Advanced Learning and CSIPs

I have said, over and over again, that having an ALO in a school is usually no different from not having an ALO in a school.

Schools typically don't define their ALO in any meaningful way. They cannot and do not describe the ALO for families or tell families what the ALO provides that is any different from the norm for good teaching practices.

There are typically no practices specific to school ALOs. Schools cannot identify anything they do differently for students in ALOs than they do for students who are not in ALOs. Often the school cannot even say which students are participating in the ALO.

There is no assessment of school ALOs. The District has never made any assessment of their quality or efficacy (or even their existence) and the schools make no assessment of their quality or efficacy.

The bulk of ALOs are a fiction. They exist exclusively in marketing materials.

I recognize that this is a pretty harsh characterization of ALOs and, let's face it, Spectrum since Spectrum is, in most schools, no different from an ALO. You might wonder what evidence I can show to support this complete discredit of ALOs. Here is the best proof of that claim: school CSIPs.

Normally I would say that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but in this case it is. If something doesn't show up in the school CSIP, it doesn't show up at the school.

School CSIPs are supposed to include their plan for Advanced Learners. You should read those plans. Go through them one by one and you'll see what I see. Start at the top of the list with Adams Elementary and here's what you'll find:
There is a reference to their ALO in the CSIP. It's on page 14. That's commendable. Here's what it says:
Strategy -
"3-5 teachers will use AMPLIFY data to identify instructional needs of ALO students and work with instructional teams to design accelerated instruction."
So needs have not been identified and accelerated instruction has not been designed. They are doing the work; they are still determining what work to do.
"K-2 teachers will use grade appropriate assessments (K screening, TC, DIBELS)to identify instructional needs of ALO students and work with instructional teams to design accelerated instruction."
Same as with grades 3-5, but even further behind because they haven't even selected the assessments to use to identify the needs.
In short, they are still at square one. No, they haven't even reached square one yet. They are still making a plan to determine where to look for square one.

Those who would say that this is important work that should get done and it reflects well on Adams that this is in the CSIP, ask yourself this question: how is this any different from what they should be doing even if they did not claim to have an ALO?

And who is responsible for getting this absurdly vague work done? Lead: unspecified

That's the same for all of the other elements of their ALO effort:
Progress Monitoring Lead: unspecified
Professional Development Lead: unspecified
Family Engagement Lead: unspecified

And that's for a school CSIP that even mentions advanced learning. The next school in the list, Alki, has no reference to it. Neither do the bulk of the school CSIPs. The overwhelming majority of them contain no reference to advanced learning at all. In case you were thinking that there's no requirement that the CSIPs have such a reference, you're wrong. The District has said, for years and years, that the CSIPs should include the schools' plans for serving advanced learners and the District has promised, for years and years, that they would. The state law that requires the CSIPs says that the school improvement plans shall address educational equity, which the code defines as "giving each student what she or he needs and when and how she or he needs it to reach their achievement potential."

Spectrum sites are not any better. Arbor Heights offers Spectrum through differentiated instruction, but they cannot define it, identify it, or quantify it. It doesn't exist. It's barely referenced on the last page of their CSIP in the context of professional development on differentiation. We were at that stage ten years ago. Dearborn Park CSIP's only reference to Spectrum is their claim that they offer it. Although all of the attendance area middle schools is supposed to offer Spectrum, most of them make no reference to it at all in the CSIP.

What should it look like? Check out Bryant's CSIP. Here you find some real, concrete descriptions of what distinguishes their ALO. Is that the way it is in the classroom? Only Bryant families can say, but at least it looks right in the documents.

Want another good example? Concord says this: "Students who are already proficient in CCSS are being provided instruction in the next grade level CCSS." They're simply sending kids to the next highest grade classroom for math and language arts instruction. That's their ALO: grade skipping. Hey, that's something real and I commend it. I don't know what they do for fifth graders.


Patrick said…
I don't know about Bryant, but at Hazel Wolf there were enough 8th graders taking 9th grade math that they offered two classes of 9th grade math last year. When the program was at Jane Addams, 8th graders taking 10th grade math could walk to 10th grade math at Nathan Hale; not sure if they're having them walk to Roosevelt or teaching a small 10th grade math class in the K-8.
Not an Insider said…
This is interesting/worrisome to me -- what is a CSIP and how do I find if there's one for my kids' school?
Not an Insider, this is a state requirement that the Board signed off on at the last Board meeting. It was stated that the CSIP should be at every school's webpage. If not, ask your principal (better in e-mail than in person because you can cc their Ex Director who will then know that the required CSIP is not available.)
Lynn said…
You can find the CSIP for every school here:
Anonymous said…
I looked at Hale's and couldn't find any mention of Advanced Learning. Lets of lets close the gap stuff.

Anonymous said…
Hale doesn't believe in Advanced Learning, but in "equity" which means all classes have a mix of all students at all levels - except for math. There are no AP classes except for math and maybe art. Some classes for juniors and seniors have an AP option, where students can do extra work and prepare for AP tests mostly on their own.

Anonymous said…
There are AP classes in Physics, Calculus and Environmental Science. Junior level classes like American History and LA are AP for mixed classes.

I wouldn't say they are don't believe in Advanced Learning but rather in inclusion so you will have Special Ed kids in AP Env Sci.

Anonymous said…
Normally I would say that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but in this case it is. If something doesn't show up in the school CSIP, it doesn't show up at the school.

I'm not so sure those CSIPs are gospel, Charlie. Take a look at Hamilton's as an example. It says it's for 2014-2016, but most of the strategies listed have 2010 or 2011 dates, and the lead person on many of the strategies is the principal prior to the principal prior to the current one. This is his 4th year gone from the school. There's also no mention of HCC or APP, and no mention of Spectrum--despite the fact that is does have both and AL students make up about half the school.

Overall, the current CSIP doesn't seem to reflect much of what is actually happening at the school. I heard rumor of some recent CSIP updating, so we'll see how things look next time around. But when these CSIPs can be so blatantly outdated, they come off more as mandatory paperwork exercises than actual improvement plans.

Anonymous said…
Same for Whittier ... the information is horribly outdated and includes staff and community members who are no longer at the school. Some left MANY years ago. No mention of Spectrum.

North by NW
Charlie Mas said…
What! What's this you're telling me, HIMSmom and North by NW? The CSIPs are horribly out of date?!

Bbbbbut that's impossible!

I'm sure all of these issues will be completely resolved before the motion for the Annual Approval of Schools per WAC 180-16-220 is introduced on December 2nd. Otherwise, Michael Tolley, our Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, could not possibly certify to the Board that the CSIPs are all present, current, and correct.
Anonymous said…
They were supposed to have revisions turned in downtown a couple of weeks ago, I believe... so they *could* make that December deadline, I suppose...

Ballard mum
Anonymous said…
They certify all kinds of things that just ain't true. Why should this be any different?

Anonymous said…
HP, are those Special Ed kids capable of passing the AP test? If not, and especially if quite a few students are in the class but not expecting to pass the AP test, how can the teacher consistently teach at the level needed to cover all the college-level material needed to pass the test? It's not fair to the students who can't keep up with the material and it's not fair to the ones who are capable and committed to working hard enough to do well on the test.

Patrick said…
Right, Charlie. I'm shocked, shocked, that schools and the District would pencil whip these required reports through!

Okay, it's actually a silly bit of paperwork that doesn't help educate any student, so maybe pencil whipping is a reasonable response.
Anonymous said…
Momof2 - Notably Lakeside also has no beloved AP classes, not a one - and students prepare for them on their own. Works pretty well there, and plenty of kids pass them. No reason at all that your kid can't do that - even if they - *gulp* - sit in the same room as a person with a disability. Even with "quite a few kids with disabilities". Hale offers a fine education - even though you might have to sit with some undesirables. If you want a private school without any "equity" or disabilities or diversity - then by all means, go get that in the private sector.

Also notable. Roosevelt requires AP classes for all students - including those with disabilities. No doubt, you think that's horrible too.

Another Momof2
hschinske said…
Lakeside has de facto AP classes -- they're just not necessarily taught the same way that everyone else's AP classes are. See, e.g., from
"M530 Accelerated Statistics
This course is designed to provide students with the equivalent of a standard college-level statistics course. Students will be introduced to the major statistical concepts and tools for collecting, analyzing, and drawing reasonable conclusions from data. Students will be evaluated on homework, tests, projects, and a major end-of-year project. This course uses modern methods of data analysis and students will make extensive use of the data-handling capabilities of graphing calculators. This course prepares students for success on the AP
Statistics exam in May."

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
To Another Momof2: I'm tired of getting snarky comments from people when talking about advanced classes. What is it about gifted and/or high achieving students that deserves such contempt?
The problem is that it is difficult for teachers to teach - and students to learn - college-level material in a class with many students who are not able, willing, and committed to mastering that material. Also, it's much easier for many teenagers to stay committed to a difficult goal like passing an AP test when they are surrounded by classmates with a similar commitment, rather than being one of a few students in the class doing all that extra work to achieve that goal.

As to Lakeside, Helen has more information than I do. However, I do know that students are admitted to Lakeside with aptitude tests and are all expected to perform at a much higher level than most public school students.

Anonymous said…
Contempt? Contempt is the supposition that teachers can't do their jobs, providing students with a variety of needs different levels of achievement materials and support. Contempt is the notion that students with disabilities must be segregated to lowest level classes so that others may have an optimal, rarified experience. Contempt is the idea that Nathan Hale High doesn't provide an excellent achievement oriented education despite evidence to the contrary. Contempt is the idea that equity doesn't matter.

Charlie Mas said…
I don't think it is contemptuous of teachers to acknowledge that differentiating instruction is hard, labor intensive, and complicates classroom management as well as pedagogy.

You know what is contemptuous? Dismissing the heartfelt advocacy of parents who want their children to have an appropriate academic opportunity. Sneering at what is precious to them with expressions like "beloved APP" and "rarified". That's contempt and you need to own that, AnotherMomof2. Please don't pretend that you didn't intend for those words to sting.

No one - not here in this thread nor, to my knowledge, anywhere on this blog - has advocated segregating students with disabilities into "lowest level classes". Why would anyone pretend that such suggestions have been made? What is to be gained from such an absurd and easily disproven claim or strawman argument? I know that people have had a number of bad experiences and that the path to outrage has been smoothed with wear, but let's not find contempt where none is expressed or intended.

I don't think that anyone equated "students who are not able, willing, and committed to mastering [college-level] material" with "students with disabilities" until AnotherMomof2 did. I have never done so, and Momof2 did not do so in her comment. Please don't presume that connection; it is false. Only a small portion of students with disabilities have cognitive disabilities, the bulk of them are capable of doing not only grade-level academic work but academic work beyond grade level if they are granted the appropriate accommodations and supports to which they are entitled.

Finally, I keep hearing this word "equity". I don't think it means what a lot of people think it means. It is not the same as equality. Equity means that everyone gets what they need or deserve. Equality means that everyone gets the same. Since everyone needs or deserves something different, equity and equality are not synonymous but, in fact, opposites. Those who insist on their child getting an appropriate academic opportunity in the name of equity should be more empathetic to others who want the same for their own children.

I don't understand those who work in advocacy for their own child but are unwilling to support the advocacy of others.

A classroom is a complicated place with a number of priorities and goals. Given the finite resources of time, attention, and materials, it is inevitable to that someone's goals are given precedence, from time to time, over someone else's goals. That's the way it goes. No one should be denied their needs and no one should be exempt from making compromises on their wants. A balance must be struck and we should not pretend that it is an easy balance to find. It is not any one advocates place to determine when someone else's interests have been sufficiently served. It would be far better to ask them how they think a balance of interests can be found.

So tell us, AnotherMomof2, what you want for your child that you aren't getting at Hale. Try your best to understand what Momof2 is actually saying, and then, if you can, tell us what compromise you can propose so that Momof2 can get what she wants for her child.
Anonymous said…
@mom of 2. I agree. If a kid decides to take an AP class than they need to make a commitment to do that level work. Usually I am pro-differentiation, but not in AP. The teachers have a lot of material to get through.

If Roosevelt wants to require all students take an AP class, I guess that's okay, but the teacher shouldn't be watering down the class because students taking it aren't ready for the work. I assume the reason Roosevelt wants all students to take an AP class is to encourage students to go to college. However if you water down the class, how does that help students know how they would do in college?

Anonymous said…
@another mom of 2. I don't understand the disability issue. What does disability have to do with AP classes? If a student is ready for AP work, then they are ready for AP work. Many kids with disabilities take AP classes and do great. The issue is whether or not the student is ready for that level work.
Anonymous said…
The senior level classes at Hale are AP level. There is no watering down in AP Calculus, Physics or Environmental Science. You have to have the prerequisites to be in those classes and you know what you sign up for ahead of time. The special ed kid I knew in the AP Environmental Science class was cognitively disabled but loved environmental science so while the class was taught at the AP level, the kid was able to participate and was very motivated to do their best. They didn't slow the class down and the teacher didn't water things down.

The junior level AP classes at Hale are as you say, everyone in the same class and extra work for the kids wanting the AP level to prepare them for the AP tests.


Anonymous said…
In my experience, by the time the kids are in high school, they have an awareness of the classes in which they will be the most successful. I haven't been aware of kids registering for AP classes with the intent of being disruptive or setting themselves up for a bad grade. There are prereqs for getting into the class and minimum grades at the semester break for continuing in the class. Driven and conscientious students will likely do well in an AP class and on the test, regardless of whether they were in the APP program prior to high school. Kids who are not that caliber of student pretty quickly figure out that AP classes are not their strength and choose other classes. And that is fine.

Charlie Mas said…
To return to the theme of Advanced Learning and CSIPs, I have checked the CSIP for 78 elementary, K-8, and middle schools. Here's what I found:
35 of them made absolutely no mention of advanced learning or advanced learners.
15 of them claim to offer advanced learning in the list of school services and programs at the front of the document but make no other reference to it
A few have placeholders for descriptions of their ALO - see North Beach and Salmon Bay
Others have meaningless plans - see Thurgood Marshall, View Ridge, Viewlands, Aki Kurose, Queen Anne, Muir, Rainier View (oddly focused on asthma, seizures, and anti-bullying in their ALO)
Queen Anne claims that 100% of students participate in their ALO.
Some make passing references to the need to do some kind of work - see Kimball, Lowell
A number claim to have a "workshop" model for math that magically provides differentiation - see Laurelhurst
Blaine says that MTSS will take care of it
Northgate says that they differentiate instruction, but apparently without making any effort to do so
MLK says that they have created units of study for advanced learners. They should share those with the rest of the District - if they are real
At Beacon Hill they serve their advanced learners by inviting them to join the math club

There are, however, a number of schools with clear and credible plans. These include:
B F Day with walk to math and walk to reading
Wedgwood Spectrum is walk to math
Concord, where the ALO is grade skipping
Stevens with walk to math
Lafayette, a strong Spectrum school of long standing says that they with individualized plans for each student. That's remarkable.
Bryant has an excellent example of a documented ALO
Montlake also offers an excellent example
Roxhill provides another great example
John Hay, home of the original ALO, provides a detailed ALO plan that should be a model of how it's done.
Charlie Mas said…
Two thirds of schools are essentially silent on the question.

Just over 11% of them have any sort of credible plan at all - and that's counting "walk to math" as a credible plan.

If that makes you sad - and it should - you can cheer yourself up by reading some of the funny ones. You won't believe them until you see them, so you should definitely check out the CSIPs for:
North Beach Skip to page 14 to see a completely blank plan
Salmon Bay Skip to page 12 for another completely blank plan
Thurgood Marshall's plan is also blank.

Are these the CSIPs that Mr. Tolley says he has reviewed and approved? I would LOVE to see his notes on these sections of these plans.

Rainier View Go to page 19 to see that they will assess their ALO by counting attendance, their professional development will be focused on asthma and seizures, and their community partner for Advanced Learning is helping them with anti-bullying
Laurelhurst where one of their math goals is "For 5th grade students in Advanced Learning programs we will (unspecified) from no data available% to 100%. The person responsible for this goal is Debby Halperin; Sarah M Talbot" I'm sure they will reach this goal with their workshop model. How did they determine this goal in their collaborative process for developing their CSIP? I wonder who on the committee fought for this goal.
The CSIP for John Stanford International School identifies the unmet needs of advanced learners as an issue, but includes no plan to address it.
Loyal Heights says that they will use small group instruction to address the needs of advanced learners, but they will only offer grade level instruction - no acceleration.
Muir's SMART goal for Advanced Learning is "For intermediate students in Advanced Learning programs we will increase the percentage of students accessing Advanced Learning opportunities in the school from 16% to 18%. The person responsible for this goal is (unspecified)." How is that a SMART goal? Who on the BLT advocated for this?
At Catherine Blaine "Teachers will work closely with the MTSS team to identify those students needing additional support, both accelerated and struggling mathematicians. School/District supports will be provided for these individuals." Yeah, so donworryaboutit. MTSS has got you covered.
Anonymous said…
Regarding Bryant, it is true that the current principal recognized early that parents had heard "differentiation to the point of frustration" (as he said at a state of the school meeting) but in practice, your original point of "how does this differ from just regular teaching practice?" very much applies to Bryant. Maybe it's because so many of Bryant's students are ALO qualified, but in practice, the "plan" is invisible to parents and students. If you walked in to a teacher conference with this plan, I don't think you'd find much buy-in from the teacher for the words on the page. Also, this is one of the few schools that has been totally dismissive of walk to math.

Anonymous said…
@HP. The senior AP classes sound great at Hale. The junior level AP classes not so much. That's too bad. I think you offer AP classes or you don't. There should be other options for kids who aren't ready for an AP class, but are still wanting to challenge themselves. The notion that kids are preparing on their own to do the level of work/prep to pass AP exams makes no sense.

@pw. Whether or not a child has been APP qualified should have no bearing on their participation or success in AP classes. Lots of high school kids who are not APP qualified take AP classes and do very well.
Anonymous said…
@Charlie. I just want to echo what you said about the difference between equity and equality. Equity does not mean everyone gets the same thing. Equity means everyone gets what they need, which of course will be different for different kids. Does SPS do a good job providing equity or equality? No, but I would choose true equity over equality any day. I also want to mention that I think SPS is confused about the difference between equity and equality. Sometimes when they refer to equity, that is what they mean. Sometimes when they refer to equity, they really mean equality.
Anonymous said…
Wait a minute. If the QAE principal got fired for not completing his required evaluations, shouldn't Michael Tolley get fired for signing off on required CSIPs that are blank?

Pretty Please
Jan said…
Momof2: one last note on Sped kids in AP classes. I had one of those. He worked as hard as any kid in the class (and harder than most) and got great grades, participated in everything, etc. He also did NOT pass the AP exams -- not because he didn't work hard (he did) and (more importantly), not because he didn't master the material (he did -- he knew much of it far better than many of his classmates, as he has incredible memorization abilities, along with pretty good reasoning skills) -- but because he routinely does not do well on long, language-based exams. The ability to quickly read, process (and filter out "trick questions") and respond to exam questions of the kind on AP tests is squarely in the cross hairs of his neurological deficits. (And yes, we requested extra time, etc., and the district pretty much botched it -- so he took the exam under regular rules)

After 2 exams, I let him know that he could take them, or not, as he wished (the teachers want kids to take them, but for him, it is a bit of a waste of money -- since they don't accurately evaluate what he has learned -- but whatever).

I am not arguing against your position, I think. I am just saying -- there are lots of "nuances" with kids in AP classes, and they shouldn't all be lumped together just because they don't all get 4s and 5s on AP exams.
Anonymous said…
@Jan. I agree. I think that there is a difference between doing well in the class and doing well on the exam. I may be an exception, but I don't worry about how well my child does on the AP exam. He is not sped AND he does not test well on standardized tests. He's always been like. He passes the AP exams, but always does much better on class work. I'm not having him take the classes so he can skip courses in college. I'm having him take the classes for the challenge.
Anonymous said…
I think it is kind of sad that the district does not aspire to something better than a bunch of AP classes to address the needs of advanced learners in high school. AP exams are a credentialing system to help people start college with some of their credits already done and paid for, and that can be a valuable thing, but it doesn't address the intellectual development of advanced learners. Of course a teacher of an AP class may do a terrific job of challenging students appropriately, but that is because s/he is an excellent teacher, not because it is an AP class.

Disappointed said…
Our elem school offers ALOs and I have been happy so far with them. My child has been working one grade ahead in math. This year she has a pullout and I assumed the 1 grade ahead would continue. But no. I was told 6th grade curriculum will not be provided. So apparently I will make sure to provide it at home --because I can. This is not equity.

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