About Highly Capable - Dear Directors

My e-mail to the Board (via the schoolboard@seattleschools.org which means I sent it to senior management as well):

Dear Directors,

The situation with AL/HCC is getting out of hand and someone must step in.  I would ask that it be you because clearly, it's not happening in senior management.

I'll be upfront with you; there has never been a champion for HC in Seattle Schools.  I'm NOT saying no one cares about gifted students. I'm saying that year after year HC drifts along in an incoherent manner.  There is NO one in SPS - and I'd love to do a pop quiz with the Superintendent - who can clearly explain this program.

So let's review what has happened in the last couple of years (not to mention months.)

- multiple apologies over student data being accidentally sent out to other parents
- confusion over testing dates (and more apologies)
- with the current issue - letters sent to parents saying their students did qualify for HC and then a follow-up letter saying they didn't - here's the response from senior staff (partial but the full extent of the "how" it happened):

"To date, review of how this happened relates to human error."

And slowly, slowly EVERY single Spectrum program is going away.  The parents at Lafayette just got their notification (and they are the last school.)

With no discussion, no input, no public notification, an entire section of the HC program is gone/fundamentally changed.  

I will note at the Seattle Schools Community Forum blog that we often have heated discussions about who is in the program, namely that it's largely white and Asian.  We ALL know there are bright kids of all races in all corners of our district.  

Why aren't we finding them? I can give you a laundry list:
- testing instrument that may not be culturally competent
- principals who do not encourage parents of their students of colors to apply (and, when your school's scores are important, why would you?)
- low, low numbers of Pacific-Islander, Native American, Latino and African-American students.  It becomes a chicken and egg dilemma; parents don't want their kids to be the only kid of color in a classroom.  (One thought might be to ask those parents of color who have students in the program if THEY might be willing to talk to other parents of color about the benefits of the program for their student's academic outcomes.)

I do know that HC did try direct outreach to parents of students of color who scored well on the state test.  I was told many parents were largely not interested.  

And, I know that many teachers and parents don't support self-contained classrooms (even though it's the norm in many districts in the country.). It actually would be good to serve every child and their needs - be it Sped, ELL, HC - in one classroom but really, how has the district moved to make that possible?  So if not, then how to serve those groups?

Look, if the district has a "program," it should not be a mystery as to what it does, how to access it and where it is located.  I have no idea why principals get to decide how to present the program at their school but they do for HC.  I have no idea why principals get to decide NOT to do anything (see ALOs and CSIPs.). 

You just voted yourselves the ability to determine what happens to programs. May I suggest using it.

I apologize if my tone is somewhat snarky but honestly, how long will this go on?  

Melissa Westbrook
Seattle Schools Community Forum blog


Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Reprinting for Anonymous (next time give yourself a moniker per our Comment requirements):

"The problem of with HC is so systemic that it's hard to know where to even begin. I'm a teacher and I recommended three students of color to the program this year. I had to submit their information three times because it got lost. The parents don't speak English as a first language and, in two cases, don't have computers, and yet are expected to "send and email" if they haven't received results by a certain date. Or they can can call and navigate the complicated system (in English) that is JCSS. One of them received someone else's test scores. Nothing has been sent in multiple languages so I have to ensure I get everything translated.

So, naturally, they keep asking me when they will find something out. I keep following up and trying to advocate, but I am realizing that this is a broken system. I was told that they didn't qualify for the "highest tier" but that they might qualify for the next tier. I don't know what that means, and if I don't know it's really hard to tell someone else.

And it gets worse. If they DO qualify, they will be removed from my school which will make our scores look worse and skew someone else's scores for the better. I hate to think that way, but in this age of teacher evaluations tied to test scores, it's hard not to. Plus, then they will be leaving their "home school" and community. I can't think that's the only way to do this.

I love these children and these parents and want the best for them. Maybe the whole program needs an overhaul and certainly it needs to be managed more efficiently and equitably."

From someone on the front lines, this is huge. I'm going to send this onto the Board; they need to hear this.

I appreciate your honesty.
Anonymous said…

As a principal, I reject the premise of your plea. For the good of the system, if we put lots of energy into a program that separates, we undercut the strength of our core program. We imply that our core program is not rigorous enough to serve the needs of all learners. How can we build a clear vision of inclusion for Special Education students while facilitating the separation of other students? How can we work to improve our system when we're simultaneously draining our core of energy, brains and commitment to our mission?

I'll agree with you that we have failed as system to express our core values with respect to advanced learning. I do hope our Directors can avoid pandering to interest group retail politics and help us to unify behind core values.

Ann D said…
If there were teaching assistants in each classroom and smaller class sizes then yeah, a dedicated program might not be needed except for certain exceptional students. That there were 6 classes of second graders at Cascade in 2014-15 however shrieks of parents of students seeking out appropriate challenges and instruction for their kids and not finding it in their neighborhood schools. Nothing about the lousy bussing schedule, the poor facilities at Cascade nor the extra homework seems to deter those who seek not to waste their child's time being warehoused and bored in gen ed -- and these are the ones lucky enough to qualify to opt-out of neighborhood schools. For kids just missing cut-offs, not applying, parents who can't figure out the testing protocols, or with such exceptional learning needs that they just aren't accommodated it is SOL.

Lynn said…
I've been mulling over an email of my own on Advanced Learning. Mine will focus on procedures. Superintendent Procedure 2190 very clearly lays out the rules for identifying highly capable students. The procedure was approved by the superintendent and published on the district website. Over the summer, the AL department decided unilaterally to change many of those rules. They updated the website as if the changes had been approved and implemented those changes in the identification process this year.

When parents noticed this and brought it to the attention of the board, AL staff began reversing the changes. The website changed constantly and quite often there was conflicting information on various pages. Testing (which is not quite complete) was not done in the manner required by the SP. There are still 'rules' posted on the website that conflict with the SP.

When staff are allowed to ignore the rules everyone learns that they're not rules - they're guidelines. Compliance is voluntary. This is the reason parents don't trust district administration and the reason we see legal settlements coming before the board so frequently. This is also evidence of poor leadership.
Anonymous said…
I find it utterly amazing that the district has managed to do away with Spectrum with no apparent board vote. When I’ve broached this with Advanced Learning, I’ve been told in fact Spectrum hasn’t been done away with but that instead “some” schools have just gone to an in-class “differentiated” program or walk-to-program all within the original board mandate.

We’ve had two kids in the Spectrum program, and I’ve asked their teachers and the school principal what the Spectrum program is, and been very clearly told (but nothing ever in writing, because at our school nothing exists) that its “walk-to-math” and that’s it. Nothing in the kids’ report cards about Spectrum. Nothing during the kids’ conferences about Spectrum. Not a single communication, beyond initial eligibility, about Spectrum, during their entire time in the “program”. Spectrum removed from the advanced learning advisory committee (or whatever the current name), etc. To call it a program at our school is a joke. That’s not to say that the teachers and principal and school aren’t in fact really good, but rather that Spectrum in particular is a joke.

When I’ve pointed out that the original definition of Spectrum was “self-contained” Advanced Learning’s acted like they have no idea of what I’m talking about. Well, it’s pretty easy to see, by looking at old versions of the Advanced Learning website (https://archive.org/web/) that “self-contained” was in the definition.

Did the program need to change? Very well could have. But the way the district has done it as far as I’m concerned has been on the bureaucratic sly. Rather than fight to have the board change its policies, be it "pandering to retail politics" or otherwise, the administration seems to have mastered the art of changing definitions so that the updated procedures somehow still match the existing board policies. But perhaps that is also a district “core value”, to do what they believe is right, regardless of original board intent.

bureaucratic sly
Anonymous said…
Melissa, thank you for your ongoing advocacy. This blog is awesome! But I do agree with PP that self-contained classrooms aren't necessarily the answer - and I say that as an IB graduate who spent high school within a "highly capable" cohort. For my own children I much prefer advanced learning opportunities within their neighborhood schools, that are open to all who wish to take them.

Anonymous said…
Time for an updated assignment plan now that the last one has settled. Keep option schools. For those not at an option school, back to neighborhood schools. Serve AL kids there. Add staffing to sustain service. No, don't want to hear that the buildings are too small. Adjust enrollment patterns, build, add portables. This will also continue to force downtown to serve IEP kids in their neighborhoods. Both ends of the academic spectrum in one place, unless a specially themed option school is chosen.

The insanity of HCC as currently delivered needs to stop now. It isn't a strong academic program. It hurts neighborhood schools. It can't keep up administratively. It throws a wrench in enrollment patterns. It isn't supported philosophically by most of the staff in the district. It is perceived to be inequitable. Start over. I say that even with my own 'bright' kids. Just

'my opinion'

Anonymous said…
I would love to hear a credible plan about how my kid, who tested just once and got 99s on CogAT and achievement for both math and verbal, would be well-served in our neighborhood classroom with the current level of staffing. I understand how moving her there might help serve "the good of the system," but I don't understand realistically how it would serve her own learning needs. I'm totally open to reviewing detailed plans about how such a model would work, how its efficacy would be evaluated, how the model would be iterated upon based on results, and who would be in charge of all this. (It can't be the same people who can't even figure out how to inform families of their status.)

Anonymous said…
If you are referring to my note above JvA please also note I said 'add staffing'. Of course staffing would be necessary. Again, staff better deployed in neighborhood schools than stand alone programs. Allows more flexibility in programming especially for non-core subjects. Both for AL kids and neighborhood kids. Win win.

'my opinion'
Anonymous said…

That doesn't work for everyone, though. Maybe you're at a school where differentiation is actually done, but we are not. We are at a supposed "ALO" school that does nothing for advanced learners. My child has the HCC designation and gets nothing. Kids are different and my child wants to get hard and challenging work at school. Some kids are more social and are happy with not being pushed, but not so for my kid.

PP is completely ignoring the reality that the elementary curriculum (and I understand this is true for MS as well) has been watered down so much that it aims at the bottom third of the class and provides nothing for anyone else. Elementary school isn't very long and my child will leave this school year having learned virtually nothing. Am I supposed to be happy with that because of some notion it's best for the "greater good" to leave my child (or as PP so eloquently put it their "brain") in a neighborhood school, even though it's not the best, or even good, for my kid?

Until Seattle schools actually provides a "core program" aimed above the lower third, the only place to get an AL kid a better fit is to send them to HCC. HCC has been watered down significantly over the last few years, too, though and I am not sure that will be a great fit, either. I am hoping it will be at least closer.

Anonymous said…
As we look forward to our high school choices, I felt a need to dedicate time to research area districts to see what else is out there, mainly because of the chaos and instability of the HCC program in SPS. My first query was to uncover the best ranked high schools in Washington State. I was happy to see Roosevelt listed as #8 and Garfield #10 on the list, and noticed they are the only high schools on the list not located in the suburbs to the east or north. I also noticed the top two schools are small International choice schools in Kirkland and Bellevue, both very small with around 400-500 students total for a 6-12 school. These schools receive 800+ applications per year and select by lottery, with some weight added to social economic status. I wasn't surprised to see Bellevue and Mercer Island schools taking up all other positions on the list of the top ranking schools, considering their financial resources.

Since Bellevue, Mercer Island and Kirkland areas produce the top ranking high schools, I honed in on the HCC programs to see what might be different from how SPS "manages" things. It appears they have a very clear and standard system where by students are identified and qualify via the same testing methodology as SPS students, with the top 98% of students being labelled as gifted. Once labelled as gifted (HCC) the K-2 students qualify for extension opportunities within their home school. Then they have self contained schools for 3-5 and junior high for those who prefer the cohort model, and the students are offered a pull out extension program in their home school if they prefer to stay at their neighborhood school. All high schools offer humanities and AP classes.

I assume this is the direction SPS is headed, but it is discouraging they haven't presented and vetted their plans or vision with the parent community. Capacity, equity, stability and choice are all issues at play here. I hope the new board members will encourage engagement, transparency, vision and clarity so parents will be able to properly plan and evaluate their options.

Full disclosure - my son is in 2nd grade at Cascadia, after leaving an ALO school that wasn't meeting his needs. He scored consistently 98 and 99th% in all areas of the MAP test in K and 1st, and loved his Cogat experience, where he also scored very high in all areas. He's that kid who NEEDS to be challenged or he gets angry about wasting his time.

Planning Ahead
Anonymous said…
I am so disappointed, but not remotely surprised, to see a principal here denigrating self contained classrooms. I really, really hope that you are not a middle school principal, and that you have no advanced learning programs designated in your building.

No, the core program is not rigorous enough for all learners. Yes, it is rigorous enough for many learners. Learners come to you with all manner of abilities and needs, and it is not ok to have many of them just wait around until the general curriculum finally gets to the place they are. Probably not as many kids need HCC as are there, but the answer to that is NOT one size fits all. If you are an elementary principal, you probably have third graders who can barely add, and third graders who can divide decimals. That's really not a very wide spread. They can't sit through the same math lesson, and the third grade teacher is not a wizard who can duplicate herself, so they need to be....separated. In separate classes, learning things that are appropriate for them. Same for writers in 4th grade who write chapter books versus the ones who are working on their first paragraph. When children are many years advanced in all subjects, it starts to make more sense to separate them out, for a whole host of reasons- including the achievement of kids who are behind.

Self contained for highly capable has so much research behind it as best practice, and is the cheapest way to serve these kids. The current suggestion from the peanut gallery here is just- not to serve anyone who is advanced in anyway. Anyone who has read Harrison Bergeron should be able to tell you why we can't do that. I think there are many ways we could reduce the number of self contained classrooms, but all of them involve money. Smaller class sizes, dedicated, coordinated across years curriculum to differentiation, "gifted" coordinators at school. I really don't think that is happening any time soon, but if anyone wants to advocate for it, please let me know, and I'm right behind you. Just not teaching kids instead is antithetical to any educational institution's mission.

Anonymous said…
My Opinion -- I posted before I saw your note.

When there's a plan for funding the staffing, details about the curriculum, plans for regularly measuring and reporting on the efficacy as well as quickly iterating upon the plan based on results, and a capable team in charge of all this, I will be very excited to review that plan!

Anonymous said…
Regarding the lack of diversity at Cascadia: I also wanted to note that my son's grandmother is half "African Cherokee" but I believe we listed him as Caucasian on our application since he identifies as white and is only 1/8 Native American. I'm sure we're not the only ones who are truly a melting pot family who designate themselves as Caucasian.

Planning Ahead
Anonymous said…
Also, thank you for sending the letter. I am also am sending one, mostly about program definition. The program as it is now is supposed to be everything and nothing, which I don't think helps the demographic issues.

Po3 said…
Now that Spectrum as been eliminated I think HCC will move into more and more schools through capacity splits and HCC will become the new Spectrum.
Anonymous said…
And then maybe we will have a small, all city draw program for outliers, starting in elementary with a pathway through high school...

Anonymous said…
I'd love to see the district take relatively easy yet fundamental steps toward program inclusivity.

Why not require teachers to nominate children from underrepresented groups for testing? The teacher and district can then work together to provide those families with especially tailored information about the process, including forms in their preferred language and specific information about the options in their area. (Don't just include a generic sheet in the back to school packet and call it good.)

Then if the families qualify, they again need to be given specific information about their specific options, including transportation, in their preferred language, with plenty of time to make the choice. And maybe the qualification needs to be different for different groups.

Right now the system is stupidly complex. They ask you to participate in open enrollment without even knowing if you qualify at all, let alone which tier you qualify for, or what those tiers mean in reality. First they want you listing your first desired AL school for your area, then your next desired AL school for your area, then your desired option school, if any, or other desired attendance area schools. Highly educated native English speakers can't even figure out what to do, when you have to do it, or what it all means.

I'd be interested in the results of some simple, basic good-faith efforts at inclusion by a capable and motivated team. Since we haven't even done the most basic steps toward inclusion yet, it's hard to understand how best to overhaul the whole process.


Principal, thank you for you honesty. That's said, I find this phrase " interest group retail politics" distasteful. And I wish you could tell us HOW all these kids - gifted, ELL and Sped - are being helped in one classroom and if your teachers and school have the supports and training they need to do that.

I'm not crying over Spectrum, folks. I will say that if it's gone and what remains isn't great, you're going to see a lot of angry parents.

So the three big takeaways I'm hearing:

- why are policies not being followed and why can't parents easily understand this program?

-"Maybe you're at a school where differentiation is actually done, but we are not. We are at a supposed "ALO" school that does nothing for advanced learners. My child has the HCC designation and gets nothing."

It's all good and well to ask for inclusion and then the district does very little to back it up. Want to see HCC grow more and/or more people leave for private? That'll do it. It's not "I don't want my kid in a General Ed class," but where is the challenge for a kid who needs it? And don't hand them an extra worksheet.

- And the first two follow to the last one which is demographics and equity. If the program is hard to access for English-speaking parents with computers, what does that mean for other parents who don't have those things?

The district has got to make it clear to principals that bright kids must be served. If the district has a pull-out program for the highest achievers, principals MUST seek these children and help their parents know their options. ALL children.
Lynn said…
I hope HCC isn't moved into PP's school.

For the good of the system, if we put lots of energy into a program that separates, we undercut the strength of our core program.

No worries here - there is no energy invested in Advanced Learning.

We imply that our core program is not rigorous enough to serve the needs of all learners.

This is not an implication. It is reality. Honestly, how can one core program serve the needs of our diverse learners?

How can we build a clear vision of inclusion for Special Education students while facilitating the separation of other students? How can we work to improve our system when we're simultaneously draining our core of energy, brains and commitment to our mission?

We cannot make decisions about the placement of one group of students based on the needs of other students without taking into account their own needs.

Is the success of our schools dependent on the brains of highly capable children and the energy and commitment of their parents?

As a principal, you have the power to make changes. If you ensure that the needs of advanced students in your building are met, their parents will keep them there. We do not want to pull our children away from their convenient neighborhood schools and the relationships they've developed there. If (as at many schools) meeting their needs is the last thing on the list of priorities, something that happens when the teacher has a moment and involves learning through teaching their classmates, they will leave.

I urge you to think about the children in your school with the highest test scores. The next time you visit their classrooms to observe, observe those kids. Watch what they're doing. Do they seem engaged? Are they struggling with new concepts occasionally? If principals expected teachers to meet the needs of all their students - without prioritizing one group over another, we would not have 5,000 students referred for advanced learning every year. The fact that we do is evidence of the failure of our neighborhood schools to meet the needs of even slightly advanced students.
Anonymous said…
For reference, here is a paper about how the state recommends that districts improve their identification mechanisms to increase participation among underrepresented groups:


Anonymous said…
@ PP, you ARE aware that many of us have had teachers and/or principals tell us they cannot, or will not, meet our child's academic needs, right?

Why? Because our core program is NOT rigorous enough to serve the needs of all learners.

You ask how we can work to improve our system when we're simultaneously draining our core of energy, brains and commitment to our mission. How is pulling out highly capable doing that? Are you suggesting students who score below the 98th percentile are somehow lacking in energy, brains and commitment? Or their parents are? I'm confused.

You said we "have failed as system to express our core values with respect to advanced learning." Do tell! What exactly are those core values that our system isn't expressing to us? Or what do you think they should be? Goal 1 of SPS's strategic plan is to "ensure educational excellence and equity for every student" which includes a goal to "challenge and support each student." If highly capable students are working 2, 3, 4 or more years above grade level, how exactly do you think the core grade level program is going to be rigorous enough to serve their needs.


There's a lot about PP's comment that is troubling, but perhaps the worst aspect is the assumption that all students are precisely the same and thus do not require any sort of differential education in order to meet their needs.

That's a recipe for neglecting the needs of a whole lot of kids who have the misfortune to be at PP's school, whether they're highly capable, twice exceptional, are on an IEP or otherwise qualify for special education, or simply have other kinds of needs that the standardized approach doesn't meet.

SPS district staff quite clearly believe that *any* kind of specialized program, any at all, no matter which children it serves, has to be eliminated. They've done it to Spectrum, to Middle College, they tried doing it to EEU, and they'll go after the option schools next.

In reality, SPS staff poorly manage these programs, perhaps out of a lack of belief in their value, and that in turn means that diversity and inclusion suffer. In order to include a diverse population of students in any specialized program, it has to be managed effectively. That's not happening.

But SPS also cannot be allowed to just quit on these programs. And the idea that all children are the same, and should be treated the same, is offensive and wrong.
Charlie Mas said…
Every single family with a student in "Spectrum" should contact their child's teacher, and ask for a coherent definition of their child's program, the delivery method, and examples of the work - all of which needs to match Board Policy 2190 which states:
"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."

Where is the differentiation? Demand examples.
Where is the content acceleration? Demand examples.
Where is the deeper learning opportunities? Demand examples.

If they can't provide them - and provide them in sufficient numbers - then escalate the complaint to the next level. After the teacher, go to the principal, then the Executive Director of Schools, then the District Ombudsman.

You should make sure that you are familiar with Board Policy 4220, on complaints.

That policy says:
"In general, most citizen concerns can be resolved by speaking with the employee or the
employee’s immediate supervisor. In certain instances, the citizen may be dissatisfied
with the response. In those cases, the citizen is asked to contact the Customer Service
department, which can assist the citizen in taking the complaint further. The Customer
Service department will refer the complaint to the appropriate Superintendent’s Cabinet
member or Executive Director of School.

Here is the contact information for the Customer Service department:
SPS Service Center
John Stanford Center
Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Here is the contact information for the Ombudsman:

Every single Spectrum family should be doing this and, unless I am very much mistaken, the vast majority of them will end up at the Ombudsman because they will not get a satisfactory answer from the teacher, the principal, or the Executive Director of Schools.

As you escalate, it might be worthwhile to provide each person to whom you speak with this document: Responding to Issues of Concern, the Superintendent's "Fly to the Ball" Protocol
vm2016 said…
Part of the problem started when OSPI changed Program to Services. I was told their hope was by doing so school districts would find and fit the Services to the students, rather than find students that fit the Program. Unfortunately, the word switch allowed the school districts to downgrade the quality of gifted education, as they no longer needed to provide stand-alone programs: instead, they could offer Services.
I hypothesize that making Gifted Education part of Basic Education was the start of the downward spiral. Even though each district gets extra Federal and State money for their identified gifted students, no stand-alone program = more money that can be used for anything that involves gifted students: Hicap students in gen ed class.
In the Highline SD, Highline High School has the 1st class of 9th grade Gifted Services students this year. They attend 10th/11th grade GenEd math classes. They are taking 10th grade Gen Ed Biology. They have CGI(Social Studies) & Lit/Comp classes which are 9th grade Honors. All of these classes were in existence prior to Gifted Services being added. So,Gifted Services were not added at HHS:gifted students were fit into the already existing services. A few students & teachers have mentioned that there is not enough rigor for the HiCap students in the gen ed classes and there was hope of grouping HiCap students together so they could move at a faster pace but that has not happened. 2 middle schools, Sylvester & Chinook, host the 7-8th grade HiCap program (2nd-8th grade still a "program") so they have stand-alone classes. However, the district is in the process of getting rid of the Honors classes at Pacific Middle School. They were going to adopt an IB prep program, but apparently it cost too much. Now the thought is that next year there will be an “Honors” designation for kids who get an A or B in gen ed classes, which is based on mastery of standards as outlined by IB. This is still under discussion. It signifies a new low in the downward spiral of "appropriate program services".
I think we will need to focus on the word “Appropriate” and the onus will be on the hicap students to prove that the education they are receiving through their school district is not Appropriate to their needs.

OSPI website has great info and the people are knowledgeable.
Build a continuum of services—K-12—that address individual learning needs
Lawmakers emphasize the need for a continuum of services with regular review that takes a critical look at—how effective are the services and programs you provide? WAC 392-170-078 Program services—defines the “continuum” as kindergarten-grade 12.
Districts shall make a variety of appropriate program services available to students who participate in the district's program for highly capable students. Once services are started, a continuum of services shall be provided to the student from K-12. Districts shall periodically review services for each student to ensure that the services are appropriate.
State administrative law takes into account the funding constraints & local resources. However, this WAC places each student’s need&capabilities at the center of the program service put into place.
WAC 392-170-080 Educational program for highly capable students—directs districts to take student needs & capabilities into consideration when providing services and to keep a description of individual student educational programs on file.
Each student identified as highly capable shall be provided educational opportunities which take into account the student's unique needs & capabilities. Such program shall recognize the limits of the resources provided by the state & program options available to the district,including programs in adjoining districts&public institutions of higher education.

$ allocated for Gifted/Talented program 2014-15:$9.7Mil
2012-13:$9 M
2011-12:$9 M
Anonymous said…
It was written above:

"which will make our scores look worse and skew someone else's scores for the better. I hate to think that way, but in this age of teacher evaluations tied to test scores, it's hard not to."

Are teacher evaluations still tied to test scores?

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
"Where is the differentiation? Demand examples.
Where is the content acceleration? Demand examples.
Where is the deeper learning opportunities? Demand examples."

We are at an ALO school (which now functionally is the same as Spectrum, I think).

*There's no walk-to-math.
*The test scores are high.
*Something around a third of the kids have an AL label eventually.
*They also send A LOT of kids to Cascadia.

Here's their model for advanced learning, at least in math (which is easiest to pick out and describe).

*A Spectrum/HCC label doesn't mean anything for instructional practices. This is made very clear. All that comes from the label is the distribution of the labelled kids equally into each grade-level classroom.

*Any differentiated groupings are based on the beginning of the year pre-test or the individual unit pre-tests. Basically a child needs to be scoring 100% on a pre-test to be considered for any "advanced" worksheet/activity (writing their own word problems etc.) for that unit. A lower score on the pretest = evidence that the student doesn't know the material and therefore doesn't need advanced work = regular gen ed pace and curriculum. It is just that simple! (Imagine how that ends up, when there may be a requirement not to just know how to add three two-digit numbers, but to do it with four different strategies on a pre-test.)

*In some grades, a teacher might be allowed to select the three or so kids per class that score highest on the math pre-test for a weekly pullout. What this amounts to would vary by grade, but certainly nobody, even those three kids, is getting an accelerated OR advanced math curriculum. Never mind that there are at least double the number of kids in each class who should have an accelerated/advanced math curriculum.

I'd love to ask Charlie's questions, but the principal/teachers just won't really entertain them. They are very sure that the label should mean nothing (and this is how to be inclusive), and the pre-assessment should be the ticket to advanced work. It is a system that asks the kids to constantly keep re-proving that they need advanced work, while minimizing their ability to do so. Curious what people think of the philosophy of the label granting access to nothing at all under the guise of being inclusive.

Inclusive ALO
Anonymous said…
There was an interesting article in The Atlantic a few weeks back about public school kids who are thriving in high-level math. They are a sub group of kids whose parents were so frustrated about the weak math instruction in public schools they gave their kids extracurricular math. The kids not only could handle harder math, but liked it. This had the perverse effect of INCREASING the achievement gap, because the parents who recognized that their kids were getting weak math in school and had the time and inclination and money to do something about it were upper class. This is what we've done with our kiddo, who can do amazing things in math and loves it.

You can demand whatever you like from your kid's teacher and principal, but it's like pushing water uphill. And you'll be considered one of "those parents". If you want to preserve the option for your kid to go into something STEM-y at some point, you should take math out of the school's hands. Not sure how to handle teaching your kid to analyze literature or write really well.

Anonymous said…
I understand some of what PP is saying, but the problem is until there is something in place to support and offer AL indentified students appropriate challenging work you cannot expect parents to be satisfied. It's not fair to those students not to be challenged to their potential just to simply provide positive models in the classroom. Lip service to differentiation and educational excellence mean nothing without staff support and a plan in place. My student is twice exceptional and processes things at the 99.6 percentile. Is it any wonder he blurts out and gets fidgety in class when he isn't offered anything challenging in the classroom and has to wait what must seem an infinite amount of time for the other students. One teacher said she doesn't believe that kids could be bored! WRONG, my kid is often bored in his gen Ed classroom.

Wasted Potential Falling On Deaf Ears

Anonymous said…
Charlie I am going to respectfully disagree on your suggestions for parents to demand answers from teachers first. If the parents are frustrated by the incoherent and mixed messages of the ALO office, imagine the communication delivered to the teachers. Can ALO provide a description of what Spectrum is for our district so that staff and parents are on the same page? A year ahead? More in depth work at grade level standards? Are they willing to put this in writing for parents and staff? Does the ALO office have a model for differentiated instruction that is working successfully that they can recommend to teachers? Are they willing to support teachers in implementing this model? Can the multiple instructional coaches in ALO provide curriculum resources for teachers for these learners? I understand that everyone wants to advocate for their child's best interests, but I don't know that directing frustration at teachers who get equally mixed messages is the appropriate first step. ALO should do more than create designations that they do not support. I would encourage questions to go there first.

Go to the Board. As I said in my e-mail, they JUST voted themselves the power over programs. Now's the time to ask for answers.

This ties directly into the Strategic Plan in terms of equity and wanting to serve all students.
Anonymous said…
To begin with - Thank you very much, Melissa, for your letter. Many teachers in Spectrum and HCC that we have encountered back in ~2005 when we started in AL, had received professional training and were extremely good at running AL classes. However, under pressure from District administration and some Principals, Spectrum and HCC have disintegrated. Many of the AL teachers have had their classes removed from them under the district mandate that any teacher should be able to teach any class. I do not see how this can be reversed without the departure of several of the central administration staff and the reinstatement of an AL director to replace Robert Vaughan.

At this point any remnant of AL in the SPS is historical and rapidly eroding under the pressure of administrators and principals who think AL is frivolous. There is no point, as Charlie Mass suggests, to contact the teachers as they are, at best, under siege.

The Seattle Public School district is clearly eliminating Advanced Learning (AL) opportunities from the district. If you, as a parent, care about this change in the SPS district policy towards AL you will have to agitate for it. Melissa cannot do it alone.

-SPS parent

Anonymous said…
My experience has been that no teacher or principal understood my children until they entered self-contained HCC. Here are the experiences my family has had that make me very wary of an inclusive program:
I have had a principal tell me that differentiation wasn't possible.
I have had a teacher put a cap on how far ahead my child was allowed to work in the classroom.
I have had a different teacher try to discourage me from sending my kids to HCC because it would be "too much pressure."
I have had teachers give my kids extra responsibilities or extra busy work when they could have been learning.

When they started in self-contained HCC, all that changed. They were engaged from day one. That was such a positive thing for them. For the first time ever, a whole community of teachers and learners understood my children, not just their academic needs, but their quirks, asynchronous development, intensities and sensitivities. That can only happen in a self-contained environment.

Anonymous said…
Luckily, highly capable students of color ARE being identified and served in Seattle by Rainier Scholars. From the Rainier Scholars website...the cohort is 600 students of color currently served, 85-90% of which are low income and/or 1st generation college. I am surprised there is not more discussion about this terrific program. I know some of the Scholars are served in SPS HCC but I wonder how welcoming/supportive SPS is of the Scholars...many select the private schools where academic rigor is expected...with supports offered to those needing assistance with raising the floor...unlike SPS where one has to fight tooth and nail to ensure an appropriately rigorous educational ceiling.



Jan said…
Inclusive ALO said:

It is a system that asks the kids to constantly keep re-proving that they need advanced work, while minimizing their ability to do so. Curious what people think of the philosophy of the label granting access to nothing at all under the guise of being inclusive.

Spot on! They do everything they can to discourage kids from becoming entitled in any way to advanced work or advanced pace. Given that they give kids nothing when do manage to break through the bogus barriers that keep them from being eligible for ALOs or Spectrum, I wonder that they bother to try so hard keeping them out?
Charlie Mas said…
Please let me be clear. I am not suggesting that people start their complaints with the teacher because I blame teachers. I am suggesting that people start their complaints with the teacher because that's what the policy and procedure requires.

If you start your complaint any further up the chain it will get tossed because you didn't start with the teacher.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, you are such an optimist. Many parents will tell you they did exactly as you suggested. They've done it for years and years, really. What has changed for the better? Nothing. They get labeled as one of "those parents." They soon realize that an appropriate education happens outside of a SPS classroom, just as @BTDT suggests. Until there are some significant staff changes at the level of Teaching and Learning, do not expect any meaningful improvements. They will not fix a problem if they don't believe it exists.

-reluctant PThomeschooler
Charlie Mas said…
Okay. Let's assume that reluctant PThomeschooler is right. In fact, I'm quite sure that reluctant PThomeschooler is right. Then comes the next step.

Take the responses that you get from the teacher, the principal, the Executive Director of Schools, and the Ombudsman, and send them to your Board Director with an explanation of exactly how and why their responses are inadequate.

And when you do, be sure that you are clear that the responses are inadequate because they do not meet the requirements of the policy.

The center of the complaint, the part that makes it work, the only thing that gives it legitimacy, is the policy. Stay focused on the policy and the absolute requirement that the student gets what the policy requires:
"Advanced Learning instructional programs will include differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities."

If they cannot show that they are providing all of these then they are in violation of the policy. Policy enforcement is the job of the Ombudsman, the Internal Auditor, and the Board.

Let's be perfectly clear: no one but the Board directors are accountable to you. Not the teacher, not the principal, not the Executive Director of Schools, none of them. None of them are accountable to you, but the Board is. The Board will respond to pressure from families and communities so that is where the pressure needs to be applied.

The staff, starting with Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath, are going to tell the Board that MTSS will take care of Advanced Learners, but that's simply false. Putting differentiation in a PowerPoint doesn't create any differentiation. Saying that teachers will provide differentiation does not actually create any differentiation. Do not allow the Board to be fooled by the empty promises from Michael Tolley and Shauna Heath. Demand actual evidence for yourself and make them demand actual evidence. Week by week, day by day, what are these students getting that includes differentiation, content acceleration, and deeper learning opportunities? Make them show it and make the Board demand to see it. No vague talk. They must be absolutely specific. Where is the scope and sequence for advanced learners?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie Mas said…
Hey, anonymous. Read the rules. You don't sign your comment, it gets deleted.

Left here at 8:50AM:
"The HCC and APP programs should be scrapped. The testing to get in is extremely unfair because it is not given to everyone. In some schools teachers don't even bother recommending kids for testing only telling parents the deadline if parents want to self-recommend. Then parents can game the system by getting private testing and asking the test giver (a psychiatrist usually) to write an essay on why the kids should be in the program. Many times this will get the child accepted even if their scores were less than what is required. The kids get bussed to a different school full of "HCC kids". These kids are smart but are they really two years ahead of their counterparts in their neighborhood school? Many are not.

Instead of HCC and APP I would like to see an opt-out honors system starting in middle school and for it to be offered at every middle school. This would create high expectations for all middle school kids and provide a small number of classes for those who struggled and need more help. The struggling kids should have smaller class sizes. All kids would go to their neighborhood schools because HCC and APP would no longer exist. All kids would be able to take advantage of the program because it would be required and no testing would be needed.

This would improve classroom behavior - which gets worse when kids are bored - improve outcomes for middle schoolers and provide all middle schoolers a better education. It would also even out the populations of highly capable, capable and regular students at all schools (except of course current APP/HCC schools which have all the HC kids) and would bring scores up at all middle schools in the district. It would improve behavior in high school too.

Middle schools now are being dragged down because of the loss of their highly capable students to the HCC program."
Charlie Mas said…
I am constantly amused by people who write that advanced learning programs should be eliminated. They are funny because they are usually misinformed about the programs, the reasons they dislike the program are false, and, best of all, they include an alternative that has no connection whatsoever with reality.

The anonymous commenter above is no exception. "The HCC and APP programs should be scrapped." Good news, APP doesn't exist. HCC and APP are the new name and the old name for the same thing. "The testing is unfair because it is not given to everyone." Yeah, there's a state law about that. Some teachers and schools don't recommend students, as if that's a problem with the program rather than a problem with those teachers. "The parents can game the system" There is absolutely no evidence of this. "are they really two years ahead of their counterparts in their neighborhood school?" Yes. They are. Some of them much further ahead.

"an opt-out honors system starting in middle school" is a perfectly absurd and dreadful idea. It's absurd because it doesn't provide kids with any support in elementary school. It's dreadful because the instruction would not be advanced; it would be grade level because the bulk of the students in it would be working at grade level. Let's remember that this anonymous commenter doesn't think that the HCC kids are working two grade levels ahead but they expect that almost every student will be ready to do advanced work without any advanced work offered in elementary school. This commenter has re-defined grade level work as advanced work and declared that any student who isn't ready to succeed with it is "struggling".

Here's another howler: "This would improve classroom behavior - which gets worse when kids are bored" It sure wouldn't improve the classroom behavior for the advanced kids who would be bored for all of elementary school and then for middle school as well. That's not as funny as this: "It would also even out the populations of highly capable, capable and regular students at all schools" Really? Have you not seen the distribution of HC students? It is not even. Schools in some neighborhoods would have a lot of them and other schools in other neighborhoods would have hardly any - because that's where they are.

To suggest that middle schools are now being dragged down because they don't have HC students is absurd. The students working at grade level don't need advanced students in their classrooms to succeed.
Anonymous said…
Anon said: "Then parents can game the system by getting private testing and asking the test giver (a psychiatrist usually) to write an essay on why the kids should be in the program. Many times this will get the child accepted even if their scores were less than what is required. "

I assume that after anon finished writing this post, the writer went off to gather sources for these claims. I am looking forward to seeing those documents.

While you are linking to the documents to prove those first claims, please also don't forget to link to documents for this claim as well:
"This would improve classroom behavior - which gets worse when kids are bored - improve outcomes for middle schoolers and provide all middle schoolers a better education." I am looking for proof that putting HCC kids in a general ed classroom improves the outcomes for the HCC kid.

I know the people currently running AL are making stuff up as they go, but we need to be making fact-based decisions that are in the best interest of ALL the children in the class.


Anonymous said…
Another question for anon: Why can't middle schools have honors classes without the HCC students being there? There's no connection between the two.

Anonymous said…
BDTD said "This had the perverse effect of INCREASING the achievement gap, because the parents who recognized that their kids were getting weak math in school and had the time and inclination and money to do something about it were upper class."

Definitely happens at our school and I don't fault the parents at all. Our school doens't have walk to math and is not even using a math curriculum. Kumon is also cleaning up, since any parent who dares to ask for advanced learning services better have a kid who is acing the pretest on every unit before it is taught, or they'll be shamed as one of "those" parents.

I'd love to have a good argument against this model as I'm willing to go in there and make the case for walk-to-math at a minimum. Not all HCC kids arrive at school already knowing what they've never been taught, and they are not all pre-made overachievers.

Inclusive ALO
Anonymous said…
Anon, there really are a lot of HCC kids. They didn't cheat their way into the program.

Nine percent of the district is identified at 98 percentile and above. I still think people get caught up by this, as though some of them MUST be cheating because how can that be? The 98 percentile is of kids in the entire state of Washington, and most of those kids live in urban areas, like Seattle. We have a higher concentration here.

They really are working 2 years ahead. That is what they do in the elementary HCC program.

When parents seek out a private test, it is because in their gut they (or a child's teacher) feel some result of group SPS testing wasn't accurate. Individual private testing is considered to be more accurate than group testing. The trained psychologists who administer these tests to children are not going to risk their licenses by lying on a test report. The write-ups that accompany individual test reports are not essays and are not persuasive. They are an analysis and explanation of the child's cognitive ability beyond the numbers, and become a useful tool for parents in deciding whether or not to enroll their child in the program.

Reluctant PThomeschooler, Charlie is right. You need to prove that you DID go thru the chain of command with your complaint. If enough parents did this and then went to their director, the Board could more easily act. Otherwise, the Superintendent can point to a lack of procedure process.

Anonymous, nothing for gifted kids until middle school? No, I don't think so. Smaller class sizes for struggling kids from elementary to high school (and other kids get bigger class sizes?) Hmmm. (I have no problem in elementary but after that, there could be other ways to help struggling learners. ALL kids deserve decent class sizes.) And bored kids in overlarge classes? Not going to improve behavior.

Anonymous said…
Also, no, no, no, no, we do not move students around to improve scores! Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

I would like to see honors classes at every middle school as well (though opt in, not opt out). HCC students there or not has nothing to do with it. I have found it precisely as impossible to request more rigor as an HCC family as a gen ed family (we have had both). The answer is always just "no." Actually, Charlie is right, the HCC programs being located where they are actually spreads them out. If we sent them back to their neighborhood schools, in the north overwhelmingly they would go to Hamilton and Eckstein. Almost no kids at JAMS. And when Eaglestaff opens, almost no kids there. HCC is making happen what you want to have happen by eliminating HCC- which would make it worse.

2E parent said…
After 6 years of SPS, with DD11 falling further behind every year, we gave up and went private. The difference is amazing. If an assignment isn't up to (a much higher) standard, the teacher sits with her at lunch and helps her rework it. That's lunch, not recess, which is carefully protected twice a day. Writing skills and grammar are taught directly, as is math. Science and social studies are project based and fun. If a student is unkind, it is noticed and mediated.

There are a range of tuition prices.at different schools, and we're finding that this isn't much more than all the supplemental services we were buying (art, music, tutoring, summer courses, sports). It happens during the school day, which means that nights, weekends and breaks are available for unstructured fun and rest.

So, for the person who wanted their child to learn to write, here's an option.

I hate that this is only available to those who can afford to opt out of the system, but I can't ask my kid to stay in a system thats failing her.

Anonymous said…
There are many reasons why private testing may be appropriate that have nothing to do with "gaming" the system.

We once had private achievement testing done. The issue was that the most recent achievement tests from the district were 10 months old as only Spring MAP testing is now done. I don't believe kindergarten achievement testing is appropriate for second grade program placement as appears to be district procedure. In other words, if a kindergarten student doesn't pass the grade-normed achievement tests, the next chance they have for getting into advanced learning is in third grade unless they have private testing.

As another example, I know a k child that literally took a 20 minute nap during this years CogAT testing. I doubt many educators would find it appropriate to ask 5 year olds to sit for a 2.5 hour test without a snack or outdoor break. Having that child retake the CogAT is not exactly gaming the system.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, you are assuming the Board has the power or the inclination to make improvements to AL.

HCC is the new Spectrum. With the splits, the loss of many long time APP teachers, and the near elimination of the pre-split LA/SS curriculum, there is little "there" there for middle school HCC. Identified students can access non-honors high school level science a few years early, and take math classes a few years early, but that's about it. All the effort spent on identification of students seems for naught when you consider what is actually offered to students academically. Yet something, anything, is better than nothing, and that is a large reason for HCC's enrollment.

While the district seems to do as little as possible to improve academics for all students (Exhibit A is the K-5 math fiasco), they seem happy to have a movable cohort of students.

-tired parent
Anonymous said…
2E parent, from another 2E parent what school are you talking about? We're about ready to give up on SPS too if we can bring it about financially.

Exit strategy
Anonymous said…
NW mom said-

I do dislike the idea of sending my elementary school child to a separate school for HCC instruction. I think there are many things our local school does better. But our principal just eliminated walk-to-math and so there is zero opportunity for my child to work above grade level in math while at school. In-class differentiation is a great idea in theory, but simply is not happening in reality. It is very frustrating - and this is why Cascadia is packed to the gills.
Melissa, you are assuming the Board has the power or the inclination to make improvements to AL.

Inclination? Maybe not. Power? Yes, they do and I am increasingly seeing this Board (gently) flex their muscle.
Anonymous said…
When people say things like "HCC is the new Spectrum," a watered-down version of its former self, it adds fuel to the "half of them cheated their way in anyway" argument.

The kids, the 98 and above, are the same kids that were there 10 years ago. Many of the teachers are gone. Much of the institutional knowledge is gone. There were a few teachers at a few locations especially known for their rigor, but that was unfortunately never an official curriculum. The kids haven't changed, their capabilities haven't changed, and their needs haven't changed. Any watering down has come because of the lack of standard curriculum and district guidance, as new sites take in HCC and new teachers move in.

Our current self-contained HCC is what it is, and it's all we have, and if HCC families don't rally behind it, it makes it that much easier for SPS to take it away.

Anonymous said…
2E parent, we went private with our 6th grader this year and are having a great experience. This led us to going private with our older child for HS next year. Our elementary school was militantly anti-ALO, despite being an ALO-designated school. Math was weak for all kids. Our MS is very publicly pro-differentiation, but we've seen none. The elementary school had a very "don't let the door hit you on the way out" attitude toward parents who left over the weak curriculum, and there were many. The school had many fine qualities, and families who left did so reluctantly. We stayed but supplemented the sh*t out of math.

Middle-class parents with kids who are ready to learn and need things delivered at a faster pace are the canaries in the coal mine. If SPS can't keep families who can afford private school, public schools will become second class education for those who cannot afford better, and will be known as such.

Greenwoody said…
What people like Canary and others are pointing out is that in SPS district staff's rush to push all kids into a single, standardized, undifferentiated curriculum, they're deliberately underserving a lot of kids and pushing parents out of public schools.

Which is probably the entire point. If there are going to be charter schools in Seattle, then there will need to be a population of parents eager for that option. Taking away all differentiated and specialized options in SPS is one way to get there. This is why the option schools are next up on the chopping block.

Let's hope the school board stands up to SPS staff on this and insists that all children get the education they need, even if that means not all kids get the same curriculum.
Anonymous said…
One caveat to my statement above is that in this current AL-unfriendly environment, just about every identified kids escapes gen-ed for HCC. That wasn't the case 10 years ago, when Spectrum was a real alternative. I believe the district has subtly (and not-so-subtly) forced this in order to:
>>facilitate MTSS in ged ed classrooms (smaller spread of abilities = easier planning and classroom management)
>>package students into moveable chunks for capacity reasons

I also want to make it clear that I DO think we can and should advocate for something better for AL district-wide, both for highly capable and for advanced learners in a gen ed classroom. This movement toward one-size-fits-all education helps no one.

Anonymous said…
When people say things like "HCC is the new Spectrum," a watered-down version of its former self, it adds fuel to the "half of them cheated their way in anyway" argument.

You're right, the students still have to meet that 98% threshold. My comments were about the academic program as currently delivered, not the students. You seem to be suggesting parents should put up and shut up, because a poorly run HCC program is better than no HCC program. That's the general attitude we've experienced, which makes the suggestions to write to the Board rather pointless. A parent that respectfully speaks up is treated like some kind of pariah, even if they are advocating for stronger academics for all.

HCC is the new Spectrum.
Anonymous said…
@11:40 AM, I followed up my comment with another, "I also want to make it clear that I DO think we can and should advocate for something better for AL district-wide." It is possible to believe that and advocate for better, while still also strongly believing that a poorly run program is better than no program.

We have a new board and they seem to be open to using their position for the better of the district. Maybe this time writing them will lead to change.

Anonymous said…
Like 2E, we went private for middle school. And I feel guilty all the time. We swore we would never go private, but 6 years in SPS broke us. And we are a middle class family that SPS should have wanted to keep. Middle class, enthusiastic school supporters and volunteers. But like 2E, we had to supplement so much and pay so much outside of school, for math, art, music, sports, that it made sense. Not a wash, of course, but life is so much easier. And the change in work and quality of education is astonishing, and makes me seethe that SPS couldn't have gotten even a tiny bit better. Change is possible. The biggest thing seems to be the autonomy of the school, and freedom from a district administration. No standardized testing. Frequent curriculum review. Family feedback. Professional development for teachers. No more apologizing when my kid needs more...and I don't have to ask. Teachers know and adjusthe to make sure she gets what she needs. I am still passionate about public education and would love to come back if I saw any sign of improvement or even a plan for SPS, which is why I check in here. So far, it seems thing are just getting worse. I hear Charlies point about the procedure and teachers, and yet it seems he has forgotten how hard that parent teacher relationship can be. My kids teachers were so overworked and demoralized I would not have confronted them demanding a curriculum I knew they didn't have. No matter how you ask that, it's a bit of a criticism to that teacher for failing to provide what your kid needs. It's a tough spot. I hear you Charlie, but I bet most parents won't do it. It's a risk to alienate the only tool your kid has during a school day to get soemthing, anything extra.

Just sayin
Anonymous said…
I see no harm in expressing one's discontent with SPS management of curriculum. Charlie's probably right - going thru the channels, as potentially frustrating/useless as that might seem, effectively negates SPS Admin from attempting to ignore your communications for "not following policy". Sure, its a game. It always is with this joint. But sooner or later the squeaky wheel gets some grease - after all, the Board is taking over program placement because of exactly that - the endless "squeaky wheel" of public discontent with SPS Admin's handling of programs.

Until enough people from all sides of the conversation rise up, nothing will change. I'd prefer to be labelled as a pesky "pariah" than to be silent in the face of mismanagement. Nothing ventured. Nothing gained.

"A parent that respectfully speaks up is treated like some kind of pariah, even if they are advocating for stronger academics for all. "

That I believe. It's funny how people always assume you are only advocating for your own child when many of us have fought for a better program for years and years because it would benefit ALL children.
Anonymous said…
you're stoking the fears of parents and making it sound as if a neighborhood school is going to destroy the lives of any students who is above average. Just go to discussapp.org, the HC blog, and see the anxiety of the parents waiting for test scores. It's unsettling how panicked they appear.

We stayed local with our HC children and, I know it's not for everyone, but we're happy and the constant attacks on the district's ability to differentiate are not true for us. But when I read story after story about the misery of parents and the evil principals and teachers who ignore them when asked for help challenging their kids, even I feel like I'm mistaking what I see as a good education.

I mean, really, the passion for the gifted is a little out of proportion to their number and seeds. There is a self-contained program with 5000 kids, there's Spectrum which is at least a lever parents can use. Where's the similar outrage and instructions on how to demand action for ELL, FRL, below grade level and SpEd kids?

I've found staff very good at giving harder work to my kids. Do I supplement, you bet, and would at any school, (they're hoping I quit when they go to college) but the teachers we've had, and maybe we are very lucky, have been very good at teaching a wide range of students. We always had walk to math in elementary and middle school was great as the teachers would require more work from students who could do it and high school has honors and AP classes.

The hardest part of being in a blended school is getting your children to understand that they need to work as hard as other kids even if that means doing more work. They have to try hard, maybe not 100% that's really not possible, but all kids can do 95% effort if they try.

The payoff is the diversity of all kinds, the convenience and the bonding.

So, I'm not trying to knock anyone for going HCC, I just thingink there is a bit of hyperbole and it's scaring people.

Love the blog, read it all the time and just felt I needed to throw that out there, For some kids it works to stay, maybe ask around or ask if the principal can tell you who your kids are clustered with and you'll know they might be HC qualified.

Good luck, Scotty
Anonymous said…
The SPS obsession with equity is killing excellence. Any program that allows a subset of students to excel is systematically killed in the name of "equity" because some kids excelling means other kids are not excelling. The only acceptable path for the district is one of watered down, standardized mediocrity.

Fed up
Anonymous said…
At our local school, at least, there's no complaint about work for kids below grade level because it is excellent. I have kids who have been in both HCC and gen Ed, and when one of my gen Ed kids fell slightly behind the response was immediate, multi pronged, and dramatic. She was diagnosed in the first two weeks as behind, had a specialist plan within a week, who she saw twice a week until she had caught up. Extremely professional. I have no complaints. I used to help in math class twice a week for an hour so the teacher could do small group (2 or 3 to 1 ratio) instruction with the kids who were behind, which she did every day with other parent volunteers helping kids who were grade level do worksheets for an hour. It is great.

If you are saying your local school differentiates well I would really like to hear what school it is, and how they are doing it, so we can encourage other schools to copy their methods. We had a child allowed to do extra worksheets 6 months advanced after they had completed in class work perfectly(so, 3b instead of 3a), until they finished that book. That was the only math differentiation allowed in any of our 4 years at that school- despite advocating every year for more, having math professors offer to help any teacher who wanted it. And a cap several years below assessed level in reading, even if we sent books from home- because reading harder books in class would make kids who weren't ready for those books feel bad. I don't say this to disagree that you have had a wonderful experience but to explain my experience is the more common one among people who have moved their kids to HCC. I think most people would not send their kids if they had yoi experience! And if anyone us reading this right now who has it great- don't move your kid! It won't be better! Much of what cascadia does any local school could do- reading books at all levels in all classes, walk to math. They just don't, and tell people to leave if they don't like it. Most schools do not cluster HCC students- they spread them out intentionally, to balance classes. I think the reason we talk about it so much is that it is the only consistent advanced learning option. There is nothing else. If you don't think we talk about Sped just as much I don't think you read the blog very often. Though it is probably true that a higher proportion of students could use some advanced learning (at least in one subject) than access sped. But there it's the same thibg- much more talk about sm4 and ieps than 504 and mild ADHD.

Wait, I see your kids are in high school. Bryant, for example, had an excellent ALO program until the capacity crisis hit, and used to keep substantial numbers of app kids. I know many APP kids who went through it, to Eckstein(spectrum LA classes were significantly more rigorous than what HCC LA is now) and Roosevelt, and had an excellent, well rounded and somewhat flexible experience. Honestly that is what i planned for my kids when we moved here, and it certainly is a better experience than the stress, scrutiny, and uncertainty of HCC during the capacity crunch. That experience is not available now- too crowded, everything went, ALO first. Were you in elementary under maria goodloe Johnson? She took away local control, so now principals can't allocate resources depending on the community needs in front of them. They all are pressured doing the same thing at the same time, no matter what their kids need.

All of this will be helped with more capacity. For now it is a little rough and requires more navigating than it did a decade ago. Also the blog world was nascent then- I suspect the anxiety was always out there; you just wouldn't have known.

I'M stoking the fears? All by myself? Please.

I love neighborhood schools and there are some that DO strive to meet the needs of ALL neighborhood students. Problem is, not enough do and the district does not support that effort.

You are using a lot of loaded words like "evil"(which I seriously never saw one person here say about a teacher on this subject.)

The "passion for the gifted?" Are you not passionate about your child? So forgive others for caring about their children who also have the right to advocate for their child's academic needs.

I'm assuming you must be new to this blog because I constantly go after the district on ELL, F/RL and Sped. Ever heard of Soup for Teachers? Constantly advocating for those kids.

What school are you at that differentiates for students because it would be good to know the school and the principal.

It's great you can supplement but honestly, no parent should need to because every child should get their academic needs met at school.

I'm not knocking anyone for going to their neighborhood school.

And lastly, man, am I tired of this "scared" and "afraid" stuff. We're adults and if an adult discussion on public education issues scares people, we're all in trouble.
Scott said…
The HCC designation at Thurgood Marshall has resulted in a separate but equal experience there. The kindergarten--where there is no HCC--is racially and economically diverse. The upper grades in the school are heavily segregated by race and income, yet because the school does not meet the Title I threshold, there is no Title I funding for schoolwide supports for the gen ed classes that would likely qualify if they made up the whole school. I don't see how a program that so starkly isolates kids by race can be good for the school or community in the long run.
Scott, just to let you know, that the Superintendent said there is likely to be funding next year for schools that have a high percentage of students needing Title One funds but not high enough to qualify their school as a Title One school.

Again, the issue of the racial make-up of HC is not the program; it's many factors. The program itself is open to all.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynn said…

The district made a poor choice when it placed HCC at Thurgood Marshall. HCC families didn't have any input on that decision.

That said, HCC does not affect the racial or economic makeup of the general education classrooms in the school. It's not like these kids would be in the same classrooms if not for that pesky advanced learning program. Before HCC was placed in the building, the school had less than 300 students and an 88% poverty rate. Would returning to that be an improvement for the kids in the neighborhood?
Reprinting for Anonymous(see our Comments policy):

"Regarding the HCC program being caucasian or Asian and affluent. Not all people who appear white or asian & middle class come from the same economic backgrounds. Not all share the same history. My husband was the first in his family to graduate from high school. Both sets of our parents grew up very poor (inner city urban & rural) & we were both first in our family to go to college. We do not have generational wealth and are 1 generation from poverty. In addition, although someone might appear white and even mark caucasian on the box, ancestry can be more complex like it is in my case. People are sometimes too reductionist in their analysis & think we all share the same history."

I absolutely concur with this because it is the same for me and my late husband. You cannot possibly know who someone is just by looking at them or their last name.

Are there not enough black, Hispanic and Native American students in the HC program? Yes. But you cannot presume to know who everyone is that IS in the program.
David said…
Well, returning to the 88% poverty rate would have one advantage - they would qualify for Title I funds.
Anonymous said…
The varied experiences being expressed on "differentiation" I believe highlight the problems that occur when there is no well defined "program" or set of services.

Sleeper above mentioned how their child was not allowed to read ahead because it "would make other kids in the class feel bad". In contrast, our son's second grade teacher allowed him to bring Percy Jackson from home, a book that is rated for grade 5 and up and is over 500 pages long.

For both of our kids kindergarten math was more challenging that first grade Spectrum math, because the kindergarten teacher gave them materials and allowed them to work ahead as much as they wanted.

Because Advanced Learning has zero power over what is taught in the neighborhood schools, and doesn't appear to even have any specific guidelines anyway, there's no rule that says for example that teachers have to allow HCC kids to read more advanced books. And parents have zero expectation regarding what should be the norm if there kids needs are not being met.

Some teachers and principals may be completely supportive of advanced differentiation, and others against it. The uncertainty of what you're going to get each year is very disconcerting.

How can we fix it? I think the best way would be to organize, analyze the as-is in each of the schools, collect quantifiable data from parents through surveys, and then go to the board. But that's a lot of work. We can all individually write to the board, which may make a difference, but I'm doubtful, because we seem to be fighting against a well-funded institution with a different set of interests.

Lynn said…

Absolutely. That problem is the result of poor planning at the district level - not the existence of a self-contained advanced learning program.
Anonymous said…
@ Marc, analyzing the "as is" in each of the schools is incredibly tricky, because it differs so much from teacher to teacher, class to class, year to year. Our middle school principals have never been able to tell us what HCC does or how it's different, nor have any of the teachers. We've also never been able to get a syllabus that provides any significant detail on what they'll cover and how, what the expectations are, etc. How would we go about gathering meaningful data on the current state of things, other than to say "it all depends"?

Scott said…
Well, you can look at the data which shows that it is overwhelmingly nondiverse, for starters. I also fail to see how the fact that a child is two generations away from poverty somehow is relevant for the current state of the diversity of the classroom, but I can appreciate that you might feel financial insecurity and want better for your kid.

Your argument presumes two things: one, that you can't assume what the content of the classroom is by looking at it; and, two, that even if you know how people identify, they might have family histories that make them more "diverse". So, win-win for people who like the status quo since there is apparently no way to measure diversity in educational settings?

Further, given the state of the assignment area for TM and the gentrification of our neighborhood (good and bad), I highly doubt TM would look anything like its pre-HCC self. Just look at the current kindergartens. I don't have any problem with TM. They're doing a great job with what they have to work with, but the district's HCC program is a Title VI violation waiting for a complaint to be filed.

The problem is that the kids notice. The kids in that school know who is in HCC and who isn't, and they can look at these classes and see how segregated they are. Then, they segregate themselves on the playfield, socially, and in every other way because that's what the school is reinforcing. It isn't hyperbole to say that this is a problem that contributes to economic and racial segregation in our communities. It is a fact.
Well again, it was John Stanford himself who said that a Highly Capable program should not co-housed (this based on when Madrona as a middle school co-housed with APP.).
Charlie Mas said…
The review of APP done by the University of Virginia recommended that the District not co-house APP with an attendance area school and, if they had do, to only co-house it with a school that closely matched APP demographically and academically. The District totally ignored that advice and put the south-of-downtown APP at Thurgood Marshall because it was an under-enrolled school in a building in excellent condition.

The stark contrast in population at Thurgood Marshall is a creation of poor decisions by the District against the counsel of the communities and the experts. It should not be counted as a negative of the program, the community, or the students.

No kidding. When the District put APP at Thurgood Marshall they did so in direct opposition to the expert advice they had paid for.
Charlie Mas said…
I am absolutely delighted to read about families who had a strongly positive experience for their children in school. The fact that some HC students (or ELL students, or students with disabilities, or any other students) had a great elementary school experience is wonderful news that should be embraced.

It is not, however, typical or reliable. So let's not pretend that it is or pretend that other families, who have not enjoyed the same type of experience, are manufacturing complaints or would be dissatisfied with anything.

No one is doubting, disputing, or denying your truth or your experience. Please don't doubt, dispute, or deny the experience of others.

There can be no doubt that some teachers and some schools can, through intention and effort, provide differentiation - at least to some extent - in a general education classroom. There can also be no doubt that there are some teachers and schools - a great number of them - that either cannot or will not provide differentiation in the general education classroom.

When I read that some schools have done it I am encouraged by their choices and actions. But it also makes me that much more frustrated by those schools that make the other choice and take the other action. They, too, could do it; they just choose not to.
Anonymous said…
The good news with the state law is that the demographics of the district will now have to start being reflected in HCC. The demographic discrepancy will eventually be a non-issue.

Studies that were done with political ramifications in mind (and ditto for the mindset of a superintendent who had to deal with political realities) would certainly advocate for keeping such blatant inequities from being in such sharp contrast for all to see. That is why cities that host the Olympics remove the homeless near the stadiums before the games start.

Responding to the real concerns that Scott detailed by saying the program should be in a place where the inequities are more hidden (rather than dealing with the inequities themselves) is why there had to be a state law in the first place (and Supreme Court decisions and constitutional amendments, for that matter). Too bad the entire document that was posted about underrepresented populations and the need for a Rainier Scholars to be formed (in large part as response to a lack of identification) were ignored in our bloggers' responses.

Being against charters, and then perpetuating the system that continues to feed the demand, will continue to stretch your credibility on this issue. I am anti-charters, and know that you can't be against charter schools without also dealing with the inequities and lack of opportunities that feed the demand for them.

Thankfully, we have laws to deal with such exclusionary mindsets and practices. Too bad it takes laws.

--about time

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott, you presume that everyone who believes in HC and APP is for the "status quo." I cannot speak for others here but I've been fighting for a better program for about 15 years. Charlie has been almost as long. Just because you believe in one thing doesn't mean you are satisfied with the whole thing.

Anonymous said…

The wording of the law has been brought up before. When you read the information in the document referenced about underrepresentation linked above, the intent of the law becomes clear: the district's demographics and how they are reflected in the district's HC population is the emphasis, not the area. I'm not a lawyer, but I was very encouraged after reading this in terms of intent.

I'm not naive. The law is a start, not a finish. I just had to try to convince myself to try and look on the bright side this morning after reading some of these posts.

--about time
Anonymous said…
Reposting for anonymous:

Anonymous said...
From OSPI, Districts must review identification procedures to make sure student selection reflects the demographics of the area they serve.


@about time said, The good news with the state law is that the demographics of the district will now have to start being reflected in HCC. The demographic discrepancy will eventually be a non-issue.

The demographics of the "area they serve" are not necessarily the same as the "demographics of the district" enrollment. It is certainly a step forward to have the laws, but it's more complex than that. Simply saying we have the laws, so the issue will take care of itself is rather simplistic.

--about time
Anonymous said…

I have often thought about that issue, Scott. I have two other questions, that I also don't have the answer to. 1) it is also the case that the district is not 88% frl. TM gen Ed is not representative of the district. Does that matter? I don't know what south end app demographics look like, so I don't know how different they are from overall south end demographics.

Lynn did an analysis of students in the middle school north end draw area who scored 4 on state tests, and it was almost exactly Cascadia, demographically. I don't think TM is broken out like that, but it would certainly be instructive to see. Option schools are always a bit whiter and richer than their draw area- viewed through that lens the demographics are exactly what you expect.

2) what about the fact that the inequity would also be stark if you placed a Wedgwood (or view Ridge, or Montlake, or North Beach, or or or) classroom next to ia TM gen Ed classroom? We have geographic segregation in our city, and probably will for a while because of the big bodies of water getting in the way of things. I think we could help this somewhat by gerrymandering attendance areas, but some will probably remain no matter what, frankly probably it is going to get worse with our city's ever growing inequality.(which I think is what causes inequality in the schools, not the other way around, though reasonable minds disagree). Housing prices are completely out of control again, and larger and larger areas are becoming out of reach for middle class and below families.

I don't know, but I do think it is pretty shady to place hcc in an impoverished school. I think the district does it to make their schools look more equal when they really are not, and I think it is cruddy. Not least because it denies the school title 1 funds it definitely deserves.

different name today said…
I don't know, but I do think it is pretty shady to place hcc in an impoverished school. I think the district does it to make their schools look more equal when they really are not, and I think it is cruddy. Not least because it denies the school title 1 funds it definitely deserves.

I think the reasons can be even worse than that.

When Carla Santorno was here in Seattle, acting as Chief Academic Officer I asked her how she dealt with highly capable in Colorado. She laughed heartily at how she purposely placed their equivalent of APP in a scary neighborhood. She laughed again as she described how the parents would pull up to drop their kids off right in front of the door because they were too scared to get out of their cars in the area and walk the kids in themselves.

I remember this conversation clearly, even years later, because it shocked me so deeply that someone in her position would not just make that call, but make fun of the parents afterward. She may be doing good things in Tacoma, but I'm very glad she is no longer here in Seattle. Do you remember the first plan to split elementary APP? It was to put the southern half of the kids at Hawthorne, and the northern half of the kids at Thurgood Marshall. Yes, really. To what end could this possibly serve, other than to frustrate both the APP families AND the local families?

Perhaps not everyone is so evil in their mindset against bright kids (and their families), but don't think for a minute that the attitude doesn't exist.
Anonymous said…
Scott, When you say that a child is two generations away from poverty if his/her parents are the first in their family to go to college, and they were raised in poverty, what do you call the child who is raised in poverty and in the future is the first in their family to go to college, one generation away from poverty? I add it up differently. Normally we count a child being raised in poverty by their parents' income since they don't have income of their own yet.
Anonymous said…
I wonder if the lawsuits in Highline regarding the Aviation School
were based on Title VI:


Continuing to blame housing patterns and prices, defining the "bright" kids as those who are in a program that has biased identification and entrance criteria, and using MSP middle school results as indicative of who should have been identified for the program in elementary school (rather than following state law requiring a reflection of student population) would not be viable defenses for the demographics of HCC when you read the law.

--about time
Anonymous said…
Cascadia and TM are such extreme examples. It paints a skewed picture when the two extremes of the city are juxtaposed like that. There are places in the city where diversity and some measure of advanced learning coexist peacefully, or at least better. Below are examples of programs that authentically attract advanced learners to their neighborhood schools and improve outcomes.
>>JAMS, WMS (and likely REMS): HCC schools located in diverse neighborhoods, have Spectrum options for neighborhood kids who can handle more rigor (JAMS allows some of them to take HCC classes in their area of strength) and have a large enough cohort for advanced math classes filled with 6th graders.
>>Rainier Beach IB: outcomes from the newly introduced IB program are improving each year, providing rigor for neighborhood kids who are capable of more.
>>Chief Sealth IB: Another IB program located in a diverse, high-poverty area.
>>Cleveland STEM: An option school with a focus on math and science
>>Garfield: A superstar of SPS for sure, but an amazing resource for bright neighborhood kids who don't have the HC designation but still want more rigor.
>>Ingraham: In a diverse part of the city, and with the option for HC kids to take IB instead of IBX, there will be more mixing with kids from the neighborhood who choose IB too.

I would like to see more thought in the placement of elementary HCC programs. I know it doesn't have to be the stark contrast that it currently is. Just eliminating that contrast may be enough to entice more families of color to opt in.

Anonymous said…
WMS? No. Spectrum is moving to Meany. WMS will be stark in its 2 populations. And let's just say the HCC population at WMS won't be the more diverse one.

JAMS population is whiter and wealthier because of HCC kids going there.

Don't know the situation at Fairmount Park, but at Thurgood the contrast is stark and painful. Do HCC parents interact with the Thurgood gen ed parents? Guess.

There is no HCC program in high school. None. Zero. All kids can take AP and IB classes. IBX is maybe the only exception? True, HCC kids have had preferred acceptance into Garfield and Ingraham, but that is likely to change in the future. The trend clearly is toward AP or IB classes more evenly distributed throughout the district with HCC kids going to a school closer to their neighborhood.

The optics of the situation of HCC colocation at schools is not good. The reality of what it says about SPS and our city is much worse.

Anonymous said…
DistrictWatcher, I was referring to programs that exist, today, that are a positive mix of AL and diverse populations. It is unfortunate that Spectrum is leaving WMS. I wish SPS would reconsider.

Not sure if you were referring to my post further on, but I didn't call the HS cases HCC. I was referring to them as options for students in diverse neighborhoods to access advanced learning, which they are.

And I realize that JAMS is whiter and wealthier with HCC, but both HCC and neighborhood have come together as a single community to create a new school, so there is a sense of everyone in it together. There also isn't the stark contrast you have at TM. The attendance area is very diverse in the sense that there are many races and SES (including wealthy white people who already live within the borders). And HCC at middle school is not every subject, so there is more blending among the groups.

The schools I mentioned in my post above are taking a positive step toward balancing advanced learning with racial and socio economic diversity. That in turn makes advanced learning more appealing and accessible to families of color. That is the first step to increasing diversity in HCC. It's unfortunate there's not a single elementary school in the list. High hopes for Fairmount Park.

DistrictWatcher, Spectrum is dead. And the "Spectrum" at middle school is two classes and I'll bet that gets stopped as well. As for APP kids at either Meany or Washington, who knows?
Anonymous said…
One of the issues with building diversity in HCC is the correlation between poverty and achievement. Another is the lack of opt-in from communities of color, even those whose children do qualify. Colocation done right reduces barriers and provides an easier path to access for kids in diverse neighborhoods.

As an example, look at schools like Gatewood, Viewlands, John Rogers... elementary schools with diverse populations that reflect the demographics of the district. Add a Spectrum-like option (even if it's just accommodation in the classroom, because SPS killed Spectrum) and an HCC option at schools like those and there is a path to entry for a more diverse group of kids. This would give high cognitive/lower achieving kids a ladder up as they develop their skills to the point where they qualify for HCC, and a seamless way to transfer into the program when the time comes. If the goal is increased diversity in HCC, we should be doing every thing we can to build awareness in diverse communities and make the program feel accessible to all.

(nb I listed the above schools as off-the-cuff examples of the kinds of communities where HCC would not be in such stark contrast to the neighborhood or to other Seattle schools. Not intentionally singling them out for a movement.)

Anonymous said…
Co-location is an excuse to pump involved parents' monies into an underserved schools PTA

Anonymous said…
Ok, I finally read through all the documents linked on the highly capable statute above, and nope, still legal. The tests we use are the same ones the overwhelming majority of districts in the country and state use, and moving away from them is a fairly high hurdle. Our appeals process is unusual, though I think it should be easy to show what changes would happen from changing it. I know I have mentioned disliking teacher identification before- doing so dramatically increases the percentage of old for grade, white boys, which you can tell just from the descriptions of who people think is "really" gifted on here- to a person commenters describe white men with social issues. It does look like we are supposed to be having professional development for teachers on gifted students, which I don't hear a lot about. But, bigger fish to fry. And honestly the teachers I know well would be better served by more planning time than more bad district PD.

Just because it's perfectly legal doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do better. and of course I blame housing prices(and everything to do with inequality, which is the main driver of the achievement gap, not anything that goes on in schools). Rainier Scholars is a great program. The programs mentioned above are doing good work, though I think for some of those programs (JAMS LA; I am sure there are others) we need to simultaneously make the program is more rigorous so it has something to offer kids who are being caught up to it. It's not supposed to be a prize you win and then that's it. It's supposed to be an appropriate learning environment. It is legally required to be Accelerated and advanced in some way. Which is free, if the classes are self contained, but annoying to the district, who prefers uniformity above all else.

Lynn said…
Possibly relevant: http://blogs.seattletimes.com/fyi-guy/2014/11/12/as-seattle-gets-richer-the-citys-black-households-get-poorer/
Anonymous said…
Well, I'm a 53 year old, who is really really advanced. I operate at the level of a 55 year old, across the board. And in some cases, I'm even up to the intellectual functioning of a 60 year old. 7 whole years ahead. I can't bear to sit next to a 53 year old at work who can only just meet the bar expected for us. There's no way our employer can dole out work that challenges both me and my duller colleagues. Differentiation stinks! It is impossible. Nobody does it. We all know that everybody just does the same thing as the person they sit next to. We all know that people can not think more deeply unless there is pressure to do it from an authority. I demand segregation! It is my right. I must only work with others exactly like myself (or better).

HCC adult
Anonymous said…
That's odd. You don't sound very bright.

Blah Blah
Anonymous said…
There is no way to tell whether the Advanced Learning programs in the Seattle School District are meeting any part of the district's goals, because the district has not said what the goals are. Are they trying to help bright students who don't succeed in the general program? Are they trying to help students who have been very successful to go beyond that level? Both? If we don't know what the goal is, we can't measure progress toward achieving it.

Lynn said…
These are the objectives of the district's highly capable services and advanced learning programs:

A. Expansion of students’ academic and intellectual skills in every year of education;
B. Stimulation of students’ intellectual curiosity, independence and responsibility;
C. Development of students’ social and emotional wellbeing; and
D. Development of students’ originality and creativity.
Anonymous said…
Clearly HCC Adult has never lead a project team at Microsoft or worked as a lawyer in a top law firm. Because those types of organizations clearly differentiate by who they hire, the same way testing serves to limit who get's in to HCC. But then the HCC community opens itself up to this type of mockery with the constant talk of kids that were somehow born “special” and therefore need a “special” program.

I grew up going to public schools in this state that never had a “gifted program” and then attended a top five university that was populated with HCC kids. I had fun throughout my public school days and had smart friends and friends that never went to college. I wasn’t a problem child because I was somehow bored. I had some good teachers and some great teachers, some that differentiated, some that taught honors classes and some that never asking anything beyond multiple choice questions.

But when I went off to college, whereas I had never received anything less than an A, I suddenly had to work very, very hard to get a “b”. I had a roommate with a pile of AP credits that had gone to public school in the Midwest, and I didn’t even know what an AP credit was. I suddenly was in class with kids that had gone to private school in the east coast that had apparently learned how to write a well-structured paper. My college classrooms had blackboards, the classes used textbooks, and the professors assigned homework. But suddenly I was being required to read more in one semester than I had in four years of public school. Suddenly if I didn’t master ever single problem in the book there was no way I could pass the exams.

And I suddenly realized that I had wasted years in the public education system. I had been at the top of my class, but there were whole fields of study that were simply not open to me because I did not have a sufficiently rigorous math and science background even though I had taken calculus and honors biology. I never considered my friends in college “smarter”; I simply figured that for whatever reason they had learned more growing up.

The public schools can take little credit for those kids that test in to HCC in kindergarten. Did those kids somehow learn to read in their sleep, or did they have parents that never went anywhere without a book? Did those kids magically learn how to solve analogies while watching T.V., or did they learn how to reason in pre-school or from their parents at home? Should we expect the kids that spend the majority of time playing sports and hanging out to have the same academics abilities as the kids that play the piano and participate in activities like Kumon?

Advanced Learning needs to be about making a choice: if you want in to HCC, you need to work harder than 98 out of every 100 students. The District needs to not only tell parents the scores required to qualify for HCC, but what their kids can do to achieve those scores. Hard work and achievement is part of the American ethos and should be part of the public schools. The idea that some set of kids are more special than some other set is rightfully mocked by parents like HCC Adult.

Another Parent
Anonymous said…
Advanced Learning needs to be about making a choice: if you want in to HCC, you need to work harder than 98 out of every 100 students.

Uh, no. Completely and utterly disagree. Would fight hard to stop the HCC program from ever morphing into this kind of dividing line. I do not want a program populated by Tiger Moms and Lion Dads and their progeny. I do not want our general education program, which serves the bulk of our city's kids, to be known as the place where kids are expected to work a little less hard. By the way, I do support a Gifted and Talented program. I do believe that what Seattle offers is horrid. But attitudes like above are exactly, IMHO, why district staff seems to despise HCC parents.

Anonymous said…
"Then, they segregate themselves on the playfield, socially, and in every other way because that's what the school is reinforcing. It isn't hyperbole to say that this is a problem that contributes to economic and racial segregation in our communities. It is a fact."

Scott, this is clearly not fact; it is your opinion. As a multi-ethnic, multi-racial family, I don't need anyone further limiting my child's opportunities. I say that because your post seems to infer that you're against the HCC program as a whole beyond even its location at TM.

If the HCC presence at TM eliminates the opportunity for Title 1 funds at the school, that's a fact worth fighting. If you think HCC is the force behind racial and economic inequities, that's a misguided opinion.

As someone who has done professional research focused on multicultural populations, don't assume the reason they don't participate in a program is what YOU
think it is.

Has anyone done a thorough study on why some populations are less likely to participate? So far, all I read is anecdotal. The opportunity to participate is open to all, but the process and program are seriously flawed.

- Don't Limit Me
Anonymous said…
And another HCC post garners triple-digit comments.

As a mixed-race HCC parent whose parents were immigrants and whose daughter exclusively socializes with gen-ed kids at Thurgood Marshall and has spent so much effort on calling out district inequity that Bernardo Ruiz actually stopped answering my calls at one point, I find it interesting that the HCC program always draws so much outrage here compared to the larger-scale inequity/segregation in the district as a whole.

The HCC program is definitely inequitable and needs improving. That OSPI document I posted earlier provides a great starting point.

I know the bloggers have called this out many, many times, but I'm curious why there's never triple-digit commenter outrage around rich white parents funding programs at rich white schools.

This week a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how she attended a gala auction dinner for an 88% white ES in Ballard. She spoke of the wine flowing freely and the delectable beef bourgignon, and of parents spending thousands of dollars bidding on incredible gift packages. I know lots of other schools have similar events, sometimes without any opportunity for parents who don't have the means to buy the entry ticket to attend. (This was reported to me by a NE ES single parent friend, who asked in a tough budget month if she could gain entry through an in-kind donation, and was denied.)

And I thought about what the reaction would be if any affluent parents at Thurgood Marshall ever suggested holding a gala beef bourgignon fancy wine dinner auction to raise funds for the school, as done by many North End schools every single year. It would be rightfully called out as exclusionary, and the idea would be killed. If the commenters here ever got wind of such a proposal, the outraged comments would probably stretch into the four digits. (At TM, btw, the events are always free, often with free food and childcare as well. And the PTA funds are for the whole school, with many parental donations supporting a school food bank for families in need.)

Anyway, just curious where the mass outrage is about the rich white fundraising across the North End, supporting things like language immersion.

My Facebook friend noted that it felt weird to see so much donating to one of the richest schools in the district and offered to make a donation to a poor school as well. I spent a bit of time trying to figure out how she could easily make a donation to Dunlap, Van Asselt, or Emerson (I just looked up a few I knew to have high FRL populations), but couldn't easily find any direct donation links, as are easily found at rich schools. I know I can get her in touch with the amazing Soup for Teachers, but, yeah, it was a bummer it wasn't easy to find a way to direct an interested party to make a donation to a needy school.


Anonymous said…
Heck, you should check out the endowment that Roosevelt High has:


Maybe we should discuss the legality of PTA driven funding inequities...

Anonymous said…
McGilvra raises the most, right?

I think pta funding is tricky. I believe the district deliberately funds the richest schools so far below baseline that they are forced to fundraise ludicrous amounts, just to have, say, sped resources diverse schools can take for granted. 5k/student is just not enough to run a school, any school. And certainly my friends in well funded states never raise this kind of money- and have so much more staff and resources. The "well off" schools in the north end would still be practically third world compared to a Minnesota school.

And I believe if we try to pool, people will just not give those dollars, so instead of at least giving to public schools they'll just enrich their own children. In Portland where they force pooling, schools have started funding foundations to get around it. I would not give our charity money to sps generally- I do not trust them or their priorities. I would volunteer time instead(which has also started happening in Portland).

Really what needs to happen is more funding. if all schools are funded to a reasonable, if basic, baseline, you don't need these kinds of monstrous pta budgets just to get a recess monitor or social worker. I know I have been called out before for asking for a pie in the sky solution- but this time I really, actually believe it might happen next year.

Anonymous said…
I have called out the PTA funding for years on this blog. As a teacher who has been asked to be "auctioned" (to spend my Saturday with the student and his/her friends because the parents were willing to spend hundreds of $$$s), I was stunned and appalled on multiple levels. The wine does flow freely and the lines between the schools and parents (who have the money to attend and/or are willing to ask for a charity ticket) are forever blurred--which happens whenever money comes into play. Sure, this is business-as-usual in many private schools, but these are public schools.

The typical response has been that Title I or LAP dollars go to the students in high FRL schools (which don't even begin to mitigate the effects of poverty), and their kids don't get that money. McClearly also gets invoked. This is the justification for not sharing the PTA money like they do in Portland, for example.

Of course, "take the money and run" is always a guaranteed response. So is invoking the vast conspiracy by the district which results in "forcing" parents to make unethical decisons.

Whatever gets you through the night, it's all right--whatever helps people justify it to themselves and sleep well.

--about time
Anonymous said…
@ Don't Limit Me, you asked if anyone has done a thorough study on why some populations are less likely to participate. I have never seen data that break out HCC test, qualification and enrollment rates by race, FRL or ELL status, but those would be important data to analyze. I hope SPS would have done that, but somehow I doubt it. But if we want to solve the disparity, it is essential to understand whether the root of the problem is that underrepresented groups don't know to or don't bother to apply, apply but don't test in, and/or test in but opt not to enroll. Seems pretty straightforward.


Stephanie said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
I keep saying it because it keeps being true.

It is not a vast conspiracy. It is a rational, public choice the district is making. It does not have enough money. It can either vastly underfund everybody, which would hit poor kids the worst, or sort of underfund poorer schools, and vastly underfund schools with affluent PTAS, assuming they will make it up. They talk about using ptas this way in budgeting and board meetings public ones. No, it is not enough to mitigate the effects of poverty. All the school budgets in the whole state spent only on seattle schools would not be enough to mitigate the effects of poverty. We could spend all of our money trying to do that and not educate a single student. But we are a public school district, and we are supposed to educate, and try to mitigate where we can.

And I think a public school parent's choice to donate to a 600 kid school pta, when otherwise there will be no nurse at school for those 600 kids the following year, is perfectly ethical. Laudable, even. They're not being "forced" to make an unethical choice. As bad as our poor schools have it, it's better than many places, and I don't fault people for giving to Bailey Gazert instead of Syrian refugees. People give locally.

Anonymous said…
About Time,
There is nothing immoral about raising money for your own kids' school and not giving to the school on the other side of the city. Raising money for an impoverished school is a good thing, but is not the responsibility of parents at other schools.

In fact, one of the most inequitable aspects of education across Seattle is that the more experienced and desirable teachers are usually hired by the schools in the more wealthy parts of town. The teachers are naturally drawn to schools that are easier to teach, with more parent involvement both at home and at school and with better-funded PTAs. The schools don't have to pay any more for the better teachers, but attract them by their environment. The poorer schools have less experienced teachers as well as some saintly experienced teachers who are committed to helping struggling kids even in a tougher environment.

It's not immoral for a teacher to choose a school in a better neighborhood, just like it's not immoral for a parent to prioritize their own child and school.

Anonymous said…
Momof2 --

I strongly believe the district should make incentives for teaching at high poverty schools a critical component of negotiations with the teachers unions.

This is yet another district-wide piece of the inequity puzzle that rarely gets discussed.

Anonymous said…
Another Parent. You're so funny. I actually did work at Microsoft, back in the day. And I did manage an extraordinarily large team (by the standard's of the day). Shows how little you actually do know. And nope. We never strove to find people who "were two years ahead" or who repeatedly took psych tests to prove they were performing as 32 year olds, when they were actually only 30. Guess what? That stops mattering after about third grade. So all the sturm and drang... and it all comes out in the wash. Yes we wanted creative people who would work their butts off, and get it done. Not people who brought in notes from their doctors. And truth be told - social skills matter a heck of a lot.

HCC Adult
Anonymous said…
Adult and Another Parent, your back and forth clearly presents a misunderstanding of Highly Capable education in this city.

Parents of HC kids can't win. Either we are accused of test-prep, or we're accused of believing our snowflakes were "born special."

We do neither. HC children were born with a different way of processing information. Statistically, most of them grew up in environments that didn't detract from their capability to learn very quickly. Some of them did grow up in challenging environments, and because of that they don't have achievement scores that reflect their capability enough to allow access to an appropriate learning environment (which, in a nutshell is the diversity issue that has been discussed further up on this string).

And Adult, before a child can become a contributing adult in society, he or she needs a basic education. Per state law, "for highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education." The district offers 2 years ahead, so that's what we do.


Anonymous said…
JvA, I went through and found the document you posted earlier. I had missed it. I would love to see how SPS filled out the demographic spreadsheet on page 11. Any idea where that information is located, if anywhere? Is it possible to piece it together from existing public documents?

Also, I wonder if SPS would ever consider a second delivery model as a magnet in high-poverty elementaries, something like IB Primary Years Programme that would offer rigor to those who needed it but might not have the HC designation.

Anonymous said…

Super idea! Let's have a separate HCC program for children living in poverty!

Have you read what the state law says about demographics? The district needs to revamp its HCC program so that it reflects the demographics of the district. The entire document was about the issue of underrepresentation in the programs and how districts need to change their identification to include these students--not about creating another degree of separation for these underrepresented students and putting them into their own segregated programs.

BTW, the HCC program is not a gifted program. Gifted children process information
differently. Some children in HCC are gifted but many are not. In fact, many gifted children are low achievers in school because they are not driven by extrinsic rewards and may be overlooked. Adult HCC is also correct about the research regarding the effects of early acceleration petering out.

--about time

Anonymous said…
"Shows how little you actually do know."

HCC Parent, is this one of those social skills you were referring to?

And by working at Microsoft, do you mean you founded it?
No? Hmmm...so I guess it actually DIDN'T all come out in the wash.

- Laughing Myself to Sleep
Anonymous said…
About time, HCC is not the same thing as HC.

HC is the classification that requires state-mandated accommodation. By state law, that accommodation must reflect the demographics of the area. HCC is how the district chooses to deliver that accommodation.

Besides that, an elementary IB program, like all the other IB programs in Seattle, would be open to all learners who wanted more rigor. Scaffolding to achievement is not the same thing as segregating. Programs like these can open up advanced learning to underrepresented groups, leading to increased identification and opt-in.

Entrance to Seattle's HCC program requires cognitive aptitude in the gifted range. By that definition, every child in HCC is gifted.

It doesn't matter if early acceleration peters out in adulthood. Any HCC parent will tell you that's 100% not the point of the program. It's the HC delivery model in this city. Combined with the cohort, it is how SPS defines a basic education for highly capable children in Seattle.

Anonymous said…
Mom of 2,

In case you were referring to me when you equated the motives of teachers in PTA auction schools with the motives of parents in those schools, rest assured: I'm in total agreement with JvA about this issue. In fact, I spent 3/4 of my career in schools with majority FRL populations (by choice). Districts/unions should make equitable staffing a huge priority.

Furthermore, the "everybody's doing it" is rarely a good ethics or civics lesson.

--about time
Anonymous said…
@about time,

Since our HC underrepresented groups are disproportionately impacted by poverty, and since poverty negatively impacts child brain development, why exactly should we expect our HC programs to reflect the area demographics? There's a disconnect.

Or is the new mandate a form of mandatory gifted ed affirmative action?

Input Output
Anonymous said…
From today's New York Times - New York has put some intensive effort into preparing kids from underrepresented groups for the admission test for their elite high schools.


Anonymous said…
Just another example of high income whites avoiding sending their kids to school with poor kids of color. Am I right about time?

Assumptions Suck

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