Friday, October 07, 2016

Advanced Learning, Part Two

I'll list what did/did not happen at the meeting and then go into specifics. 
1.  Directors Peters and Burke had asked that additional documents - the NAGC's "Myths about Gifted Students," Advanced Learning Programs Task Force recs from 2012, the Advanced Learning Task Forces recs from 2014 and the WAC and RCW related to highly capable students - be available but, for some reason, these were separated out from the other documents and labeled as coming from Director Peters.

None of the documents were referenced during the work session.  Also to note, Charlie and I were both on the task force from 2012 where the recs were ignored as were the ones from 2014.  Oh wait, one thing from 2014 got done - they renamed APP to HCC.

2.  There were two agendas for this portion of the work session.  One was generated by staff and the other by the facilitator, Pat Hughes.  It was a bit confusing.

3.  Spectrum was barely touched upon and, in fact, when Wyeth Jesse mentioned that it was now cluster grouping, I coud not contained myself and I said, "And why is that?" out loud.  He ignored it but later on, Director Peters asked the same question and also got no answer.  It's as if a part of a program that has existed for decades in one form just never happened. 

4.  There was discussion over equity issues, types of giftedness,

5.  According to my recollection and notes, only one single thing about Advanced Learning got settled (and it could still be a maybe) - to put Advanced Learning as a SMART goal.   That could possibly elevate it up for more attention but really no amount of elevation seems to really matter. 

6. To the best of my recollection and notes, Superintendent Nyland said not a single thing about the program.   Curiously, head of AL, Stephen Martin, said nothing and was asked nothing.  I found that curious given how little time Mr. Jesse has been the Chief of Student Support Services.

Director Burke, chair of Curriculum and Instruction, said that there was a long history of trying to make progress for Advanced Leanring.  He said that there had not been a unity of voice around where to go.  (And this is true as there has never been a champion for the program even as the program did not serve all the students it should have.) 

Burke said that they had to take on race and socio-economics as part of the discussion.  He said they wanted to engage the community respectfully and hoped "the community will help us and be patient and understanding and solution-focused."

I'll just say here that the community has been nothing BUT patient and still nothing has changed or improved with any part of the Advanced Learning program.

He also said that there are "issues and challenges and then priorities" but not solutions right in front of them.

Then Wyeth Jesse, the Chief of Student Support Services, talked about this work session being an "opportunity" and they thought having a facilitator would help the process.  It didn't.

Then Ms. Hughes took over.  She basically said she wanted to give everyone at the table a voice. 

She then asked the Board to think about a question and then each take one minute to answer it.

What priorities come to mind that you would like considered tonight as related to the needs of AL learners

Director Peters
There is a distinction between AL and HCC.  Peters wanted to know the barriers that prevent students, especially those in under-represented categories, from applying to the program or to classes.  She said she believed it important that teachers and parents better understand what the characteristics are for gifted students.  She also said there is not clarity around what is offering in HCC versus Spectrum.

Director Burke
He said he was looking thru the "constituent lens" and there were two issues that rose to the top. 
1) the disparity in demographics in the program by race, ELL, F/RL and Special Education
2) there is a band of advanced learners that are underserved by current offerings, acceleration, and depth of learning and the district would benefit by improvement of the program.

Director Harris
She stated that Advanced Learning in Seattle Schools "is as clear as mud."  She said her concern falls into the larger issue of what is building-based leadership roles and what are district roles and what's the thru line?  She expressed concern that the discussion has become racially polarized and that good people can disagree with AL's implementation.  She also asked about the 25-30% of parents who send their children to private school as a possible issue with AL.

Director Patu
(I'll just say that Patu seemed frustrated from the get-go.  That isn't surprising given she's the longest serving member currently on the Board.)  She said there had been many discussions about AL especially within her community.  She said she didn't believe children in her community were given the opportunity to be part of the program and she had heard this from parents of color who feel like AL is "not for their kids, just white kids." 

Director Pinkham
He brought up the issue of other kinds of giftedness including artistic.  He said that the Cogat doesn't give credit for other abilities and that all kids are "highly capable."

Director Blanford
He said he had heard a question from one constituent that he believed was the essence of the challenge of trying to reform the program:  "Do we believe that the disparities in enrollment in AL are natural?  And, if not, what is the role of adults in the system to reform it?"

Director Geary
She mentioned coming at the issue from a Special Education and legal direction.  She said she had reviewed the law on highly capable students for what it is and isn't and "we can look in a broader way that could be more inclusive than self-contained intellect."  She said they could look thru the equity lens and involve arts.  She said go to the forefront for all kids "and not separating groups of kids from each other."

Mr. Jesse took over again and also mentioned other kinds of giftedness like socio-emotional. He then said that "Each child is someone's baby and how we treat them and identify them and those students know how they are being treated and classified." 

He then went into a spiel about MTSS which was baffling given it's been around nine (9!) years and still isn't fully implemented and used. 

Then he took questions.  Here's the Powerpoint to follow along.

Mr. Jesse had made a point about how many students - about 600 - who qualified for AL stayed at their neighborhood schools.  Director Peters pointed out that was true but there were more than 1400 students whose parents DID avail themselves to use the program.  She said if that is the case, then maybe they need to look at MTSS and see if it is truly meeting AL learners' need.  (Slide 13 talked about how MTSS helps students in AL but I'm not sure it's entirely clear what it means.)

Peters also asked about Spectrum but was given no answer.

Director Harris then chimed in and asked, "Is Spectrum and ALO dead? We should own it and figure out where we go next." 

Jesse said he couldn't say it was dead because "of promises to families and we still provide transportation."  (To what Harris said earlier, well, that's as clear as mud.)

Director Patu asked for the racial breakdown of students in the AL program.  She didn't get an answer but it became a sticky wicket later on.

Jesse said there one true thing - that there is a disconnect between what the district says and what it does. 

He then said that SPS defines AL in more of an "academic way" and that Tacoma SD does it in other ways.  (I'll have to investigate this.)

There was a question of why so much is spent on testing.  Slide 20 states that "45% of AL expenditures were related to eligibility practices."  (I actually found that on the low side because testing used be about 90% of the budget.) 

The sticky wicket came from Slide 25 which is two pie charts; one labeled SPS Demographics and the other, Spectrum/AL eligibility.  Director Pinkham asked why there was no label for Native Americans or Pacific Islanders.  Jesse said that for the Spectrum/AL eligibility pie chart N= less than 10 so those categories were not included.  Pinkham pressed on and said, "But what about the SPS Demographics pie chart?"  No real answer.

Jesse was also challenged by Geary on Slide 24 - "2015-2016 Highly Capable Eligibility Appeals" and asked why the total appeals were broken down by race but not the total number of successful appeals.  Mr. Jesse said he could get that info to her.

Director Patu also singled out Slide 24, again asking why there were no numbers for Native American or Pacific-Islander students.  She said she knew she sounded upset but that "we have talked about this forever." 

Harris said that she had heard from some people that it's important to not get rid of private appeals because of students who are twice-exceptional and for whom group testing would be difficult. 

Peters came to Slide 28 which I, too, had flagged as problematic.  This is labeled "Advanced Learning Achievement."  It seems to try to be saying that more kids eligible for AL but not in Spectrum or HC did better than those in the program.  Peters pointed out that this was for last year with the new SBAC.  She said that she was having trouble understanding the point of the slide and Mr. Jesse just sidestepped the question.

Director Blanford offered that he thought that there were some people in the community who want to tinker for AL and "a large segment" of population who wants to rethink all aspects of it.  He gave no data to support either statement.

Director Burke said incremental work was not bad but it had to be done with a common vision.

Director Blanford then got his back up and challenged Burke and asked about if Burke was thinking of this as Chair of C&I and that perhaps this was an opportunity to "rethink AL."

Burke benignly said, "Based on what I have seen historically, the discussion could go either way."  

Director Harris then spoke up and said, "I don't want to die of old age before a fix" and complained about "messing around the margins and there is 'no there, there.'" She said we basically have 99 AL programs and no one is happy across the board.  She said they had all run for the office and said we would "do the heavy lift work."

Director Geary said that "we have to do something big or just to work on edges is to perpetuate an institutional problem.  Make it a SMART goal and give district notice to redirect resources to do the work using the community engagement tool and the equity tool."

She also said, "I feel completely overwhelmed with root causes."  She said a program that welcomes all kinds of kids will look different than what is currently being provided and they would not fix it in a two-hour work session.

Director Patu offered that there must be other ways to find kids of color and that some kids don't test well.

Director Pinkham said it might cost more but they may need a different kind of assessment to find more kids.

Director Peters went back to her point about teachers/parents being able to identify gifted children.  She said those traits transcended race, gender and income. 

Director Blanford then offered another question from someone, "What does the program do for kids not in the program?"  (I'm not sure if he meant "for" or "to.")  He said how do kids experience tracking and what are the implications of that?  He said it was stigmatizing. 

He also alluded to the earlier discussion with Steve Nielsen about the huge about of work to be done and "the number of planes in the air." 

Director Harris brought up Spectrum again and noted that Sealth started blended honors 4 years ago and there is no data on how that is going.  She said the lack of consistency is unfair to everyone.

Director Geary said one of the goals of the district is an inventory of programs.  She said they could look to see how Thurgood Marshall does over the next year.  "I get the sense that they are happy with what they are doing and advocating and marketing."  

(I find that remark astonishing.  Has Geary or anyone else on the Board had private conversations separately with parents and teachers about the changes?  I find it hard to understand that "happy" remark.)

We were reaching near the end of the two hours when Mr. Jesse said "There IS a plan that centers around collaboration" With MTSS and there's a way to have consistency. 

And then that was all he said on that.  Unbelievable.

He then reminded the Board about how labels and diagnosis are used for Sped students but that they don't define students. 

He talked about how relationships are the focus for this school year and that they want to reach more families so they will want to test for AL programs.

He also said they may want to consider "the student voice." 

The facilitator then asked Board members for final thoughts.

Blanford - I like Jill's idea of raising this to a SMART goal level to track it.  He said they didn't talk from the outset about what they want AL to be and who it serves. 

Geary - passed but she seemed tense as she did.  (They circled back to her and she then said that they should "immediately start addressing that giftedness includes creativity.")

Burke said he would like to see staff work on an ID process that minimizes racial bias and see what AL would look like under MTSS explicitly.

Harris said they needed to tell the truth about what we have now.  She said the district broke promises for IB and other options programs.  She said she agreed AL should be a SMART goal.  

Patu said that the equity is still not there and "we can do more."

Pinkham said he would like to see more demographic data and wants to see data on Sped students.  He also wants creativity included in AL.

Peters said there was a sense of urgency that now seems to be slowing down due to process.  She said doing more outreach and education to families and teachers, finding a clear vision and statement of that this is a need and not a privilege. 


- The Board needs to STOP allowing staff to run THEIR own work sessions.  The evidence from the last two work sessions shows that.

- There is a lot that could have gotten done in two hours but I'm not sure that was the point of the work session for staff.  I think the point was to allow the under-representation of students of color in the program to derail the entire program.  But that's just me.

That issue DOES need to be addressed and the best way to do that - I believe - is to conduct focus groups with families of color and ask THEM what they do and don't know about the program and what it would take to encourage them to allow their students into the program.  Those focus groups could also include families of color that ARE in the program to answer questions and describe their experience.

Also, if they redo the entire program, what happens to the students currently in the program? 

- There has got to be acknowledgement that ALOs are a joke and are NOT in place and functioning at every school.  

What would I have done differently?  In advance of the meeting:

1.  I would have sent the Board a history of the program.
2.  I would have sent the Board an overview of the program as it exists today with any and all changes from the last three years noted.
3.  I would have explained how the district does outreach to families of color; successes, failures and what else they could try.
4.  I would have included a comparison with at least three other districts in our region/state.
5.  I would have included analysis of both AL taskforces as well as the independent consultant report that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had done on APP.
6. I would have included every bit of demographic information possible.

That's what I would have sent the Board first.

I also would have polled the Board on whether they support self-contained classrooms.  Because I think there are at least two directors who don't support that and they should just say that out loud so it's clear.

I plan on writing another thread on what I believe I see happening in the district large-scale. 

But, from this work session and the seeming subterfuge of what got talked about and what didn't, I'd say - for Advanced Learning - there should be a sign at JSCEE that says, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." 


Anonymous said...

Between this and the growth boundaries issue, it seems to me that SPS staff have completely lost control of key elements of how this district operates - or are actively and deliberately doing damage to schools and kids without being honest about how and why.

This board needs to stop letting staff lead them around by the nose and TAKE CONTROL of this district, including firing Nyland and Tolley and anyone else if that's what it takes. If these things don't get resolved, then the entire board will be fired at the 2017 and 2019 elections.

It certainly looks to me like SPS staff, with Blanford's encouragement, are getting ready to destroy AL with racial equity as their justification. That's even though the vast majority of people want AL to continue but with better and more clearly defined objectives, practices, curriculum, as well as better and more clearly defined ways to get more kids of color into the program.

Spectrum really is at the heart of this. The best answer is to provided separate advanced learning classes in neighborhood schools. If this happened in the schools with the most racial diversity, you'd see a more diverse group of kids in AL. The fact that nobody on staff was willing to answer Spectrum questions is utterly damning and should be cause for firing.

But then, the JSCEE is literally the one place in the entire city - even including SPD! - where you literally cannot be fired, because the board will not ever demand it no matter how egregious a staffer behaves.

Non-HCC Parent

Lynn said...

Charlie has quoted someone (long gone I'm sure) who told the board that if every African American student in the district who scored a level four on the state math and reading tests were enrolled in advanced learning programs, they would still be underrepresented. Is that still the case? Without that information, how can this issue be discussed honestly and productively?

Our program is set up to meet the needs of gifted children who are academic high achievers. If we want our highly capable program to meet the needs of some other students, who are they? Do we want to drop the math and reading scores from the requirements? (The head of Advanced Learning has looked at this and the result would be an even higher proportion of white students than are in the program now.) It would likely include more gifted children with specific learning disabilities and that seems like a worthwhile goal to me.

I anticipate that my remaining SPS student will be leaving the district after elementary school. I would like to find a school where children are given interesting, challenging work and where parents and staff are focused on providing an excellent education. I want my child to have the security of knowing that he won't be pulled out of one building and into another away from friends and familiar teachers as a result of poor planning by adults. I want to be able to trust that the adults responsible for educating my child consider his needs when making decisions that affect him. These expectations should be met by public schools but our district is failing every one.

Anonymous said...

Geary's stance on this is disappointing. I am surprised to see her apparently falling in with the camp that believes achieving "equity" and meeting the needs of students identified as highly capable are mutually exclusive goals. Assumptions are being made about what parents of color want, and what students of color need. I'd prefer to see these assumptions spelled out. I'd believed Geary to be smart and engaged enough to see this too, and I supported her for the Board. I am sorry I did.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Non-HCC Parent, your thoughts are very much my thoughts and I'll expand on them in a separate thread.

It's clear some subterfuge is happening.

Liza Rankin said...

You nailed it, Melissa. This is what I thought leaving that meeting as well. Wyeth's PowerPoint was a waste of time; the "work session" was a presentation with no room to actually work on solving issues. The list of what you would have sent to the board ahead of the meeting - yep, I thought the same thing. How frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see that Wyeth Jessee continues to say a lot of stuff, most of it worthless, yet is treated as if he actually knows what he is talking about by SPS. He's in over his head, but hoping his dog paddle will hold him up, and SPS keeps sending out little floaties for him.


kellie said...

Issues with Advanced Learning and capacity go hand-in-hand.

This is because advanced learning appeals to the same demographic that attends private school and moves districts for "better schools." As such most educational policy planning around AL tends to be focused on filing buildings (magnet programs) and/or enrolling the middle class, who tend to be the demographic that votes for school levies. In other words, when you lose a certain percentage to private school, levies fail. That is what happened to Seattle in the 80's.

AL is not designed to be an equity tool. That is the real problem.

The only way to solve an equity problem is to devote resources to that problem. Tinkering with entry requirements is a red herring. It doesn't fix the problem.

Rainier Scholars works for a reason. TAF works for a reason. We have multiple examples of successful advanced learning programs that are inclusive of minorities, poverty and historically underserved students.

Fortunately, because growth in the South end has been significantly slower than expected there is space to build a more culturally sensitive option.

Anonymous said...

Blanford wants to get rid of labels. It appears he is running the effort to get rid of AL. Show me the data that blended learning and ability grouping works for gifted learners. It doesn't exist because it's not true. Blended learning works for 2/3 of the students. If that's good enough for SPS, they need to say that.

All this clowning around with the north Seattle neighborhood boundaries is a puppet show run by Tolley to break up HCC without permission or blessings from the board on program placement. If the board doesn't see that--they are foolish.

Very disappointing that no solutions were proposed or discussed to solve the one concern of under representation in AL by particular groups. Simply find examples in other similar districts that work and begin a three year pilot (say at Small option schools at Fairmont Park and Cedar Park) using their curriculum and methods. Compare and contrast to results of current program at Thurgood Marshall and Cascadia, go from there! This is not rocket science...they clearly just want to get rid of it and have MTSS be the answer.

Equity should also be looked at in terms of fairness for families to access advanced learning opportunities. For example, Look at Bryant--deeper learning at grade level, compare that to Loyal Heights and Hazel Wolf where they provide deeper learning above grade level. How equitable is that to a north Seattle familiy with only Bryant or Cascadia (if student is HC) as accessible options? It seems unfair.

Bad Motives

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa's analysis and non-HCC parent's post. I especially feel this analysis is important from non-HCC parent
" Spectrum really is at the heart of this. The best answer is to provided separate advanced learning classes in neighborhood schools. If this happened in the schools with the most racial diversity, you'd see a more diverse group of kids in AL."
I feel all board members should receive a copy of Melissa's analysis & comments by parents to provide community feedback. I also agree that additional board meetings need to be scheduled and focused on to be productive. Handouts need to be given and reviewed prior to the meetings. One two hour session was not productive. They have a mess right now, need to be making clear decisions and HCC, spectrum and capacity issues need timely attention.

Outsider said...

Wait, wait, wait ... "Wyeth Jesse mentioned that it [Spectrum] was now cluster grouping ..." That's a statement testable with empirical evidence. Do these clusters exist? A couple of months ago there was mention of an Otter Spotter program run out of the zoo to gather data on distribution of river otters in the region. We need something like that -- "cluster spotters" to report in if they ever see one of these clusters in the wild. I haven't seen one.

What is their presumed habitat, elementary school or middle school or both?

If advanced learning clusters really existed in elementary schools, and worked at the appropriate level with suitable materials, I suspect we wouldn't see all the gloom and doom and complaining over AL. Self-contained advanced classrooms at the elementary level, like Seattle once had, are rare nationally, I think. All tracking that I personally experienced in elementary school was based on team teaching or clustering, and it was fine. Of course, clustering only works where it actually exists.

Anonymous said...

Agree that Blanford and Tolley are pushing this. Very disappointed in Geary so far, who made a lot of promises on the campaign trail and is failing to uphold a single one of them. That still leaves a clear board majority to do AL right and ensure equity as well, rather than sit by and let the JSCEE destroy AL and cause mass white flight from the district. But will that board majority actually do anything? So far they're all just sitting there on the sidelines and not acting or leading - on this, on anything.

That includes Peters and Harris, who I always assumed would be stronger and bolder leaders than they've turned out to be so far.

Random Dad

Anonymous said...

Self contained classes are actually very common- the norm in districts large enough to support it. 15 states even have statewide academies for high school. WA does comparatively little for gifted students.

This work session is very frustrating. Of course there are many kinds of giftedness. Artistic, empathy, physically, dramatically, and on and on. The kind we are talking about for our highly capable program is academic giftedness, which has to do with the curriculum in school and academic skills. This is the worst kind of semantics. "Gifted" is just the shorthand we have been using for "academically gifted," for which research has already told us what to do to serve them (self contained classes, allow for acceleration), and other kinds of gifts are served differently. We should allow artistically gifted and students with other gifts to excel, too, as we currently do in music programs for example, not get rid of programs for students who excel academically.

We are stuck with Geary for several more years, but I hope we can find a challenger for Blanford who is interested in the education of all students, not just taking away education for some of them.


Anonymous said...

They can't fire Nyland. Nobody else in their right mind would take over this mess.

Tax Me

Anonymous said...

Wow, how troubling. It looks as if services for academically gifted students are doomed in this district.

At least three of the board (Geary, Blanford and Pinkham) seem to be of the opinion that advanced learning should be more open and inclusive, serving kids with other gifts as well, such as artistic. If they want to create a program for artistically gifted students, great, but qualifying artistically gifted students for an ACADEMIC program like HCC is beyond absurd. (And seriously, if they want to start looking for musical prodigies and the like, do they really think this will reduce the disparities? Who exactly do they think is paying for private music lessons in elementary school? What are the demographics of middle schools that tend to have the best music programs?)

Blanford actually asked a great question: Do we believe that the disparities in enrollment in AL are natural? Well, YES, they are a natural result of socioeconomic realities. Higher levels of poverty, lower parental education levels, higher rates of single parent families, etc., occur in the same groups that have been less able to qualify for AL--less able to score at the upper tail of the curve. That is natural, given these outside influences, many of which impact children long before they ever show up in public school. We may be able to "undo" some of that negative impact over time, but we're not going to completely erase the negative impacts of some of these less-than-ideal early childhood experiences.

The problem is not with the tests themselves, nor is it the eligibility criteria. If you have a program that is designed to serve students who are advanced, you want to find students who are advanced. If your goal instead is to find and serve more students from underrepresented groups, then find them and offer appropriate services--but recognize that those services will likely be different. Not only are these groups often reluctant to participate in a program they perceive to be only for white kids (Asian kids don't seem to exist to anyone...), but they need different things. For all the cries of unfairness that parents of white (and Asian!) kids "prepare" them for the tests--whether through formal test prep or childrearing practices that promote learning from an early age--what's lost is that many of these potentially gifted students who don't score as well haven't gotten that same preparation...which means they aren't as prepared for high level work!

They CAN get there, but they often aren't there yet. That "if every African American student in the district who scored a level four on the state math and reading tests were enrolled in advanced learning programs, they would still be underrepresented" is telling. Stated another way, to get the equal representation in AL, we'd likely need to admit students who are only performing at grade level into our "advanced" program. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

Instead of blowing up AL altogether, we need to take a cue from Lohman and use local norms to place students into appropriate instructional services. Those scoring in the 98th percentile or so should continue to have access to a program that serves their needs, and because they are so far ahead of their grade peers this is best accomplished through self-containment. The HCC curriculum and delivery requirements should be established and implemented, to ensure some equity across sites. Then, for underrepresented populations, we can use local norms to identify the most promising students and offer them a more multicultural talent development type program. The percentile cutoffs might be significantly lower, but they could set them to take the top x% of each subgroup. The talent development program would require much more deliberate efforts and intensive support than is ever available within HCC, but it could build these students up in terms of both their academic base and self confidence, so that they can easily enter and ultimately thrive in HCC if they wanted.


Anonymous said...

Before they go any further on this, I'd like to see the board and staff come to agreement on what they mean by "equity." I don't think they've ever defined it before, and I think differences in understanding are at the heart of the problem. Equity does not mean that all kids enter the public school system with the same backgrounds and abilities, nor does it mean they will leave the system all being academic equals. Equity also does not mean that any program appropriate for one kid will thus be appropriate for any other.

Equity means that you recognize the disparities, and try to mitigate them. If kids from certain populations are not performing above grade level and are not qualifying for AL programs at similar rates, then provide the resources and instruction needed to get them up to speed. That would be equity. (It's like the cartoon of the kids looking over the fence. The tall kid standing on the ground is the kid who qualifies via the SPS testing. Maybe the middle kid has some special needs and requires 1-on-1 testing to qualify, so the appeals part of the eligibility process is his/her booster box, as would be any IEP or 504 accommodations they receive while participating in AL. For the shortest kids--aka those kids who are underrepresented in AL--they need two boxes: one that represents more flexible eligibility criteria and better outreach to identify more kids as potentially gifted, and another box that represents special programming to address their relative lack of academic preparation as well as their desire for a more diverse and culturally competent experience. An extra large box that just addresses eligibility/enrollment issues is not going to cut it.


Anonymous said...


How about we just take down the fence.


Anonymous said...


Tearing down the fence is exactly what the district is doing. "Equity" to SPS means that every kid is going to get exactly the same thing, no matter their need.

I personally am not "optimistic" about the future when "equity" means all kids get the same education. This isn't McDonalds.

Are we getting rid of varsity sports, too? Let's make sports "equitable" and put everyone on the same team - no more cuts, no more varsity, no more JV. All kids are exactly the same in all aspects, after all.

-Harrison Bergeron

Anonymous said...

Eliminating tracking leaves you with ability grouping. Ability grouping gives teachers time to support students who are struggling while students who are at pace do their work and the students who are ahead get little to no attention and end up bored, complacent and frustrated.


Anonymous said...

@Harrison Bergeron

That's a deliberate false equivalency between Sports teams and classroom learning, and it's not the first time it's been used on this blog. That said I would not mind at all if we got rid of the sports distinctions and pooled everyone together. It would make it more interesting, offer more opportunity, encourage more participation and level the playing field. But we are not talking about doing that yet. We are talking about what makes for the best overall learning experience for everyone. Not making a particular sports team rarely has a lasting outcome on one's life chances but spending all one's days in a disadvantaged setting while one's peers have the privilege of exclusivity can have a negative impact. The fact that so many children thrive in the face of such outward and obvious discrimination, nay even contempt, is a testament to their resiliency, even their genius.


Charlie Mas said...

@Optimistic, what, in this metaphor, does the fence represent? Academic achievement? Should we just take away academic achievement?

Charlie Mas said...

If every Black student who achieved a Level 4 score on the Math SBA were admitted to the program - with no other qualification required - would Black students still be under-represented in the program?

Here's the data, from the OSPI, of how many Black / African-American students in Seattle Public Schools achieved a Level 4 score on the SBA:

Grade. . . ELA . . . . . . . Math
3. . . . . 79. . .12.0% . . .77. . .11.7%
4. . . . . 88. . .14.1% . . .84. . .13.5%
5. . . . . 68. . .10.4% . . .75. . .11.5%
6. . . . . 38. . . 6.6% . . .53. . . 9.2%
7. . . . . 34. . . 5.8% . . .45. . . 7.7%
8. . . . . 33. . . 5.9% . . .67. . .12.1%

TOTAL. . .340. . . . . . . .401

The District reports that there are 59 Black students enrolled in HCC - that's across grades 1-12. There are 401 Black students who got a Level 4 score on the Math SBA in six tested grades. If we assume there are another 401 in the other six grades, that would be 802 in total. If there were 802 Black students in HCC, they would account for 16.1% of the cohort which would, in fact, be proportionate with the 16.4% of the district students as a whole who are Black.

If we used the ELA numbers instead of the Math numbers the results would be slightly worse, 14.0%, but would still be in the ballpark.

There's no telling how many of these students got a Level 4 score on both tests.

This isn't complete data, but at least now folks have at least part of the data and no longer have to rely completely on conjecture.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Hard to believe it but Level 4 scores - both ELA and Math - plus 99th p-tile cogats - plus a professional appeal do not necessarily get you in to HCC. BOTH SBA scores must be above 95th percentile. If one is at the 96th, forget about it. Yes, this happened.

It is not a Highly Capable Cohort. It is a HCC + taking tests well in school cohort.

The idea of "tearing down that fence" fails to recognize that different kids have different needs. A very bright kid who gets bored is not good for anyone, nor is a struggling kid who isn't getting needed supports. Where SPS is now, it brings tears to my eyes. Fewer and fewer kids are getting what they need. It's unethical. I don't see how the SPS admins can face themselves in the mirror.


Charlie Mas said...

In case you're wondering, yes, from all across the district, there were exactly 33 Black 8th grade students who got a Level 4 score on the ELA SBAC.

11 at Mercer
6 at Washington
4 at Denny
3 at Aki Kurose
3 at SouthShore
1 at Madison
1 at Broadview-Thomson K-8
0 at Whitman
0 at JAMS
0 at Madrona K-8
0 at ORCA

That accounts for 29 of the 33. The other four must be at one of the schools with too few African-American students to report.

Schools with too few Black 8th graders to report are Blaine (1), Licton Springs (1), Pathfinder (3), Hamilton (4), Salmon Bay (4), Hazel Wolf (8), McClure (11) and Eckstein (12)

In the District as a whole there were 995 8th graders who achieved a Level 4 score on the ELA SBAC. That's 29.7% of the total enrollment of 3,500.

Charlie Mas said...

The Advanced Learning department can only find highly capable African-American students; they can't make them.

Anonymous said...


Can you please provide a source for this: "We are talking about what makes for the best overall learning experience for everyone." I would like to see a link to a study that says putting all kids together in one class is best for everyone. It is not something I have read to be true.

As to comparing sports to school being a false equivalency, I disagree. As adults, we are pretending that all kids are exactly the same in school, but we seem to believe that kids' skills are not all the same in sports. Why is that? Do we as adults believe all adults have all the same skills? I think mature adults understand that people have different strengths and weaknesses, kids are no different.

-Harrison Bergeron

Danielle Mercer Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@ HB

I wonder how the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut feels about being associated with your retrograde remarks.

Isn't the point of a public school system to have the best overall outcome for everyone. It's not about picking winners and losers. This is America's social safety net and a major public investment. It is to the benefit of everyone that all children, not some children, reach their full potential. This isn't some crazy sports league and it shouldn't be run as one with upper and lower divisions based on spurious distinctions about skills. By continuing to conflate classroom learning and school structure with sports skills you are showing a lack of understanding of what education is. Hint - it's more than skills and it's not a game. But I think you know that and are trying to muddy the waters for the sake of diversion.



Lynn said...

Yes, the point of public education is to help all children reach their full potential. Some can only do this in self-contained, accelerated classrooms. The good news is that other children don't need to sit next to gifted students in order to reach their full potential.

Anonymous said...


You didn't answer my request for a source. Instead, you came back with: "the point of a public school system to have the best overall outcome for everyone." How would placing everyone in the same class lead to this? Are all kids ready for the exact same thing at the exact same time? Your system of education sounds like McDonalds. Don't come back with differentiation because SPS doesn't do it and the teachers don't have the time to do it with their giant class sizes. I would love to see a study that says that ALL kids benefit from your ideal system.

"It's not about picking winners and losers." Are you saying general education is for "losers?" I don't believe this is true. Are you saying HCC is for "winners?" I don't believe that is true. I think the best education system would provide each individual kid with what they need to learn.

If you don't like the sports comparison, change it for music, art, etc. Doesn't matter. Do we not all agree that there are differences between people? Don't we celebrate kids who are good at writing, art or music? Should we stop doing this for the sake of "best outcomes for everyone."

People are different, and we should find a way to meet each child's needs. We shouldn't, though, confuse equality and equity.

Harrison Bergeron

Charlie Mas said...

"Isn't the point of a public school system to have the best overall outcome for everyone. It's not about picking winners and losers. This is America's social safety net and a major public investment. It is to the benefit of everyone that all children, not some children, reach their full potential."

This is a point of agreement. Please don't pretend that anyone is on the opposite side of this statement. The discussion is not whether to create the best overall outcome for everyone, but how to create the best overall outcome for everyone.

Some children are ready to succeed with the third grade curriculum. Other children are ready to succeed with the first grade curriculum. Still others are ready to succeed with the fifth grade curriculum. Putting them all together in the same classroom and delivering the third grade curriculum does NOT create the best overall outcome for everyone. Instead, we recognize that having them in separate classrooms does that.

Some children are English language learners, so their instruction has to be adjusted from the typical curriculum to accommodate that need.

Some children have specific disabilities, so their instruction has to be adjusted from the typical curriculum to accommodate that need.

Some children are learn differently from most children, so their instruction has to be adjusted from the typical curriculum to accommodate that need.

Having all of these children in a classroom together with all of the other children and giving them all the same instruction does NOT create the best overall outcome for everyone.

It's not about picking winners and losers. It's about recognizing the diversity of learners and accommodating their needs.

If you truly want to create the best overall outcome for everyone, you would acknowledge that and agree. If, instead, you want to act like a dog in the manger, please don't pretend that you're interested in the best outcome for everyone or fighting for that.

Anonymous said...

"It's not about picking winners and losers. It's about recognizing the diversity of learners and accommodating their needs." Well said Charlie. Providing additional supports for kids who come to school under prepared is and should be a district priority as far as allocating resources to those most in need. However, on the other end of the spectrum those who come to school already being able to read should not be ignored. This is not treating kids equally. This is not good for the middle class who have their kids in public school and for this country.

I completely don't agree with Optimistic. Optimistic, this is a societal "class" issue, not an issue that schools can fix and investments by society need to be made by providing free universal quality early childhood education, training for higher paying jobs etc. to make an impact.

Anonymous said...

(Part 2)

We do have a program at my school that is a learning community--though I think a more accurate description is a bicycle with a training wheel--that takes students who have passed or tested out of developmental writing and enrolls them in two co-requisite courses--the course just above developmental writing and transfer-level English. The course is aimed at African American students but open to all. Students do the course work for transfer English but the co-requisite course offers support to help them through that work; additionally, students are required to meet with the instructor and the tutor specifically assigned to the class. So far, this model has had great success, enabling students to go from developmental writing and out of transfer-level English in a one-semester course. But it also offers a great deal more support than that described in the "Honors for All" model.

"Honors for All" seems to depend on a lot of group work in the classroom. Group work is great for discussions and specific, very focused tasks. However, the problem is that often the more advanced students take over (or the other kids disengage and essentially force the advanced kids to take over), resulting in the advanced kids feeling exploited and the other kids feeling disenfranchised. Or, worse, the teacher assigns one advanced kid to each group and that kid becomes the group's teacher. While it's true that a student can learn a topic from having to teach it, and other students can sometimes learn better from a fellow student, when that becomes the routine, again, students become at best bored and at worse resentful about their roles.

In Class

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of my comment got swallowed. This is a comment from an old friend who has taught English at a community college for decades on Honors for All at Garfield:

Wow, sounds like a huge change for the high school--and kind of seems last-minute. Ideally, I think, the teachers should get more than three days of training in the new pedagogy. From the sounds of it, your kid's English teacher is having trouble implementing the new model. Or the new model isn't the best approach for English.

I know the problem-solving, "project-based learning," approach is gaining popularity, and I think it works in certain disciplines (like math) where applying learned/memorized information helps to solidify and make more relevant what has been taught. But I'm not sure that that approach really does much when it comes to reading and writing. I mean, writing a traditional essay and writing, say, a business letter or a report for an environmental study still requires students to write in complete sentences and to organize their ideas in a logical way. Writing a business letter might show students why writing well matters "in the real world," but it doesn't help them figure out how to avoid fragments and what a semicolon does.

At my school, we've eliminated our lowest level writing course and "accelerated" the next course up--my developmental writing course. It's now 4 units instead of 3 and includes reading a book-length work. The course has no prerequisite. That means that I sometimes have students who read and write at just above a first-grade level (though I once had a student who was essentially illiterate) in the same class with students who probably could have enrolled in transfer-level English if they had taken the assessment test seriously. This means that I basically teach to the middle. I try to challenge the more advanced students to stretch beyond the requirements of the class in my comments on their papers (e.g., "This is a great point, but a strong metaphor might help make it more memorable."). I'm basically a cheerleader with the slower students and the students who can do the work but lack confidence. Classroom behavior usually isn't an issue, although I sometimes have students with psychological or medical conditions that cause them to lack control of their own behavior. We have tutoring and a Writing Center to help support students, but not everyone seeks the help they need. And the course overall has about a 65% pass rate, so I think that it isn't really helping a significant number of students to "accelerate" their path to transfer-level English.

In Class

Anonymous said...

Not only must we stop any blending of HC students in the Honors for All at Garfield, we must stop the blending of HC students in Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall Elementary.

Families are already leaving SPS because of the uncertainty regarding delivery of HC service. No one wants to go back to their neighborhood school, they left for a reason; their kids weren't being educated.

I'm also sick of being labeled a racist and elitist. I don't care who is in the cohort as long as they are gifted, it's a gifted program after all!

Why aren't more HCC students getting level 4's on the SBA? Because SPS is deliberately watering down the instructional quality at HCC locations. Poorly trained teachers, no curriculum, co-housing and overall dislike of gifted education by many at all levels in SPS.

Spectrum was destroyed and what happened? A mass exodus to HCC because parents saw first-hand that blending meant gifted kids were just being warehoused in gened classrooms.

Clustering is a complete joke. At least in the old days, if a group of Spectrum kids couldn't fill a classroom, they at least stayed together. Now they are "clustered" and blended and "differentiatedly taught" and walked here and there and you might as well not even call it Spectrum.

Middle school Spectrum means what? No more advanced classes, that's what. Again, blending and "clustering" to the point where being gifted means nothing. Is that what education in Seattle has come to, where nobody is gifted, nobody is special ed, nobody is different?

Kids are not unaware of differences, they live it at school. Calling a kid gifted should be no more stigmatizing than saying a kid plays the oboe well, or plays volleyball well or is in a wheelchair or can't read.

With it's labeling and, yes, smart shaming, the district sows seeds of division. HC kids and parents want simply an education that challenges, that motivates, sometimes even an education that merely distracts students from doing troublesome activities.

If such education was offered at neighborhood schools, their would be no HCC, nobody would go.

Putting Wyeth Jesse in charge of Advanced Learning is way worse than a dog in a manger(a sheepdog would actually protect the lambs), it's like putting a Vegan in charge of a slaughterhouse, he disagrees in principle with what is going on, feels "sympathy" for the "victims", and will try anything to subvert the operation.

Please, please, write the Board. I think we have firm ally in Director Peters, she understands the problems that "blended learning" creates for those on the upper end of the bell curve.

HC parent

Watching said...

What a mess. Harris and Peters get it right:

"Director Harris brought up Spectrum again and noted that Sealth started blended honors 4 years ago and there is no data on how that is going. She said the lack of consistency is unfair to everyone."

For years, we have watched the district dismantle Spectrum. The time for patience has run out.

Anonymous said...

"I'm also sick of being labeled a racist and elitist. I don't care who is in the cohort as long as they are gifted, it's a gifted program after all!"

I completely agree. Ask many parents and they WANT ethnic and racial diversity. Look at Lakeside for example, which is very desirable for "white" parents and there are large amounts of affluent Asian & Indian kids that attend. Many "white" parents also have their kids in Bellevue schools with very high (middle & upper class) Asian populations. Many White parents send their kid to Garfield.

Socio-economic differences in the classroom hmmm, not so much. I have heard some people have reservations about as they assume kids less prepared (many are), or think schools with many poor kids have higher drug use which is probably not the case.

But focusing on race instead seems to be somewhat of a smoke screen for the important discussion of how we feel about class in the US. Change will not happen until we focus on poverty of all groups (including white & asian) as a society.

Anonymous said...

What is the best way to facilitate group advocacy for HCC? Through HCC school PTA's or through the HCC Advisory Committee? I haven't heard from the HCC Advisory Committee regarding their latest position on the topics of the Cascadia split, middle school pathways, equity and adhoc advocacy groups proposing changes to testing and eligibility. Do they represent the community, or is group advocacy on these topics left up to the individual schools?


Anonymous said...


You reminded me of the tired litany from downtown about "racial disparity" in HC. MLK and even Malcom X wanted a color-blind society. A society where, for example, a movie about colonial America would have a black man playing George Washington.

As an aside,I see those Garfield students kneeling during the National Anthem and I have to wonder how much pressure is on those kids to conform.

IMHO the National Anthem should be retired and replaced with a song that wasn't written by a white supremacist and slave-holder and has a verse about killing slaves who are fighting for freedom. It is a disrespect for descendants of slavery and all who abhor the sordid American past practice of raising humans the way we currently raise food animals.

But always talking about race in the same sentence as HCC is misguided and wrong. Nobody goes to HCC to escape certain kids based on race or any other criteria. Parents choose the cohort for academic reasons. Again, if the needs of the gifted were met at neighborhood schools... but that isn't happening.

The AL department should show us the data. Anybody can guess with confidence that self-contained classrooms for gifted students produce better academic outcomes. That much should be obvious. Are HC identified students who do stay at neighborhood schools succeeding and if so, is it in spite of "clustering" or because of "clustering"?

Are cohorted students having problems with socio-emotional development?

Again, if there was a way to acknowledge and develop the abilities of the gifted at local schools, it would be so much better. But, until we see some data, we must assume parents are leaving for the cohort because their children do better there.

Director Peters and Director Harris need to demand data from the AL office. For example, what happened to Spectrum kids at the middle schools when ELA was blended?
How are HC kids doing who don't cohort? Do they ever measure the happiness of kids? Empathy or social awareness?

I know if I was director I would demand data on groups of students who are in and out of the cohort. Every kid has a paper trail, discipline, grades, test scores, teacher comments - where is the data? Why won't directors demand the data?

One more item. The picking of winners and losers. Such a biased interpretation.

Of course gifted programs were originated and promoted in the 60's and 70's as a way to nurture the ranks of cold war scientists in our contest with the USSR, so in that respect the "winners" were "picked". Those days are over and Seattle Public Schools needs to get some kids out there saving our planet from destruction by pollution and holy war. We can't allow our best and brightest to languish in stultifying gened classrooms - we can't allow any kids to have to sit through boring and uninspiring classes, gifted or not.

SPS, make neighborhood schools great for all learners and the cohort will wither.

Also, what about the "good" schools like Hazel Wolf and TOPS? Any data on how the kids do who come out of those schools? How many HC at those schools?

Data, data, data. The directors don't seem interested in data for some reason. They are allowed to see student info I would assume.

HC parent

Anonymous said...

Danielle last time I looked kids qualified for bcc. It not in the cohort actually scored better on state tests than those in the program. I wasn't surprised, I guess, as I think the program is academically weak. It needs commitment from the managers of the district to strengthen the classroom curriculums. I don't think it will happen though as it isn't their priority.

Another opinion I don't think parents of our HCcers should refer to them as the Best and Brightest. They are able to reach the testing bar for the program. That's all we should say. I know many children outside our program who are both fantastic and smart as I am certain we all do. We will alienate more adults than the ones who already want to dismantle the program if we use Best or Brightest.

One mom

Anonymous said...

I meant to address HC parent. Apologies.

One mom

Anonymous said...

@one mom--just wondering if there is a group advocating for improvements to advance learning policy or if it is left to individuals and schools. I haven't heard much from the HCC Advisory Committee and wonder if there is a parent taskforce out there, similar to the Capacity Taskforce.


Anonymous said...

One mom, at least when I say best and brightest I am not referring to hcc students. I am referring to whoever is the best and brightest at many disciplines- science, arts, politics- and I use the phrase to say it is in all of our interests to make sure kids with talent to offer have it developed so the next generation will actually have solutions to our problems, instead of capped so everyone only has the same very basic level skill at many things but are excellent at nothing. One of many ways we do that is offer an accelerated curriculum to kids who demonstrate talent in one area, some of whom may be the best and brightest at science or math or whatever. But no, not remotely all or probably even most.


Anonymous said...

HC Parent et al,

"We can't allow our best and brightest to languish in stultifying gened classrooms - we can't allow any kids to have to sit through boring and uninspiring classes, gifted or not."

It would be good if we could stop using the phrase "best and brightest" for academically high achieving students. These kids are not better than others. They have different educational needs. Same with the loaded term "gifted".

It is also enormously disrespectful to students and teachers in our gen ed classrooms to say that they are boring, stultifying, uninspiring. There is creative teaching and eager learning in classrooms all over this district. There is not some magical school where the kids ride unicorns at recess while kids at other schools are learning in grim Dickensian environments.

This perception is the crux of the false "equity" issue. Are HCC kids getting amazing teachers that gen ed kids don't get? No. We have good teachers teaching at every ability level, and each child should be taught at their appropriate level.

You also really can't compare test scores between HC eligible kids within the cohort and those who stay at neighborhood schools. Uncohorted kids participate in weeks of focused test prep at their home schools. The cohort does almost none, beyond the computer tutorial that shows how to navigate the test program. The demographics of these groups are slightly skewed. High achieving kids (often girls) who are neurotypical, well behaved and have strong social connections tend to be the ones who stay in their home schools. Lively boys and twice-exceptional students tend to be pointed toward the cohort sooner. These are often the ones who have no patience to sit still for the test, rush, and score lower.

So comparing these scores to judge the efficacy of the cohort model is fallacious, and an inappropriate use of the test.

open ears

Anonymous said...

@ Danielle, the HCC Advisory Committee isn't an advocacy group. They don't do a lot of outreach to the community, and in my experience they tend to go along with whatever the district wants.

As for PTAs at HCC schools, remember that most HCC schools also serve non-HCC students, so their PTAs are not HCC-focused as well (except for TM, whose PTA seems to have HCC in its sights). PTAs seem to have bought into the us-them mentality and think that if they advocate on behalf of their HCC students they are advocating against everyone else. Maybe it's school administrators pressuring them to stay out of it, or maybe it's fear of what the "other" parents will say. Whatever the case, HCC advocacy has been a tough one.

What we really need is an HCC parent group that spans all regions and addresses elementary, middle and high school issues.


Anonymous said...

Apologies all,
didn't even notice the phrase, it's such a cliche figure of speech, I'm not sure where it came from, maybe my sub-conscious, anyways sorry. No kids are better, purely subjective, but brighter and gifted are just synonyms for Highly Capable, right?

Hc parent

Anonymous said...

One mom - best and brightest does not bother me as much as this statement -

" I know many children outside our program who are both fantastic and smart as I am certain we all do."

Sounds like Trump talking about illegal immigrants from Mexico - "and I'm sure some of them are decent people"

ALL CHILDREN outside "our" program are fantastic and smart, just as I guess ALL CHILDREN inside "our" program are fantastic and smart (or so you say).

This kind of labeling is what give HCC parents a bad name. You know who is in your program and they are vetted and okay. And you know who is not in your program. It sets up a weird dynamic.

OTP, by choice

SPS Mom said...

The assumption that HCC qualified kids who stayed in non-HCC classrooms are getting "weeks of focused test prep" is an assumption and is wrong in my experience with my HCC qualified child at Hazel Wolf. Please don't put forth your assumptions without any evidence.

Charlie Mas said...

The Best and the Brightest (1972) is an account by journalist David Halberstam of the origins of the Vietnam War published by Random House. The focus of the book is on the erroneous foreign policy crafted by the academics and intellectuals who were in John F. Kennedy's administration, and the disastrous consequences of those policies in Vietnam. The title referred to Kennedy's "whiz kids"—leaders of industry and academia brought into the Kennedy administration—whom Halberstam characterized as arrogantly insisting on "brilliant policies that defied common sense" in Vietnam, often against the advice of career U.S. Department of State employees.

Best and brightest, to my mind, has always been a term used ironically and derisively. I am astonished when I see it used un-ironically. I conclude that any person using it that way is ignorant of its origin and true meaning.

Anonymous said...

Good points made. Calling the program gifted or highly capable sets it up for
some of this animosity. Why don't we suggest calling it instead NAA "Needs Academic Acceleration". Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I so wish this amount of attention was focused on Cedar Park and the educational needs of the majority of students in SPS and not just this cohort of students. - CapHill Parent

Anonymous said...

Better yet-- In some states "gifted is under special ed". Unless this interferes with our state law special ed guidelines, Special Needs Academic Acceleration.

Outsider said...

Regarding Melissa's original notes on the meeting, you have to step back and notice how bizarre it was. How can so many smart, experienced adults spend two hours talking in circles, spouting platitudes and nonsense, getting nowhere? There must have been elephants in the room. To start with, consider two foundational points:

1) Advanced learning is not a naturally scarce commodity. It's not like gold, where SPS could say sorry we dug and dug and that's all we could find in the ground. Advanced learning can be offered in any quantity they choose. The shortage is artificial, created by the district and by the board.

2) Offering all students appropriate challenging work is not mysterious or difficult. Schools used to do it without difficulty There is even a name for it. The name is tracking.

The problem the board has created for itself is that they oppose tracking but support advanced learning in some manner. What that effectively means is: they want to provide appropriate challenging work only to some students, and others they want held back in service of equity. Their challenge is: deciding who the lucky ones will be; justifying that choice; coming up with a screening process that will let through only the favored ones not the others; and giving it all a name that helps to sell it. They talk in circles and founder because none of this is possible and none of them have the courage to admit it. Such a policy could never be justified and is difficult to run (because everyone will fight and complain and game the system in a hundred ways).

The board has made this mess for themselves. You can't let them off by saying the bureaucrats have rolled them or played them. The staff have a natural advantage because their goal is clear and coherent: they would prefer not to offer above-grade-level instruction to anyone.

That is one elephant in the room, but there is probably another. The district has loudly committed itself to closing the opportunity gap, which they measure as the rate of black students passing the SBAC. If the top 5% of students of color are skimmed off into a self-contained cohort, the classroom environment will be weakened in the schools they leave behind -- so says all the current orthodox ed theory. So there is reason to worry that diversifying HCC would undermine gap closure. One suspects that teachers and principals in "impacted" schools wouldn't be happy to see their best students removed.

I could spot only one honest statement in the whole set of notes from the meeting:

"Director Blanford then offered another question from someone, 'What does the program do for kids not in the program?' ... He said how do kids experience tracking and what are the implications of that? He said it was stigmatizing."

Anonymous said...

I am appreciative of this discussion.

My son was not counseled out of his classroom early. He is HCC qualified but not in the cohort. He received a day of test prep last year. It was an introduction to how the test would be run. That is it. So I am a personal experience myth buster on a couple of the above assumptions.

The primary reason we did not join the cohort was the diversity issue that is being talked about. We are not minority in race or class, but we expect it is likely our children will live in a world where they may be minorities in both areas. We could not accept putting them into a program that would not offer access to fellow students who were not demographic cookie cutters of ours. If the argument that strength of a program is a cohort, how can deep learning about life around us happen in a largely homogeneous cohort?

We used information from the state to help us understand the makeup of the cohort our child might have joined. It deviates significantly from the population within Seattle schools, the city, and almost certainly our children's future. ="http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?schoolId=7778&OrgType=4&reportLevel=School&year=2015-16&yrs=2015-16>"Here is a link to information on Cascadia.

I offer this not as a rebuke to parents who made different decisions for their children but to explain that this is a powerful blog, but it is also representative of only some voices in the Seattle schools community. My life toggles between white families of at least a modicum of economic resources, and non-white families with little to no resources. The animosity toward HCC from the latter group, when they are even aware of the program, is significant.

I believe most staff within the system range from ignorant to ambivalent to antagonistic toward HCC.

I think it is a shame that HCC has not been supported nor does it appear to be strong. There is a place for accelerated learning in our system. But listening to voices outside the program, and having made a non-HCC choice, I do believe the makeup and delivery of the program, starting with the makeup, will have to change in order to have any hope of stronger offerings for our students who wish or need significantly "different/more" in the classroom.

I hope the discussion of qualification and demographic representation in the program can happen soon, and that it can happen with leadership and thoughtfulness and a commitment to action instead of powerpoints and pandering. Set a goal for a year of review and action and get the changes in place the following enrollment period. We need to take this first step to get to the second step, which would be strong curriculum and committed teachers in all HCC classrooms.


Anonymous said...

I failed to do a good job on that state link.
Here is a second try.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"I so wish this amount of attention was focused on Cedar Park and the educational needs of the majority of students in SPS and not just this cohort of students. - CapHill Parent"

I hope that was directed at the commenters and not this blog because we have now - for a decade - stood for better educational outcomes for ALL students in this district. I have repeatedly put up info on Cedar Park and what the outcomes will be for students at Cedar Park and its surrounding region.

"One suspects that teachers and principals in "impacted" schools wouldn't be happy to see their best students removed."

Good points, Polly.

Exactly so and that has been an issue for years and years.

Anonymous said...

@ Polly,

It has been posted on several threads that while HCC doesn't look like the rest of SPS, it does look exactly like Seattle and the neighborhoods that feed the program.

Parts of Seattle are very diverse but most of Seattle is homogeneous.

HCC is not the problem. It all goes back to the days of redlining in Seattle.

- KT.

Anonymous said...

Again...Cascadia is MORE diverse than many north Seattle neighborhood schools.

Move On

Anonymous said...

"If the top 5% of students of color are skimmed off into a self-contained cohort, the classroom environment will be weakened in the schools they leave behind -- so says all the current orthodox ed theory."

Really? a kid who scores in the 94th percentile can't be a role model? Surely if those outliers are served in a self contained program the classroom environment is strengthened because the teacher's energies are less divided than if they had to serve extreme outliers. Plenty of bright academically oriented students would remain.

open ears

Anonymous said...

It just isn't so "Move On". Not according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. I too have looked into this. Using the same data from Polly's working link. Cascadia is less diverse in income and race than any Ship Canal North feeder school I have examined. I could have missed one I suppose, but the larger point stands. I agree we should fix it and step up the program quality.

I have also, thank you to Charlie, looked at a sample of the CSIPs that Wyeth claimed show ALOs at every school. Bunch of bunk. I don't know if I'll have time to post on it, but advanced learning is not offered at every school. Not by a long shot.

One mom

Jet City mom said...

Polly, the hostility towards the HCC program concerns me.
My kids were first gen college, and our family put all our eggs in the education basket, counting on education as the key to giving our kids opportunities that they wouldnt without it. Which it has.
I know that sentiment is shared with many families with dreams for their children.
I dont think HCC is everything it could or should be, but if we want HCC classrooms to look more like a randomly chosen classroom, then we need to find out why some folks feel hostile toward the opportunity of the HCC program.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Charlie, I feel chastised and humbled by your knowledge of literature. I was barely out of diapers in 1972. I do think, however, the phrase "best and brightest"has entered the language in a non-ironic sense. A quick google will confirm that.

HC parent

Anonymous said...

Okay...@OneMom, I missed some data, I'm quite surprised.So, bring in a cohort of diverse kids scoring 95%+, or something like that, and begin building a bridge. The families at Cascadia are their for academics and I'm sure ideas to improve diversity in a thoughtful way would be embraced, as long as it doesn't mean limiting access to those who need it. If the neighborhood schools provided more support to advanced learners, more white people would stay and more diverse students would qualify. Dumbing down neighborhood schools is the crux of the problem. This isn't rocket science.

Move On

Anonymous said...

One fairly easy change (and one that many, many other bigger cities do and have done for years) is to make HCC non-grade accelerated in the younger grades. Enrich, but not accelerate. You can admit based on aptitude then and not achievement which gives you a better ability to help give a box to the shorter kids trying to peek over the fence - aka disadvantaged kids. You can decide to do this based on race, socioeconomics and/or both. You can provide additional academic supports to those who need them. And then accelerate in the later grades when kids really separate.

Perhaps it is just because it is so different than the system I grew up with, but all of this endless support for a program that accelerates so quickly, but for such a short period seems silly. Beyond the extreme disparities in who is admitted, the program is broken and clearly favors kids who enter very well prepared. And then it offers them what? Race ahead quickly only to fall back to mostly the standard curriculum? Why! What a mess.

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

@NE Parent: send your idea to the board. So much mud slinging, so few useful suggestions. You may have the gen of an idea they decide to use to change policy and improve the district!

Chasing tails

Lynn said...

NE Parent,

If students were admitted based on aptitude scores only, the proportion of white students in HCC would increase. (The head of advanced learning has shared this.)

Anonymous said...

What concerns me, and should concern everyone, about the attack on HCC is that it is at root an attack on specialized education services to meet the needs of different students. It's an attack on the idea that not all children are the same, that children do not learn the same, and that each child should be given the instruction they need in order to learn and thrive.

The JSCEE wants to impose a single, uniform, standardized curriculum on the entire district, one that treats every child as exactly the same. This is behind their attack on advanced learning and their attack on option schools. (Or am I the only one who remembers the racist attack on Middle College?)

Under such a uniform and standardized system, children's needs will not be met. If a child does not conform to the standard model, they will be punished, deemed as a failure, denied services, and not given the instruction they need. So whatever your view on HCC, and while HCC is far from perfect, just know that if it dies, they won't stop there. Whatever program or service your child needs will come under attack too - just as EEU did last year, and for the same reason.

Non-HCC Parent

Charlie Mas said...

There was, for a time, an effort to do just as NE Parent suggested. Spectrum eligibility in grades K-2 was made aptitude only without regard to achievement. It was supposed to make the program more diverse.

As a lot of people have noted, intelligence is dynamic. It can be nurtured and grown, or it can be starved and stunted. As one would expect, even when academic achievement was removed as a criteria, more Spectrum-eligible students were found among the children whose development was supported than were found among the children whose development was interrupted.

Some people call it "preparation", as it if were some sort of unfair test prep or cram school. That's not what it's about. It's the same steps anyone caring for children should take to foster their development. On the other side, poverty has negative consequences on child development. Is there anyone who will claim otherwise?

The disproportionate representation of African-American and Latino children in HCC and Spectrum is attributable to a number of factors. None of those factors, however, are caused by any decisions or actions by the District and they certainly aren't due to decisions or actions made by anyone in the HCC or Advanced Learning community. The animosity towards the community is baseless and needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

"The disproportionate representation of African-American and Latino children in HCC and Spectrum is attributable to a number of factors. None of those factors, however, are caused by any decisions or actions by the District and they certainly aren't due to decisions or actions made by anyone in the HCC or Advanced Learning community. The animosity towards the community is baseless and needs to stop."

Perhaps the district knows this also is true. However the achievement gap is the important issue of our day and they are concerned about "appearances". Supporting middle class kids who in Seattle happen to also be white or asian with appropriate accelerated curriculum is somehow tied into this equation. It is tied in with the discourse of our country right now with Black lives matter. So the response is let's just ignore middle class kids who are academically accelerated. Better yet, let's tinker with the program and try to show we are "doing something" in the name of equity. Maybe it will serve to show the public "we are doing something" about the achievment gap. SPS has no control over class or other issues in our society that lead to this problem. Nor should they pretend.

Anonymous said...

The answer is so frustratingly clear: we need special services targeted to high-performing students from underrepresented groups--students who don't meet the eligibility criteria for AL, but who are outliers in their subgroup (e.g., race, poverty level, ELL). Give them the extra support they need so that they, too, can ultimately qualify for HCC.

why not

Anonymous said...

Why Not-- There is "Rainier Scholars" that provides this kind of support. However, I should qualify that poor whites are not targeted/included. Poor kids of all races/ethnicities should be in my opinion. It is a group focused on "students of color" which also includes Asians. 15% are not low income according to their stats.

Lynn said...

I think that staff at high poverty schools wouldn't support that. When they have a large number of students who are failing academically, teachers and admin are reluctant to devote time to even thinking about meeting the needs of students who aren't failing. Most adults who spend their days knee deep in this crisis are not going to be motivated to do it by a desire to make equity-obsessed white parents feel better either.

Anonymous said...

Some of y'all are starting to get it.
A program made up of white folks of privilege needs to bring in other folks. But other folks aren't so up for joining a program without kids and families like theirs. Y'all want folks to trust that their kids will be welcome but how many of y'all are willing to ship your kids south to get a spot at Beach for IB if Ingraham is full up or Cleveland for STEM? Don't talk to me about inconvenience. It's about belonging. Folks are getting real on race and class in this city. We've gotta do better in Seattle schools in getting out of our segregated neighborhoods, folks of color and whites and poors and middles and richies alike. HCC ain't cutting it right now. I don't have the fix but talking about it together is something good for a start.


Charlie Mas said...

@why not, your proposal is not new. It has been proposed any number of times before. The problem lies in implementation. It would mean spending time, money, and effort to support students who are working at or beyond grade level in high poverty schools.

As Lynn has noted, there is no interest in these schools to support students working beyond grade level. All of their care and urgency goes to supporting students working below grade level. The best evidence of this complete lack of interest can be seen in the totally absent ALO programs in these schools.

Wing Luke's Spectrum program is a Focus Area in their CSIP. This is what it is supposed to look like.

Graham Hill's is also good, if vague.

At Dunlap, the SMART goal for their ALO listed in their CSIP is:
"For intermediate students in Advanced Learning programs we will increase the percentage of ALO students exceeding standard in reading on the state assessment from 12.7% to 32.7%. The person responsible for this goal is Winifred Todd."

That's the best of rest.

Emerson's CSIP has no mention of any effort to support advanced students. No mention in the CSIP from MLK or South Shore.
There's a Focus Area for Advanced Learning in the Van Asselt CSIP, but it is blank. Simply blank.

The CSIP for Rainier View has a section on their ALO, and it says they will do Walk to Math and Walk to Read. It also says that they will measure progress with attendance data and the professional development in support of the ALO will be around asthma, seizures, and anti-bullying.

The fact is that the schools in Southeast Seattle have higher priorities than supporting high performing students.

Charlie Mas said...

Southie wrote:
"A program made up of white folks of privilege needs to bring in other folks."

Great. How? Oh, right. "I don't have the fix but talking about it together is something good for a start."

Yes. Let's talk about it. Here's what you wanted to say to HCC families in the North:
"how many of y'all are willing to ship your kids south to get a spot at Beach for IB if Ingraham is full up or Cleveland for STEM? Don't talk to me about inconvenience."

So inconvenience - the inconvenience of a two transfer, 70 minute daily commute each way (starting at 6:25am) to get from the northend to the southend - is not an excuse you will accept for people choosing not to enroll their child at Rainier Beach High School. Are you for real? Do you really think that Rainier Beach High School is so attractive that kids should ride a bus past Roosevelt, Garfield, Franklin, and Cleveland to get there? Really? Every other student in Seattle should attend their neighborhood high school, but you want to scoff at HCC families for not choosing to subject their children to eleven hours a week on the bus 180 days a year for four years for the glory of attending Rainier Beach?


And why should they do this? "It's about belonging." Pardon me if I'm not sold on the plan. I guess it's my privilege that I just can't get past.

How would you feel about it if it were suggested that south-end families didn't need IB at Rainier Beach because they could enroll their children at Ingraham if they wanted that program - and don't talk to us about inconvenience, it's about belonging?

How about we start the conversation by having a little understanding of other people's situation? How about we don't start the conversation by demanding that other people do all the work? How about we start with the presumption of good intent, that everyone is doing their best for their children and for all children?

Anonymous said...

@southie--how nice it must be to have a STEM high school and close proximity to Garfield, PLUS IB and Sealth.

Stop already

monkeypuzzled said...

I wish I had more useful thoughts about diversity in HCC, but I just want to remind everyone there are many different kinds of diversity and many different kinds of equity.

My oldest daughter is 2e, with an autism spectrum disorder and an extremely high (top .5%ile) verbal IQ. She is single-domain gifted though (has a math disability) so was never allowed access to any kind of advanced learning in elementary. Elementary was tough for her: she was depressed, anxious, actively suicidal by third grade. A suicidal third grader is ... a difficult thing. Fought our way into LA/SS HCC (it's her LRE!) in middle school where she has excelled both academically and emotionally. Since preschool B has received OT, PT, social skills groups, neuropysch counseling, and meds. None of these treatment modalities--not one--has ever been as effective as allowing her to access advanced learning. She wakes up excited and happy to go school. For the first time I can picture her as a successful adult who can attend college and live independently.

For some kids this advanced-learning stuff is truly life-or-death business.

Anonymous said...

Southie, people are talking about it - and are proposing solutions. A few years ago a task force on advanced learning came up with a bunch of solutions to lack of diversity within the program that the district ignored. This year a bunch of parents and community members have come up with more solutions, including a return to in-school advanced learning programs so that kids don't have to leave their neighborhood schools. SPS is ignoring this too.

SPS staff are hell-bent on destroying HCC. They don't want *any* advanced learning at all because it gets in the way of them imposing computerized, standardized learning for all kids. But those staff have also figured out that they can take the reasonable concerns about equity and use that as a battering ram to destroy the program and impose solutions that we know for a fact will make inequities much worse.

There are many, many kids of color who should be in advanced learning but aren't. Parents want to solve that. But the district's leadership doesn't. They want to deny kids of color access to advanced learning by destroying the program. How does that help anyone? How does that end inequities and end decades of structural racism in this city?

If SPS gets their way, what you'll see is a massive white flight from SPS schools. We can argue against that and try to stop it all we want, but if parents want advanced learning for their kids, they will get it one way or another. So why not make that desire work for us and work for equity by harnessing that to solutions, not just words, that actually make advanced learning more inclusive?

Non-HCC Parent

Anonymous said...

I also had a suicidal third grader, monkeypuzzled, and the hcc also very, very literally saved his life, though I don't feel we are out of the woods yet. I'm sorry you had to fight to access advanced learning. That should be basic. I feel I am fighting for my son's life when I fight for this program. He can score high on a test, though, and I'm white, so I'm very clear that we are of no interest to the district and it might be easier for them if he did a little worse. It's isolating.

Mental Diversity

Anonymous said...

Charlie south folks did ship their kids north for years and years until Seattle schools declared back to your neighborhoods. We did do the hour trip. South kids did go to Ingraham and Hamilton and Mercer and all the other places that some folks in those neighborhoods said were bad schools back then. They were still better than what we had then and we had enough kids headed that way that it kinda worked, the mix of all kinds of kids. That's done now. The north APP folks do ship their kids south too. Kinda south. Garfield. Enough of a group that they feel comfortable coming. It can happen.

My point was to have north folks stop and think why the rest of the city isn't begging to join the program right now. A program they need minorities to join if it is to keep going.
If you can't see that HCC is looked at as a program of white privilege and that the data supports the perception, then we can't move forward on getting kids of color and poverty into the program. We need kids of color and low income in the program to get more kids of color in the program. It's a nasty circle and we can't begin to fix it without straight talk.


Anonymous said...

Southie-- For years and years HCC kids from all over the city trekked out of their neighborhoods to Garfield, a school in which they were a minority, out of their neighborhood. HCC families are just trying to have their kids receive curriculum that is appropriate and they do need a critical amount of kids who need the same to offer enough classes/sections to make schedules work.Please do not make this about race, at least on the HCC families part. It is not the issue. Yet, I have a black friend who told me to send my child to Franklin not Garfield as Garfield is more "gentrified". I would love to see Franklin and other schools offer as many sections of AP classes as Garfield.
-a parent

Anonymous said...

A Parent and your fellows guess I am not making myself clear. I accept that for you HCC isn't about race. Sure. You are a well intentioned parent as are most in the program. You want academic challenge for your kid and your kid probably wants it too. It's about the academic level and quality. Simple.

That's why I'm on this chat. I'm here to tell you it's not that simple. You want it to be. Maybe it could be. But it's not. This is about race and class. Not from your viewpoint. From the view of those not in the program. If they even think about it because for some it isn't in their sights at all. Because race and class.

Until those not in the program are in the program, it will keep falling apart. And the program isn't bringing these peeps because white north parents as a whole aren't getting the race and class problem. Seattle schools managers recognize it, but they are doing a crap job of doing something about it. They can't even explain it. Which is why I have to sit here typing.


Anonymous said...

@southie--how is sending a white kid in a bus 3 hours a day to sit in a classroom in south Seattle going to encourage black or Hispanic kids to pursue advanced learning?

Solutions Please

Anonymous said...

Self-selecting honors programs could be a way to deliver advanced learning equitably at least at the middle school level. It could be offered at all middle schools. An even better idea would be to require all middle schoolers to try honors classes.

Chris S. said...

I can confirm that test-prep happens in one comprehensive/gen ed middle school: if you're working ahead in math, you spend a week on grade-level math before the SBAC, which, remember, is grade-level. Yes, I would assume most schools do it. The incentives are very clear. I think the argument they are trying to make with that slide is completely bogus. The assumption that the two groups are comparable just doesn't fly on so many levels.

Anonymous said...

I think there should be more focus on preschool and early ed specifically in south seattle and let the HCC program grow! Stop trying to limit potential of one group of students with the misguided belief that will send resources to another. The HCC program is lacking resources...it costs less than gen ed...the kids are not elite and they don't get more...they just get what they need academically and emotionally, as every child should.

Coulda shoulda

Anonymous said...


I accept your premise, it's definitely a class and race issue, although I would argue more of the former than the latter. What action could I take to ameliorate that situation? I grew up in poverty but partially because of my white privilege I am raising children that have just about every privilege you could name. I am glad that they are were put in a MUCH MORE Diverse school in JAMS HCC. I fail to see how moving them to the much wealthier and whiter Eckstein would help. I promise I'm not being dense, but I don't see how it is a parent issue and not a district one to fix this problem.

Least Restrictive.

Anonymous said...

I think the points raised by Southie fit into the broader issues of race and privilege in our country. If race is transparent to you - if you don't have to think about it - then that is a sign that you are the beneficiary of white privilege. It doesn't matter that you didn't ask for it. You got it, and it's important to understand the views of people who by no choice of their own have to think about race on a daily basis.

big picture

Anonymous said...

Big Picture-- There are all sorts of privilege in this country, not just related to race AND class is a big one that seems to get ignored alot in recent discourse. My husband ended up in the back of a class when they did a privilege exercise in his college class 10 years ago, behind many people of color. Take a step forward if your parents owned a home, another step if your parents went to college etc. When will America actually address class? And I mean the issues of poverty facing people of all races. For those of you who have lived in Seattle all your life and do not travel, I bet it would surprise you to learn the vast majority of poor people in America are white. In fact 1/3. This is because there are more Whites in our country. However, there is much higher proportion of African Americans and other people of color living in poverty relative to their population than whites. For example, did anyone else read the national geographic article about hunger in America? http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/hunger/
Here is another from the National Center For Children in Poverty- http://www.nccp.org/media/releases/release_34.html

Outsider said...

To me, Southie's argument is very unclear. Are there black students or families that want into HCC but are denied? Getting a list of these would be very persuasive, much more than discussing in blog comments. If black students could simply opt in to HCC with no screening criteria at all, how many would do it?

One could imagine three possible solutions to the race mix of HCC:

1) Let students of color opt into HCC without testing, so it becomes impossible to say there is any barrier. (That might have legal problems, but it's easy from a practical standpoint.) Anyone who feels up to the program can join.

2) Create an additional program designed to accelerate students of color, either with a testing gateway or simple opt-in. This program could be designed by minority advocates to give students who choose the program exactly what they need or want.

3) Fundamentally change HCC so lots of students of color will fit there, both culturally and academically. That's another way of saying end HCC, and replace it at the middle school level with some sort of opt-in honors like in North Shore.

I am guessing Southie means (3), end HCC. And even that tends to be not inclusive enough for equity advocates in the long run as they pursue complete leveling via honors for all/none.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Until those not in the program are in the program, it will keep falling apart."

No. HCC is troubled, not because of the mechanics of the program but because the district has 1) ignored it for years 2) moved it around for years and 3) frankly, doesn't seem to know what it is doing.

The program is sought after; there can be no denying that.

But the district needs to talk to families of color - both in the program and not in the program - about why they do not make the choice to test and then enroll their child. Is it about the transportation? Maybe but other HCC parents have been busing their kids for years.

"If race is transparent to you.."

What does this phrase mean?

Anonymous said...

I personally wish Southie would just stick a sock in it. HCC is full of kids of color and low income kids. We used to drive two hours per day and pick up other low income HCC kids in the program and take them to school with our kid to access the HCC program. These kids had no other way to get to school except the city bus and their parents didn't even speak english reliably enough to complain to the district. Southie's comments perfectly exemplify the Dunning–Kruger effect where individuals who know nothing about a subject actually feel very confident speaking definitively on said subject.

Rainier Scholars and programs like them should be expanded and I do not think such programs should be available to all kids. These programs will do more to get underrepresented kids educationally prepared and into AL programs. Oh wait - AL programs have been eliminated because.....equity.


Anonymous said...

@ charlie, you said my proposal "is not new. It has been proposed any number of times before. The problem lies in implementation. It would mean spending time, money, and effort to support students who are working at or beyond grade level in high poverty schools."

Yes indeed. So? If we have a goal of reducing disparities--even a SMART goal, with money, apparently--why not do something that might actually...reduce disparities?

As you and Lynn pointed out, "there is no interest in these schools to support students working beyond grade level. All of their care and urgency goes to supporting students working below grade level. The best evidence of this complete lack of interest can be seen in the totally absent ALO programs in these schools."

Yes. So don't make it a program in neighborhood schools. Pick a few schools as the regional sites--schools that are close to the target populations, in terms of both location and cultural fit. It could be like HCC, but for different population. Or maybe it's more like the gifted program I was in as a kid, where were were occasionally bused to another school for special programming--like "walk to's" on steroids. Or maybe it's an expansion/modification of Rainier Scholars, I don't know. But clearly, we need something else. And yes, it will cost money. Maybe instead of that ridiculous interactive program mapping they are planning they could put some money toward education instead.

why not

Sigh said...

I'm white and grew-up poor. I wasn't tracked into honors. Does southie consider me privileged based upon my skin color?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sigh, yes,you are still privileged. It's is an interesting thing to not talk about economic privilege.

Anonymous said...

Southie is talking past people. Ending advanced learning in SPS is simply not an option. It is not an act of white privilege to insist that every child has their needs met in our public schools.

Whether HCC is the best way to deliver it is another matter. Southie seems to be assuming that the only possible options are HCC or nothing, when in fact HCC's current popularity stems from the elimination of other advanced learning options. It is more likely that restoring Spectrum would help address this problem because then you're no longer asking parents to send their children away from their neighborhood. The lack of representative diversity in HCC is the fault of SPS decisions, NOT the fault of the parents who enroll their child in the program.

Race and class do matter. Kids of color need advanced learning too. SPS's desire to just give all kids the exact same curriculum and deny them any specialized learning that meets their individual needs would be terrible for equity and racial justice. White families will simply flee the district and get those needs met elsewhere. But many kids of color won't be able to do that.

So let's go look at the previous reports and parent proposals to maintain and improve advanced learning and bring more kids of color into the system. This can be done. And it must be done.

Non-HCC Parent

Sigh said...

My siblings and their didn't make their way out of poverty. I agree, the discussion of economic privilege is absent.

Anonymous said...

@sigh-but does a cop walk up to you from behind and call you a loser if you're sitting on a park bench in the middle of the day? Probably not. This happens when you're black and it's not okay.

White privilege is real, even if you're dirt poor. You simply don't have the same barriers.

belly breath

Sigh said...

I don't deny the injustices to AA and I don't deny that cops haven't roughed-up white people, either.

Anonymous said...

Here is what SPS should do:

1). Preserve HCC for what it is.

2). Grow HCC for what it is.

3). Provide resources to help underrepresented students to acquire the skills that are needed to pass the test(s) for HCC entry.

4). Provide free or low-cost (but with QUALITY) preschool programs to help youngsters build social skills so that they can be school-ready.

5). Ask the families of underrepresented students what they need (through focus groups/surveys/interviews); as someone said earlier, don't make assumptions.

6). Have the SPS Board of Directors get to work and make some decisions now. And don't let Mr. Jessee run another work session. Sheesh . . .what a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous (unsigned) who says HCC needs to expand AND that we need low cost high quality preschool programs AND that we need focus groups/surveys/interviews to better understand what underserved families need and want.

I would add to that what we should really have is a GATE program - gifted and talented. Meaning that you can enter this program either though potential (Cogat/"IQ" testing) OR achievement (class performance) OR through a 3rd pathway based on teacher nomination. Another revision, especially if the entry criteria are expanded, it to have kids leave the program if it's not working for them, to be decided near the end of the academic year.

big picture

lowell parent said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lowell parent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ok, lowell parent, so you apparently don't believe in such a thing as academic giftedness. Would you at least agree that some kids are ready for grade level work, some kids aren't, and some are ready for work several years above grade level? How exactly do you expect a teacher to serve them all?

Oh, you don't. That's right--because serving advanced kids perpetuates privilege. Better to not serve them and give the other kids a chance to catch up.

And seriously, haven't we moved past the "gifted (ha ha)" and "precious gifted little angels" rhetoric? It's so childish, and undermines your point.


Anonymous said...

belly breath- I agree, it is terrible how African Americans are disproportionately targeted by police. No excuse. Terrible. But if you put a low income/homeless white, or possibly any socio background latino, Native American etc on that bench. There is evidence conflicts with police also do happen.

In addition, people of all races/ethnic groups who are poor have been discriminated against in our history. And class is a really tough one to overcome. It is intertwined with "cultural capital", world view, as well as generational wealth passed down, family value placed on education, etc.

A good friend of mine is physically handicapped, poor & female. She carries all around with her & encounters all sorts of barriers daily. Yet, the discourse does not include recognizing those of us who have able-bodied privilege, or privilege of being a native English speaker etc. There are many privileges in society. IMO we need to expand the current discourse beyond white privilege.
-Social science major

lowell parent said...

Maybe I was a little snarky, but I was at a recent meeting at Washington middle school and two Hcc parents droned on about how their kids would be inconvenienced by something that was being proposed that would affect about 150 kids. The two parents acted as if their kids need special consideration above and beyond everyone else.
This attitude is not isolated in my experience at SPS. I lived through Lowell being split up and the App parents where incensed that their kid's had to move to Lincoln. It was suggested that the local kids go to Madrona because the App kids don't take change as well as gen ed kids. I was glad when they left.
I find parents of Hcc/ App kids privileged and self involved who belive that the rest of us should make special considerations for their kids.
But my main point is in any school that my kids have been involved in, it feels as if there is a two track system
Where the best teachers teach advanced learning and the kids get a more rigorous education.
I don't think it's appropriate to carve out a minority of kids who score high on a cogat test to get special learning while the majority of kids have to learn together. Even within the gen ed kids you will have wild swings of intelligence and aptitude, but we don't have the resources for differential learning for everyone, so why do some kids get this rigor and not everyone. Seems unfair and promotes inequality.

Charlie Mas said...

why not wrote: "Pick a few schools as the regional sites--schools that are close to the target populations, in terms of both location and cultural fit. It could be like HCC, but for different population."

That was Spectrum. The District killed it.

southie wrote: "My point was to have north folks stop and think why the rest of the city isn't begging to join the program right now. A program they need minorities to join if it is to keep going."

I disagree. The problem is not that families living south of downtown aren't choosing to enroll their children in HCC. The problem is that those children are not qualifying to enroll in the program.

Also, your contention that the program needs minorities to join it to continue is not proven.

"If you can't see that HCC is looked at as a program of white privilege and that the data supports the perception, then we can't move forward on getting kids of color and poverty into the program."

I do see that HCC is perceived as a program of privilege for Whites, Asians, and the affluent. Of course I see that. People give voice to that perception every day. But just because people believe that and say that doesn't make it so.

"We need kids of color and low income in the program to get more kids of color in the program."

You seem to think that there are hundreds of qualified African-American and Latino students who qualify for HCC, but choose not to enroll because the program is unwelcoming to them. That's not the case. I provided the data which shows that the District would have to enroll every Black and African-American student who got a Level 4 score on the SBAC to reach proportionate representation in HCC. That score alone however does not qualify a student for the program.

The problem is that there should be hundreds of qualified African-American and Latino students, but there aren't. And why not? The children aren't qualifying for the program because they aren't getting the support they need to nurture their talent. When they get the support, they blossom (see Rainier Scholars) and become qualified.

That's the straight talk.

The truth is not that there are qualified minority children who are rejecting the program. The truth is that there are not enough minority children qualifying for the program.

The program is a means to address a specific pedagogical need - not a prize. The under-representation of African-American, Latino, and FRL students in the program is a symptom; it's not the disease. The disease is not privilege, but children without support. The solution is to support the children and nurture their talents. Unfortunately the schools in the southeast have more urgent matters to address, so they aren't doing that work. That work is left to Rainier Scholars.

Rainier Scholars fills an niche that was left empty by the neighborhood schools, not by the District, not by Advanced Learning, and certainly not by the HCC community. The District is now taking steps by requiring the schools to address this need and to appropriately support their students who are capable of working beyond grade level, but the schools are balking - as evidenced by the negligent way their CSIPs address the Advanced Learning Focus Area.

Charlie Mas said...

So what to do? why not suggests gathering these students in a separate school or program that will, in fact, nurture their talent. That's also what the Advanced Learning department suggests and what the experts who reviewed the program suggested. It's what everyone says that that District should do. And yet, the District doesn't do it.

Look at the data.
Wing Luke is the Spectrum site for the Aki Kurose service area. The Wing Luke Spectrum program had 35 students in the program last year. Just 35 across five grades, yet there are 3 kids who were waitlisted for 4th grade Spectrum at Wing Luke. 28 (80%) of those students live in the Wing Luke attendance area. So there were only 7 seats at Wing Luke for Spectrum students from all of the rest of the Southeast region. There were 11 Spectrum students from the Aki Kurose service area who were enrolled in Spectrum at another school. Spectrum enrollment is growing in all of the middle school service areas except Aki Kurose and Washington.

This is important. Spectrum and, where it is real, ALO, are the tool that will increase minority participation in HCC, but the schools and the district are starving it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will remind readers that this blog does not allow remarks about other people's children that are snarky, sneering, sarcastic, demeaning - you get the drift. If you don't like the parents' behavior, fine. But you leave children out of it.

Charlie Mas said...

lowell parent wrote: "But my main point is in any school that my kids have been involved in, it feels as if there is a two track system
Where the best teachers teach advanced learning and the kids get a more rigorous education.
I don't think it's appropriate to carve out a minority of kids who score high on a cogat test to get special learning while the majority of kids have to learn together. Even within the gen ed kids you will have wild swings of intelligence and aptitude, but we don't have the resources for differential learning for everyone, so why do some kids get this rigor and not everyone. Seems unfair and promotes inequality."

The schools where my kids were enrolled had a lot more than two tracks. There were at least six different levels of education presented in their elementary schools. Some kids, older ones mostly, got a very rigorous education and curriculum while the younger children were taught much simpler lessons. I don't remember thinking that it was unfair or promoted inequity, though, because the bulk of the younger children weren't ready for the fourth and fifth grade curriculum and would not have succeeded with it.

There is no HCC curriculum which is different from the general education curriculum. The HCC students are not getting any "special learning". The "more rigorous education" is just a result of grade skipping and nothing else. As for the unfairness of children having to learn together, the HCC class sizes are just as big - if not bigger - than the general education class sizes. The complaint that the children have to "learn together" makes no sense.

What does lowell parent want? To have their second grade child put in a class learning the fourth grade curriculum when the child isn't ready to succeed with it? No, lowell parent wants children ready for the fourth grade curriculum to waste their time sitting through the second grade curriculum. And whom does that serve? No one.

So here's the answer for you, lowell parent. Why do some children get that rigor and others don't? Because some children are ready to succeed with it and others aren't.

Anonymous said...

lowell parent is basically pointing out all the things that are wrong with SPS - large class sizes making differential instruction hard to deliver, lack of qualified and experienced teachers across the board, and so on. And then lowell parent blames not SPS district staff, not the board, not state legislators - they blame other parents.

Surely we can see how this is absurd.

Those parents weren't saying they needed special consideration. Just as it's not "special rights" to demand marriage equality, it's not "special consideration" when parents point out that their child has a right to have their needs met. That's true of every child in SPS. It's utterly wrong to say that when one parent fights for what their kid needs it comes at the expense of another kid. No.

Are we having a discussion about how best to deliver advanced learning in SPS? Or are we having a discussion where some resentful and jealous parents tear down other parents, other children, and the programs that serve them? Because those are not the same things.

Charlie is right: the answer is a return to Spectrum and other ALOs *in neighborhood schools*. It is becoming clear that having HCC be the only advanced learning option in SPS is not working, just as we always knew that wouldn't work from years of research across the country and within the district. This is not to say "get rid of HCC" but "restore other options" and if we did that, I'll bet we'd see much more diversity and equity.

Non-HCC Parent

Sigh said...

I've not read all the comments and I'm sorry if I inadvertently offended anyone. My intention was to ask for the conversation to be framed in the context of poverty. I believe it is not helpful to flame the fan of racism, but to acknowledge the ravages of poverty and the manner in which education and learning opportunities are impacted. Again, I'm sorry if I inadvertently offended.

lowell parent said...

If we are going to try and meet the needs of all children we should be trying to meet the needs of those children that need the most help not those that need it least.
HCC kids don't need the help as much as kids whose economic conditions don't allow them to have the same opportunities as children who don't have the same challenges. We should be focused on providing additional help to those kids and not just the most gifted.
It seems easier to provide the resources and attention to the kids whose parents have the ability to advocate for them instead of those kids who don't have have an advocate.
Saying SPS should just provide resources to all children is living in a fantasy world. We live in a world where resources are limited and should be spent on those that need them the most.

lowell parent said...

My main point is the two track system that takes place in schools that try and integrate Hcc and gen ed.

lowell parent said...

You right

Melissa Westbrook said...

"If we are going to try and meet the needs of all children we should be trying to meet the needs of those children that need the most help not those that need it least."

Public education is the backbone of this country. We have made a pledge, particularly in this state via our constitution, to serve all children.

So, we are going to provide education for ALL learners. There should be an attempt to meet the academic needs of all learners.

If there are children who need more supports, yes, of course, they get more support first if the resources are limited. And they do via local, state and federal funds. (The state does need to get McCleary done.)

But you make it sound like HCC students are getting more. They aren't. They are (sometimes) getting compacted and/or accelerated learning. That program gets a very small amount from the state but much of it goes just for testing.

But public education is for all.

Anonymous said...

"why not suggests gathering these students in a separate school or program that will, in fact, nurture their talent. That's also what the Advanced Learning department suggests and what the experts who reviewed the program suggested. It's what everyone says that that District should do. And yet, the District doesn't do it."

Excellent suggestion. "Why not", take this suggestion to the board & district.

I am not understanding why SPS does not take a percentage of the highest achieving underrepresented F&R lunch students, racial/ethnic groups etc. & offer a program with targeted support PLUS accelerated curriculum. Create a program similar to Rainier Scholars PLUS HCC.
-a parent

monkeypuzzled said...

Just a reminder that not all HCC kids are "kids who don't need help."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Monkeypuzzled, I was just listening on NPR to the Teacher of the Year and she twice said she had all kinds of kids in her class including ones so bright "they don't need me."

What a terrible thing to say - ALL kids need teachers.

Anonymous said...

lowell parent - SPS spends less per capita on HCC kids than on any other group in the district. If you got your way and eliminated HCC, just how would this allow more resources to be focused on non-HCC kids? I don't get your argument.

HCC fan

Anonymous said...

The proposals for a new separate HCC are interesting. It could be like the new Lakeside or Lakeside Light as some have called it. In fact it could be HCC Light. DIrector Peters would be the ideal ambassador for it. With her familiarity and diligent passion for HCC and her warm persona she would surely be great at outreach and community engagement with underserved populations. I can't think of a better fit all round.


Anonymous said...


This is about the British system, very different way of talking and thinking about what is essentially the same issue. In the article there are links to studies that are interesting as well.

Least Restrictive

Charlie Mas said...

Could everyone just take a moment with this statement from lowell parent:

"If we are going to try and meet the needs of all children we should be trying to meet the needs of those children that need the most help not those that need it least."

I hope that lowell parent, in particular, will read this statement.

The statement starts out so normally and idealistically, "If we are going to try and meet the needs of all children" - note the use of the word "all" - then the statement ends in a self-contradiction "not those that need it least"

lowell parent says that the way to meet the needs of all children is to neglect the needs of some of them. I'm pretty sure that neglecting the needs of some will prevent us from meeting the needs of all.

What lowell parent is really saying is that he or she has no interest in meeting the needs of all children. I don't know why lowell parent even bothers to pretend that's a goal, because it clearly isn't.

lowell parent wants some children to come to school and do no learning. No matter which children are in that group, that's messed up.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

@ Least Restrictive, while it's an interesting article, the British system really isn't analogous. Their two tracks are very distinct, with grammar schools putting students on the path to university studies and high paying jobs, while the state secondary schools are more like trade schools. HCC does not do any such thing. At all.

For example, at Garfield ( the HCC pathway school) honors and AP classes open to ANY student ready for the challenge--whether they came from an HCC program or not. Ingraham is another option for HCC students, and their IB classes are not limited to only HCC students, either. This all means that students coming from HCC programs in elementary and/or middle school are in pretty much the same boat as everyone else in high school (i.e., the courses that appear on the transcript for an HCC student may not look that different from those on the transcript of a similarly advanced non-HCC student). Their job prospects won't differ because of HCC, nor will their ability to go to college. That's because we really don't have "tracks" in high school.

We do some tracking in the lower grades so that kids who are ready for much more than the standard curriculum aren't just warehoused in gen ed classes covering material they already know, but we "undo" that tracking come high school. In a sense, what HCC does is take these advanced kids, give them some more challenging work for a while, then slow them down so they are more average in 9th grade.

why not