What if the lie of Spectrum or ALO were challenged?

I don't know if this effort would be at all worthwhile, but I would really like to see someone try it.

Given the presumption and the suspicion that the advanced learning at most ALOs exists exclusively on paper, and that blended Spectrum is no different from an ALO, which is no different from nothing... has anyone ever tried to get their child's teacher or principal to provide evidence of an advanced learning opportunity?

What would happen - or, if someone has tried it, what has happened - when a parent or guardian demands evidence that a school is actually providing the advanced learning opportunity that the Board Policy 2190 and the Superintendent Procedure 2190SP requires?

The Policy says:
Advanced Learners
The District identifies and provides appropriate instructional programs and services for students who demonstrate high academic achievement, but who do not meet the definition of Highly Capable. Such students are identified as Advanced Learners.
Programs for Advanced Learners
Advanced Learning instructional programs will include differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities. Delivery mechanisms may include: differentiated instruction, groupings of Advanced Learning students to work together in subjects or on projects, self-contained classrooms, or accelerated pacing.
The Superintendent is authorized to develop procedures consistent with state guidelines regarding referral, evaluation, and identification of Highly Capable students in order to implement this policy. The procedures will describe the programs and services available to students identified as Highly Capable as well as to those identified as Advanced Learners.
The language here is pretty plain. "Advanced Learning programs will include differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities" I don't think it is unreasonable to ask teachers or principals to show and explain how they are providing differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities. It is not unreasonable to ask for evidence of compliance with this policy.

The Procedure says
Spectrum is a program designed for students identified as "Advanced Learners," but Highly Capable students are welcome to join. Spectrum is for students who perform well above average for their grade level and may require more advanced work to remain engaged. Spectrum is offered at all middle schools and several elementary schools and classes are either self-contained or students are grouped within classrooms that have multiple Highly Capable and/or Advanced Learners, depending on location.
Advanced Learning Opportunities (ALOs) are individual school-based programs for students identified as needing more academic challenges. All students who are District-identified for Highly Capable Services or Spectrum, as well as teacher-identified students at ALO schools, may participate. These students are typically grouped within classrooms that have multiple Highly Capable and/or Advanced Learners to provide appropriate differentiation and acceleration.
This means that the Spectrum students in an ALO or blended Spectrum program must be grouped together, somehow, within the classroom. Is that happening? If it isn't happening, then the school is out of compliance with the procedure.

By the way, do you notice how the Superintendent Procedure doesn't meet the policy's requirement that it describe the programs and services? There is no description of the services, is there?

So what would happen if a parent or guardian asked for the evidence of advanced learning opportunity? And, if the evidence were not there, if the parent or guardian escalated the complaint to the principal, the Executive Director of Schools, the district ombudsman, or wherever the current complaint process goes?

It is one thing for us to complain among ourselves about the absence of any advanced learning in the advanced learning programs. It's something else for people to complain to the bureaucracy about it. Stay civil, but stay resolute, follow the proper channels, and fill out your paperwork completely.

I honestly don't know what would result from this. At best, the teachers and schools would provide evidence of advanced learning. They would show that they are providing differentiation, accelerated content, and deeper learning opportunities. It would also be good if someone in authority - the principal, the Executive Director of Schools, or someone further up the food chain demanded that any absent elements be fulfilled. It's most likely, however, that we will discover that the policy and the procedure are meaningless and unenforceable. But let's get it a definitive and undeniable answer so we can demand a meaningful and enforceable policy and procedure.


Anonymous said…
I engage in this work weekly. My 3rd grade daughter is Spectrum-qualified (2% off from HCC) but stuck (dare I say "trapped") at a non-Spectrum, non-ALO school. I put her on the Spectrum waitlist this past year and she was 7th, never got a spot. So trapped at a school that is outspoken about their anti-Advanced Learning bias.

I was under the impression that legally she is not "protected" or "guaranteed" anything and that the mere offering of a Spectrum classroom, despite it's inaccessibility, is sufficient to meet District policy. Is this correct? If there are more grounds to fight, I will gladly escalate.

I have challenged the teachers about their teaching practices with my daughter. When I point out the efficacy of acceleration over "enrichment" (an empty term these days) I usually get a black stare. When I push more, I finally get the concession "we're just given a curriculum to teach, we don't go beyond that."

It is not of any comfort that adults who simply do what they are told are the ones teaching my child.

On her reading assessment at the beginning of the year, my daughter got all of the hard questions right and a few of the easy ones wrong. The teacher interpreted these results to mean that she needed to be in a lower reading group because her comprehension wasn't high enough.

When I challenged this, questioning the interpretation of results, I got something similar, "I can only go by how many are right and wrong on the assessment." I received another blank stare when I pointed out that the research is quite clear that it does in fact make a difference WHICH questions are right/wrong.

Apparently, teachers are not happy when parents use research to challenge what they are doing. I am under the impression many teachers think using "data" was going to be a strategy impermeable to critique.

I think it is reasonable that if a teacher is going to use "data" to place my child in a reading group, then I should be able to question which data is being used and which data is blatantly ignored.

SW Mom
Anonymous said…
So what would happen if a parent or guardian asked for the evidence of advanced learning opportunity? And, if the evidence were not there, if the parent or guardian escalated the complaint to the principal, the Executive Director of Schools, the district ombudsman, or wherever the current complaint process goes?

Answer: nothing

In our experience, the complaint is handled as instructional materials complaint, but since most teachers don't have or use district adopted materials, or they simply don't exist for many classes, there is little recourse.

-good luck
Anonymous said…
I agree with -good luck.

The attitude around education, from the classroom teacher up to the district leadership, seems to be only what is "legally required." Shouldn't the legal precedent be our starting point for reaching higher rather than our ending point? Why do we chase such low standards for our children?

I wonder if parents fighting, complaining, arguing, and escalating feeds into this notion of scarcity with not-enough-to-go-around. Why aren't rigorous academics widely available to all students who are interested?

Charlie, what would you recommend as the most effective hill for us parents to charge if we want increased academics for our children?

SW Mom
Anonymous said…
SW Mom:

I am no educational expert, and I can speak only from my own personal experience, having been in the exact situation you describe. I don't claim for a second that my situation was in any way representative, because I'm sure it wasn't.

I didn't worry about it. Chances are that your daughter's teachers are so overburdened with unnecessary bureaucratic responsibilities that they could not help, even though they might be inclined to. I fed my daughter's interests with reading material and other materials that supplemented them. The result in her case was that she breezed through K-8, and as soon as she was out of 10th grade she was right into a full schedule of college work through Running Start, and never looked back. That was the true ALO.

-- Ivan Weiss
Anonymous said…
That's a long time to wait for appropriate academic challenge. It's a Sisyphean task to push the district on academics (see math thread...), but I would not be inclined to simply not worry about it. I would suggest your energy is best spent finding solutions outside of school. Some schools/teachers simply can't provide an appropriate challenge, whether it's due to lack of interest, lack of time, or lack of resources.

-good luck
Here's the odd thing - the district HAS actually tried teaching all kids to a higher level. Correction - one school did this on its own.

Back around 2006, Maple Elementary taught all their students at a Spectrum rate/level. There was an article in the Times, extolling how this experiment had worked and students were mostly doing great.

But Maple had to rearrange dollars to do this and couldn't sustain it (and the district certainly wasn't going to help) and so they stopped.

A little unbelievable that something that parents liked (more rigor), that was tried (with good results) went away.

"I fed my daughter's interests with reading material and other materials that supplemented them."

I did this as well. Problem is, it's not your job. It's one thing for a sport or maybe a subject (like science or music) but not for basics.

And, what about parents without the time or wherewithal to do this?

I think what you could do if you get blank looks, is to work the chain of command. Ask your principal to show you the plan for meeting the needs of highly capable learners. (The principal should have something, if only on paper.) If he/she does, explain, without complaining, that this is not happening and it concerns you because your child has tested into Spectrum/HCC. If nothing, move on to the Ex Dir with an e-mail and cc it to your region's Board director. If nothing from Ex Dir, move on to Advanced Learning.

Document all of this because there needs to be a paper trail that parents are asking for services that the district says are available.
Anonymous said…
"I was under the impression that legally she is not "protected" or "guaranteed" anything and that the mere offering of a Spectrum classroom, despite it's inaccessibility, is sufficient to meet District policy. Is this correct?"

Legally SW Mom, as in State mandate means only those who SPS deems HC are required to get the services at any school they attend. (Which is 98% iq and 95/95% achievement at SPS and may be different in another district). The other programs seem based on capacity.

That said I would look to the HC parents to make a similar challenge to their kids MS. Seriously where is that program at? The district has placed at HIMS, JAMS and now WMS leaders who are antithetical to AL tracking and it shows in the current curriculum choices and pace/depth that they cover in their HCC classes - LA/SS.

-Do it

Anonymous said…
As a parent that has brought concerns about HCC to the principal (classes weren't even covering state standards, let alone offering appropriate challenge) I'd say it's a lost cause. It's gotten worse with each passing year. It's almost a quarter into the school year, and we're still waiting for some history to be covered. The only thing HCC guarantees is placement with a cohort.

-good luck
Anonymous said…
Note that at JAMS HCC is not a self-contained cohort. At least in 8th, as room permits any student can join the HCC classes if the student shows aptitude and motivation.

I don't have a problem with this. I do have a problem that the challenge at JAMS is low. Students in gen ed middle school classes elsewhere are asked to tackle more. This has been discussed before on this blog. Parents are lulled into their HCC designation and don't bother to look at the classwork. Good luck stepping up to high school.

Anonymous said…
As the last three posters have made clear, any of Charlie's comments could just as easily be directed to middle school HCC. HC services ARE legally required, yet aside from acceleration in science (which may be more in name than in content) there's nothing apparent besides the cohort.

Anonymous said…
So, if HCC IS a legally protected entity that the district is required to provide services for AND they patently are not (or at least not consistently at all sites) providing this for middle school then parents should be asking for documentation, evidence etc of how the curriculum offered at HCC middle schools differs for than that of the general ed curriculum and demonstration of how it is tailored to HCC students. From what I have heard, in the LA/SS area T&I have insisted that the curriculum is the same as for gen ed - so how on earth can they claim to be providing for HCC? Just sitting all the HCC students down in the same room does not equate to meeting the educational needs of these students as directed by law. Surely, it takes more than having an eligibility test and a set of entry criteria to satisfy the state legal requirements for HCC. What is the point of a student testing, meeting eligibility criteria etc if they are just being presented exactly the material, at the same rate, and graded to exactly the same standards as general ed classes?

We need evidence that HCC kids are being given more advanced material, or covering it at more rapid rate or in more depth, and being graded to higher level standards otherwise it is clearly not HCC it is just general ed, given a different name to appease parents.

Why has this district got such an aversion to providing rigor? Even at the HCC middle school sites the administration is either indifferent or biased against advanced learning. A teachers at JAMS told the HCC class that they didn't believe in the practice of separating advanced kids, didn't think HCC is needed = and this coming from one of the actual HCC class teachers. What kind of message is that to give a child? Even if a teacher has those beliefs they should not tell their students. And why are staff who are philosophically opposed to advanced learning given positions teaching advanced learners - its not good for the staff or the students they teach. But I guess it fits the district agenda.

Middle HCC
Anonymous said…
Middle HCC-

You can ask the district what the difference in curriculum is between Gen Ed and HCC, and I bet that you will hear that HCC classes go "deeper." This is perfect for the district because "deeper" cannot be measured (at least they won't bother), so the district doesn't have to do anything.

The district will not provide rigor because it is "unfair" and "inequitable."

We left for private after one year at HIMS and it is SO MUCH better.

-cried uncle
Anonymous said…
I was in HCC back when it was called IPP (the pre-APP name). My somewhat hazy recollection is that for Social Studies and Science, we covered the same core material at the same grade levels as other students, but went into significantly more depth and had more challenging assignments. Is this not happening anymore?

We are considering HCC for our daughter, but wonder if it is worth taking her out of the neighborhood elementary which she loves and where she does get to be challenged by things like "Walk To Math" and weekly reading book packets that are tailored to her current level. Does HCC these days provide much more than this?

Elementary Dad
Anonymous said…
Charlie wrote:

"It's most likely, however, that we will discover that the policy and the procedure are meaningless and unenforceable. But let's get it a definitive and undeniable answer so we can demand a meaningful and enforceable policy and procedure."

Hey aren't we dealing with the same SPS administrative bureaucratic overlords that regularly skirt laws as well as policy and does whatever they choose?

Aren't we dealing with the same board that watches the above regularly?

Maybe an enforceable policy and procedure and a new board and a new superintendent and a new ........ etc. might possibly produce positive change.

We are far more likely to see a continued strong belief in "Differentiated Instruction" imposed on all to meet every student's needs in the regular classroom. The goal is apparently nearly equal outcomes for all.

The idea of a district responsibility to provide each child with the opportunity to maximize their learning .. is viewed as merely the irrelevant ramblings of elitist parents.

And so it came to pass that the intellectual decline continued under the banner of uniformity, Common Core and one-size fits-all. .... and mostly likely 6% raises for senior staff.

I suppose that Basis Charter schools in Arizona began with this type of frustration with the system.

Take a look at AZ charter NAEP performance. It is past time to abandon the equal outcomes differentiated instruction mantra in the SPS.

Remember there is even opposition to "walk to math"

As Rick Burke says: Its time to get back to learning.

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
Elementary Dad-

When neighbors ask my opinion about APP/HCC, I say middle school is the weakest part (at least in the north), and I wouldn't move my kid for that (we left the district after 6th because we found it so bad). You may have to move your child to HCC for 8th grade if you want her to go to Garfield (they can still go to Ingraham in 9th without being in APP in 8th). These are current "rules" and are subject to change at a whim and with no prior warning.

If your child likes her neighborhood school, and you feel she is being challenged, I would not move her. I don't know if you are north or south, but keep in mind that the north HCC elementary program is going through some major changes soon.

-cried uncle.
Anonymous said…
I think at elementary level HCC works (not perfectly, but good enough). They do math 2 years ahead, they working to 1-2 grade levels ahead in LA, science has some add-on materials for HCC. I get the impression the teachers 'get' the kids needs quite well and are happy to teach this cohort of kids.

By HS, kids are doing AP or IB or courses at whatever level is appropriate for them so it's less of an issue ( maybe the concern is availablity of appropriate courses?).

It's really middle school HCC where it seems to fall apart - lot of inconsistency between 3 sites, variable committment to HCC (if not outright opposition) philosophically among adminstration/ staff at each site, no defined HCC courses/standards for most subjects. Math is OK because placement is according to performance and so tends to be at a more appropriate level. It is a real concern since Middle school is really where it all begins - getting a solid foundation for high school in important for most subjects as is developing good organization and study habits. It's not surprising that a large number of parents go private at this stage. If you have college-prep type courses, challenging courses in mind for high school I just do not see HCC middle school as providing a good stepping stone to this. It's just pathetic the way that SPS just prefers to cater to the lowest common denominator rather than exposing all students to more rigor and providing the support for them to be successful (a rising tide floats boats - a falling tide beaches them).

So what to do at middle school level HCC if you don't have the luxury of escape to private school? That is my big worry. I'd love for the HCC middle schools and curricula to improve but is that realistic given SPS? Would the kids get a better or just as good middle school education at our fairly well-regarded non HCC neighborhood middle school (but then they would lose elligibility so we're kind of stuck)

Middle HCC
Anonymous said…
I think it's great that JAMS allows and encourages kids from gen ed to join the HCC/Spectrum blended classes if they have the motivation and aptitude, IME if you attract that notice from last year's teachers then you will likely bring the class up! Tracking is at it's most damaging when it is inflexible. I think there should be some amount of movement both in and out to meet the changing needs of the students. I also have found the teaching staff at JAMS to be fantastic, and I really don't understand the frequent complaints.

-JAMS working

Anonymous said…
I don't hear people complaining about high performing gen ed students entering the HCC/spectrum blended classes at JAMS - I think most would think good for them! I think that is how advanced learning should work - if any kids demonstrate they are capable of doing harder, more advanced work then they should be given the opportunity. This is how it is with AP in High school etc.
But the problem is - when they join the HCC/spectrum class are they ACTUALLY getting work that is harder or more advanced or graded more rigorously than in gen ed? Is there any evidence to show that it is? If not, then it's just rearranging bums on seats and nothing more.
I do wonder if the blended model (HCC/spectrum) is one thing that leads to the perception of lack of advanced material being provided - because kids who have been in HCC for some time might be ready for higher level stuff than those that have been in spectrum or just entering the class from gen ed - therefore if the material is aimed at the lower level, the longtime HCC students may be inadequately challenged. I don't know if this is the case but I would be interested to see if spectrum parents or gen ed parents who's kids get moved up into an advanced class are happier with what is provided than HCC parents? Perhaps this accounts for the discrepancy in opinions.

Middle HCC
Anonymous said…
Yes, let's all do some slumming and let gen ed in. FO. Oh, you used the word Bums...I know exactly who you are. Do you ever go back and read what you type?, go back home.

Outsider said…
I have made the argument before here -- lack of ALOs is not a case of being too busy, or doing the minimum, or not knowing how. SPS actively wants not to offer ALOs. The focus of SPS is equity and inclusion, and ALOs are antithetical to equity (a.k.a. equal outcomes) and inclusion.

Classroom teachers don't want to group bright students together to do accelerated work. They want to spread bright students around, to help their struggling peers as "role models" or literally to help them with the work. That is the "job" of bright kids in the classroom -- not to achieve their own potential. Teachers and principals know well that their career interests align with promoting equity and inclusion, and squashing ALOs.

The grip of PC is so strong in Seattle that no one wants to recognize the reality, let alone articulate it. But you will always stay puzzled if you don't recognize the reality.
Anonymous said…
@ JAMS working, the reason it "works" to have gen ed students join HCC classes is because the HCC classes aren't meeting the needs of those they are supposed to serve. HC students learn differently, and need different instructional strategies and more challenging curricula. That's the reason for the law. It's not supposed to be about providing a little extra challenge for gen ed students. But it can do that now, because the classes aren't delivering the pacing and acceleration and depth and overall challenge that kids with particularly high cognitive abilities need.

Anonymous said…
When you look at the free and reduced lunch (FRL) rates of HCC elementary schools they are very low. I heard at Cascadia it is around 1-2 %. To me this implies that 'advanced' learners are often just children who have been exposed to more learning opportunities due to their backgrounds. It is likely that HCC programs contribute to further inequity by pooling advanced learning resources into special, separate schools. I think if all schools were truly ALO, then everyone could go to their neighborhood schools and have opportunities for more challenging work. There is also something to be said about the benefit of peer mentoring, and the positive social aspect of this in classes of mixed learning abilities. Children can learn to work together to achieve group goals.

Anonymous said…
Not only was I a kid who was always bored in school, both my children easily qualify cognitively for HCC. Every time I express any satisfaction with the program it's explained to me that I'm not very intelligent and neither are my children. I assume the bored kids do find challenge in self selected independent projects? If not, why not? Do they find the lectures and discussions dull, or just the readings? I would really love more specifics, because I would love to understand the root of the problem.

JAMS working
Anonymous said…
Re: spectrum, ALO, and pull out.

Our ES experience was pull out for math was the answer to spectrum. Until pull out became voluntary and some grades didn't do it because the teachers didn't want to as it was disruptive, caused class size to be lop sided, and lots of work to coordinate. We got differentiation which meant a different worksheet some weeks, but everybody was using the same math book. That means our child repeated a year in math. We asked the teacher and principal about this, but were told the kids were doing well in class and standardized testing and that because our ES has high numbers in state testings, this demonstrated things were good and the students were well prepared for MS. We had several teachers who frowned on supplementation and parents who did it just kept quiet about it. There were no differentiation for science or LAs. Reading was differentiated in that there were different reading groups which were student led. The problem with spectrum and ALO is it tends to be a small group within the school and that makes it hard to advocate and get traction. We didn't get any help from the AL department. Many parents were afraid to push too hard for fear of being stigmatized. Principal and teachers did what they want to anyway.

What we found. Kids with parents who have the time to teach and supplement will do well regardless of meaningful spectrum/ALO. Kids who don't, that's a tougher outcome to predict.

Anonymous said…
Outsider reflects our exact experience.

You can't fight a tidal wave. If you are wondering why SPS would do this, I think part of it is to close the achievement gap by ensuring the high kids don't get too far ahead, and part of it is commitment to equity, which I understand, and trying to make sure everyone feels good about themselves.

If you address the problem head on you are forgetting where you live: Seattle, home of the passive aggressive. You will get nowhere, but will have identified yourself as one of "those parents".

You can prepare your kid for the road or prepare the road for your kid. I suggest the former, accept that this is the way it is, and do what you can for your kid.

Lynn said…
According to school board policy, for Highly Capable students: A self- contained cohort option is available in grades 1-8.
Has anyone brought this to the attention of the principal at JAMS, the executive director for the NE region, the advanced learning office or the school board?
Anonymous said…
@ Geez - I don't know who you think I am but I guarantee I am not that person ......you really have no idea who I am.
Bums = butts = bottoms ie "butts on seats" = just rearranging students seating positions essentially.
Not bums as in vagrants if that is what you were thinking, And YOU were the one who thought that, not me.
Nothing to do with slumming it - if you read what I said you would see that I am in favor of any student who wants to do and has shown themselves to be capable of doing advanced work being able to access it. The problem is, it's unclear if any students are getting that.
But gosh, I wonder who you are that is so quick to go there.

Middle HCC

Not AL said…
The attitude of people like AL always amazes me. Above, AL says, "'advanced' learners are often just children who have been exposed to more learning opportunities due to their backgrounds. It is likely that HCC programs contribute to further inequity by pooling advanced learning resources into special, separate schools."

To me, that says, some children get more help and resources at home. Those children shouldn't learn anything at school. Equity demands that we stop educating children when they get ahead.

I really hope that isn't what you mean. But it sure sounds like it.

Equity should mean equal access to educational opportunities. It should not mean that everyone is equal. It definitely should not mean the children that are ahead should sit in a corner learning nothing until they are no longer ahead.
Anonymous said…
I didn't say anything about kids in the corner not learning. I said we should have real ALO opportunities at every neighborhood school for everyone. Equal access.

Lynn said…
Because the FRL rate at Cascadia is very low, AL believes that 'advanced' learners are often just children who have been exposed to more learning opportunities due to their backgrounds.

In reality, the fact that few students who qualify to receive FRL also qualify as highly capable tells us that even highly intelligent children are not able to excel academically when their lives are affected by poverty.

AL also says It is likely that HCC programs contribute to further inequity by pooling advanced learning resources into special, separate schools.

The only advanced learning resources pooled in these schools are the students themselves and children are not resources to be distributed among schools in order to allow everyone to benefit from their presence.

According to AL, There is also something to be said about the benefit of peer mentoring, and the positive social aspect of this in classes of mixed learning abilities. Children can learn to work together to achieve group goals.

Peer mentoring and the positive social aspect of working in mixed learning ability groups do not meet the social and academic needs of highly capable children.
Anonymous said…
@ Geez

"Go back home" WTF??
I guess it never takes long before the personal attacks start when its an advanced learning thread.
Middle HCC was being quite constructive in expressing their views and certainly not denigrating group (except for district administration).
You just attacked them and didn't offer anything to the discussion. Why do you feel so threatened?
Students, through whatever combination of genetics or upbringing or socioeconomic status, aren't all the same: some are working at a higher grade level than others, while some are making it through their grade level material either comfortably or with some challenges, and yet others still are really struggling to cope with the grade level material. It is a fallacy that our teachers, in our current system can singlehandledly reach all of these groups in a single class and meet the needs of all of them adequately - so that they all do the best they can.
It might make some parents feel better if they thought the advanced ones were taken down a notch or two, but it's not actually going to help any students.

Typical AL thread

Anonymous said…
I don't have a problem with student led groups or student helper in general. But these students should not be treated as IAs. Just because you have a student who knows something does not mean they can teach it. Their classmates don't see the student as a teacher or even someone they should listen to. This set up can create conflict and I've seen it. I've seen students who outright refused to follow a teacher's or a parent volunteer's instruction. It puts the student helper in an awkward position of trying to help, but is resented at the same time. Group dynamics matter and it takes good teachers to know how much and when it's appropriate they can ask of their students to do this. This isn't a PC matter. It's more common sense classroom management.

Anonymous said…
Amen Lynn

Anonymous said…
I've recently heard that SPS receives additional funding from the state for HCC (a small amount pet student). Does anyone know what this money is used for? Different cirriculum? Thanks.
Anonymous said…
I believe SPS pumps all its HC money into that finely tuned machine that is AL testing, and probably also HC student transportation.

Curriculum? Ha!
Anonymous said…
I also will add, the problem with spectrum and ALO discussions is they gets hijacked. It can't be helped as there are real division here and far more HCC readers and those who oppose AL on this blog. I'll just roll off to make dinner before sports pick up ;<)

Curriculum HA, yes, the bulk of HC money goes to testing. The transportation is state-funded and actually helps SPS' bottom line.

AL, I wish we had adequate ALO opportunities for all kids in all schools. It's just not happening.

I had to smile at the "student helper" idea. As I told one teacher when my son was in elementary, he's not there to teach, he's there to learn. If one child is a "helper," then all kids get to be.
Anonymous said…
Let's watch the uproar in the CD next year when Spectrum plus a largely Caucasian gen ed cohort peel off to Meany which is one set of issues and HCC and a largely minority and lower income general ed cohort are left at Washington.

The divide at Washington won't stand for long. I predict 2 years tops. That will end the only decent middle school AL program. Even Washington has sunk in its rigor but it is something.

After Meany opens the differences in cohort makeup at Washington will be too stark for the district to tolerate and for politicians to allow. Sure, a self-contained cohort option will exist but my money's on it existing in dribs and drabs at various south and west schools, not in a lump sum at Washington.

Nothing has been said at the district level. This is simply a prediction. My money is on me to be right. SPS does not support advanced learning period except for Stephen Martin who is one person only.

Lynn said…
The group planning for HCC services at Madison next fall is advocating that Fairmount Park, Madison and West Seattle High School become the HCC pathway schools for students in the SW region - cutting off their access to self contained programs at TM and WMS and to Garfield. This is happening even though board policy says The variety of instructional programs or services for students identified as Highly Capable will include pathways to sites with adequate cohorts of Highly Capable students in order to provide peer learning and social/emotional opportunities for these students, teachers with experience and/or professional development on the academic and social/emotional needs of these students, appropriate curriculum, appropriately differentiated instruction, deeper learning opportunities, and accelerated pacing. and A self-contained cohort option is available in grades 1-8.

Does the group not familiarize themselves with policy?
Anonymous said…

Why familiarize yourself with a policy you have no intention of following? The district does what it likes, policy or no policy.

We know they will not be accountable regardless of what they do, so why do something you don't want to do?

Tresanos said…
I am a teacher in a school that differentiates well. Lots of these comment are alien to my school's culture. I hope that parents reading these comments know that at many schools, challenge and rigor are expected and that teachers are really bought in to that, both for students who have not had opportunities and options, and students who are already really high-achieving and need challenge at their level.
Outsider said…
Tresanos --

What school is that ?!?! Every real estate agent wants to know, but please tell us first. Also, how does your principal survive?
Anonymous said…
It seems like a lot of advanced learning kids do move to private schools especially near middle school. I do wonder how to tell which private schools are actually great and not just telling parents what they want to hear etc. what are some of the top private schools in Seattle and has anyone looked at whether there is any provable benefit (better colleges , careers, happiness ) for children who move to them vs stay with sps if they are coming from a highly supporivs home environment?

-wondering about private
Anonymous said…
If you choose SAAS for your child, they will definitely go to a better college, have a stellar career and be super happy!!

You clearly have not entered the teenage years or even close. My advise - and I sign off -

Anonymous said…
SASS regularly dumps kids out when they don't fall in line. I am sure that many of the other private high schools do that too. SPS doesn't have that luxury.

Chill, slow down. I know kids from SAAS and it's a great school. But they all have stellar careers and are "super happy." No.
Anonymous said…
Not to mention that the community of SAAS has a certain smugness also seen at Villa and Seattle Prep that is more than offputting to any family without a lifestyle of a certain sort not to mention any family wanting their kids to be a part of their real world not a hothouse slice of life. The schools have good teachers along with their share of duds, good enrichment along with their share of mindless activities for activity sake, good funding and the imbalances that come with the privileges accorded to the biggest donors. It's private school. Works for them. But are the kids at these schools brighter -not necessarily with the exception of maybe 3 area schools specializing in meeting those needs. What the above schools have is families who can pay tuition. Some of the schools ahem Villa shamelessly track. So you can be a student in the low achieving tier for your whole school career. And have your parents pay that 30K$$$$$$$ for the privilege every year. If a school is a fit for your kid and you can afford it, nothing wrong with that I guess. But the pride of parents namedropping their kid's school is silliness and doesn't mean much beyond marketing has been effective. Some of us would argue that there is no moral superiority at all in the many private schools who exist solely to offer a schooling that means a family doesn't have to send their precious offspring to a class with 'those kids.' 'Those kids' are society's kids and they will be part of the precious offspring's generation no matter what. So this parent comes down strongly propublic ed and yet even I can see the other side which is that SPS middle school is largely a very weak link in the system with ridiculous amounts of thumb twiddling and yes that includes AL from what I have seen. If I were to cough up $30K yearly because that is what my kid truly needed I'd spend that dough on private 6-8. I'd send them right back to public high school though. A lot of SPS HS schools are the bomb. The privates coming back to public finding they're a little fish in a big pond is amusing. But by and large they make their way eventually and probably experience character growth along the way. Especially when 'those kids' are their classmates.

Anonymous said…
It's a good thing nobody with kids both in public school and at SAAS, Villa or Seattle Prep reads this blog. Keep your blanket stereotypes of private school families to yourself.

Anonymous said…
I didn't mean to single out SAAS in my comment, insert any school name, public or private. If any school had a lock on best college admission, subsequent career success and lifelong happiness (which were the qualities the poster was looking for in a school), that school would be very popular. That school does not exist. I was being sarcastic.

And we are talking about preteens and teens, developing and growing and individuating people who are going to thrive or not in different environments. There is a lot we as parents cannot control as they become who they are going to be, for better or worse. But we can love them and support them on their journey, be it in public or private school.

Anonymous said…
I wasn't looking for that school in my post mainly I was also pointing out that there is no data no studies no actual comparisons in order to justify moving a child to private school if you have the means. They may actually be no real benefit to the child. If I'm wrong is love to see actual data.

Looking at private
Anonymous said…
Looking, there is significant evidence that in fact public schools are better- check out this book- http://www.amazon.com/The-Public-School-Advantage-Outperform/dp/022608891X

Basically, if you control for demographics, public schools do better. In my personal circle lately public school kids of my demographic are doing better in the college application game than private school kids of that same demographic. The very, very wealthy do the best, of course, and they are mostly at private school. Probably random, but it's at least a data point for me when we start to think about high school.

But of course, these books- and especially my random anecdata- won't tell you if X specific private school is better than Y specific public school for Z specific child. Or what a geo split to unwillingly found a new school sophomore year of high school would do to a child's education, for example. Sigh.

Anonymous said…
Can anyone remember the title to this thread? Parents want truth in advertising from AL, and that causes the knee-jerk, class warriors to come out of the woodwork. Like clockwork.

Anonymous said…

To mix with 'those kids' may lend you the moral high ground and make you better for it in your mind. For me, 'those kids' are students like all others. They are not there as props nor to develop 'character' of your children. Our students have enough labels and burdens without the need for more adult hypocrisy and politics. Some days, I really want to yell "leave them alone."

Anonymous said…
Actually private school parents do read this blog. Our family has had eight years of kids in SPS. We have had years with one kid in SPS and one kid in private. Now both kids are in private. It's possible one child might return to SPS for high school, which is one reason I read this blog and keep abreast of SPS and HCC issues. While my children were at SPS I volunteered in numerous ways from art assistant and library volunteer in multiple schools to PTA President and sitting on district-wide committees to help craft changes to district policies that would help improve the lives of all kids in the district. Now I here from Propublic that I am "smug" because our family made the choice to send our kids to private school this year. The choice was personal and thoughtful. Oddly enough my "precious offspring" are the same kids as they were when they attended public school. They will be no better or worse if they return to public again. I like to believe I am no more or less smug than when my kids went private. The very same parents you paint as smug with such a broad brush are often people who have dedicated hundreds of hours to advocate for your kids in SPS. Many of us consistently support school levies, advocate for candidates who fight to fully fund schools under McLeary, and support teachers and parents who are advocating for kids. As is evident by so many comments in this blog, every kid and every family is different, but every parent is doing what they believe to be best for their individual child. Please do not label "private school" families as smug. These same private school families often are also public school families or struggled to find a public school that was a good fit for their child. In turn, I will resist the urge to label you as smug.
--South End
Anonymous said…
Correction: "hear" not here. My excellent public school English teacher would be aghast at my typo.
-- South End
"There is a lot we as parents cannot control as they become who they are going to be, for better or worse. But we can love them and support them on their journey, be it in public or private school."

Believe me, truer words never spoken.

And again, I always hear from parents who are slightly embarrassed to tell me they have one kid in public, one in private. Don't be. YOU know your kid and have to do what is best for THAT child.

And yes, private school parents pay taxes just like the rest of us.
Charlie Mas said…
So some folks have spoken to a teacher or even a principal.
Who has pushed past that level to speak to an Executive Director of Schools or the Ombudsman?
Who has made a formal compliant? Anyone?
Anonymous said…

The retaliation I received at the teacher/principal level was enough for me to back off and forgo advocating past that point.

The teacher and principal conveniently began escalating the discipline of my Spectrum-in-Gen-Ed student after I vocalized my concerns around the insufficiency of instruction for her.

I will be very curious to hear about others who made it further in the gauntlet.

SW Mom
Jan said…
Hear, hear, Southend! I am totally with you! I have three kids. All three have spent years at Seattle Public Schools and all three have spent years in private schools. Not one of them went to the same private school(s) as any of the others, or for the same years. We all take what we have (in terms of time, money, and love) and do the best we can to raise our kids!

But all of us are (or can be) advocates for public education and the future of Seattle Public Schools!

WS Pathway said…
Lynn, what size do consider an "adequate cohort?" This is only the 2nd year of Fairmount Park's HCC program and there were HCC kids waitlisted for entrance. I know, because I was one of them and never got in. A lot of families were misinformed regarding guaranteed placement, Julie Breidenbach included until late summer. Seats are only guaranteed for SW families at TM. The commute doesn't work for our family so we were SOL for this year.

Point being, there is an ever increasing cohort in the SW. The blended classrooms were a necessity of enrollment unknowns in the first few years. As it becomes established, more and more full HCC classrooms will theoretically exist. In fact, I would venture to guess that Fairmount Park, while also designated a neighborhood school, will ever be able to accommodate the HCC families from just West Seattle alone. In year 2, it is already over capacity.

From what I hear, Breidenbach has done a wonderful job at FP and created a program that is attempting to address some of the criticisms of TM (lack of unity among whole school). Creating a new pathway in WS could potentially usher in an opportunity to learn from what is and is not working at current MS and HS HCC programs and start with a fresh approach. Will this happen? Not sure, but if the AL office and parents advocate for a robust program, I do not see why it can't happen. It just takes will (which SPS is historically absent of).
Anonymous said…
I too am the parent of a child who has attended both public and private schools. Now that our student is back in a public HS (SPS), I am amazed, actually, at how great some of our kid's teachers are. The ratio of amazing to "dud" teachers seems to me *exactly* the same as at the private school we chose to send her to for part of her school years. And, in fact, I'd say that overall she is getting an even better education than at the private school she went to. One thing that private school can buy you, though, is access to excellent, individualized college counseling. So, yes - that part of it may be well worth paying for in some parents' minds. I also think that the smaller class sizes and tutoring/learning support that is often available at private schools can make them preferable for students with learning disabilities. Otherwise - many, many of the kids who are currently in Seattle's private schools would do just fine (and better than fine) in SPS.

-public/private parent
Lynn said…
WS Pathway,

Since you asked, I'd say for middle school and high school three classrooms per grade is necessary. There are nowhere near 75 HCC students of any grade in West Seattle and the number of highly capable students in West Seattle will not increase forever.

In the next few years, Madison will be over-filled with general education and Spectrum students and Washington will be under capacity. Creating an HCC program at Madison makes no sense to me.

If there's going to be a fresh approach to highly capable services in West Seattle, that should be clearly defined and when that has been done the West Seattle HCC should be allowed to give input on whether they are willing to give up a guaranteed self-contained cohort for it.
Anonymous said…
When Meany reopens as the middle school for Stevens, Montlake and McGilvra, the majority of the remaining white kids at Washintgton will be HCC, self contained and separate. I don't know that I would fight for that placement. Staying with a smaller cohort in West Seattle might be a better option. A stark dichotomy at Madrona was a failure when APP was housed there.

Charlie Mas said…

The member of the senior staff with the longest seniority in JSCEE is Michael Tolley. He came in with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and there is a steep drop in seniority after him. No one there remembers Madrona. No one there even knows about Madrona. If you tell them about Madrona they will tell you that "this time it's different".

If they don't know how it was, then how can they know that it is different?
Anonymous said…
Charlie, You make it sounds so easy. I wrote to my board member and the Superintendsnt and didn't even get a reply back about the spectrum changes. I spoke with a person from the AL department and this person told me and other parents that the school can decide how it wants to deliver spectrum. In our school, it was differentiation. I have to say differentiation was an afterthought because the principal sent out a letter of the changes without any discussion of differentiation. It wasn't until one of the parents who researched about AL programs nationwide and asked about differentiation, did the word became the answer. Many of you here have experience differentiation in a class size of 30-32 kids and know how inconsistent and ineffective that is.

I can't find where OSPI spells out out program/service delivery expectation and description anywhere. Anything like SPED laws which parents can pin down? Can you Charlie? Anyone?

it's not easy sticking your neck out either. Lots of people who were super smart like lawyers and UW professors and were happy to complain bitterly in private didn't do much and remained in good standing at the school. There are personal repercussions. We've faced them and we lost. It became a war of "don't you trust our teachers to do right?" Or parents who voiced concerns were told they were selfish and thought of only their children, that their child is not as bright as they hink and here are the reasons why, etc. When just asking questions and voicing concerns became a P-T conference of your child's ability, even a dimwit parent like me can read between the lines. I spoke to a FACMAC member for some guidance, but again, another dead end. I'm not sure if this was ever in FACMAC scope or at least that was the roundabout feedback I got.

Lynn said…

Advanced learning programs (Spectrum and ALOs) are voluntarily provided by the district and not required by OSPI. Board policy is the only thing you can look to for guidance.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, you've been a school advocate for a long time and I appreciate the light you are trying to shine on Spectrum and ALO. It matters for all the families who can't supplement, take time off to advocate and research what's best for their children. As a family, we've weathered SPS roller coaster well. Ironically, we found when you go from 2 income earners to 1 because of the recession, we found a free tutor for the the kids, though not having money sucks in Seattle.

This doesn't have to do with AL, but I have to thank many posters for sharing their (free and low cost) supplemental suggestions for math and other subjects. I've collected them into a list and gave them to friends and families. One friend in RB is sending her very mathy child to Aviation HS (the school wasn't clear with her and she didn't know by keeping her HCC child in the neighborhood school meant Garfield was off the table) and another is getting his MS child tested for dyslexia.


Tresanos said…
Outsider--not outing my school since it's not looked on favorably by district higher-ups to blog here....My point: some schools do have really committed teachers that work very hard to differentiate, and do it well. No-one is happy with every school and teacher at every moment, and many of us lie in bed at night and think about that one more thing we could have done. But by and large differentiation and rigor can work if it's a focus and expected.
Anonymous said…
Tresanos, you said earlier that differentiation, including for very advanced students, is happening at many schools. If you won't name your own, how about the others? We're having trouble believing it, since we haven't experienced it to be the case at the many schools familiar to parents here... Which are these mystery schools?

Happy Halloween
Tresanos said…
Hi Happy Halloween, hope you stay dry tonight while trick or treating. In terms of differentiation, I have heard good things from parents and/or teachers at these elementaries: Thornton Creek, Wing Luke, Dearborn Park, Gatewood, West Woodland, Hazel Wolf, Salmon Bay, Sand Point,Hawthorne, Van Asselt, South Shore, Sacajawea. Many of these are smaller schools, and have a pretty good number of innovative staff. JAMS is getting good comments from parents/staff despite some bumps in the road. Eckstein has long had a policy that kids can go as high as they need in math (and in lots of instances that's meant Eckstein kids have gone on to enter HS at as accelerated alevel as HCC kids). I'm sorry but I don't know as much about West Seattle schools that have a teaching culture that supports differentiation, maybe others here do.
GarfieldMom said…
public/private parent, we had a very similar experience. Our kids spent a couple of their early years in a public system, moved to private for a particular offering they couldn't get in a public school setting, then to SPS for high school. They have had fantastic and dud teachers in both private and public, and the academics they are getting at SPS are as good and in some cases better than they did in their private school. They have the same or better technology and facilities (I know that's not true at all SPS schools, though it should be). No one-laptop-per-child stuff in public school, but having had that in private, I think it's highly overrated for privileged families. The counseling is stretched way too thin, and the admin staff doesn't know my kids at all, but that's partly a function of being a huge school compared to the private ones. What really blew me away when they started at SPS was the fact that Garfield gets far less than half per pupil what we paid in private school tuition for each of our kids. The teachers & staff do so much with so little because they are creative as hell with the minimal resources they are given (plus they get a big boost from the PTSA). I also hear about amazing things coming from the other high schools -- some I've seen personally, some I just hear through the grapevine -- so I know Garfield isn't alone in this.

Unfortunately, they have had some seriously negative experiences at SPS. If you guessed those were directly due to central district actions, you win the prize. There's where you see a huge difference between private and public -- no private school administration could get away with the kind of "talk to the hand" BS you get from SPS admin.
Unknown said…
To @ Geez et al:

I do find it amusing that the vitriol oozing from some of these parents lurks behind the shadow of "Anonymous." These discussions are quite relevant given the current state of SPS, but throwing out personal attacks rather than engaging in educated discourse is petty at best, and cowardice at worst.

I attended a public HCC-type school out of state, was tracked all throughout K-12 and matriculated at an Ivy League college. The idea that a "rising tide raises all boats" -- namely, mixing HCC and Spectrum kids with the General Education population -- is at the heart of what our Founding Fathers (specifically Ben Franklin) established when they created public education within a republic. It makes practical sense, it IS the responsibility of all to set positive academic examples for peers, and it coalesces into an educated body politic. I gained far more insight from the very few General Education students who happened to attend my classes than from my "HCC" friends. I learned that it WAS, in fact, my responsibility to be an example for those not fortunate enough to have educated, upper middle class parents who valued a college education; that applying rigorous teaching techniques and methodology for all students, regardless of how well they did on a test, helped the entire community at large; and that isolating "HCC" students from their General Education peers breeds more inequality, more distrust within the larger community, and leads us all more towards an aristocracy than a meritocracy. And yes, I totally understand that some students simply are not up to intellectual par with others that are more capable academically for whatever reason(s), but completely isolating HCC students from their General Education peers, and demanding a separate and inherently unequal educational environment, segregates and exacerbates the problems we as a city face on a daily basis. This isn't "PC" politics -- it's common sense.
Charlie Mas said…
@Amy Bonney-Hoffman,

Thank you for your passionate and personal comment.

I don't think anyone is promoting rigid separation of students so that advanced learners never interact with general education students. I have not seen that advocated here or anywhere else, at least not seriously or with any popular support.

I do think, however, that people want their children to get lessons at the frontier of their knowledge and skills. I do think that many schools, while claiming to provide advanced learning services, do not really adequately provide it, or even, in some cases, provide any advanced learning at all. I don't think that Ben Franklin or the founding fathers had this sort of deception in mind.

If our schools can authentically provide advanced learning services in a general education classroom, as they claim and as some have claimed here, then they need to do it more reliably, they need to certify it, and they need to correct failures to do so. That simply is not happening.

I'm not asking anyone to give up an appropriate educational opportunity for their children - whether those children are working at, below, or beyond Standards. Please don't you ask that either.

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