Let's talk about fixing Highly Capable Services

I don’t know about you all, but I’m pretty tired of every discussion devolving into a non-productive back and forth about highly capable services. The discussions have not been very productive because we have been talking to personalities instead of policies. I would like to try addressing policy.

Here’s the idea: it’s not enough to rail against a policy or procedure. Offer a workable alternative. You think something is done wrong? Tell us how it should be done right – and please be thoughtful enough to consider the costs (if any) and some of the unintended consequences of the change.

We’ll try it for HC services first and, if it goes well, we’ll try it for Advanced Learning.

There are people who think that the way that Seattle Public Schools identifies students as Highly Capable is flawed. Among the flaws I have heard are these:

  1. The bureaucratic nomination process creates barriers to entry for some people.
  2. Teacher biases about minority children or children living in poverty creates barriers to entry for some people.
  3. Teacher and principal opposition to the program creates barriers to entry for some people.
  4. Some families never hear about the program.
  5. The appeal process should not allow privately funded test results as they are suspect.
  6. The bureaucratic appeal process creates barriers to entry for some children.
  7. The appeal process is inequitable in other ways.
  8. The identification process fails to find children with sufficient innate ability but who lack preparation and exposure.
  9. The identification process selects children who have less innate ability but who have been well-prepared.
  10. No assessment of cognitive ability should be used at all.
  11. The CogAT is the wrong test to use. It doesn’t measure what should be measured.
  12. The CogAT is a culturally biased test.
  13. The CogAT results should be locally normed instead of nationally normed.
  14. The CogAT results should be adjusted for students’ family education and affluence.
  15. The CogAT isn’t administered correctly; it should be administered in a different setting.
  16. The qualifying CogAT scores are too high.
  17. The qualifying CogAT scores are too low.
  18. The achievement tests used are the wrong assessments.
  19. The qualifying academic achievement scores are too high.
  20. The qualifying academic achievement scores are too low.
  21. No achievement tests should be used at all.
  22. The eligibility criteria are focused on academics and ignore other capabilities, such as leadership or creativity.
  23. The eligibility criteria are biased against students with disabilities.
  24. The eligibility criteria rely on unduly narrow and traditional definitions of academic ability.
  25. Students should be identified as Highly Capable in quantitative and verbal ability separately so that students could get service in one domain without the other.
  26. The exit criteria for the program are subjective and ambiguous.
I’m sure there are other problems. Please add to the list if you want to address them.

There are people who think that the way that Seattle Public Schools serves students identified as Highly Capable is flawed. Among the flaws I have heard are these:

  1. HC students should get no special services at all in grades 1-8. The public schools teach to the grade level Standards. If you want something different, go private.
  2. HC students should be served in the general education classroom through differentiated instruction for the benefit of all the students and our society.
  3. The lack of academic expectations for Highly Capable students creates inequities among sites.
  4. The lack of academic expectations for Highly Capable students makes it impossible to confirm that services are provided. Teachers and schools are free to do anything or nothing.
  5. The program isn’t created around the true academic needs of highly capable students, but is simply grade-skipping as a cohort. It does not account for how they learn differently.
  6. The instruction in language arts is not advanced; it is no different from the grade-level instruction.
  7. The District makes no assessment of the quality or efficacy of the program.
I’m sure there are others. As above, please add to the list if you want to offer a fix for a problem I didn’t list.

I hope I don't have to repeat this, but I'm not asking for complaints; I'm asking for solutions.


Anonymous said…
Instead of the elaborate program in place, simply encourage more grade skipping. If a second grader is learning at the third grade level, put them in third grade. Nomination should be flexible: parents, students or teachers can nominate students to skip a grade. As long as students are performing well, they should be moved up.
HCC resources can be focussed on differentiated instruction at neighborhood schools. The instruction should be open to all that would like to participate. As long as students are performing well, they should be able to remain.

- Northside Dad
Anonymous said…
"The identification process fails to find children with sufficient innate ability but who lack preparation and exposure."
As long as group CogAT is the testing instrument, we will have this problem. For this reason I think it's important to continue to a) allow individually administered tests on appeal; b) fully fund these tests for FRL students or students at Title I Schools when referred by a parent or teacher; and c) proactively arrange for secondary testing for these students, when teacher recommendation indicates it is warranted, so that parent savvy is taken out of the equation.

"The instruction in language arts is not advanced; it is no different from the grade-level instruction." I believe the gripe here is with Middle School LA; I've not heard this complaint from elementary HCC families.

Anonymous said…
I also think the district should administer opt-out CogAT testing in underrepresented populations, and work to make the program appealing to a diverse group of families. One of the best ways to do that is to define the program and curriculum so it is crystal clear how a child moving into the program would be served.

Anonymous said…
I was thinking about the problem with self selection into honors at Garfield, and I wonder if instead of honors for all, they could have tried putting every single child who got an A in 8th grade LA or SS or Science in the corresponding honors class and requiring them to actively opt out you would possibly get a more diverse group of kids who are capable of rising above the normal level of challenge. Then any other students, including those who are HC, could opt in if they chose. This gets over the cultural gap that seems to cause some families not to opt in, or some students to not speak up about needing more.

Anonymous said…
Is there no district in the entire U.S. that is recognized as doing this mostly right, with a model we can at least partially emulate? A system where the needs of these kids are met, teachers are happy, parents (of all kids) are happy and not in conflict about resources, perceptions, etc. I know every district is "unique", but I often think Seattle thinks everything has to be designed from the ground up here. As a taxpayer I would love to pay for a couple trips by SPS experts to visit high-performing districts that do this right and bring that knowledge back in the form of a plan. It simply can't be that hard to find effective practices and adapt them to our District. Otherwise, we remain in a rowboat with one oar, forever.

- Tired
Anonymous said…
I would start by simply documenting honestly what services are actually available, so that any parent of any student in the district can find out what their student would get if they participated in HCC or ALO or any other service offered in the future. Probably it would have to be on a per-school basis, since HCC and ALO can vary a lot at different schools. It should describe actual current practice, not hopes/plans/wishes, at least not until those plans are actually implemented. There should be descriptions of exactly how the schoolwork differs from "standard" schoolwork, and descriptions of characteristics of students who would be expected to benefit from this different schoolwork, and how those benefits would show up: better test scores? better emotional wellbeing? better social behavior?

Then I would make sure every parent is aware that this documentation exists so they can easily find it if they have any notion that it might be interesting for their student.

Then I would entirely eliminate the entire qualification testing process, and instead place great trust in the interest of parents in finding a good fit for their students. Let anybody sign up for anything. If 4000 students sign up for HCC, then expand the service to meet demand. Let people go back to their neighborhood schools if they find the service does not suit them. If that is not practical for capacity reasons, then let them go back the next school year so that capacity can be rebalanced.

A change this drastic would be pretty disruptive, so maybe it should be phased in, at different grade levels, or in different regions of the city, to start with, as a way to help it gradually stabilize to a new equilibrium. That's sort of how the new student assignment plan was phased in.

People will worry that lots of parents will send students to HCC who are not qualified to do the work. I say, let anybody try. Families can decide whether they think it works for them or not, and they should be allowed to leave if they don't think it is their best option. The fact that my student attends HCC does not give me the right to decide that you can't send your student there if you think it is the best fit.

Honest descriptions of the services are absolutely critical to making the plan work. Right now many people have a false idea that HCC is "highest" above ALO which is "higher" than general education. With HCC, students do not get something "higher", they get something that may be different. In particular HCC is often NOT the right service for students who might be called "severely gifted" and for whom the school district offers pretty much nothing. But if there is a clear description of the service, parents can decide whether it seems suitable for their students.

Anonymous said…
Taxpayers paid for a review of HC (then APP) in 2007. And what changes/improvements have been made since then?

Grade skipping is an imperfect solution, one that is probably most used by smaller districts with no formal program. The advantage of a self-contained program is developmentally appropriate advancement, and not just acceleration. A 1st grader may be reading well above grade level, for example, but developmentally may be at age/grade level when it comes to the physical mechanics of writing. APP/Lowell was very intentional about taking that into account and challenging students in a developmentally appropriate manner.

I would add to the list: The district seems more focused on optics than academics. You can debate back and forth endlessly about CogAT/qualification/and so on, but until there is a concerted effort to improve academics across the board (not just fiddling with start times, adding social/emotional programs of questionable value, creating patchwork math programs, latching on to the latest edufad, etc.) there is little reason to hope for improvement.

-super tired
seattle citizen said…
Super tired, you write that the "advantage of a self-contained program is developmentally appropriate advancement, and not just acceleration. A 1st grader may be reading well above grade level, for example, but developmentally may be at age/grade level when it comes to the physical mechanics of writing."
This is an issue for all students. Students excel in some ways and not in others, academically and socially. Since it is nearly impossible to provide separate classrooms to instruct to these individualized and complicated aptitudes, compromises must be made. A student might be "ahead" in reading but "behind" in a social skill.
All 50,000 students have this issue, this plethora of aptitudes and deficits, and public schools must get by with limited resources.
Anonymous said…
The point I was trying to make (which apparently didn't come across) was grade skipping is an even less perfect solution than what we have now. How many grades could a student skip before they are simply too out of sync developmentally? I'm trying to imagine moving to a system where HC students started school at the equivalent of 2 grades ahead. Qualify for HC in 3rd and move to 6th grade the following year? Qualify for HC in 6th and move to high school the following year? Just not appropriate. I'm frankly not sure what you're suggesting about "getting by," as narrowing the range of abilities in a classroom allows for a more efficient means of trying to meet the needs of all students. Wasn't that the premise of cluster grouping in the Brulles model?

-super tired
Anonymous said…
My idea,

The district could take the top 300 or 400 K-8 students with the highest IQ or CogAT test scores and put them in self-contained and serve the rest of HC in neighborhood schools.

Since over 1000 HC students who have been tested, many others who are single subject HC, those who are untested but who could qualify and all the AL students, already are at their local schools, most schools have dealt with gifted kids for some time.


Anonymous said…
As regards using a model from another district, there are multitudes but it comes down to what works in each district. Our district has had a historical need to keep wealthier white and asian families in public school, so a lot of our program design has nothing to do with helping children but solely with politics.

This blog exemplifies the fact that screaming loudly is seen as an effective form of advocacy.

The district needs to take a science based approach, not a political one. I don't presume to have the answer for a well-designed program that is fair to all the students in SPS.

I do think there is a program design that would be more fair. I'm troubled by the absence of single-subject gifted students being un-served, the concentration of special ed students a that remains at some schools after large percentages of students leave for HCC, the hurtful remarks leveled at students in HCC, the uncomfortable racial and economic demographics of HCC.

The district has the job of fixing this problem, not me. They are paid big bucks to come up with a plan yet this is what they have decided to deliver, a divisive, poorly run, unsustainable program.

My advice, if the district wanted it, would be to create coherent descriptions of possible new program configurations, give examples of districts that use similar methods, get some public feedback and then have the board decide.

crazy talk
most schools have dealt with gifted kids for some time."

You'd have to define "dealt." Do they know they have gifted kids in class? Sure. Do they actually provide service in the form of an ALO? No, most don't. It becomes whatever the teacher wants to do. That's not fulfilling HCC.

I recall when my older son tested off the charts in kindergarten in math but not LA. We asked the principal what could be done for my son's math ability to continue to grow in 1st grade and we were told, "Nothing."

My feeling is that the district - not senior management, not a superintendent (even Goodloe-Johnson who had a background in gifted ed), not a Board - is willing to stand up for this program even to the point of just making it coherent and consistent. AL parents complain but never do anything so why should they?
Wallingford parent said…
I thought Charlie asked for constructive comments, not griping.

Wallingford parent, you're right. I'm not sure I'm griping but pointing out that no, kids are not being served in their neighborhood schools.

My solution is to have a real and consistent manner in which those students can be served. It certainly would solve many problems in terms of busing, allowing students to stay in their neighborhood, cost, etc.
seattle citizen said…
Super tired, by "get by" I meant that there are limited resources to create/staff new classrooms to meet a range if needs. In an ideal world a student would have ALL their needs met in a classroom that is designed to meet those needs. But there aren't resources available.
Student A might be academically advanced in, say, Reading but at level in Math and behind in social skills. Student B is ahead in social skills, bahind in Reading, at level in Math. We can't provide a room/cert to meet every need because we have limited resources.
It would be nice if we could have, say, nine different rooms for the nine possible aptitudes possible in just those three areas named, but we can't.
So which student gets what? Do we offer gen ed AND other options, such as advanced Reading combined with at-level socisl, AND advanced social with at-level Reading?
An HC patent might say, well, my student is, in social skills, behind but is advanced in Reading. Another parent mught say my student is advanced in socisl skills but at-level in Reading.
Which student can we afford to provide a specific learning environment to? The reader? The socially adept? The math wiz? All three? None?
Class sizes are bigger and bigger, meaning FTE is getting stretched thinner and thinner. What students get specialized FTE and what students don't, and for specialized FTE how do we pay for it and which rooms in overcrowded buildings will we put them in and then how to configure master schedules meeting these various needs and aptitudes?
And with FTE stretching thinner (more students per class) differentiation goes away.
My point us that with fewer resources (FTE, space, space in schedule) less is possible. So who gets the specialized FTE tailored to their specific aptitudes and deficits?
Anonymous said…
Lincoln has one of the lowest per pupil costs in the district. They don't get reduced class sizes. They aren't getting specialized FTE tailored to their specific aptitudes and deficits (there is still a spread of abilities within HC). They are getting a general curriculum that is accelerated in core subjects for some generalized student working about two years above grade level. Teachers do not get special training and the district does not provide texts different from the grade level texts used in gen ed classrooms. SPS's program is mostly like grade skipping, but with same age peers. How is that costing more?
Anonymous said…
Well I'm just saying you're not following Charlie's instructions very well. He requested ideas to change the HC

Here’s the idea: it’s not enough to rail against a policy or procedure. Offer a workable alternative."

Charlie Mas said…
This is good. Folks are staying largely on topic and offering alternatives to the current system.

I'm looking forward to hearing from the program's more strident critics about how they think it should be fixed.
Anonymous said…
If the district renormed by school as has been suggested by poster FWIW who seems to be missing their big chance here, kept the cohort the same size and effectively switched out wealthier white kids for poorer black and hispanic kids,that would be on option that would address equity.

Anonymous said…
The top 300 or 400 (or the equivalent of at most two classes per grade for the entire district?)? That wouldn't even capture the top 1% of students, let alone the top 2% (the percent the state assumes for the HC grant funds given to each district). Under such a proposal, you'd need to raise the cutoff to 99%, then somehow rank students. I doubt the district would consider such a plan.

Anonymous said…
Maybe you need to give a primer about HC and what it means. My understanding is delivery is up to districts, self-containing any students is optional. Is 2% in the law?

Anonymous said…
300 or 400 would get the kids at 3 standard deviations, really the line for more profoundly gifted above 145 IQ. You got to draw the line somewhere and my idea has it there, with the rest of the HC served at their neighborhood schools.

As I said, there are some high IQ students already at gened schools, thousands of them. Getting the cohort down to a very small number of very high IQ kids would be better in my opinion.

Anonymous said…
What about implementing some sort of in-school program (such as College Access Now, which encourages low-income, immigrant, and minority students to consider applying to college and helps guide them through the admissions process) specifically to encourage students of color to sign up for honors/AP classes, and to help mentor them once they are in those classes?

This is not an idea for HCC in particular but for allowing advanced learning for all. This way of approaching the idea of "honors for all" seems far preferable to changing the nature of the existing honors classes (such as is currently happening at Garfield).

Anonymous said…

Do you have a source for this: "There are some high IQ students already at gened schools, thousands of them." I have no problem with the idea that there are high IQ kids at gen ed schools, but I don't believe that there are "thousands of them." The vast majority of kids who test into HCC go, so your statement assumes that there are "thousands" of kids who don't test. I have not seen anything personally to back that up.

I think the first thing that needs to be fixed surrounding HCC is the district standing behind it, or not. If the district approves of it, they should not have high-ranking employees bad-mouthing the program. I am tired of the district's passive aggressive behavior and wish the district would just say what they think about the program. Do they see it as anything other than capacity management?

I would also like the district to explain the program to parents. Seattle Citizen seems to believe that the kids are getting more than other kids in the distict, and this is a fairly standard belief. I wonder if these parents know that HCC doesn't even have an HCC curricula? These kids get the same as every other kid, only two years early. Not better, not different.

pinniped said…
While the HCC pullout program is being improved with better identification, gifted curriculum etc., SPS should at least provide training for all teachers especially at the elementary level, in dealing with gifted/advanced students and challenging them appropriately (not with extra work, "read a book" or spending all their time tutoring other kids). Also, it really really helps these kids socially to bond with their intellectual peers (Yes, having an IQ of 145 does make you "different" and it can be very hard if you're the only one.) Otherwise school is misery for them. Schools can and should figure out ways to make sure that their gifted/advanced students can work together at times for improved social/academic experience--even by putting a few in each gen ed class so they have each other and can sometimes do group work together.
Ms206 said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…

there's over a thousand hc kids who stay local each year, that's about than 20% of kids who tested into the program who didn't opt for the cohort.

kids who didn't test, who knows. kids who could have got in on appeal but didn't appeal, who knows. kids who qualified in one subject only, the district knows.

certainly there's some kids in those categories, hundreds? a thousand? very possible

Anonymous said…
For the person who asked if there is a legal requirement to address the needs of highly capable students by providing access to accelerated learning, the answer is yes. See the OSPI website under "Highly Capable." http://www.k12.wa.us/highlycapable/

The two things that seemed most important to our HC kids were 1) teachers who knew how to challenge them appropriately (as suggested above by Pinniped) and 2) having a chance to be in a group of peers who are similar in learning abilities, so that they don't always carry the burden of being the "smart" one (which can create perfectionist tendencies and stunt the development of a "growth mindset").

To combat the selection bias, I like the idea of testing broadly, such as having all second graders tested. If the teachers' implicit biases are part of the issue, maybe there should not be as much reliance on their recommendations.

- Bulldog Parent
Anonymous said…
The interesting thing is that something has to happen. The program is not equitable.

Liza Rankin said…
The threshold to qualify for HCC should be higher (there are too many students identified) so the cohort is smaller, and should distinguish between high-achieving and highly capable with learning differences. These "twice-exceptional" kids need a different approach than just two years ahead in the regular curriculum, which is all they are getting now. They should have something like an IEP that defines when they are in gen ed and when they are receiving special services. Then advanced learning opportunities (accelerated curriculum) should be available to all students in a more flexible way (like if they are advanced in one area but not others) in all schools, so that students who are working beyond grade level can access challenging curriculum outside of the Cohort.

I actually think that K-2 should be all inclusion with two teachers in every classroom, with opportunities to go beyond grade level in math and reading, except for when it violates students' least-restrictive environment. All kids should be assessed in spring of second grade, and we should go back to the pencil and paper Iowa exams. The HCC designation goes away after middle school, and high school should have a mix of general ed/homeroom classes required by grade level, and electives and honors classes available to all students. All teachers K-12 should have some professional development to better understand the needs of special education and HC students who are in their classrooms during inclusion times, and/or so they can recognize the students who are not yet identified and may need to be.

It's not just about HCC - it's the rigidity of the whole structure.
SPS parent said…
I agree that the system as a whole should be more flexible. Every K-5 school should have walk to math that is one grade level ahead. It would alleviate the pressure from schools who offer it and address equity between schools. The placement into walk to math should be based on both map scores and teacher recommendation and should be fluid and assessed twice a year.
I have always wondered why people think the eligibility process is not equitable. Every child takes the same screener/CogAT, and all teachers are able to make recommendations for any child. And title I schools are now/will test all kids whether or not they were nominated by parents or staff. In regards to private testing, students who qualify for FRL can have free private testing paid for by SPS.
I believe the discrepancy comes from having the nomination deadline so early in the school year, Saturday testing offsite and parents preference to keep their kids closeby to your community.
I think we need to do more outreach and support the AL services at all schools to alleviate the influx into HCC.
Ms206 said…
Liza, your suggestions are interesting. I teach in Philly, and in 2014-15 one of the 2nd grade classes had 2 teachers. The kids were a really rough bunch. Having 2 co-teachers can be helpful, but it also requires that the teachers be able to work well together and maintain consistent classroom management. For kids with HC needs and with mild disabilities, having the additional teacher to help differentiate and implement the IEP could be very beneficial. I teach a self-contained Autistic Support class. All of my students go to lunch and recess with the general population. This past year, I had grades 1 to 3 and 2 of my students went to regular ed for inclusion during literacy time. It was great for them. How does HCC work with gifted IEPs?
Ms206 said…
Melissa, why is it necessary for every neighborhood school to have HCC programs? I think that putting HCC programs at every neighborhood school could actually make SPS prone to litigation. IDEIA does not require every neighborhood school to program for every child with a disability. However, if SPS is providing services at every school for HCC kids, it is possible that parents of children of more significant disabilities or kids with EBD -- not kids receiving resource room services which generally are available at every neighborhood school -- could make a case that SPS is giving preferential treatment to kids in HCC programs. I'm not a lawyer, but I just wanted to make this point as it came to me while I was reading your comment.
Anonymous said…
I would be curious to know what parents with children currently in HCC programs think what is working well in the program?

Anonymous said…
Liza's comment concerns me, that there are "too many students identified." Each child in HCC scored at 98% or above on the CogAT and/or IQ. Each child scored at 95% or above in both Math and Reading. These are very clearly Highly Capable children, as defined by the state:

"Highly capable students are students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments. Outstanding abilities are seen within students' general intellectual aptitudes, specific academic abilities, and/or creative productivities within a specific domain. These students are present not only in the general populace, but are present within all protected classes according to chapters 28A.640 and 28A.642 RCW.
Learning characteristics means that students who are highly capable may possess, but are not limited to, these
learning characteristics:
(1) Capacity to learn with unusual depth of understanding, to retain what has been learned, and to transfer
learning to new situations;
(2) Capacity and willingness to deal with increasing levels of abstraction and complexity earlier than their
chronological peers;
(3) Creative ability to make unusual connections among ideas and concepts;
(4) Ability to learn quickly in their area(s) of intellectual strength; and
(5) Capacity for intense concentration and/or focus."

To make an arbitrary cut-off within an identified group simply to make the program the size you think it should be is a disservice to children who really need it. A 98%ile child is just as likely to "really need it" as a 99.9% child. If anything, we are *missing* children, not identifying too many of them.

We can certainly do a better job of identifying children. This shouldn't be a series of hoops only savvy parents have the ability to jump through. And this is very important, without a solid framework for advanced learning at neighborhood schools, families will continue to flee to self-contained.

Anonymous said…
Cougar-I asked for a source because "thousands" sounds wrong to me. Our family has been in the APP/HCC program for many years, and the percentage I always heard was that 85% of kids who test in go to HCC (this % is probably 10 years old, and I haven't seen/heard the % recently). I don't like all the misinformation surrounding HCC. Throwing out unsourced huge numbers isn't helpful.

Liza says there are "too many" identified students. What is the right number? Many districts around the country use similar entrance criteria.

I would be interested in having the district tell us why the program has grown. The population of Seattle as a whole has grown considerably over the last decade. Are more kids testing into HCC because of the growth of the city? Or maybe because of the change from using the Woodcock-Johnson achievement testing to using MAP or other tests for the achievement portion. The district has been using Cogat for years and years, including when the program was smaller. Has the % of kids entering the program if they test in increased? Other reasons?


uxolo said…
This topic is sadly decades old. My suggestions: (a) the APP community needs to learn this history. (b) Get involved with the The Equity & Race Relations Department and in particular, read the Racial Equity Analysis Tool.If it were ever implemented, we might see some progress.

In August of 1996, the "Evaluation of Highly Capable Student Programs" was submitted by Rain City Associates to our district administrators and School Board. There are data and a survey included in this report. Copied below are the questions that were addressed in the evaluation:
"1. To what extent has this program contributed to the District's strategic goals?
2. How well has this program identified and attracted the students most suited for the program?
3. How well have the different components of the Gifted Program supported each other?
4. How well have gifted programs contributed to the long term success and achievement of students?
5. To what extent are Highly Capable Student Programs implementing and following 1993 Board Policy (H 71.00)?
6. What are attitudes and opinions toward this program by the following groups within and outside the program: parents, students, teachers, principals?"

The goals of The Equity & Race Relations Department are:
Goal 1: Ensure educational excellence and equity for every student.
Goal 2: Improve systems district-wide to support academic outcomes and meet students’ needs.
Goal 3: Strengthen school, family and community engagement

We are only in Phase II of the Implementation of Racial Equity Teams - not sure what the delay is, but let's hope it's not another decade before the Equity Analysis Tool is carefully used.
Anonymous said…
The growth of HCC correlates with the dismantling of Spectrum. There is no other place for these children to be served. Some of them might do quite well in a true Advanced Learning program at their neighborhood school. It is extreme upheaval to change schools; I suspect many children would stay if they were being served. My oldest stayed at the neighborhood school for several years before entering the program; kids now don't really have that option unless they are lucky enough to get a series of teachers who go out of their way to help them succeed. But staying local has to be a self-selection process (vs 98% stays and 99% goes) because some 98% kids really need the cohort and some 99% kids would be fine in an advanced learning program at a neighborhood school.

By the way, last year there were 956 HC students who were not enrolled in HCC schools. 2.0% of those identified. Not exactly thousands. http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Friday%20Memos/2015-16/January%2015/20160115_FridayMemo_HC%20DATA%20as%20of%201.4.16_withsource%20(3).pdf

Anonymous said…
correction: 2.0% of SPS grades 1-12. --2HC
Lynn said…

We don't have gifted IEPs. Very few states do. I've never seen an elementary classroom with more than one teacher - we don't spend that kind of money on inclusion. Kids I know in HCC with ASD and ADHD receive minimal pull out services.
Lynn said…
I read about the district Dina Brulles works for when Wedgwood brought her to Seattle to explain how cluster grouping is supposed to work. She's doing lots of things Seattle should emulate:

They have a tuition-supported self-contained preschool for gifted children.

They test nominated children three times a year and also accept results from private testing.

They identify every student who tests into the 97th percentile or above on the verbal, nonverbal or quantitative section of any state-approved test.

They provide a variety of services from cluster grouping, to honors classes to self-contained classes. These services are provided by specially trained teachers who either have or are in the process of earning a gifted endorsement.
Ms206 said…
I am familiar with gifted IEPs because Pennsylvania has them (and I live in PA). I know very little about gifted IEPs, but my understanding is that it provides individualization and that parents have some dispute resolution rights similar to what is available to parents of students with disabilities. Perhaps it would make sense for some parents to push for a gifted IEP system. My guess is that a gifted IEP system would require some legislation or policies at the state level. Again, I'm not an expert on this issue, but perhaps it is something that people can research with regard to HCC programs.
MS 206, I did not say put an HCC program at every school. I said serve those kids in neighborhood schools. If the district had a real and consistent delivery of services in every school, we likely would need just one stand-alone school. It would solve some equity issues. It would bring down the need to bus kids further away.

Somehow this hasn't dawned on the district to do this and hence, the separate programs.

Uxolo, I have a copy of that report. Thanks for the reminder.

Lynn, I saw the same things when I checked out her district when I learned she was visiting Wedgwood. The irony is that the Wedgwood principal at the time didn't want to implement her clustering method. I agree that the district should look into what her district is doing.
Ms206 said…
Lynn, I work in the School District of Philadelphia and my school has very high number of students living in poverty. Believe me, our school is strapped for cash and having co-teachers is unusual in my district. However, there were enough students at my school to go from two 2nd grade classes to three. So after starting out with two second grades, for a couple of months, there were three 2nd grade classes. Then, from what I recall, I think that the 2nd grade had to be collapsed back to two classrooms because one of the teachers went out on leave or quit. The teacher that replaced her was a 1st year teacher, who came mid-year, and my understanding is that due to the violent behaviors of some of the students, my principal wisely realized that putting a first year teacher in a class by herself could be disastrous. So my principal opted to split the three second grade teachers among two classes instead of giving each teacher her own class. Also, after a couple of disruptive changes in the 2nd grade, my principal wisely realized that splitting the classes again would be further disruptive to students. So I believe that these were the reasons for the co-teaching situation. Crazy, I know...but, unfortunately, these situations happen more than they should in large, underfunded, high-needs districts.
Liza Rankin said…
HC enrollment for 2014-2015 was 3,604 students. 7% of the student body.
Liza Rankin said…
The HC enrollment for 2014-2015 was 3,604 students, 7% of total enrollment. That's high. I wonder what the explanation for that is, when one must score 98th% or above to qualify, or in the top 2%. Especially if you consider that of all the k-12 students in Seattle, there are gifted kids going to private school. How does Seattle have so many gifted children? The arbitrary cutoff has already been made - I think it needs to be moved. I would also argue that there are kids who need to be served in HCC that may not score as high, and kids who score high that are high-achieving, as opposed to gifted. The whole identification process is flawed.
Anonymous said…
Intentional planning and delivery--walking the talk...

Prince William County District Va:

In order to reach the Division Gifted Education Program Performance Measure indicating that the demographic composition of the gifted education program should reflect the demographic composition of the school division, the identification procedures of the gifted education program will continue to be revised based upon research-based national best practices standards in order to continue to increase identification of underrepresented student populations.


Lori said…
This comes up all the time. There is no reason to think that 7% is "high" because of all the sampling and selection biases that go into school decisions. The required scores come from a nationally normed test, and there is no reason to expect that any given city in the US has *exactly* the same percentage of gifted kids as the larger population from which they are drawn.

Let me try an example. Imagine that you flip a coin 1,000 times. In general, you will get 500 heads and 500 tails. But, if you look closely within your data set, 10 coin flips at a time, you'll probably see that once in a while you get 10 heads in a row or 10 tails in a row and other "unexpected" patterns. There is nothing wrong with the coin; that's just how variation works within subgroups!

So, Seattle is a subgroup of the US. That fact alone can bring variability. But there's more, specifically selection biases. Seattle is an educated, expensive city; people who select to live here may differ from people who select other places to live, and the likely bias is toward having more gifted kids here than in other cities. Add in the fact that HCC is a magnet program - it pulls kids in and concentrates them within SPS - and voila! Heck, I once knew a family that moved here from Massachusetts specifically to access APP for their child. That's a strong magnet.

And sure, we have a lot of private schools here and they contain gifted kids, but my sense having toured many at the middle school level is that very few of those private schools are intentionally designed for gifted kids. So they stay within SPS, and I think the demographics reflect that. HCC demographics look more like the city as a whole than does SPS, so again, HCC is a magnet, pulling kids in.

Heck, I wonder if having 7% of SPS in HCC might even be too low of a number given all these biases! :-)
Anonymous said…
Private schools wouldn't account for a lot of gifted kids. Lakeside, the only HS specifically for gifted (but they don't call it that), has a bit over 400 HS kids, the vast majority of which are not from the HCC program. A few go to UW and, yes, there are some former APP kids at various other private schools, but the largest majority continue on to SPS HS.

I don't know why the top 2% of the nation needs to only be the top 2% of Seattle. Seattle has one of the highest numbers of college graduates in the country and is full of avid readers. We are a major center of computer engineers and medical research. I am not surprised the gifted rates are higher here. I would expect that they would be lower than 2% in areas of lower college grad rates.

Top 2% is not an arbitrary cutoff. It is the standard cutoff used around much of the country.

Anonymous said…
There are more than 7% identified HC in Seattle; that is the percentage in HCC.

From OSPI:

Bellevue supports 380 students (2.311%) of its students in HCP with state funds, and 807 students in HCP overall, comprising 4.908% of the total district student population.

Local districts with even more affluent demographics have a much smaller percentage in HC. Some use 1% top CogAt in order to avoid inflated programs. They don't conflate parent demographics/child preparation with highly capable.

Lori today: "very few of those private schools are intentionally designed for gifted kids. So they stay within SPS, and I think the demographics reflect that."

Lori five days ago: "reader may not know any HCC kids that have left for private school in the last few years, but I know many."

I would point out that I think it's the same in Silicon Valley; there are a lot of highly-educated people there and their numbers run high.

Again, back to Charlie's original thought for this thread is that the district needs to define what they are doing and publish what they are saying these terms mean.

As I have stated before, the district does NOT use the term gifted in HCC. I have never seen them say that in any printed materials or at meetings. Other districts do and I don't know for certain if that is because they don't want to use the word or, as Liza says, are they high-achieving versus gifted. (Those two terms are not the same but kids can obviously be both.)
Liza Rankin said…
Right, but 2% according to what score? It's not the percentage that seems off, it's the score that defines the percentage.

Yes, Seattle is a highly-educated city. But then the argument that giftedness has to do with brains and not opportunity and income falls apart. Here is my issue with the whole debate: political vs. scientific, which I think was mentioned above. If we are saying that gifted means scoring high on the test and having access to accelerated curriculum, then ok, the way things are works, except for the part where we separate out sections of students, sometime into a completely different school, so they can access the regular curriculum 2 years ahead. If that's the case (and it is) why can we not provide kids accelerated curriculum at their neighborhood school with their peers? This is a political designation.

If we are saying that gifted kids need different instruction and get benefits from the cohort that wouldn't be possible in gen ed, that would be scientific - but we would need then to provide a curriculum and professional development that addresses those needs. What we have now is a hybrid with bad optics. It is objectively not representative of the demographics of SPS, and the service provided does not address unique needs of gifted children in a way that is different from the general curriculum (it is in fact exactly the same curriculum).

To repeat BT above, "I would be curious to know what parents with children currently in HCC programs think what is working well in the program?"

To be clear - I absolutely understand neurological differences, that they are very real, and that different children need different things, on both ends of the bell curve and in the middle. My struggle is in keeping a structure in place that doesn't seem to account for those differences. What works for your children in HCC that would not be possible in a gen ed classroom, aside from accelerated curriculum?
Anonymous said…
Based on a 2009 report, some 5% of WA public school students were served in highly capable programs. Districts varied in their identification criteria, services, demographics, and so on. 7% is not out of line. In Wenatchee (7000 students), 12% were identified as highly capable.


It's an older report, written before gifted ed became part of basic education in WA state. Districts report the number of HC students served, so more recent data is probably out there.

SPS Mom said…
Hi Melissa - Because you've posted a couple of times that you haven't seen the district use "gifted" to describe HCC kids, I wanted to let you know that in the source, when I login (it's down now, so I can't double-check), under the advanced learning tab, it does say that my daughter's status is "Academically Highly Gifted".

I'm pretty sure that language was in her eligibility letter as well.

Just wanted to make sure the info was accurate.
Liza, as I said earlier, I would be fine (as I think many HCC parents would be) with one cohort school (for those who truly feel it important) and HCC services - real services at every school. Why that isn't happening is a mystery given that it would save money.

Anonymous said…
This discussion started off really well and then took an extremely troubling turn when Liza Rankin came in and said that there are too many kids in HCC. She did not offer any justification for such an extraordinary claim. It's a troubling thing to say because it sets up the idea that these kids don't have legitimate needs and thus ought to be treated as targets rather than treated as kids who need support.

The correct answer to "how many children should be in HCC?" is "as many kids as demonstrate they need it." That's true of any program in public education.

Even if a program does not reflect the demographics of a district, that does not mean the program itself is illegitimate or lacking in value. It does mean we need to investigate why and look at ways to address it.

Back to Charlie's original question. I agree with those who have said that part of the answer is to bring back Spectrum. Some kids would benefit from specialized instruction at the neighborhood school.

Another part of the answer is to insist on providing small class sizes at all grades - as Initiative 1351 mandated - which is essential to ensuring all kids' needs are met, whether they are advanced or highly capable or not.

The district does need to provide the CogAT or another similar test to all children in the district. This could take the place of other testing that goes on, most of which is unnecessary and lacking in value.

Legally, SPS is not allowed to have a racial or ethnic quota for a school or a program and cannot use race to determine which child goes to which school. That takes a lot of good options off the table, but the Supreme Court's ruling in the 2007 case is pretty clear. But diversifying the ranks of HCC teachers would surely help.

We must also keep in mind that the district wants to replace teaching with "personalized instruction" using iPads, so they are going to take advantage of this discussion for purposes that I don't think any of us would want.

-Not HCC
Anonymous said…

"reflection of the demographics of the district" is part of HC state law language.

It is not about quotas. FRL, ELL and other designations should be used first in order to achieve equity. The Supreme Court case did not preclude the use of race after other means have proven unsuccwssful in achieving the goals of the Brown decision.

BTW, taling about the numbers of children in HCC is a necessary element in any discussion about programming.

Anonymous said…
We need to have real neighborhood gifted programs. Spectrum was good when it was self-contained, or when there weren't enough Spectrum kids and the self-contained classrooms were topped off with high achievers.

The research is clear that grouping by ability works better for all kids, as long as there is no neglect of the struggling kids.

Parents would rather stay at their neighborhood school but not if it means academic stagnation and the resulting problems.

We can't afford to not educate our gifted students any more than we can ignore the most vulnerable special ed kids.

I would like the board to insist on creating HC classrooms at every school and if they aren't full, put in Spectrum kids and then the next highest achieving students.

The busing is not good for students and the neighborhood experience is so valuable, and the stereotyping of HCC families so wrong - the only way to eliminate the negative image is to daylight the fact that kids are different, not better or worse, and they can all respect each other. Neighborhood HC would solve many issues.

Anonymous said…
Liza Rankin, what HCC has provided to my child that was not possible in the neighborhood school with Spectrum:
1) being around age mates who are his intellectual peers and above, so that he does not automatically get 100% in most every test and quiz; Kids measure themselves by their immediate peers and I wanted him to have to work hard to keep up.
2) being in a program where other parents/teachers (at least those in your school) are not resentful for you getting something "better" since what you are being taught is several years ahead
3) being in a program that at least is going to be two years ahead, rather than depending on the super-human efforts of teachers to differentiate to the couple of advanced learners, the large group of kids at grade level, the significant group below grade level and those in all groups with learning, emotional and behavioral difficulties

And if you're going to claim that your school could provide most of that for most advanced students, please do not cite a school that has <20% FRL and ELL students. There are a number of neighborhood schools with high numbers of advanced kids that could differentiate more easily, but those represent a small number of SPS kids. It would truly be inequitable to set up a advanced learning system that works mostly for schools in wealthy neighborhoods, but not at all for the rest of the schools.

For example, we were in a school that was trying to end the Spectrum cohort and they cited the example of another school which had done so. However, that school had about 70% less FRL kids (20% vs. 50%), less than half as many ELL kids, etc. Of course a school with a smaller range of abilities could do better. Also, in wealthy schools, kids who are falling behind will almost certainly get additional tutoring at home or from outside tutor, which makes the teacher's job easier.

"Another part of the answer is to insist on providing small class sizes at all grades - as Initiative 1351 mandated - which is essential to ensuring all kids' needs are met, whether they are advanced or highly capable or not."

My thread on the State's response to the Supreme Court over McCleary notes that this is a very specific "getting it done" in that response. That's at least for K-3.

"... cannot use race to determine which child goes to which school."

Nope, the Court was very clear - you CAN use race as part of an overall package for enrollment but you cannot use it singly. That most districts won't go near using race now doesn't mean it can't be used.
Ms206 said…
Melissa, Thank you for the clarification.

I think we are of different mindsets regarding the importance of a child taking part in specialized programming in the neighborhood school. And that’s fine; our experiences are different. While I agree with you that students should be served in the neighborhood school when possible, I also see nothing wrong with a school district having specialized programs being clustered in certain buildings, and students requiring those services having to ride the bus in order to access those programs. I teach kids with autism and previously taught students who had intellectual disability, and my teaching position has always been at a neighborhood school. Riding the bus is or will be a reality for most kids with low-incidence/significant disabilities at some point during their educational careers, whether it be in Seattle, Philadelphia, or elsewhere. So it is for that reason that the idea of kids riding the bus to a school outside of the neighborhood in order to receive appropriate services doesn’t bother me that much. For the majority of my students past and present, attending the neighborhood school was a luxury.

I also think it is important to consider the kind of demands that teachers have to face in terms of serving all students. It is important to ask “How reasonable is it to expect a teacher to differentiate for English language learners, HC students, and students with IEPs all in one classroom when there are 20+ kids in a class?” It’s a lot, especially given what teachers are paid. Consider also that due to the high cost of living in Seattle, many teachers (especially younger ones) probably can’t afford to live near where they teach, let alone have a house in the city, and may have long commute times. Proper differentiation requires hours of additional preparation, especially if the differentiation extends to homework (which it should). Also, it’s not just students with mild learning disabilities who can be included. A teacher might have students with IEPs who have EBD or autism. What kind of supports will the teacher have for handling behavioral issues that are a common need arising from these disabilities? And what about students with intellectual disability, who can be included, but often require modification (not just accommodation) of content in order for content to be accessible? Teaching is a profession prone to burnout, and meeting the needs of a variety of learners is a demanding process that at times may contribute to this burnout.

Meeting the needs of diverse learners while keeping the demands reasonable for teacehrs requires sufficeint resources and planning. Are schools going to be asking teachers to serve ALL of these types of students in class, or are teachers going to “specialize” so that in a gen ed second grade that has 2 classes, for example, Teacher A serves gen ed, some ELLs, and gifted, while Teacher B serves gen ed, kids with IEPs, and some ELLs. If there are 3 gen ed teachers, does one do HC, one do ELLs, and one do IEPs? These are all issues to consider.

Even if most students who take part in the HCC program could be served in an inclusive model, I could also see situations where students who have super high intelligence or twice exceptional students (e.g. HC and having autism) might be better served in a more specialized environment that serves a small number of students and, therefore, is not available at every neighborhood school.

I really appreciate this discussion topic.
Anonymous said…
Bringing back spectrum is a worthy idea, but we should not forget that it had some of the same criticisms of "elitism" and "unfairness," along with the false belief that those kids were getting "more," that HCC has.

The spectrum program at Lawton was dismantled at the behest of a small group of parents who didn't like the program.

Until the district forces principals to have HC programs, it won't be done in many schools.

Owler said…
I am troubled by the whole nomination and testing procedure for HCC.

1. Applications being due around October 1st: To expect a teacher to nominate a student they've known for three weeks (applications are due by the first week of October) is crazy. All parents and teachers should be able to discuss where their child is at during the November conferences and be able to include HCC considerations in that conference.

2. An invisible, costly, and troubled testing process: The lack of transparency by the testing procedure means that parents are left bewildered by the process. Why should it be such a mystery? There should be a calendar of what region of students are tested when that should be available before the application process. A rough number of students that will apply to be tested is not a mystery to the admin; they should be able to look at historical trends, make a projection, and compact the testing period. Scores should appear on the Source.

3. Funding apparently only available for tasting and not for the actual academic program: I have no answers for this, but it troubles me that the advanced learning department only seems to (poorly) identify students. Why are we not supporting the teachers and principals in developing a coherent program? Why don't we have a curriculum?

I'm not sure what I like about the program right now. Because of the growth of the program, my quiet, rule-following kiddo seems to be split from friends each year but is one of the students who can be counted on to go with the flow, support new classmates, help clean up when others won't, and stand in line waiting quietly while the same kids can't calm their bodies because they aren't getting enough activity get singled out by young teachers who don't have many tools or experience of working with gifted spitfires. The result is that my child gets overlooked and under-supported because he seems to be doing ok. I wish my child enjoyed going to school, but he doesn't: he doesn't make friends quickly, so the short recess is hard for him; lunch is about eating so there's little time for socializing; PE has tests and talks, so the class isn't always moving during their one structured time to move; the classroom is loud and my child hasn't learned to filter out noise well, so he usually brings unfinished work home and then has to trudge through it during what should be his free time.
Ms 206, I don't have a problem with separate locations; my kids were in Spectrum.

I am making the point about being served in neighborhood schools only because it is such a big deal to others. I am very tired of this argument so my argument back is fine, do it at all the schools BUT it has to be real and viable.

And yes, twice-exceptional kids (I had one) may have very different needs.
Owler said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
I think it's helpful when people provide concrete examples of facts personally known to the poster, so I'll provide some about our experience with Gen Ed v. HCC for the same child:

Gen Ed beginnings: Our daughter was in gened in a neighborhood school. She began 1st grade as likely the worst reader in her class, as she had been in a Waldorf kindergarten and had never written text or had any reading or writing instruction at all prior. Her first grade teacher did a very lovely job of differentiating for her by recognizing how new literacy was for her and giving her good support. It took our daughter a couple of years to reach and then exceed grade level reading skills. In math, she did ok but not exceptional. I heard a lot from her of "I hate math" "math is boring" and extreme distaste for doing her math homework. Then in third grade, she was allowed to walk to math to a 4th grade level. Voila, she loved it! She was so happy and excited about her special math class. She worked hard and learned a lot.

Switch to Gen Ed at a different school: We moved and thus were forced to switch to our new neighborhood school. Now in 4th grade, our daughter had the teacher that all the parents said was the best in the school. Nonetheless, here's what happened for math. The assigned text book was the exact same 4th grade book our daughter had done, entirely, the year before in her walk-to-math experience at the other school. We had a meeting with the teacher and explained this. She said well there's nothing I can do, this is what I teach in my class, and it will be good for your daughter to have some review. We asked the principal and she deferred to the classroom teacher. So, for an entire year, our daughter repeated an entire grade of math that she had successfully already done the year prior.

5th grade: switch to HCC: We switched her to Thurgood Marshall and the HCC program for 5th grade. It was an amazing difference! She loved school, everything about it. She thinks math is terrific. She rushed to do her math homework as soon as she gets home. She enjoys her competence. She finds the reading assignments interesting. She likes doing long writing projects. She was proud of her academic performance and skills.

She now is at WMS and really happy in the HCC program there.

So for us: differentiation in the gen ed program in elementary school was really hit and miss, more miss than hit, and when your teacher won't do it, there is no recourse. HCC has been phenomenal in giving our daughter a chance to be turned on to learning and love everything about school. I don't really know why and I can't pull out the specific features of it that have made the difference, but to me the proof is in the pudding and switching to HCC clearly made a giant, giant difference in both (a) her attitude and more importantly, (b) RESULTS for our daughter. She did not always score well at all on math in gen ed classrooms, but now that she's in HCC, she has done really really well for the last few years in math. So she's getting something from it on a cognitive level that she didn't get in a gen ed classroom.

I regret that we did not switch her earlier. I feel like she "lost" a couple of years of learning.

I am certainly open to change but I would hope the district doesn't just dismantle the program.

FWIW, our daughter is very outgoing and easily makes friends in all groupings. She had plenty of friends in her gen ed classes.

-- HCC mom
Watching said…
We have a wonderful opportunity to discuss testing and the manner in which certain groups of students are disadvantaged. Both SBAC and CoagT qualifying disadvantage low income students.

I've seen both private and district testing for Advanced Learning. I'm feeling that private testing is better because each child receives one on one testing. Private testing provides a comprehensive report regarding a child's abstract abilities etc. As well, the report contains child's psycho-social history which may have a tremendous impact on learning and teaching.

The city of Seattle is chomping at the bit to help disadvantaged students and I"d love for the city to pay for these students to receive private testing.

I don't believe general education classes provide effective differentiation and I do not believe it is a good idea to dismantle advanced education.

Watching, I agree. If the City wants to help, then offer private testing for kids of color in SPS. One on one is the best testing especially for younger students.
Anonymous said…

What if SPS effectively dismantles HCC by removing the separate cohort, just leaving all kids in Gen Ed classrooms, and saying "oh of course our teachers in each and every classroom can fully differentiate and meet the needs of all learners."

Then, the 40% of these tremendously hard-working, motivated, people of color, and low SES Rainier Scholars who are usually placed in SPS advanced learning opportunities would have nowhere to go. See http://rainierscholars.org/results.html ("After successful completion of the 14-month Academic Enrichment phase of Rainier Scholars, more than 95% of students in middle and high school are enrolled in private, parochial or public Advanced Learning programs, with approximately 40% public (APP/Spectrum, Challenge, Discovery, AP/Honors) and nearly 60% private (independent, parochial and boarding school placements).")

That would be a tremendous loss to the goal of providing excellent instruction and strong learning opportunities to very smart, low SES, children of color.

As to Charlie's question for specific suggestions, mine is that Rainier Scholars, right here in our town, gives us a long and proven track record of how to effectively recruit and support children from under-represented backgrounds in advanced learning. If other organizations or entities would like to advance that same goal (SPS, Board, City of Seattle, principals, teachers, concerned citizens), might make sense to look at what is working at Rainier Scholars (which is a private nonprofit organization, so separate from SPS and not under government control) and brainstorm about how to replicate aspects of it within the SPS structure.

-- Just Saying
Charlie Mas said…
Liz Rankin on 8/26/16 at 11:30 AM wrote: "I would also argue that there are kids who need to be served in HCC that may not score as high, and kids who score high that are high-achieving, as opposed to gifted. The whole identification process is flawed."

This is the thread for suggesting solutions, not just pointing out flaws. Okay. You think the identification process is flawed. So how should it be done?

Liz Rankin's comment of 8/26/16, 12:30 PM was also without a suggested solution. Please come back with one.

A comment signed FWIW on 8/26/16 at 12:19 PM did not include any suggestions for solutions. It was also needlessly argumentative, but it did include some data.

There was one comment that I deleted because it offered nothing constructive.
Liza Rankin said…
It's Liza, not Liz. ;)
Liza Rankin said…
My 11:30 comment was on my phone as a reply to another post, but it's separate here on the computer.

In the 12:30 comment, I suggested that HCC provide a curriculum and teachers who have had professional development to specifically address the different needs of kids in the HCC, as opposed to the same curriculum 2 years ahead.
Liza Rankin said…
Not HCC, I didn't "come in" making extraordinary claims. I did say that, "The HC enrollment for 2014-2015 was 3,604 students, 7% of total enrollment. That's high. I wonder what the explanation for that is, when one must score 98th% or above to qualify, or in the top 2%. It's not the percentage that seems off, it's the score that defines the percentage." So the top 2% is actually 7% and not representative of the demographics of the district...As you put it, "It does mean we need to investigate why and look at ways to address it." I also said that, "I absolutely understand neurological differences, that they are very real, and that different children need different things, on both ends of the bell curve and in the middle."

HCC and ALO are changing (see this week's board meeting) and hopefully evolve into something that can better address the needs of all students, including the students in the cohort. Advocating for the things that are successful in HCC is so important, so that kids that have something that works for them don't get left out of the discussion. @Ms206, your questions bring up excellent points to be considered.

For a couple more specific suggestions:

-Change the terminology. "Highly capable" and "gifted" not only draw the ire (wrongfully) of people who want to put down the "elitism" of the cohort, but the terms don't fully describe the needs of the students. Asynchrony would be more appropriate. (Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.) This change would allow to differentiate between students who need accelerated/advanced learning opportunities (high-achieving) and students who need different accommodations/instruction to succeed, would minimize the assumption that HCC means "better" or something to aspire to, and emphasize that it is a true need. It would also make the cohort smaller and more targeted, and likely not available at every school. Testing would need to address the difference. The Iowa could be administered to all students in second grade, and students scoring in the top 2% or whatever is appropriate could then take the CogAt or have assessments with a school psychologist to determine appropriate placement. Hopefully that would increse equitable access to advanced learning, as well. (Didn't all kids going into APP used to have to see a school psychologist?) In addition, opportunities for advanced learning in gen ed for any kid who has the ability, whether the higher ability is across all subjects or just one, should be available at every school.

-In high school, what about an independent study option? A cohort of students who apply to design their own curriculum and work at school independently or as a group with teacher advisors could be really awesome, in addition to offerings of honors classes and electives. Kids are engaged and motivated by so many different things. It seems like the creativity of students and teachers are so stifled right now. (not just in SPS)

There is an ALO work session scheduled for the board on October 5, but there's only an hour and a half allotted for the discussion!
"HCC and ALO are changing (see this week's board meeting) and hopefully evolve into something that can better address the needs of all students, including the students in the cohort."

It would be nice if the district would actually communicate that to parents.

Yes, that Work Session is going to be taken up by explaining to the Board what it is (and boy, that will be one tortured explanation and if staff tries to make up stuff, I'm going to personally call them out on it. Fair warning to staff.)
Anonymous said…
Liza (not Liz) now makes some good ideas. She also says it "would minimize the assumption that HCC means "better" or something to aspire to, and emphasize that it is a true need. It would also make the cohort smaller and more targeted, and likely not available at every school."

That assumption exists in the minds of a small number of very resentful people and is not worth taking seriously. We should not be designing policies and procedures in order to cater to those attitudes.

Why does the cohort need to be made smaller? My daughter is not in that cohort. There's nothing wrong with it being its current size. You need to provide an explanation of why we should be concerned about cohort size and why it should be smaller.

Good idea to give the Iowa test to all students. High school students need something more structured than independent study. We need solutions that meet a higher standard than being "really awesome."

Finally, Liza says "HCC and ALO are changing (see this week's board meeting) and hopefully evolve into something that can better address the needs of all students, including the students in the cohort." Not sure what that refers to, but it sounds like staff and a small number of privileged people have already worked something out that they're going to spring on us. That can't be good.

-Not HCC
Anonymous said…
The district should scrap the current model, look around at some other districts and find a program that actually works for gifted kids and present it to the board.

The AL dept already has some favorites they've brought out for discussion at various task forces.

I'm thinking of Montgomery County, Maryland for example. I remember the dept referencing South Kitsap SD also.

With so many good programs out there that address equity as well as educating gifted students, why not just copy and paste into SPS?

ship canal
HH said…
The program does not in any way meet the needs of truly gifted students. It's full of high performers and mildly gifted which is fine by me, I''m in favor of magnet schools that take in any kid who shows good test scores however they get them.

But the students with high IQs, 145 maybe 140, and above are very poorly served, really not served at all.

We need magnet schools that are open to more students, and we need affirmative action to get the disadvantaged groups represented properly in them and we need a real gifted program for the truly gifted, high IQ students.
Anonymous said…
I agree with HH. My child scored very high on the test to get in with no prep or private testing and a nudge from his teacher at our lovely neighborhood ALO school that he should go and the sooner the better. The delivery of material was mind numbingly boring, his teacher had 10 years of experience but seemed really new compared to the amazing vets we had at our neighborhood school, and there was zero sense of community because the cohort is too big and they are in constant flux. I would rather participate in a program with more diversity and curriculum designed for gifted learners with teachers who have had more training for these students...OR, I would like to stay at our neighborhood school and have extensions offered as walk to classes or pull out small groups who get some focused time with subject matter experts who know how to expand eager minds.

Blowit UP
Watching said…
AS I understand it, Advanced Learning creates teaching/scheduling difficulties. There are times advanced learners fill 1.5 classrooms. This situation creates problems within schools. Let's have a conversation regarding Advanced Learning and scheduling issues.

I also understand that teachers feels some students belong in Advanced Learning, but they have not been tested. How about taking teaching recommendations? Do we really need test scores to determine whether a student is an Advanced Learner?

I also believe that students in the 95th percentile are heading into Advanced Learning schools because Spectrum has been dismantled. An individual made an interesting comment about arbitrary cut scores and advanced learning.

Liza Rankin said…
Not HCC, I don't think anything has been decided behind closed doors. With Garfield Honors for All, Thurgood Marshall requesting a waiver, self-contained Spectrum being eliminated, a focus on closing the opportunity gap etc, change is in progress. Watch the board director comments from Wednesday's board meeting on YouTube - several of them mention the need to better define what the district offers. It was my impression that they are recognizing the need for discussion, not that decisions have been made.
Owler said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Liza, if you think nothing has been decided behind closed doors, I will gently say you are being naive. This is the district's MO.

The Board tends to be left out of those discussions and get presented with some kind of "this is what we can do" instead of hearing real options and what other districts do.
Liza Rankin said…
Oh right.....I guess what I really meant was that nothing had been decided by/with the board, which yeah, not the same as nothing being decided. Has a new C&I person been hired?
Just announced; see my thread
Anonymous said…
Blowit UP, your student's experience is similar to that of many students over the years. HCC is what is available so it is recommended even for students who will be remote outliers within the HCC population. Administrators downtown have told me those students should go to private school or homeschool because there are not usually thirty such students per grade and the district cannot afford to deal with such small numbers.

I have however seen some of those students thrive when they are lucky enough to find a teacher who can effectively differentiate. These students are likely to spend much of their lives forging their own path and not among a large crowd of their peers, and a good teacher can help them develop good skills along those lines.

So my constructive suggestion here is that when these students are identified, their teachers should receive some quality mentoring from the few teachers in the district who already know how to appropriately educate students who are far different from their classmates.

Anonymous said…
I agree with blowing it up and starting over, as the other choices are not going to make people in the program too happy except keeping ti the same.

The ideas I've read here,

shrinking dramatically the cohort to serve only the top gifted

expanding the cohort by affirmative action

replacing kids from over-represented schools with kids from under-represented schools.

I think the Garfield honors for all is a foreshadowing of some kind of change to the program that will make it pass the equity test.

glass half

Anonymous said…
If self-contained were reserved for true outliers (as it should be, just like in the SPED model), it would be much easier to educate extreme outliers who could receive targeted instruction under a qualified HC teacher. They could even pair up with Robinson for these students.

Another model includes the one I linked from Prince William County. There is no self- contained but has an HC resource teacher in the building who worka with the classrrom teacher with an individualized plan, as well as providing pullout services. The caveat: iintensive, on-going district training for classroom teachers as well as the qulified HC teachers.

I think a district the size of SPS should have a self-contained program for those who need it. It would be the end of the continuum of services (and therefore reserved for true outliers), targeted, and also a service that can change based on the child's needs. The self-contained placement would be made in conjunction with parents, whose input would help determine the particular needs of the child.

"The self-contained placement would be made in conjunction with parents, whose input would help determine the particular needs of the child."

Just like SPS does with Sped parents?

Something I'd like to see.
Anonymous said…
HC parents get and will always get a choice of accepting self-contained services, if offered, completely opposite of the mandatory self-contained special ed services.

Big, big, big difference.

Anonymous said…
'HC parents get and will always get a choice of accepting self-contained services'

This is incorrect. HC state law calls requires a continuum of services. Some districts don't even have HC self-contained (and no district is required to have them). Continuum of services means some range that will fit the changing needs of the qualified students. Small districts don't have many students and the state mandate recognizes those limitations.

Further, no HC service is opt-in. The state law specifically states:

"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."

"Each student identified as a highly capable student shall be provided educational opportunities which take into account such student's unique needs and capabilities."


U said…
FWIW, I know self-contained is not required by state law as a service option, that's why I wrote "if offered".

Furthermore, if it is offered for students whom a district has determined to be Highly Capable, parents can refuse the service.

Like here in Seattle, HC students all have a choice from grades 1-8 of enrolling at their neighborhood school or entering the cohort and in high school of attending Garfield or their assignment area high school.

1000 students with HC designation are enrolled in neighborhood schools, eschewing the cohort, unlike certain classifications of special education which require self-containment.

Again, big, big difference.

Anonymous said…
Any insights or opinions about the Northshore School District AL program? Their opportunities look well thought out and customized to students who may need acceleration in just math OR both math and LA, and they offer a range of services in the neighborhood schools and as self contained. I notice the level of assessment that goes on at the elementary level is much more intense and hands on: http://www.nsd.org/Page/21304

Looking around
Anonymous said…
HC is not IDEA and does not follow its mandates.
It is however, now a state law with its own requirements and mandates.

As a result, parents cannot "choose" whatever service they want, which
is counter to the point you were making and why I replied.

BTW, parents of students with IEPs can also refuse service.

Anonymous said…
Clarification: SPS is not yet following state law in terms of providing a continuum of services. They are clearly in the process of getting on board,
however, since they simply no longer have a choice in the matter.

Anonymous said…
How are they clearly in the process of getting on board? They have been shoveling snow in a snowstorm for ten years with no indication of their vision or direction. I don't see process or progress, only chaos and lack of direction.

Looking Around
Anonymous said…
I have been having trouble with this question. I can see that it is weird that we call 7% of enrolled students extreme outliers, and so in that frame, the program is large. But in another framing we currently only offer advanced learning services of any kind to 7% of students (some other students are lucky enough to go to a school with some advanced learning, but most do not, so it is really "offered" to very few), so in that framing our program is much too small. Many more students should have access to advanced work. I think we should retain the general self contained structure, though we should allow hc students to advance significantly beyond 2 years if they are able. I think the way to shrink it, promote equity, and continue to serve advanced learners ironically has very little to do with the hcc program itself. We should shrink all class sizes and offer a minimum set of advanced learning options at each school. Walk to math up to two years ahead, reading instruction up to several years ahead, even some pull out projects. People don't move to a self contained option unless their needs are really, really not being met locally. They'll stop in a heartbeat if neighborhood schools try even a little bit.

I can think of changes to the hcc program, but like so many it is part of a larger patchwork and is affected more by things outside it than within it.

And grade skipping is terrible- academically able kids are not more socially mature.

Anonymous said…
Sleeper, you have hit upon some of the kinds of confusion that administrators run into when they try to talk about HCC - there is no clarity at all about which students should be served and what kind of services should be offered, and all kinds of stuff outside the program affects what students actually get.

A couple of points: walk to math up to two years ahead is pathetically inadequate for many students. They need either math that is farther ahead, or additional math besides the topics that are covered in the standard sequence, and there is plenty of math that exists outside the standard sequence.

People move to the self contained option for lots of reasons, and sometimes it does not meet their needs any more than their local school.

Academically able kids come in all levels of social maturity, and there is an argument to be made that the less mature among them are most at risk, but for some students grade skipping might be a good choice. It is not obvious a priori that we should close off any option for serving the actual needs of an actual student.

Anonymous said…
Walk to math up to two years ahead at every school- meaning neighborhood schools. Self contained starting at 2 years ahead, going further ahead on a consistent basis for students who need it in the hcc at that location.
Anonymous said…
Sleeper--I think the recommendations above would work where there are hotspots with large numbers of HCC and advanced learners at a neighborhood school, but not every neighborhood school has the numbers to walk 20-25 kids to a similar level class. Also a consideration: as exhibited on the blog, there are some neighborhood schools with very vocal parents who want all kids in the same class so everyone learns together regardless of potential or achievement.

Without clear HCC and advanced learning policy, curriculum or vision from the district or board that is mandated, things at the neighborhood school level are...

Hit OrMiss
Anonymous said…
I was thinking the kids who are two years ahead would be in with the kids a year ahead in the grade above. It's not perfect(as I mentioned I am generally not in favor of grade skipping, but as a patch, for 1 subject, ok), but it seems like it would be workable as long as there is also some attempt to meet LA needs (reading groups, advanced writing work) for the very large number of parents who would prefer to have their children served locally, but currently are told if you want absolutely anything besides the mid-line grade level curriculum you have to bus to hcc. So either they qualify and go or they don't and stagnate. I know a lot of parents want everyone in the same room listening to the same lecture and somehow autodidactically teaching themselves appropriately all the time. I think it is the job of a bureaucracy to read the science that says ability grouping is necessary and better for everyone, and to think logistically. Our teachers have 28 students in front of them. Minute by minute, how are they actually getting to all the kids in a 1 hour math class? Which kids get overlooked? How wide of a spread can we expect them to teach? What is the range any one topic is actually appropriate for? I hope the district asks those questions.

And once neighborhood schools serve a reasonable percentage of students, hcc goes back to being a program for students not served by a normal range of advanced and gen ed curriculum, and it can have more of a social/emotional focus, starts at 2 years ahead and goes up. Right now it is the only advanced learning option of any kind most students have. So it needs to be 2 years ahead, pretty cookie cutter, to serve the most students. If it is going to be the only option in the district- this is about right. But it should not be the only option.

Anonymous said…
@sleep--I totally agree and think you've made some good suggestions. I am hopeful the new leader for C&I will work well with the board, parents and Flip in capacity management to make a similar model possible. We would love the opportunity to go back to our neighborhood school, and would do it in a heartbeat if they even offered simple walk to math consistently across grades.

One suggestion - write to the new C&I guy and tell him about your concerns. I'll see if Charlie wants to write a template e-mail - more consistency, coherency, outreach to families of color and more teacher training.
Anonymous said…
To add to Melissa's suggestions: send the same in a vision statement to members of Washington Paramount Duty (WPD) so they can add to the testimonies presented at the 9/6 education task force meeting in Olympia. Some suggestions require creatively moving the current budget around, and some items (teacher training and smaller class sizes) require more funding.

Lori said…
To those of you suggesting walk-to classes that span three grades, do you have contemporary experience with this? Are any schools doing walk-to-math 2 years ahead and doing it well?

The elementary school I attended in the 1970s tried this one year. So in 2nd grade, I went to 4th grade math. I do *not* have fond memories of that experience, and in response to the teasing and lack of acceptance by the older kids, I stopped raising my hand, stopped offering answers and intentionally underachieved to fit in. That's pretty much the exact opposite of the desired outcome. And it's part of the reason why years ago, the concept of APP was so appealing for my own kid.

I'm not big on creating policy based on one person's anecdote, and maybe kids today are more accepting and school cultures wouldn't compel the outlier young kids to dumb themselves down. But I offer the story anyway as a counterpoint for consideration.
Anonymous said…
@Lori--I think most HCC parents would prefer their students stay in class with peers who are the same age. Sleeper offered up a walk to math option with students ONE year ahead doing math one year ahead, so the HCC student could work two years + ahead with a group of students one year older. If there were a cluster of four or so younger HCC students in the class with students one year ahead, I think this could be okay. If it's one student, this is less than ideal. If the student is with kids two or three years ahead, I would never support the idea. I agree with you--this would be intimidating. I was a freshman in Highschool with juniors and seniors and I would never put my child through that scenario at any age.

Anonymous said…
It's important to remember how APP used to handle math in elementary/middle school. It was not just acceleration, but a compression of the material which allowed for a faster pace. 1st graders covered Gr1 math, plus a portion of Gr2 math. 2nd graders covered Gr2 math, plus a portion of Gr3 math. By 4th grade they were beginning to cover middle school math. In 6th grade they had a 6HH class, which covered a combination of Gr7 and Gr8 material, leading to Algebra in 7th.

Moving to a system that is essentially a cohort based grade skip (what's been happening to HCC over the last few years, and not just for math), with limited curriculum modification, does not seem to meet the spirit of the HC law which calls for both "accelerated learning and enhanced instruction."

Anonymous said…
True, that's why the cluster pull out, or "extensions" might be a good way to solve for the deeper and creative approach to learning the gifted learner needs (yearns) but this would require subject matter experts in each school to work with the groups in meaningful ways. $$$$

SPS Mom said…
Last I heard, Hazel Wolf has done the model with walk-to-math 2 years ahead with students walking one year ahead in the next grade up for a while... It is very challenging unless you offer math at the same time in all grades (and if you do that, than your math specialist, if you have one, can only serve students by providing a math lesson once/day as well, so HW moved away from a full school common math time.).

HW is phasing out the two year walk up as lower grades enter, but continuing the one year up walk. The current plan is to offer an accelerated/compressed grade 7-8 math year for those capable (regardless of AL status), then students may step into Algebra, with the outcome being that capable students can still end up 2 years ahead by the end of 8th grade.

They are still making adjustments as this evolves, but it seems to work well for most families and teachers at this time.
SPS Mom said…
A clarification for the first paragraph. Kids doing math 2 years ahead were doing math with grade peers and kids in the next grade up (so only one year difference chronologically.) There were times when there were a small group of grade level kids as well (so 3 year of kids in the same class), but only if necessary for class sizes.

The compressed 7/8 grade is a new strategy, so we'll need to see how that plays out in practice.
Anonymous said…
They need to buy a few buses, like the ones people rent for birthday parties, and have roving teachers traveling to schools in a zone with the bus outfitted with amazing experiential math games, tinkering science experiments and writing/reading books.

Pie sky
Anonymous said…
Correction: nooks (not books)
ST, I remember well my son's 5th grade Spectrum teacher explaining how they moved. Some of it was acceleration but then she showed us a book (it was math or science), said she would give a brief quiz at the beginning and if the kids knew the material, she flipped to the next chapter. She said she'd then review the previous chapter's main points at the beginning of the next chapter and go from there.

It allowed speed and compression for kids who were that far ahead AND could move faster.
Anonymous said…
Just a reminder that whenever you have a "walk-to" class, there also will be a group of kids who are below grade level and/or struggling with the subject, besides those at grade level and beyond. At many schools, there is quite a wide range of abilities which presents a logistical challenge.

Liza Rankin said…
Adding to that logistical challenge is having enough students (elementary school). My son's school had 4 first grade classrooms, and they all had math at the same time so kids could walk to the classroom teaching at their level. Smaller schools like Sand Point don't have enough kids (enough teachers, really) to be able to have 4 instructional groups within one grade. It could be addresses by having a math teacher for the building that floats to teach smaller groups of kids far above or far below grade level, and split the rest of the students into two groups per grade for math instruction, but that is paying another staff member and presents scheduling issues.
Anonymous said…
I was thinking 2 groups (the number of classrooms would depend on the school). On grade level and a year ahead. Students from say, 2nd grade doing 4th grade math would go to the 3rd grade classroom doing 4th grade math to do it. I also think at many schools the advanced class could be larger to allow more attention for kids who are behind. Or schools could work it out another way, maybe something different for kids who struggle. Different schools need different things, and I generally trust them to do it the best way for their community. But right now they don't seem to feel as though they have a responsibility to teach anything to anyone working beyond grade level, and I think they do. In the early grades especially math that is much too easy can so quickly crush math interest. So tedious.

There is a long time debate about whether gifted services should be accelerated or not. My experience favors a lot of acceleration (without grade skipping as a general solution, because I don't find gifted students to be able to fit in with much older students any more or less than other students, nor are they any more ready at 15 or 16 to make adult decisions). But I doubt we can solve that right now. I do think it would be an unequivocal improvement to let hc kids go further ahead.

Charlie Mas said…
Liza Rankin and sleeper's latest comments raises the issue of how capacity drives instruction.

Students do not come in convenient 25-packs. So a school may have twelve or may have forty 3rd graders ready to do 4th grade math. What to do then? Do they add 13 kids who are not ready for the advanced work to their "walk to math" group? And what of the school with forty? Do they leave 15 kids in the grade level class?

Walk to Math doesn't solve any capacity problems; in fact, it can create them. All of the capacity issues associated with forming self-contained classes are the same for Walk to Math.
Anonymous said…
Charlie: as we all painfully know, the benefit to the district of having a large self contained HCC cohort is they can split it up and move the students around like chess pieces to suite THEIR strategic goals. When people post comments about the HCC families trying to control who's in and who's out, they need to redirect their energy towards the district.

Hit Ormiss
Lynn said…
I do think every elementary school should have students walk to math. To do this correctly would require hiring additional staff. The alternative is to have some teachers covering two years of math instruction in their classrooms so their students only get half the instructional time. This is not generally successful in my experience.
Wrong direction said…
I think it's headed the opposite direction. From what enrollment has said, they are making all schools ALO instead. Following the MTSS, in class differentiation for all. In the name of equity. So I'm guessing all walk to maths will go away eventually.
Anonymous said…
@wrong direction--thanks for passing this along. Bryant has always been ALO and has a very high number of students leave each year for the cohort. I don't think these high numbers are an indication of the school doing a great job teaching, but rather the opposite--families don't believe differentiation is happening and needs aren't being met. If all schools move to this model, as predicted, I believe the HCC group will continue to grow. That said, I have heard through the grapevine that Bryant is introducing an extensions and interventions program and will have walk to math and pull groups out for specialized instruction. If that goes well, perhaps all will be well with the world of AL.

Charlie Mas said…
The District is definitely wants to use MTSS as the way to identify students who need advanced curricula and the way to deliver it. The problem with this, of course, is that there's no evidence or accountability. Schools can claims to provide extensions and interventions, and teachers can claim to be providing differentiated instruction, but what evidence is there that any of this work is really done? None. And who has the responsibility to confirm it? No one. And who would enforce the requirement? No one.

We already have this situation in schools that claim to offer Spectrum or ALO but don't really do anything for advanced learners. The school and the teacher don't have to show what they did and there's no rule that says they have to do anything anyway. In the absence of a written curriculum there is no way to determine what, if anything, is taught as "advanced curriculum" or "enhancement" or "extension". It's all just checked boxes on a form.

None of these plans are meaningful without an enforcement process. Unless there is a clear, objectively measurable benchmark for what advanced learners are supposed to be taught, and unless there is some concrete evidence confirming that they are actually taught that content, and unless there's someone with the authority to require it if it is missing, then you ain't got nuthin'.

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