Saturday, July 15, 2017

Conversation on HCC, Part Two

For this part of the discussion, I want to reiterate a few things I said in Part One.

There are some parents don't believe that there could be that many children who are highly capable.  To that I can only say that the feds, the state and the district all believe it is true and have allocated resources and services to that end.  I note that the new McCleary budget includes extra dollars for programs like Sped, ELL and yes, highly capable.

There are some parents believe it's all based on a single test score in order to get into the program.  That is not true and you can examine the application process and how the district's own committee decides on admission.

There are some teachers/administrators don't like HCC because some of their best learners leave the school after they are admitted into the program.  One reason could be the loss of test scores.  Another reason is the loss of students who help teachers drive the classroom by being generally engaged.

I can understand their unhappiness but it is not the right of a teacher or principal to decide what program parents want their children to be in for the best academic outcomes.

If your belief system on highly capable students falls into either of those two groups, you probably won't be interested in what follows.

This discussion is about changes to make the Highly Capable Cohort program more equitable and stronger.  In Part Three, we can discuss the other two parts of Advanced Learning, Spectrum and ALOs.

I will base most of this discussion not around what is currently provided in HCC but around how to find and serve as many students who could benefit from the program.  That's where the equity deficiency is and that's what needs the most attention.

That brings me to the Work Session in late spring called "Equity in Highly Capable Programs."  The presenter was Austina De Bonte.  Ms. De Bonte is the president of the Northwest Gifted Child Association and the president of the Northshore HiCap Parents Council and is a noted speaker on this topic.  She was invited to speak to the Board and staff by Director Sue Peters.

De Bonte talked about the National Association for Gifted Children's campaign, Giftedness Knows No Boundaries.  From their website:
Gifted children in poverty and from minority groups are 2.5 times LESS likely to be identified for, and in, gifted and Talented programs in schools. Children Deserve Fair Identification strategies

Some of the brightest children underachieve in school for a variety of reasons. Children need informed counselors, teachers, and parents who can help them overcome social, emotional, and Psychological challenges involved in growing up.

Gifted and talented children have unique learning needs that set them apart from their peers. These learners benefit most when They Are taught by teachers trained to support them. Invest in preservice training and effective professional learning.

Gifted elementary school children know more than 50 % of school year material on the first day of class.   Imagine how frustrating it is to sit through content you already know.
De Bonte also noted that ELL and Special Education students are truly underrepresented in gifted programs.

She said that Seattle doesn't have the worst program in the state and is similar in its make-up to Bellevue where the majority of students in their program are white and Asian.  She said a bright spot was Federal Way where their cohort is representative of their population.

Federal Way offers AP and IB (include middle school IB), Avid, Cambridge Checkpoint Prep, Springboard (and AP prep program) as well as the TAF Academy (Technology Access Foundation's school for STEM).

I see from their Highly Capable page that they take referrals in winter, not the fall.  Their assessments:

The District will use multiple measures to determine selection of HCP students for the coming year. District assessments, State required tests, Selection & Assessment of Gifted Education Students (SAGES), and the “Developmentally Accelerated Skills Inventory” (DASI), are evaluation tools that may be used for assessing academic preparedness for HCP services.
Here's her presentationPeeling the Onion: Equity in Highly Capable (HiCap).  I loved this presentation because it was in-depth but straightforward.  She put forth "outdated practices" (that include what SPS does) and "what would be better" for both identification and access to services.

The contrast with Bellevue is interesting because while Seattle's program is overwhelmingly white (72%) while the district is just 46% white, Bellevue's is overwhelmingly Asian (72%) while their Asian population is just 34% of their district.  SPS' program has 13% Asian while Bellevue's has 19% white.  (See pages 3 and 4.)

Then there's Federal Way where their numbers for their district and for their program closely mirror each other.  I don't see from their policy/procedure what they are doing but De Bonte says they have a universal screening in 2nd grade in all schools and district data-sweeps (and call downs).

She also mentioned Lake Washington SD. They have an interesting take on highly capable programming.  They don't test in K-2.  Students are "identified" - via testing - and begin to receive services in the second half of the year.  Those services are at the same school with K-2HC Facilitator/Teachers who help the child's teacher and provide math/reading enrichment.  They continue with those services thru 5th unless they qualify for another type of service.

The other service they have for grades 2-5 is Quest.  One is a full-day program, 5 days a week and the other is a once a week,one-day pull-out program.  The full-day Quest program is multi-age, 2-3 and 4-5 and available at certain schools.  They have a whole page about the issues around the pull-out program which are similar to what I have heard about pull-out programs in SPS.

It doesn't say at the Lake Washington SD website but De Bonte says that they do give the test in Spanish as well as English, during the day and at the child's school.

There is a district that does have a method - via their own state program - to find more students of color.  That's Miami-Dade SD. 

What is “Plan B” gifted eligibility in Florida?

Part B (also referred to as Plan B) of State Board Rule, 6A-6.03019 addresses the documented underrepresentation of minority students receiving gifted services. Part B of the gifted eligibility rule was first introduced in 1991 to include options for developing alternative plans to address underrepresentation of ethnic minority groups (African American and Hispanic students) in gifted programs. In 2002, the State Board of Education revised Part B to define underrepresented students as those “who are limited English proficient, or who are from a low socio-economic status family.” Ethnicity is no longer considered under Plan B and Districts have the option of whether or not to implement it. M-DCPS is one of 35 Districts in Florida currently implementing a Plan B for gifted eligibility.

Each district is authorized to develop its own plan tailored to its population and providing for specific criteria to increase eligibility for gifted services among these underrepresented students.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ District Plan to Increase the Participation of Underrepresented Students in the Gifted Program (Gifted Plan B Matrix) utilizes four indicators of giftedness to determine eligibility for students in underrepresented groups:

•The Gifted Characteristics Checklist is used to determine students’ verbal, learning, motivational, and social/leadership abilities.

•A variety of standardized academic achievement test data is used depending on the student’s grade level.

•To determine the intellectual development of a potentially gifted student, a school psychologist administers an individualized test of intelligence.

•The Williams Creativity Scale is used to determine creativity.
These four indicators are assigned points on a rubric. Students scoring nine (9) points in three of the four categories with a minimum IQ of 112 are eligible for gifted.

They also require that all K-12 teachers providing services to highly capable students must have certification for their grade level AND have a gifted endorsement. 
De Bonte's "peeling of the onion" starts on page six with Identification Practices.  I was amazed at the number of suggestions.  (Please note: her PDF of her Powerpoint goes into even more detail.)
  • Outdated  - relying on parents, teachers, etc to nominate - What's better - universal screening of students in a grade level, a "data sweep" (meaning, looking at student data to see which students are performing at a high level on a variety of data points).  Referrals can be used but as a backup plan.
She also recommends getting rid of the words "nominate" or "application" and using "refer" or "referral."
  • Outdated - testing only in English. What's better -  administer screener and tests in student's native language and consider fast rate of language acquisition as a valid HiCap identifier for ELL students.  (I vote yes on this one as I had this experience in the kindergarten class I tutored in this year.  It was astonishing to see a couple of kids not only get up to speed in English quickly but also perform at a high level.)
  • Outdated - having testing as a "special event" not at student's school, in large sessions on Saturday or after school hours.  What's better - screening at home school during school day
  • Outdated - using group-administered cognitive and achievement tests.  What's better -one-on-one testing whenever there is a reason to believe a student might need it.  (Apparently Highline is doing this.  I'd like to check on their criteria because otherwise you might have many parents making the request.)
  • Outdated - waiting until 2nd grade to "really" test.  What's better - prioritizing IDing in kindergarten and 1st grade to not allow the opp gap widen.  Use performance-based assessments as a data point. 
  • Outdated - having hard cut-off scores or entrance criteria for programs.  What's better - portfolio-based approach with more data points, having both age-normed and grade-normed scores.  Get more data if there are ambiguous scores and don't rely on parents to appeal. 
  • Outdated - once-a -year testing process with no leniency for missed deadlines (I note this seems a hard-and-fast rule in most districts).  What's better - allow students to be referred any time of the year, with a process for rolling admissions.
  • Outdated - not providing practice tests for all students.  What's new - having all students do a guided practice test before being screened or assessed.
  • Outdated - "public notice" style of communication about the program.  What's new - providing community-specific communication to respect both language and cultural norms.  Advertise proactively. Help families understand the benefits of the program to aid placement. 
  • Outdated - selection committees that don't reflect district population and don't have HiCap expertise.  What's new - members of the committee should represent the district population in gender, race and ethnicity along with expertise including 2E students and up-to-date knowledge of best practices for identification.
  • Outdated - qualifying HiCap students based on available space.  What's new - create a program space for every qualified student. 
She ends this section by pointing out what we all know - those who can understand the program, can navigate it much better.

Second layer: even if identification was perfect, equity of access... Access to Services

Outdated - not providing transporation or limited transportation.  What's better - full transportation for all students.

Outdated - being the only student of color or of very few in HiCap classroom.  What's better - a big campaign outreach and identification in an ethnic/racial/gender group all at once.  Only by identifying and placing a group of HiCap students of color together can we satisfy these students' dual needs for community and acceptance.

Outdated - lack of teacher training/understanding about students. What's better - baseline HiCap PD for all building staff, detailed HiCap PD for all classroom HiCap teachers.

Outdated - HiCap teachers and curriculum do not reflect the demographics of student population.  What's better - Having that happen with all teachers, including HiCap teachers, trained in cultural competency.

(Editor's note - we do need more teachers of color. But until the work load, the pay and the elevation of teachers as true professionals happens, we are not going to see more students choose teaching as a profession.)

Outdated - assuming all students have access to technology after school for homework/access to homework help.  What's better - provide technology to low-income students, or ensure that teachers don't expect tech access for homework.

Third Layer: districts need funding to implement better practices.

State funding covers only 15-20% of districts' actual costs; 25,000 student funding for 65,551 students being served.

Part of McCleary (but habitually left out)

Funding used for identification and PD but not for staff, transportation or curriculum.  Good practices cost more and underfunding HiCap is directly responsible for the equity problem.

Fourth Layer: Why should we spend money serving HiCap kids?

It's the law - districts must identify K-12 by law
Essential intervention for a special needs population 

Is it okay for school to be easy?  If it is, these kids never learn how to tackle a genuinely hard problem.  Eventually, they find themselves in middle school geometry, or high school physics and are faced for the first time with a topic that is not intuitive for them - and have no experience, no strategies and limited emotional reserves to tackle it. (Dweck 2007, Cross 2002)

Grit is more important than IQ - "Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ."

  • Has its roots in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade but often isn't visible until middle or high school. 
  • Kids may never learn how to handle a challenge, fewer emotional coping skills 
  • Learning disabilities may be hidden until the materials gets challenging enough 
  • Underachievement is very difficult to reverse
Developmental Milestones
  • "Kids who had higher IQs to begin with seemed to have an extended period in adolescence during which they retained the ability to learn at a rapid pace, just like much younger children." 
  • Intensity, sensitivity  
  • Perfectionism 
  • Social mismatch due to more complex vocabulary, more involved games, niche topics.  HiCap children have better social adjustment in classes with children like themselves.  In a typical classroom, they feel different, their challenges can become pathologized.

Why not put one HiCap kid in each classroom? Doesn't that help other kids?
(See page 24/25)

HiCap is not a prize, it's a whole child intervention.  Our most vulnerable populations need it the most. This is a social justice issue.

"When provisions are denied to the gifted on the basis that they are "elitist, " it is the poor who suffer the most.  The rich have other options."   Dr. Linda Silverman

What was interesting during this presentation was that most of the questions came from Directors Blanford and Geary.  Both expressed concern over the growth of the program with Blanford saying, "We already have more than the state average and what if there are more students?"  I guess that might be an issue but if equity is your lens and your goal, then you might think directors would be happy that more kids of color were in the program (unless what they seek is a cap on the number of white children in the program).

Blanford said that it's not financially feasible for the program to expand  and that there are "too many exceptions." 

What I think could be the real issue in SPS is this.  The district does know and cares that many highly capable students of color are not being served.  But they don't want to do much about it for two reasons.

One, the program has expanded and the costs and the space are both worries for the district.  Just as they don't have all the money they need for the number of students in Special Education, we can see from the data, they are also not receiving the money they need to serve the number of highly capable students.

Two, per some teachers/administrators, they would like to keep as many kids in their neighborhood school as possible.  That might look like it would lower transportation costs, possibly increase diversity and possibly lower the costs to educate them.

However, if as many seem to want - as many kids as possible staying their neighborhood schools - here's what would have to happen:

- more teachers with certs in gifted education.  It would not be enough for all teachers to have PD in teaching gifted students.  For all schools to keep their highly capable kids, several teachers in each school would need a certificate to help those students.  (Or, like Federal Way, you have at least two facilitator teachers in the school who roam around providing services.)

- smaller class sizes.  If the district presumes to have that much coverage of students, the class size will have to come down.

- more PD for all teachers in differentiated teaching.

- counselors for every school (this should be true,no matter what)

I am still astonished - especially with the racial equity lens - of the glacial pace of change for this program.  


Ghost Mom said...

Melissa, you write, "There are some teachers/administrators don't like HCC because some of their best learners leave the school after they are admitted into the program. One reason could be the loss of test scores. Another reason is the loss of students who help teachers drive the classroom by being generally engaged."

A third reason might be that every highly capable student has already mastered the material the teacher is supposed to teach that year so it makes the teaching job easier since it effectively decreases the size of the class of students the teacher needs to teach that year. The highly capable students are like ghost students, freebies.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The presenter said that but from the student's POV: coming into a classroom already knowing 50% of the material. But yes, that's a benefit from the teacher's POV.

Anonymous said...

Let SPS copy Federal Way's success and be done with it.

why not

Anonymous said...

We need a little more info about Federal Way's supposed success beyond just a quick comment in a slideshow. Isn't that the district recently highlighted in the Seattle Times for all its "success" in getting more underrepresented students to take and pass AP classes...even though they couldn't pass the externally administered AP exams? Not exactly a shining example.

Notso Fast

Anonymous said...

Curious. How do we measure success? I remember reading somewhere at some point that federal way students don't perform well in AP classes/don't score well on the tests. Does this matter? Do we want to emulate their program and be done with it, calling ourselves successful based on the demographics of those participating in HCC? Are their students in the classes they need and want and they're learning and ready to launch and thrive after graduation? TAF is supposed to be excellent but SPS didn't want them for some strange reason. Hmmmm.....

Fix AL

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, I don't understand your conclusions about what would have to happen if they kept as many HC kids as possible at their neighborhood schools. You said it would mean:

- more teachers with certs in gifted education. It would not be enough for all teachers to have PD in teaching gifted students. For all schools to keep their highly capable kids, several teachers in each school would need a certificate to help those students.
Why is that? HCC pathway schools have higher numbers of HC students now than we'd see if students were dispersed, and gifted certs aren't required to teach HCC. I don't understand why that would change. There's a stronger case to be made for requiring them now, and yet we don't...

- smaller class sizes. If the district presumes to have that much coverage of students, the class size will have to come down.
I'm not sure what you mean by coverage--do you mean that teachers will need to cover more grade levels worth of material because the range of student abilities would be greater? That's not necessarily the case, since there are already HC students in GE classes. Just because there were more of them wouldn't mean the district would expect teachers to address their needs, if they were already exceeding standards...

- more PD for all teachers in differentiated teaching.
Same thing with this, too. There are already a lot of HC students in GE classes, as well as all sorts of other students, so the need for differentiation is already there. The need for teacher skill in doing this wouldn't change.

- counselors for every school (this should be true,no matter what)
Yes, this is not specific to HC students.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"TAF is supposed to be excellent but SPS didn't want them for some strange reason."

There was no strange reason except that SPS passed up a great chance for a great start at STEM. Big mistake. TAF is excellent.

Unclear, this is what I think would need to happen if the district tried to end HCC. I cannot believe parents of HCC students would not demand this but certainly, the district could try to ignore them. This might be where some parents either leave or take the district to court.

About coverage, I mean if the district has HCC kids, in larger numbers, in any given classroom, they have to have teachers who can meet their needs. And "if they were already exceeding standards" - this was always something that bothered Charlie - this idea that all the district has to do is have students meet standards. That's a ceiling and there should be no ceiling to learning.

Anonymous said...

Ghost mom-

I'd like to point out that some highly capable students in gen ed, especially in elementary may display behavioral problems in class because they have nothing to do when the worksheet (or whatever) that is meant to take 40 minutes is completed in five minutes.

I have some experience with this... it was my experience 25 years ago as a student in SPS (my parents didn't want to do cross town bussing to our cluster's Horizon program).

I was an absolute handful, especially in second and third grade. My second grade teacher had to bribe me with rewards for sitting still and reading when I was done with my work, which was most of the day everyday. I remember spending a big chunk of third grade in the hallway.

My 4th grade teacher had previously taught at a gifted program and found stuff for me to do... and finally convinced my parents to send me across town for 5th grade, where I was finally engaged all day.


Anonymous said...

The last time I checked, the state of Washington did not recognize any sort of certification for teaching HC students, and no such certificate was offered at a university in the state.

I continue to believe that SPS would have a better chance of serving students well if there were some sort of policy describing what sorts of needs the district is attempting to address, what sorts of actions it is prepared to take to address those needs, and how it intends to determine the effectiveness of those actions.

As things stand now, lots of different people have lots of different ideas about who should be served and what services to offer, and there is no way the district can hope to satisfy such an unrealistic array of expectations.


Anonymous said...

It is a fallacy that keeping HCC kids in the classroom helps teachers or other students or drains away the role models. Bored HCC students can be a pain in the neck for teachers. Being a fast learner does not make a kid a patient "teacher" for helping others. Plenty of kids can be role models in the classroom, not just high-testers. Presumably, if the kids who score in the 98th percentile and up are served in another way, there are still lots of bright kids in the 97th percentile and down to be those role models, the kids the teacher doesn't have to put so much energy into teaching, and maybe some of them like helping other kids learn...but that's not actually their job.

open ears

Anonymous said...

I think there is more to the TAF-SPS story than that. I recall the community rejected it. Something to do with TAF taking control of a school or a lack of collaboration between TAF and the school. Maybe someone feared a charter school would be developed?

As for HCC, why doesn't Washington state require gifted ed training for teachers like some other states do?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Irene, "a sort of policy" - yes, that might help. How about enforcing the one we already have?

Open ears, I've made your argument for years.

Wallflower, well, I heard it straight from one side. The district was trying to figure out what to do with Cleveland and didn't really have the wherewithal to create their own STEM. TAF was willing to come in and start the program. TAF Academy is not a charter so that never happened. Given tht the district did start its own STEM program - which is not particularly strong given what our region has to offer - I think they missed a golden opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I read this and thought for a millisecond that it might be a good idea to sell my million dollar dump of a bungalow and move to federal way so we can have a big new house with a view and my kids can have HCC with strong diverse representation from a variety of cultures. Then I remembered a recent drive through the outskirts of FW, passing more than a couple of houses sporting confederate flags, finally emerging into the center which was basically strip mall land dealing with gang warfare.

The grass always seems greener....

We could still learn a lot from their policies and it would be interesting to make a short list of superintendents who are consciously doing good work in this area.

Be Proactive

Anonymous said...

@Northwesterner" I was an absolute handful, especially in second and third grade. My second grade teacher had to bribe me with rewards for sitting still and reading when I was done with my work, which was most of the day everyday. I remember spending a big chunk of third grade in the hallway.My 4th grade teacher had previously taught at a gifted program and found stuff for me to do... and finally convinced my parents to send me across town for 5th grade, where I was finally engaged all day."

Yup. That's exactly what happened to my sibling in 2nd grade in another state, was also bribed by teacher to be good. Was first put into a special ed class for emotionally disturbed kids in 3rd grade. The district had teachers endorsed in gifted education and gifted ed was also under umbrella of special ed in this state. Was identified by school psychologist and received gifted services in 4th and issues resolved.

Tom said...

Melissa: One VERY important thing you overlook in this post is that there are some general differences in how giftedness (often) manifests in boys and girls at the elementary age. Not always, but often. HiCap K-5 boys often act out when they go unchallenged and understimulated in school. HiCap K-5 girls often hide their frustration (and giftedness). So the gifted girl will not stand out to un-trained teachers because all they see is a compliant child who does all the work perfectly and quickly. That child will then not be referred for HiCap when she might really benefit from the challenge and peer group. Meanwhile, the boys who act out and cause trouble also get all kinds of extra attention because they are not compliant and disruptive, and they are sooner considered for HiCap programs because teachers notice "something" is off. (HC boys are also more likely to be *misdiagnosed* with Autism spectrum, ADHD, etc.) Obviously some girls do the acting-out thing, and some boys do the compliant/good-worker thing, but the overall trend is the other way around. That has a real and negative effect (a sexist effect) on highly capable girls' social and academic development.

One obvious thing I think would help is to require a HiCap endorsement for any teacher or administrator serving HC kids or making key HC-related decisions, including superintendents and staff. Unlike many other states, Washington does not currently require this. But SPS could require this on its own, and it would easy enough to come up with a professional development sequence in partnership with all of our local universities and colleges to meet that endorsement requirement. The PTAs at our current HC schools already fund a great deal of PD to this end. This should be formalized and made rigorous.

Anonymous said...

I am glad the PTA funds HCC prof development at your school. I am guessing this is at Cascadia. There is no professional development for HCC teachers at Washington. The principal won't allow anything that is seen as extra or special happening to the HCC program. Next year every LA and SS teacher will be required to teach at least one HCC class whether they support that or not. Several of these teachers do not believe in HCC and want it to go away. At least in the past the teachers teaching HCC had experience teaching gifted kids, supported the program, and for the most part wanted to teach HCC. Next year, in LA and SS classes this will not necessarily be the case. The lucky ones will end up with the teachers who taught HCC in the past. Be ready for an interesting year if you don't.
WMS Changes

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tom, good points.

"Next year every LA and SS teacher will be required to teach at least one HCC class whether they support that or not."

And this hits on a point that I have said over and over. There are laws about supporting teaching and learning for highly capable students. The district has a policy and program to serve these learners. If teachers don't like it, they are welcome to complain or agitated BUT they should be required to follow policy to the best of their ability.

muh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yes Melissa, the current advanced-learning policy would be more useful than it is, if it were actually followed. (Also the district has more appalling cases of following policy only when the relevant staff happen to want to.)

But there are some critical things missing from current policy.

There should be something delimiting what the district is attempting to do, and what it is not attempting to do. Helping students who are succeeding easily at grade level to be able to move beyond grade level is one thing. Helping students who cannot function at grade level because of extreme boredom, or who refuse to do schoolwork because they know the material already, is a different thing. Providing math acceleration is different from providing depth in social studies. Students have lots of different needs, and the district truly does not have the resources to serve every need, and it would be kinder to students to be honest about what may be available and what the district simply cannot afford.

There should be something about what the goals of the services are. Are we trying to keep students from being disruptive? Train them to get high scores on tests? Provide them with a particular set of classmates? Acceleration? Enrichment?

There should be some indication of what will be the measures of success with respect to the delivery of services. Whatever gets measured is the thing that has the best chance of somebody paying attention to it. How will we know whether the services are effective in general, and for particular students? Simply noticing that advanced learning students (who were selected in part for their high test scores) emerge with high test scores does not, in itself, tell us whether the services have helped the students.

Many of the details of these things belong in the superintendent procedures, but it would be appropriate for the board to provide some guidance in policy, so that there is some hope that the superintendent procedures might implement what the board intends.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Good points all, Irene. This is why I start these discussions; my readers flesh out these details.

Many of you probably don't know but sometimes after we have these discussions, I write to the Board with all these details and ask them - could you please consider these items when you next take up this topic?

Anonymous said...

@ Irene, your points are good, but to be honest, nobody at JSCEE seems particularly interested in evaluating the actual success of HCC--they are perfectly fine with the half-hearted (and deeply flawed) approach they are currently using. You might be interested in the 2/17 thread on this over at the HCC blog.

Sad State

Anonymous said...

I was at the Hamilton MS community meeting when they hosted Superintendent Nyland. Some excellent questions were raised about both the opportunity gap and the HCC program. Since he simply pointed to the honors for all effort in his response detailing SPS efforts, I firmly believe there is no point in having these discussions until we have a new board and they are interviewing new candidates for Superintendent.

The success of our culture of learning and tolerance starts at the top. We are void of leadership who care about learning progress and appropriate curricular and service supports for all students. What we measure is what we get and windowdressing appears to suffice.

Fix AL

Cap hill said...

Melissa, your last sentence nails it: glacial pace of change. This is clearly one of the most contentious issues in our school community, yet there is little demonstrated leadership to move forward in a productive way. There is a very simple path forward here - to change the selection process to better reflect our society and the different experiences our kids, and create the supports for all students to excel. Letting the problem fester pits groups against each other and ultimately contributes more to the opportunity gap. There are staffed teams on both AL and equity, surely they should be able to come up with a recommendation *now* to make some common sense changes.

Anonymous said...

WMS Changes - when my daughter was in Spectrum at Eckstein many years ago, all LA/SS teachers taught one Spectrum class and the rest General Ed. My daughter's teacher said at the beginning of the year that she didn't like Spectrum students because they were stuck up and thought themselves better than anyone else. That was before she got to know this class! Of course, no one did anything to this teacher. The kids just had to endure her dislike of them.


Peter M. said...

I don't know how you would implement this in practical terms, but from having been an HC-identified kid myself when I was in school and now raising two HC-identified kids, one observation I have is that so, so, so many of the people who have been my closest friends over the decades (at all my various schools and beyond) have tended to be gifted people. It has been a very demographically diverse group and only one of them is what I would consider wealthy or upper class (went to an Ivy league school, lives in a mansion, vacations abroad a lot, etc.) I never set out to hunt for gifted kids to befriend. That is not how kids operate. It's just that I ended up finding myself forming friendships with kids who were like me, and in my case I was more likely to consider people being "like" me if they were also gifted rather than if they were the same race as me or the same religion or the same ethnicity or the same social class. This has been true of my children, too. When they make friends (even outside of an academic environment, like at martial arts class or summer camp or at a random splash pad), they have an uncanny knack for befriending other gifted kids. Because they feel a commonality, I assume.

So, where I'm going with this is that when SPS identifies one student as HC, they could consider referring that student's circle of closest friends. This could also increase the numbers of students from underrepresented demographics in HCC, because despite being admitted to the program, students may not want to go to HCC if they're going to be the only girl in their class or just one of a few or if they're going to be the only black student or the only hispanic student. But if your best friend was also hicap and also tested in, it would be a much easier decision for both students to decide to switch to HCC together. I think it would help identify more qualifying kids, especially from non-title-one schools where universal testing is not being done. And it would help kids get the challenge they need without so much of a perceived social cost.

Anonymous said...

@Sad State, I looked at the HCC blog as you suggested and didn't see much new - I have been watching the district's services for advanced learners for decades and it has mostly been pretty pathetic. If it's any comfort, there were many aspects that were worse twenty years ago than they are now, so things have moved in a good direction, even though it's still pretty pathetic.

I believe that the folks in the Advanced Learning department truly want to help the students, and they have some ideas, although I have no basis for knowing whether their ideas are good. They are drastically under-resourced, and the cumbersome and expensive selection process uses up all of the time and money to the point that practically nothing else gets done. So the only evaluation of the services that happens is whatever can be thrown together at low cost to comply with state reporting requirements. There are district reporting requirements that are never met (ask Charlie).

None of this means that we should not tell the school board our suggestions for how to make things better. And things do get better, even though the changes are excruciatingly slow.


Anonymous said...

@ Irene-- I have heard more than half the resources currently go to the student identification process. I believe the district currently tests all Title I school students, correct me if I am wrong. Even still, there is a need to identify more students of color and low income students, so maybe we will end up testing all students. There is more money that will be coming for highly gifted from the state's budget. I am wondering how that money will be utilized. Does seem like there would be little money left over to run a program.

Anonymous said...

My guess is the money will likely be used to upgrade the testing regimen, to test more students and to use tests that don't have such low ceilings and that more appropriately assess the students as advanced learners.

I wish less of the advanced learning resources would go to gatekeeping, and more would go to improving student learning. Instead of concentrating on selecting students, I would put more emphasis on providing a few clearly described services, and then let anybody participate who can benefit. While it is true that advanced learners often need specialized services, it does not follow that those specialized services would not be helpful for other students as well.

For example, many (not all) advanced learners thrive on fast-paced mathematics instruction. There are students who do not meet the current standard for advanced learner status who would also thrive on fast-paced mathematics instruction. If the district could offer that, and allow fairly free movement into and out of the service, I think the students who would benefit would be the ones who would choose to participate.

It would be nice if some of the resources that go to testing could be redirected to professional development for the teaching corps at large, to help them recognize which students would benefit from whatever services the district decides that it can offer. And maybe give them some tools to deal with students who have needs for which the district does not offer services. There are students who do years of vocabulary exercises without ever encountering a word they didn't already know. Wouldn't it be great if teachers had a library of resources to draw from for students who are putting up with this kind of thing?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Irene, I believe that any student who can do accelerated math - testing or not - should have access to it. It's just wrong to slow any kid down AND possibly lose their interest (if they get bored).

As well, I think most of the money goes to testing because it is such a large and overwhelming item. Frankly, I think the district could probably save time and money and just give the test to all 1st or 2nd graders at their schools during the school day.

PD is badly needed but there seems to be no money.

Anonymous said...

I believe 100% of the highly capable budget is spent on testing, actually. It's not on PD, curriculum, teacher certification, or supplies. I also think that new money will probably be wasted on a fancy new testing regime, and the only testing improvement I can think of that would make a real difference is testing every 2nd grader in the district. It really should go to curriculum, but that never seems to be what interests the district with regard to HC services. Just gatekeeping.


Owler said...

I also believe that all of the HC budget goes to gatekeeping. It's a shame, really...all of the funding and time involved, and it's such an awful system. Melissa's thinking of just testing all 1st or 2nd graders in their school environment would be better than what they do now.

Call me cynical, but funding HC PD would be seen as giving the program something that other programs don't have, so I can't imagine that would ever be politically feasible. The best one can hope for is principals who are HC-supportive and can gather staff who have an interest in HC professional development on a personal level.

Anonymous said...

One year the district tested all second grade students. More students of color were identified, but there was not a high yield of students of color enrolling in APP. My impression was that the parents of these students looked at what APP offered, and most of them decided that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits. I certainly cannot fault those parents for making what they believed to be the best available choice for their students.

(It would help SO MANY things if the district could come up with some way to preserve institutional memory. If we could get a superintendent who would do that, it would outweigh a lot of other shortcomings.)

If the district really wants to do a better job of serving highly capable students in various specific communities, the obvious thing to do would be to contact parents within those communities, find out what kinds of services would be appropriate, and try to offer something suitable. The current HCC offering is really a relatively narrow sort of model, and although students exist for whom it is excellent, there are lots of advanced learners for whom it is not better than their other options.

Melissa, I'm sure you are aware that there is a powerful push to prevent students from ever getting more than "two years ahead" of their age-mates in math. There is a fear that if students finish all the high school math currently offered, the district could be somehow forced to provide more, which would require materials and teachers that the district doesn't have.


Anonymous said...

Testing all students in early grades isn't a bad idea, but it's also not likely to eliminate the racial disparities within the program. Universal testing would likely identify more Asian and white students than those from underrepresented groups.

If they really want to reduce racial disparities in HCC, they will need to (1) implement intensive pre-HCC services to help promising students from underrepresented groups get to the point where they can meet existing qualification criteria; or (2) lower the qualification criteria for apparently underrepresented groups. In the case of the latter, they would also likely need to add additional support services to help those students succeed in the program, since they may be entering with less preparation.

@ Irene, are you advocating for differentiation within GE classes, as opposed to a cohorted approach? As the parent of an HCC student who has little in common with typical peers, the opportunity to be with other HC students--and finally make a friend!--has been life-changing.


Anonymous said...

I think the elimination of the parent referral system would do a good deal to shrink racial disparity. Which is one thing testing every child would do. Last year the district put out demographic statistics (which seem to be gone now), and at each step requiring parent action by a deadline (esp the short ones), the program got whiter. The less parents action required, the better, imo. I would love to hear more about the time they tried it, Irene! Argh so much we lose wrt institutional memory around this place.


ouch said...

"Call me cynical, but funding HC PD would be seen as giving the program something that other programs don't have, so I can't imagine that would ever be politically feasible."

AL office includes two staff for PD. Not sure how much training they do but they are there to offer PD.

"The best one can hope for is principals who are HC-supportive and can gather staff who have an interest in HC professional development on a personal level."

IMHO the district has tried its best to dismantle APP/HCC by through questionable principals at HIMS, JAMS and WMS. Now WMS is have teachers who don't respect the program teaching HCC at WMS. Going to be rough. And what is AL doing about that. Nothing. Nor is the Regional Director.


I-District Dad said...

HC PD would make sense politically if you can educate teachers about other conditions that not all students have. If you can teach teachers about the needs of English language learners or students with ADHD or students who have experienced trauma or LGBTQ students or homeless students, you can certainly teach them about HC students. There are more HC students than homeless students. There's really no reason why teachers can't learn about multiple issues that may affect their students.

Lynn said...

The Friday Memo for June 23rd included some information on universal screening at Title 1 schools on page 34.

Over 1,700 second grade students at 32 Title 1 schools were given the CogAT screening test. 244 scored at or above the 94th percentile, high enough to be administered the full CogAT. About 45 students were identified as AL (Spectrum) eligible and about 40 were identified as HCC eligible. Here are the demographics of these 85 students:

18 Asian
16 African American
14 Hispanic
7 Multiracial
30 White

I looked at the number of second graders at each Title 1 school in April 2017 and used the December 2016 demographics data for each school to estimate the number of students in three groups. I came up with the following:

364 Asian students (5% identified as AL or HCC)
528 African American students (3% identified as AL or HCC)
368 White students (8% identified as AL or HCC)

New demographic data is now available on the district Data Profile page.

Here's the 2016 enrollment data:

African American 8,240 (down 5.6% from 2013) FRL 84% SpEd 17% AL/HCC 3%
Asian 7,818 (down 8.4% from 2013) FRL 52% SpEd 9% AL/HCC 14%
Hispanic 6,530 (up just 39 from 2013) FRL 64% SpEd 19% AL/HCC 6%
Multiracial 5,388 (up 40% from 2013) FRL 28% SpEd 12% AL/HCC 17%
Native American 342 (down 77 from 2013) FRL 69% SpEd 32% AL/HCC 5%
Pacific Islanders 209 (down 58 from 2013) FRL 75% SpEd 11% AL/HCC 2%
White 25,012 (up 10% from 2013) FRL 10% SpEd 13% AL/HCC 24%

There are lots of ways to look at this information. You might believe that poverty is likely to affect a child's intellectual development. If so, you could look at the percentage of non-FRL students in each category who are AL or HCC eligible. Here's that data:

African American 19%
Asian 29%
Hispanic 17%
Multiracial 24%
Native American 16%
Pacific Islanders 8%
White 28%

We can more accurately measure the equity of the program with better information.

Anonymous said...

DIsAPPointed, I am not advocating specifically for differentiation within a general education environment, although it is worth considering. I am not advocating for eliminating a cohorted approach, if that is one of the things you are asking about. And I don't think that the district ought to choose only one way to deliver services.

There are lots of students with lots of different needs and it is nonsense to think that one service model is right for everybody. I have met some alarmingly gifted students who preferred general education to HCC, being extreme outliers in either environment, and being fully aware that neither was prepared to offer them much in the way of academic education, although they certainly learned some non-academic stuff. This is completely compatible with the idea that the HCC cohort is excellent for some students.

What I am definitely advocating for is starting with an evaluation of student needs, and then attempting to serve those needs. The district does it backwards, starting with the HCC cohort offering, and then carefully controlling access to it.


Anonymous said...

Realize I am walking on touchy territory here - apologies to all, I just want your opinions.

I am hesitant to put my HC child in our HC school because I think it disadvantages them socially. The kids in my neighborhood who attend Cascadia don't seem to be outside playing as much as the kids in the neighborhood school, in part at least because their friends are scattered about the city.

I can only imagine that parents of minority students would feel this even more strongly.

Why can't we have AL or HC services at neighborhood schools??


Anonymous said...

We can't have AL services in neighborhood schools because principals don't like them, and during the Spectrum dismantling it was pretty clear most families who don't need them don't either. Some schools do provide them, and they keep a lot of hc kids. But it really needs to be top down if we are going to get real service in local schools.

It is a sacrifice to send your kid to a non neighborhood school (option schools, too). One of mine was only able to make friends in elementary school at the hcc school, so for us it was a social advantage. But the calculus looks different for every kid in every family.


Anonymous said...

Agreeing with sleeper. My child didn't play with the neighborhood kids not because he didn't go to school with them, but because he didn't relate to them. If it's a choice between being a loner at the neighborhood school or finding good friends in HCC, HC is a social advantage, not disadvantage.

If, on the other hand, your child seems perfectly happy playing with neighborhood kids of similar ages, he/she might not "need" HCC in the same way that other kids do. That doesn't mean your child isn't HC, but it means you have options...in which case, consider yourself lucky!


Tina said...

The lack of Cascadia kids playing outside the last couple years was influenced by a number of factors. Notably the tier 3 time slot. My Cascadia kid didn't get out of school until about 3:50 and then home on the bus around 4:30 p.m. whereas his tier 1 brother was home by about 2:15 every day. The time misalignment made it hard to play with non-tier-3 children.

Cascadia kids do end up making friends at school who live quite far away, so that can be a factor if you want to play with a specific friend. Although you can take the bus home to other kids' houses, play there and then have a parent come pick you up later, so it's not impossible. But Cascadia kids can and do play with kids who don't go to Cascadia. And they play outside. My Cascadia kid plays extensively with the neighborhood kids. On our block alone, kids attend two option schools, five geozone schools, two private schools and Cascadia. I guess maybe if we had a stronger neighborhood school the Cascadia kid might feel left out. Not a problem in this geozone, though.

You do get a lot of dual income families at Cascadia so there are a bunch of kids in various before/aftercare programs. From what I hear, they play quite a bit there, so I don't think socialization time is a big issue for those kids. And many of them take a bus to their neighborhood and then have aftercare at a neighborhood location. So, you could easily evaluate before/aftercare providers based on racial/ethnic/socioeconomic considerations of the students attending.

Anonymous said...

What I am definitely advocating for is starting with an evaluation of student needs, and then attempting to serve those needs. The district does it backwards, starting with the HCC cohort offering, and then carefully controlling access to it.

@ Irene, very logical and sounds good to me, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. I think we lack the resources such an approach would take (e.g. money, training, curricula, capacity). Additionally, there's a lack of political will to better serve HC students. MTSS, in theory, sounds a lot like what you're advocating for, but the district has shown itself to be pretty incompetent in its attempt to implement that.


Anonymous said...

My kids are still in preschool but we might be moving soon so I'd like to know: what neighborhood schools do have decent AL options? What are these elementary schools that are hanging on to HC kids?


Sleep911.com said...

@ Pollyanna - we love Fairmount Park. It's our neighborhood school and both of my kids are in the HCC program there.

Unknown said...

As an HCC teacher I'd like to address the funding and training issues. (Just to get it out of the way first I absolutely support universal multilingual mandatory in school screening)

Training: I have taught HCC for 5 years now. I have a background in gifted ed (through my own education) and taught advanced courses for 5 years before starting in HCC. During those five years of HCC there was almost no training. The annual WAETAG conference was good on a few issues but didn't provide baseline training and practical issues for educators during the time I went to that conference. There is no HCC introductory training in SPS as of this last school year. So how can teachers know what to do?

Seeing this lack of training I created a three part training that I estimated would take about three hours since a great deal of it was teacher conversations and problem solving. I contacted my BLT and they approved the training. I was given a half an hour. This was later cut to 20 minutes. Nevertheless since there is such a lack of understanding about giftedness I persevered. The reviews from staff were good except for one person lambasting the program from a political perspective.

I also emailed the AL department for any baseline training documents. This was Mr. Okun in the AL department. I never received an answer. Pushing forward I compiled a dossier of the relevant laws and best practices and figured I'd have to start from the start to build a functional handbook for HCC policies which is mostly word of mouth.

Training of staff: In order to teach HCC in SPS you have to have the Advanced Learning/Gifted Category in your district file. How do you earn this? When I added my category I qualified because I had several AP class trainings, alternative ed category, and giftedness trainings in college. So I went right in. Scuttlebutt had it at the time that a teacher was to have taught one year of all Spectrum level courses before moving on to HCC. However, I don't know if that was a house rule for the school or something from AL. Now that Spectrum is almost totally dismantled how can a teacher be ready to teach HCC? There is one gifted program for teachers at Whitworth College but unless every HCC teacher gets a degree from there what are the qualifications to teach this program? I think there are many ways to address the academic content (see funding below) but when current teachers receive no baseline training and minimal opt-in trainings from AL there is clearly not a strong baseline for service continuity. There has not been during my tenure any training where HCC staff got together to discuss how to deliver services for gifted students and to refine the service process. The discussions have been to align curriculum. Perhaps I missed one but if there was one wouldn't that baseline be communicated to staff?

I have been working with my principal and he's been very receptive to the conversation of baseline service innovation and it's my hope that we can train both the staff but the parents as well on what giftedness is and the many ways it can look like.

The ask: A robust baseline training and identification training for all staff and ongoing detailed cohort training for HCC and Spectrum teaching staff.

Mr. Theo Moriarty

Unknown said...

Part Two:

Funding: The law states that gifted services are to be paid for by the per student allocation given to schools. There is no additional requirement. So any funds sent to the schools that are attached to highly capable students need to be spent on providing an appropriately challenging education to that student. Obviously, part of that money goes to funding universal requirements of a school. However, the remainder must be spent on those students services. The law is pretty minimal but I think this is a way to deal with it for example my school for the last 5 years was about 50% HCC. It makes sense because we are a designated HCC site. So after those universal deductions shouldn't 50% of the per student funding be spent delivering services to those students per the law?

This is an excellent area for clarification. It is also one in which it should be made clear that 'going deeper' with texts that are far below student reading level or 'we need to buy books everyone can read' are not sufficient for the expenditure of these legally allocated dollars.

This brings up tricky issues such as co-housing programs. If, as the law points out, that gifted students per student funding allocation goes to providing a rigorous education how do you separate the dollars? I think the easiest way is to end co-housing HCC programs. This goes against the grain of what is happening in SPS but then again SPS only submits data to OSPI from Cascadia which is a standalone site. What data from co housed schools? None. I think co-housing can be done well because I believe that everyone involved wants students to be challenged and to learn. When it is done poorly you have teachers openly attacking the program, students, and teachers who support them which in many ways is the case now.

When there is no baseline training and no programmatic manual with financial guidelines and no on site auditing from a strong and supportive district office we cannot provide rigorous and inclusive gifted services to students.

I think it's very easy to fix and requires only the creation of a handbook for teachers and principals. This book would also ensure parents about the funding, training, and services provided by their school. I think it might take two days of collecting information and documenting it. If that happens I'd love to help since I have a great deal of it already.

Mr. Theo Moriarty

Anonymous said...

Mr. Moriarty,

Have you tried contacting Kari Hanson, Director of Student Support Services, who oversees Advanced Learning? She seems highly engaged and receptive to new ideas and program improvements.

Your students and the district are so lucky to have such a dedicated teacher committed to excellence!


Anonymous said...

In order to teach HCC in SPS you have to have the Advanced Learning/Gifted Category in your district file. How do you earn this? When I added my category I qualified because I had several AP class trainings, alternative ed category, and giftedness trainings in college. So I went right in. Scuttlebutt had it at the time that a teacher was to have taught one year of all Spectrum level courses before moving on to HCC. However, I don't know if that was a house rule for the school or something from AL. Now that Spectrum is almost totally dismantled how can a teacher be ready to teach HCC?

This reminds me of the middle school SS textbook review process, I think it was... When it was pointed out that the professional committee of teachers and specialists working on this didn't include any middle school HCC teachers, district staff responded that yes, many teachers had checked the "gifted" box on their applications indicating that they had experience working with gifted students. It could be that they maybe had one in a class once, or maybe suspected they did, or maybe even just assumed they did (without ever knowing...or necessarily serving that child appropriately)... No worries, it counted as experience for that sake!

Once again, thank you for your commitment to our students, Mr. M. And I hope Mr B follows through on working with you on this.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand the lack of appropriate materials for HCC. Some classes do not have texts for students to take home and read. Class time is sometimes used to read the novels/plays/texts because there are not copies to send home with students, and we've frequently been asked to purchase our own copies of novels for LA. Is this happening in all SPS classes, or is it more pronounced in HCC classes? It is wrong to assume students have the means to purchase assigned reading materials. If the adopted materials are not at the appropriate level for advanced classes, what provisions are being made to purchase materials for HCC classes?


Unknown said...

@ DisAPPointed Thank you! I was also on the HCC specific textbook adoption committee and we were given three texts and out of 8 points we rated one a zero, a second a one, and the third a two. The whole exercise was odd to me because if we are teaching to a higher standard just give us the texts for the higher year. Since 7th grade teaches to the 9th grade standard just give us the 9th grade world history text and students should get credit for WH1 and WH2 if they pass the course. Yes, I also hope to continue the positive collaboration with administration. I think they are mostly caught between two worlds yet held accountable for a system that in no way defines what they should be accountable for. Oddly enough this isn't an issue in Math, Science doesn't get their labs funded (may be a district issue or an HCC specific issue) and LA/SS are in my experience unaddressed.

@flummoxed When materials are requested for HCC that purchase is put through a lens of "can all students use this" if not then it is unlikely to be funded. It's not a lens that uses gifted services as it's core and is a reflection of that lack of definition of service. I purchased a class set of a lit anthology text that I used in my own gifted ed back in 1990s. Luckily the texts are about $6 each with shipping and have a much higher degree of rigor than current texts. Yet, they are not digital and cannot go home so yes we did spend a great deal of time in class reading. To me that is not an optimal use of class time but it does help to do detailed grading during that time.

When I have pointed out these discrepancies I was told to go deep with what the district provided. Yet, at the middle school level they have not provided anything during my tenure. Schools have had, or chose, to buy up staff with budget dollars and the actual classroom materials are provided by teachers which is haphazard but preferable, in my mind, to receiving materials that are woefully inadequate.

@N I have not. Frankly I don't know what the specific jobs are for the 7 people in AL. I saw Mr. Okun was doing trainings and presentations so I thought he was the one to contaact. My hope is that these central staff would visit at least the HCC sites once a month to check in and assist staff. Then perhaps quarterly go to all schools within their zone to check in with principals and some sort of designated lead on identification and services for students. Getting out in the schools during the day and meeting and greeting while identifying gaps in services and supporting sites in need of more intensive support. Even though the head of AL doesn't have any authority to remediate issues in a building they can still be out and about. Why not decentralize their placement and put all the support staff actually in the buildings.

Mr. Theo Moriarty

Anonymous said...

It has been common practice at some high schools to ask students to buy textbooks / workbooks / reading materials, if they can afford it, and ask parents to donate for books for those who cannot afford it. This seems to happen much less at middle and elementary schools. However it is common at many schools to have inadequate texts and other materials, and insufficient quantities for the number of students. HCC sees these problems but they are frequent in non-HCC classes as well.


Anonymous said...

@flummoxed-My child entered HCC in middle. Never had a textbook in any class in elementary general ed or middle HCC. Not in high school yet so cannot comment.

Anonymous said...

@Mr Theo Moriarty-- Wish my child would have had you at HIMS. You are a dedicated teacher with great ideas. The district and board needs to hear your experience as well as ideas for improvement. Thank you so much for all you do for the students. You give me hope some of these issues will improve.