giving that email address? The website still indicates this one as active:

I don't believe it has changed but maybe I missed something?

Reader 47, the Board has two e-mails.

If you want the Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, et al (about 8 senior people) to read your e-mail, send it to:

However, if you want ONLY Board members to read the e-mail you send to them, send it to:

Or send it to their individual e-mails.

Of course ALL e-mail sent to is subject to public disclosure requests but at least you can prevent senior management from reading every single e-mail you send to Board members.

Several Board members - present and past - have told me that parents often send delicate information to them at the schoolboard address, not realizing who can read it.

Thank you to Director Peters for getting the Board a joint e-mail address to call their own.
Anonymous said…
The current policy was signed in June 2015 (not January.)

I don't think that's correct. Policy 2190 was adopted in December 2014. The associated Superintendent's Procedures were signed in June 2015, but it says they were adopted in Jan 2015. i remember both were discussed during fall 2014, although Board agendas only seem to reflect the Policy approval and not the Procedures. I believe, however, that the Procedures may have been discussed in committee. (I sent an email to Dir. Peters on 11/17/14 regarding the Procedures, which my email says were to be discussed in a meeting later that week.) Of course, access to Board committee docs appears to be another casualty of the new SPS website. Argh.

If (as AL says) the procedure will be presented to C&I and made available for public comment before being signed, why are the updated rules posted on the advanced learning page now? Why is AL presenting them as current policy - and will the board allow this?

Can someone please clarify what is meant by "the updated rules"? Is this suggesting that the Superintendent's Procedures posted on the AL page now are different than what was discussed and apparently agreed upon in January? That staff sent the Procedures to a Board committee for review in the fall, adoption in January, but then sneakily made a bunch of changes before Nyland signed in June?

Or is the concern that some of the eligibility criteria posted on the AL page (and/or other info on the AL page) is being presented in a way that is inconsistent with what's in the posted Procedures?

Further detail on these suspected "rule changes" would be very helpful.

Charlie Mas said…
The school district has, for over a decade now, been actively dismantling advanced learning.
They have been doing it and they will continue to do it until either advanced learning is completely gone or the advanced learning community stands up for itself and fights.
Let's face it, no one else is going to stand up for advanced learning other than the families of students in the programs. So, if you have a child in the program and you want to protect the program and the services that your child is getting, then you're going to have to take some action. Real action.
As we all know, there are only three things that can influence the school district: money, the threat of litigation, and bad press. There isn't enough money in the world to pay the district to restore authentic advanced learning programs and there is no way to cut off the HCC grant. If you wonder why HCC is protected through all of this you only have to look at the grant. So forget money. Forget litigation or the threat of litigation as well because the district is under no legal obligation to provide advanced learning services to anyone but HCC. So it's going to have to be bad press.
A long time ago, seriously, back when Raj Manhas was the superintendent, we were able to win some promises from the district for Spectrum when our plan to boycott the WASL got the interest of the national press. They were INCREDIBLY embarrassed by the "Smart Kids Don't Take the WASL" slogan and the interest it generated. Test boycotts were not so common back then as they are today. It's going to take something like that again to win concessions from the District again. I don't know what the community can do, but I do know that the District will completely dismantle these programs if you don't do something.
Anonymous said…
It's so discouraging as a teacher. The district is focused on equity, which to them means using the same curriculum for everyone. In theory you are supposed to differentiate, but how can you do that if they require everyone in a grade level across the district to be teaching the same things at the same time? THAT IS NOT TEACHING!! I encourage parents to complain. I feel as a teacher I've had minimal success. All I keep hearing is we have to make all these changes so we can follow the common core. BS! I have been following the common core and differentiating my curriculum for year. Now for equity sake I have to teach the same thing at the same time as someone at another school even if my kids are ready for more advanced learning now!
Anonymous said…
That's helpful history, Charlie. Thank you. I am an AL parent of elementary aged children and feel as if I should do more since I will be around for awhile. I am just so unsure what to do.

Could you, or someone, explain the consent agenda issue? For those of us who may not have picked up the nuance of what it actually means. I am lost on this particular issue...

WS Mom
Anonymous said…
HIMSmom, it's my understanding that the Board only approves Board policies, not Superintendent procedures. If so, it leaves the door open for the District to make changes to procedures without Board approval.

-a parent
Anonymous said…
I fear it is already too late for AL. The district has been very successful with the death by 1,000 cuts, and I don't think elementary school parents understand what their kids are missing. The dismantling began in earnest about 8 years ago, and that age group of kids is now in high school. I know my kid missed when MS AL was good. If other parents with a kid my age are like me, they are counting down the days until they can be done with SPS (can't wait). The less I deal with SPS the better.

The district has changed so much in the last few years, and I don't see this district going back. The teacher's post above, UGH, is so sad. Why has education gone the way of McDonald's? Is that really want families want?

-Harrison Bergeron
Lynn said…

It's the procedures that are not being followed. If you compare 2190SP to the Eligibility Criteria posted on the Advanced Learning website, you'll see that AL has changed the Spectrum requirements.

The issue isn't whether the board has to approve Superintendent Procedures, it's whether staff are required to follow those procedures once the Superintendent has approved them and they've been posted.
Maureen said…
So, in this thread, when people talk about "Advanced Learning", are they talking about "Spectrum" (so roughly the top testing 20%-30% of kids), as opposed to HCC (or roughly the top 5%-10%?). Because it seems to me that HCC is still being supported (as implied by Charlie's mention of the HCC grant.)

Just trying to clarify.

(I recognize that many people think HCC/APP isn't as rigorous or exclusive as it used to be--I'm just trying to figure out if this thread is implying all Advanced Learning is dead, or that non-HCC Advanced Learning is dead.)
Outsider said…
We live in the age of spin, and nothing anyone says in an official capacity is true anymore except maybe by accident. One gives up even trying to understand. I wonder (just out of curiosity; not that anything could ever change) -- who wants the demise of advanced learning for bright kids? Is it the school board? Or senior administrators? Or a substantial group of teachers? Underneath the spin and bureaucratese blather, someone must be pushing it.

One also can't help but notice -- the easiest and most reliable way to close the "achievement gap" is to pull kids down. You would need a waterboard to get anyone to admit it, but in the end it wouldn't be a surprise if they go with what works.
WS, if an item is on the Consent Agenda, all the items get voted on en masse and without discussion (as if they are mostly just general business). The issue here is not so much that AL has changed what it tells OSPI but that they are changing the program without really notifying the Board or parents.

Who wants the demise? There are many parents/staff/teachers who do not believe in Advanced Learning where students are separated (and maybe even tested). Everyone should be in one classroom and the teacher should just differentiate. In a perfect world, maybe but that's not the case.

Outsider, you also state a quiet secret out there - yes, pull up the bottom by putting most resources there (because indeed we cannot leave anyone behind, it would be wrong) BUT what about those kids who are ready and able to soar? It's like putting a racehorse in a corral. It's fine but it doesn't do much for that racehouse. (I got this example from ERIC.)

I am saying that AL is pretty much dying and on its way out. I think AL will continue APP but that Spectrum and ALOs are pretty much done.

As I have frequently said, just pull the bandaid off, okay? Death by a thousand paper cuts is right.
Lynn said…
I think that the result of no longer requiring both math and reading achievement scores for Spectrum may be the end of self-contained Spectrum in the few places it still exists.
Anonymous said…
Lynn, I think part of the problem is that strange wording in the Procedures re: Spectrum qualification criteria listed in the procedures--the one where it says 87th percentile in reading and math, then includes the parenthetical note that self-contained elementary programs contain both reading AND math. That makes it sound to me like the first "and" was really more of an "or" in someone's mind.

Is it possible they're interpreting it that way? That would allow single domain eligibles to be in blended classrooms and maintain their AL status (for whatever it's worth if blended classrooms are your only option...). But then there would also need to be some sort of identifier in the system for who was eligible for blended vs self-contained Spectrum, and if they are really doing that (doubtful), they certainly don't make it clear in the eligibility criteria.

Outsider said…
Do teachers actually differentiate in the regular classroom? The pressure on schools centers on the percentage of students who don't get a 3 on the test, so they have a strong incentive to focus their efforts on kids at risk for not getting a 3. Do teachers have any time left over, or any willingness, to provide something for the brighter kids?

Our school says exactly the right thing on their website about differentiating and challenging every student, but nowdays you can't assume anything is true. After four days of first grade, we still don't know what they actually do, and we are still at the stage of watch and worry. If they do what they say they do, we're good.

Alas, the leading current educational theory seems to be that at-risk students do best when immersed in a sea of better students. So perhaps the schools have a strong incentive to keep their best students doing low-level work shoulder to shoulder with the at-risk cohort. That is what we observed in kindergarten. They would seem to have little incentive to differentiate, since nothing is measured beyond who gets a 3 in third grade.
Anonymous said…
"Alas, the leading current educational theory seems to be that at-risk students do best when immersed in a sea of better students."

Wow, is it possible that anyone who has spent any time in a classroom really believe that????

Will the last student leaving Seattle advanced learning please turn out the lights!

Anonymous said…
"The district is focused on equity, which to them means using the same curriculum for everyone."

UGH! is absolutely correct. The District is conflating equity with "one- size -fits all", the very antithesis of equity. The desire for standardization in SPS Curriculum and Instruction has nothing to do with equity.
The late former SPS Superintendent Maria Goodloe - Johnson was a proponent of standardization; she brought Michael Tolley with her to Seattle to assist in this endeavor. He is still engaged in it.
To quote Goodloe-Johnson when she spoke at my school a few years ago while still in the District: "Because this is a system, it is important for teachers to teach the same things at the same time and for students to be learning those same things in case they move from one school to another."
Those colleagues who challenged her rationale kept getting told "because this is a system" like a broken record.

--Baile Funk
Anonymous said…
I would love it if AL began designating in single subjects. I have many students in the 99th percentile in only in only one subject, so they don't qualify as ALO. As a consequence, they can't receive services in "year ahead" math/reading, even though they are often more advanced than those with the designation. This is a win.
Lynn said…
I think this is a good idea for middle school Spectrum students - though they could skip the cognitive portion of the testing for that. I am mostly irritated by the continous ignoring of policy/procedure.
Charlie Mas said…
Here are some ideas. I don't know if they can be effective or not.

1) I absolutely encourage every single PTA (or PTA-like organization) at every single school to get an MOU with the District modeled on the agreement that LEV has at SouthShore. Read that agreement and you will know what influence looks like. Then, work to get something about advanced learning written into the MOU. This may give some legal standing to demands that the schools provide the services as advertised.

2) Test boycott. You better believe it. Hold your kids out of the tests until the schools provide the promised services. Read that sentence again. Don't start taking the tests until they actually deliver on the promise, not just make the promise.

3) Ask the principal and the teachers to describe - in detail - how they differentiate instruction for advanced learners. Demand concrete language and specific examples. They all claim they do it; ask them what they do. Then publish their responses and seek some independent determination if they do as they say. Shame them publicly if their claims prove false. Praise them just as publicly if their claims prove true.

4) Demand a description of the services provided in an ALO or Spectrum program.

5) Demand the promised evaluation of advanced learning programs from Shauna Heath and Michael Tolley. Go to every single Board meeting and remind them that Ms Heath promised this evaluation to the Board years ago at a Management Oversight Workshop. Time for the Board to demand what they were promised.

6) Go to Board Meetings and demand compliance with policy 2090. Go to every single Board meeting and demand it every time. This policy requires an annual report on the effectiveness of every district academic program. "The Superintendent shall prepare an annual report which reflects the degree to which district goals and objectives related to the instructional program have been accomplished." Just keep showing up and demand compliance every single freaking time.

7) What does a billboard cost? How much would it cost to lease a billboard that says something about the District's failure to serve advanced learners? That would get press.
Anonymous said…
Agree that retooling the advanced learning program to recognize asynchronous giftedness is a win. Providing testing paths that seek out and enroll minorities is also a win.


Lynn said…
Only the Spectrum identification process has been retooled for elementary students. There are no mandated services for them and I can't imagine this will change anything.
Anonymous said…
Even when there ARE mandated services, it's hard to say what they really are. The procedures document throws around terms but never defines exactly what they mean, so it's impossible for parents to really know how much of what's been promised their kids aren't getting. It all seems up to loose interpretation. Just like how the district throws around the word "equity" and adapts its meaning to fit whatever decision they already made.

In four years of HCC, nobody at the middle school or the AL office has been able to provide any details as to how APP/HCC is different in the classroom.

Anonymous said…
I'll differ with Charlie. My experience is that advocating for your HC or Spectrum kid will earn you enemies among other parents and school staff. That would be ok, except there's no benefit...nothing will change. Better to keep your head down and pick up the slack outside of school. This is Seattle; acceptable behavior lies on the spectrum of polite to passive-aggressive. Direct advocacy, even if it is honest and polite, will be seen as aggressive and elitist. To that point, boycotting the test would totally work, and if we weren't talking about Seattle, you might be able to get a critical mass of HC parents to do it. I can't see anyone rallying more than a handful of parents, probably transplants from other cities, to do such a thing.

UGH, I understand your point. I had a principal who caused my child to completely repeat a year of math curriculum when we changed schools. (She had walked to math at the previous school, and had sailed through that curriculum the previous year.) He insisted that every child in the grade get the same thing, which he defined as getting the same instruction and assignments. He was unaccepting of my argument that maybe the same thing meant all kids had the chance to learn something. So my kid didn't get that chance, because equity. When parents of advanced kids took their kids out of the school, it was "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." He felt he didn't need those kinds of families at the school. We stayed, but did math at home.

Differentiation must be harder than it sounds. In another grade my child was given a textbook that was over her head and told to self study. She's bright, but you need instruction to pick up more advanced math concepts. It was pretty ridiculous.

In MS, honors classes were disbanded for blended. The class quality suffered. But I get the problem. Kids who are equally bright and/or motivated in language arts, for example, but don't have the Spectrum designation, languished in classes with kids who might or might not be bright but who just didn't want to engage. So they spread the ones who don't want to engage or who act up among all the classes, which does seem more fair.

I just think parents have to be their kids' primary teacher and view the school as a kind of subcontractor. This is also not fair, as families with lower incomes or with parents who didn't get what THEY needed when they were in school have a harder time doing that.

Sometimes you get what you pay for, and public school is an example of that. I'm afraid Charlie's ideas are tilting at windmills.

Once burned

Anonymous said…
I third the opinion that "asynchronous giftedness" should be recognized by the AL program at SPS. I work with middle and high school students, so have witnessed first-hand how the most gifted young mathematicians and readers/writers are often not only NOT gifted in the other dimension, but often quite startlingly "ungifted." Quite often the students who score highly enough on the cognitive tests to make it into HCC are those students who simply do well on standardized tests - and not necessarily the students who write the most brilliantly, read the most deeply, or think in the most innovative or imaginative ways. Many, many times I have seen super smart kids "overthink" the kinds of questions on these tests and subsequently bomb them. Their wrong answers are always MUCH more interesting than the right answer, but of course, a scantron will not agree.This has always really bothered me about the HCC program - though it is a great thing, in my opinion, for those kids who need it and are able to test into it.

Once Burned, you said this:

"Better to keep your head down and pick up the slack outside of school."

One of the key issues that has driven my advocacy is that there are parents WHO cannot 'pick up the slack" or indeed, have no idea their child is gifted. We are missing a lot of those kids (mostly of color) and they have no one to advocate for them. So when some parents advocate, they are also doing a service to those who can't/don't know.

I have always agreed that there should be service for students who excel in one subject. It seems to happen a lot, it would seem to keep kids engaged in school and it would seem that you would have a critical mass of kids enough to warrant a separate class for that subject.
Anonymous said…
I'm concerned about how the HCC program will manage capacity in the future with this plan (rumor or true??) to dis-ban AL. I imagine more parents will work to move their kids if their neighborhood school doesn't offer ALO or spectrum.

Our son just moved from Bryant, which has ALO, to Cascadia (formerly app@Lincoln.) Bryant is a fabulous school, and we would have loved to keep him there, but we didn't see enough advanced differentiation in math to stimulate our son. We are learning on the fly and see that there appears to be a severe lack of capacity planning for the HCC program. Cascadia is a huge school with 755 students in grades 1-5. The new building for the HCC program is planned to have room for 650 students.

Is anyone paying attention to capacity issues for HCC now that the Spectrum and ALO programs are losing their muster? How will the HCC program absorb all of the AL kids who would have otherwise preferred to stay at their neighborhood school for social reasons? Also, if 1/3 of Bryant students leave for Cascadia by 4th grade, why can't Bryant (and other schools with equally large groups of HCC students) just set up a wing for HCC and keep the friends together? I'm sure there isn't space, but wouldn't this be great? We would have loved to stay at Bryant, but want our son to be ready for challenging MS and HS curriculum.

Thank you, Melissa, for hosting this blog and for starting this string. It is timed well for us as we work through our emotions and decisions surrounding the SPS AL program. I also don't like the cookie cutter approach of simply jumping forward two grades using the same curriculum and no adjusted approach for the cohort, but that is a separate issue.

Juggling Mom
Anonymous said…
Once burned said, My experience is that advocating for your HC or Spectrum kid will earn you enemies among other parents and school staff. That would be ok, except there's no benefit...nothing will change. Better to keep your head down and pick up the slack outside of school. This is Seattle; acceptable behavior lies on the spectrum of polite to passive-aggressive. Direct advocacy, even if it is honest and polite, will be seen as aggressive and elitist.

This has been my experience as well. Parents will shun you, even though you are advocating for an improved program for all. Your concerns, no matter how honest or polite in their delivery, will be noted by administration...then ignored. In some cases, speaking up just makes it worse. A test boycott has little chance of gaining any real momentum. Too many parents don't want to rock the boat.

We're done advocating. We will spend our energy supporting our children to make up for the lack of an appropriate program or curriculum.

Anonymous said…
Quite often the students who score highly enough on the cognitive tests to make it into HCC are those students who simply do well on standardized tests - and not necessarily the students who write the most brilliantly, read the most deeply, or think in the most innovative or imaginative ways. Many, many times I have seen super smart kids "overthink" the kinds of questions on these tests and subsequently bomb them.

Yes. Yes. 1000x YES! Here are how gifted students break down in Seattle and elsewhere. Some districts handle these categories quite well. Some don't even try. SPS falls into a third category: A feeble swing and a systemic miss.

First, there are a handful of prodigies gifted across the classroom learning (LA/math)spectrum beyond anything SPS handles. Huge outliers. These kids need social and emotional learning in typical speed classrooms but need many-years-ahead academic supplementation. SPS HCC does not even attempt to address their needs.

Next: Prodigies in areas our system does not recognize or attempt to supplement. Art and music are obvious classifications. SPS HCC does not even attempt to address their needs.

Next: Students who are asynchronously extremely gifted in one (LA v math) area, but at standard or below in the other area. SPS HCC does not even attempt to address their needs.

Interestingly, these above categories also tend to encompass twice-exceptional students. 2E= students who are gifted but also have some sort of disability.

Heartbreakingly, all of these students have little to no hope of achieving their capabilities unless they have educated, financially OK families who recognize and take corrective actions outside of school to undo the damage - yes damage - done within the school day. This is not just heartbreaking for the students and families themselves. It is heartbreaking for society. Because these categories encompass many of the most creative among us. Children who can, with the proper recognition, advance human knowledge and solve societal problems in breathtaking ways. But too often, these students fail to reach their potential and that problem takes solid root right from the beginning days of school. Classrooms do not handle non-standard learning behaviors easily. That minorities and the under-resourced are perhaps even more highly impacted by this circumstance compounds the heartbreak. And this is one of many reasons that educators are skeptical of SPS's HCC.

Next we have a large pool of very smart students (though not necessarily exceptionally gifted), most of whom were early readers, who are willing to work to normal classroom expectations. They have both strong math and LA skills. These are the students, usually from families who are not of poverty, who have recognized and encouraged their children's academic path from a youn age. HCC does attempt to serve these students. The quality of the program is questionable to many, but there is an attempt by the district to serve them, which is more than most gifted students are offered.

Finally, we have a large pool of quite capable students who not only do not need remedial work, but also need more challenge than a standard course of study. These are the students SPS defines as "Spectrum" students. Again, HCC does not serve these students. They are served, or not, building by building based on the philosophy of the school's principal. It could be questioned whether a gifted program is necessary to serve these students. It cannot be questioned whether these students need to be served. They do. That SPS does not do so with a systemic solution is a failure of this district.

In summary, as with many districts, SPS attempts to serve only one pool of talented students, and even in that pool, the quality of the program is questionable.

"Gifted background"
Outsider said…
My heart sinks when other parents recommend giving up on the schools and just tiger-parent at home. We can't do that. Our child wants a life and won't do a second shift of school at home.

When I was young, we put humanoids on the moon and no one ever heard of an H-1 visa. Today we are told that our kids are too dumb and our high-tech economy would collapse unless we import smart foreigners. How are those foreigners different? They aren't smarter or better. They went to schools where tracking is common sense and political correctness is an unknown concept. In the USA a policy decision has been made to waste the potential of bright kids in the name of equity.

Progressive talking heads often lament the decline of social mobility in this country, as if it were some sort of mystery. Five minutes in a public school and you know the reason. To be educated to full potential, a bright kid needs either to live in a million-dollar town like Bellevue, or attend private school. In other words, the kid needs to be already from a rich family. Elite opportunities in the future will go to foreigners or kids from rich families. Working class and middle class kids who depend on public schools will have little chance. That's called equity.

Reading the comments of others makes me not regret that we can't afford to live in Seattle anyway. Is there any school district in the state that doesn't mind to educate bright kids to their full potential?
Anonymous said…

I believe it’s critical to differentiate HCC from Spectrum (ALO) when discussing Advanced Learning. The Advanced Learning Office is 95% focused on HCC. In the past it was more of a 50/50 focus, but that’s no longer true. The only thing that the Advanced Learning Office provides related to Spectrum (ALO) is testing. I believe Advanced Learning is very much, and will continue to be very much engaged, in HCC, partly because is required by state law.


As of 2014-2015, the district did not identify single domain giftedness, either for Spectrum or HCC. The district has the test data, but in the past has never shared this with the schools. For example, a student might be highly capable in math and weak in verbal, and not even qualify for “Spectrum”. So the student, who might have 99s on the CogAT Quant and 99 MAP Quant, never even gets the advanced math that is available in the local school. And the schools never even know it. That’s indefensible.

If you’re a parent, and the single domain issue applies to your student, ask your local principal why your student isn’t receiving already available services. And consider copying the Advanced Learning Office and your school board member on your email. The policy is 100% indefensible given there is no longer self-contained Spectrum. I’ve asked the question, and Advanced Learning couldn’t defend it. And I believe they are actually now trying to fix it.


Our experience with Spectrum / ALO in the elementary schools, and I’ve spoken with three principals and several teachers over the last three years, is that this is now 100% school defined. The Advanced Learning Office would appear to have zero influence over these programs, with the exception of providing testing results to the schools. So you have to engage the leadership of your local school regarding Spectrum and ALO and programming; Advanced Learning appears powerless and without mandate.

"Single Domain"
Outsider said…
Side note:

Organizing a test boycott might be hard because many parents are also concerned about real estate values. Knock a couple of points of your "Great Schools" rating and you lose $50K if you need to sell your house.

Test boycotting is an easier sell to renters, even in the absence of any advanced learning issue. Bomb the test; lower your rent !!
Anonymous said…
First, there are a handful of prodigies gifted across the classroom learning (LA/math)spectrum beyond anything SPS handles. Huge outliers. These kids need social and emotional learning in typical speed classrooms but need many-years-ahead academic supplementation. SPS HCC does not even attempt to address their needs.

Not only does SPS not attempt to address the needs of these kids itself, SPS throws up barriers to parents' efforts to step in. To not allow a student the opportunity to do independent study while on campus, when a school clearly cannot provide an appropriately leveled course, is outrageous.

My child suffered through three years of APP middle school, hating every day--said it caused physical pain to go, but we didn't have any other options. It was heartbreaking as a parent.

Anonymous said…
Single Domain said: "The only thing that the Advanced Learning Office provides related to Spectrum (ALO) is testing."

That's pretty much all they provide re: HCC as well. There's no curriculum, and HCC schools seem to be able to do things however they like.

The AL testing is simply a sorting system. Once the kids are tested and sorted into their various categories, the AL office doesn't seem to care much anymore.

Services Schmervices
Anonymous said…
Many good points in your post...too many to excerpt or I'd reproduce the whole thing here. My heart sinks, too, when I see little kids I've known since K give up themselves in grade 5 because they are "not good at math". The district failed them with a poor curriculum and unfortunately some of their teachers were math phobic themselves. A kid who one day will want to be an engineer or architect will not have that option b/c they didn't get what they needed in elementary school, and their parents didn't realize that all those glowing report cards assuring them their kid was doing fine didn't give the real picture.

You don't have to be a tiger parent to pick up the slack. Again, you're the project manager and the school works for you. You manage their workload. They can't do much to a 3rd grader because their parent says they don't have to do homework. Or chooses which homework to have the kid do, and which to let the kid ignore. I told my kids that I was fine if they never learned Partial Quotients Division, and if they missed every such question on a test, for example. You can be challenged without being ground to a pulp. You can even have fun! Yes, it's wrong that not everyone has a parent who help kids do that. Yes, it's a major cause for lack of social mobility in our society. But that doesn't mean I will stop helping my kids. I encourage everyone to do it.

If anything I've tried to do over the years to advocate for all kids (yup, I care about all of them) had worked, I'd keep doing it. Instead I've been a classroom volunteer in math and tried to be as positive and encouraging to kids as possible, as nothing is better than when a kid who had almost been in tears over something realizes he can do it, and the eyes light up.

Once Burned
Anonymous said…
Oh dear. Outsider, you need to realize the PC and equity stuff is just rhetoric buttressing the progressive cloak city leaders used to cover uglier truths. It's complicated and very hard work to do real PC and equity. We care. We really do. Easier though to have dialogues, committees, fund a diversity director spot or two with the right name and face, have celebrations with lots and lots of press time and photos to reinforce said image and presto, check it off the to do list and move on.

To answer your question, try Mukilteo Lake Washington, Shoreline, or Issaquah school district for starter. They aren't panacea and have similar issues, but generally less drama. Seattle and Bellevue are the richest among the school districts. Seattle appears progressive, but in reality, it's about money which buys you really high expectation, stay at home parent, private music/art/sport camps, PTA fundraising, supplementing at home, on line classes, and participating on blogs and FB to network for info, strategy, and answers. Bellevue parents do similar thing and are straightforward about it. Bellevue is more diverse in terms of its educated middle class make up. They are recent immigrants and come from all over the world. Their children go to school ready to deal with different languages being spoken at home, religion, culture, and beliefs expressed. Their parents often work in similar hodgepodge environment.

no utopia
Anonymous said…
Services Schmervices said: "Once the kids are tested and sorted into their various categories, the AL office doesn't seem to care much anymore."

So far, our experience has only been with HCC at Lincoln. But the fact that there is a dedicated school, with multiple teachers at each grade working together to figure out what to teach, with an associated PTA, and an AL organized oversight committee, has been great. That is a huge difference as compared to Spectrum, which at our school had nothing. Whether or not that is because of AL, in spite of it, or a mix, I don’t know.

Single Domain

Anonymous said…
Single Domain-

Just wait until you get to HIMS. APP was so horrendous there that we moved our kid out of SPS.

Enjoy it while you can.

GarfieldMom said…
OK, this is off the topic of AL, but I just looked up Partial Quotients Division because I'd never heard of it (my kids were not in SPS for elementary). What. the. heck? That is the weirdest thing I've seen in a long time.
monkeypuzzled said…
Goner, what was so horrendous about HIMS APP? Just curious. As somoene whose kid is just starting HIMS APP.
Anonymous said…

We came from Lincoln/Lowell, and our child started in APP in 1st grade. The work at HIMS was so easy that my child was bored to tears. By middle school APP/HCC is only LA/SS and Science, but neither is designed for advanced learners. APP was promised a curriculum as part of the splits/closures in 2008, and it never arrived. Now the schools are doing whatever they please, and HIMS decided to do not much.

There are some good classes here and there, but not many. I think our child would have had an equal experience at our neighborhood MS. The cohort is really what HIMS offers, and it's unfortunate.

Each kid is different and your good may find it fine. I hope so.

Anonymous said…
Sorry your "kid may find it fine."

Anonymous said…
Single Domain, just to be clear, the "dedicated school" only came about due to capacity issues, not by design. And how well it may be working for kids is a factor of the school and parents, not the AL office.

What is that "AL organized oversight committee " you mentioned? Is this specific to Lincoln/Cascadia? What do the oversee? Or are you perhaps referring to the district's AL Advisory Commitee, which doesn't have an oversight role?

Serv Schmerv
Anonymous said…
As with many threads on AL, we arrive back at the idea that HCC in SPS simply boils down to a cohort of students. It's a cohort that is chosen because WA says SPS has to have AL services. It's a cohort to which some very small steps are being taken to add diversity. And that's it.

It's not a thoughtfully gathered or comprehensive cohort. It's not an equitable cohort. It's not a cohort reflecting the range of gifted students in Seattle. It's not a cohort to which a particular teaching standard or goal or curriculum has been attached. It's certainly not a cohort that is valued by most educators in the district. Most educators do not want to teach AL and downtownites don't want to deal with AL for reasons including but not limited to 1) a deep-felt calling for working with kids of limited means 2) a commitment to bringing kids up to standard as a first priority 3) a non-belief in gifted education 4) a desire to avoid high maintenance AL parents. (You quietly hear that last one more often than you'd hope.)

And have students themselves chosen this AL cohort? The younger the child the more likely that parents, not the students themselves, have chosen the AL path.

The result is a grade school and middle school cohort in which parents reassure themselves that they've done the "best" they can within SPS for their student, and students go to school with kids who - mostly - act as a homogeneous group in the classroom and form friendships that carry forward into high school, the same as happens in neighborhood schools.

What is missing in all of this? The unmistakable fact that the students in HCC are not receiving gifted services. More importantly the students who may possibly have the most societal potential are never identified as gifted in the first place and spend their time in public school isolated and quite often failing. Because the system does not identify their talent and the HCC cohort itself does not want to examine the parameters of giftedness and does not want to insist on gifted services for all Seattle students for whom this service is crucial. Because HCC at least has a cohort. And parents have settled for those few crumbs for their kids and their friends. Or they have flung up their arms and left SPS. Advocates for a better system for all - and not just for one's kid? You could look across Seattle and count those advocates on one hand. Not two.

"Gifted background"
Lynn said…
The HCC cohort (do you mean the students or the parents?) could examine the parameters of giftedness 24 hours a day for a year and then insist on gifted services for all Seattle students and it would have no effect on anything the district does when identifying or serving students. Advocating for anything in this district is futile.

Anonymous said…
Parents fall into the IQ trap. This article came from the NW gifted site.

SPS may well get more underserved students into the program with outreach and admission tweaking, but if you are in poorer schools, it's all luck. It's a pity because this is where a strong spectrum/ALO program could have made a real difference in closing achievement gap, especially in the earliest grades when you can take advantage of children's natural curiosity to pique their interest and sustain the learning drive. It's also challenging for the teachers who may find they don't have a partner at home to help these children out. Not because the parents don't give a damn, but they are working, overwhelmed, aren't fluent in English or know how to tap into the system to access enrichment opportunity to bump that child from mere gen ed to spectrum to HCC. It's also hard to keep strong teachers in challenging schools with constant staff turnover. Try volunteering at the HW club or at local libraries offering HW support and you'll get to meet these students.

Our fight for spectrum in our well enriched school with top of the mark scores demonstrated what a landmine that effort was. At the end, it became an ill defined program with differentiation as a cornerstone. That cornerstone consists of the teacher and the class makeup. Smart and involved parents quickly figured out who was the best teacher per grade and the jockeying begins. You should see the gift cards, the goodies, the heaping praises, the FB groupie. It was over the top and made a few teachers uncomfortable, to their credit.

no utopia
"Advocates for a better system for all - and not just for one's kid? You could look across Seattle and count those advocates on one hand. Not two."

I could name many advocates who have worked for better access and outcomes for all students. I'm sorry you know so few.
Anonymous said…

-goner raises interesting issues about Advanced Learning offerings.

The biggest one for me is the highly suspect nature of the decision-making at senior levels in school systems over the years in regard to "Gifted & Talented".

In 1980 I began teaching mostly math at Nisqually Middle School in Lacey, WA.

Previously Nisqually had one section of Algebra for 8th graders but had expanded that to two sections by 1980 (Tacoma now has essentially algebra for all 8th graders with pathetic results for far too many).

Soon came a move to interdisciplinary teams and three sections of algebra in grade 8.

A few years later came no algebra in middle school for any student based on some supposed brain research.

It seems the only constant is "change" based on essentially no relevant data or common sense.

The North Thurston School District had an incredibly great "Gifted & Talented" program for elementary school students with a fantastic teacher during the 1980s. That program was also discarded on the basis of "Who knows why?"

Hope this puts any questioning of HIMS Advanced Learning into perspective.

Raj Manhas is now superintendent of North Thurston schools for whatever that is worth.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
The North Thurston School District ended the "Gifted & Talented" program for elementary school students when a levy failed in 1994.

Yet when revenue returned a few years later the awesome "Gifted & Talented" program did not resume.

District finances were stressed by the failure of the 1994 operating levy
vote, which had a revenue impact shared between fiscals 1995 and 1996. The
district has since reduced spending through a combination of personnel cuts
and reductions in programs. District voters passed an operating levy in 1996,
and levies have risen by approximately $11 million each year for 1996 and
1997. Voters also passed an operating levy in 1997 which will provide just
under $12 million each year for 1998 and 1999.

So what is the SPS explanation for the erratic direction of Advanced Learning and programs for "Gifted & Talented" students ????

-- Dan Dempsey
- said…
A little known fact is that for 2015-16 acceptance letters were sent out by AL to those middle school students who had >97 IQ and achievment >94% reading OR math. Certainly a welcome change as it will allow more 2E kids into the program.

As for the achievement piece well that is a concern as I believe it is SBAC right? So good luck with that.

-APP Dad

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