Sunday, October 08, 2017

What Will the District Do about Advanced Learning?

Pivoting off the recent article in the Seattle Times, this is an important question for many reasons.  Let's see what the article says:
In August, every district was directed to make it a priority to find low-income kids who may be candidates for accelerated learning. By Nov. 10, under a new state law, each district must submit a detailed plan to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on how they will do so this school year.

“That’s a massive, massive change,” said Austina De Bonte, president of the Northwest Gifted Child Association, who has two children in the Northshore schools.

Along with the new state edict comes double the money. Officials at the state superintendent’s office hope the extra dollars will be used for much broader student screening.
I'll note that Ms. DeBonte was the expert that the Board brought in for the last Work Session on gifted education and she gave an outstanding presentation.

What the outlook on gifted ed in Washington State?
Most of Washington’s Highly Capable classrooms have almost no low-income kids, nor students for whom English is a second language.

That pattern matches the national picture. Children in poverty and those from minority groups are 2.5 times less likely to be identified for gifted programs, according to the National Association for Gifted Children.

But a few districts — such as Northshore, Mount Vernon and Federal Way — have begun to test all kids, sometimes in their first language. That matches what many other states have been doing as well.
I'll have to ask at OSPI how much extra mean this might mean.  The district has no curriculum for Advanced Learning (but has been getting along in its own fashion with acceleration  but finding more students of color seems to be the better way to spend those new dollars.

Test ALL second graders, not just those in Title One schools or who sign up?  Try what other districts are doing and test in a native language (which would seem more expensive than just all second graders but probably with better results).

I admitted to being baffled about where the district is in their process of reviewing the AL program.  I can find nothing at the AL webpage.   And, given they need to create boundaries based on the HCC part of the program AND it's part of the SAP that they are somewhat revising (a thread on that to come), you'd think it would be vital to get this work done.

There are open spots on the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee.

Now I know some of you - a small minority - somehow believe that either it's illegal to serve these students or the district is running their program in an illegal manner but given that OSPI has grants for these students and no one that I know of has ever sued the district over its program, I'm going to say neither theory is correct, so can those of you that believe it, could you just let it go this round of discussion?

Link to an overview Charlie wrote on the levels of the Advanced Learning Program

Link to report on Work Session earlier this year on Advanced Learning

Let us know your (new) thoughts.  Also, again, do not attack any child or any parent - it's not helpful to the discussion at all.


Anonymous said...

They have to get different kids in addition to the usual bunch. If they would just use affirmative action, extra points on a kid's score, for:

Historically under-served

Grow the program by 25% with these new kids and voila.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I think you could do that after testing - is that what you are thinking? Meaning, if a child scores high but not quite high enough, then credit them in those categories?

Anonymous said...

If the district manages to find some of these students that have been missing from Advanced Learning in the past, then whatever is offered to those students should include appropriate supports. Language support for ELL students if their families want it; correct SpEd support for those who need it; a culturally acceptable environment for students from communities that have not previously been included in substantial numbers. Just finding the students and allowing them to enroll in HCC as it currently exists will not adequately address the situation. Either HCC should change to accommodate additional needs, or new offerings should be created in addition to HCC.


Jon said...

Ultimately, the question comes down to what public schools do with a child working a grade level or two ahead. Do you not educate that child further? Or do you challenge any child and help them learn?

We can identify more children who could work grade levels ahead, but ultimately this comes down to teaching and challenging every child no matter where they are at their age. The biggest barrier to doing that isn't testing. It's state funding.

Anonymous said...

@Jon-it's state funding AND the willingness of educators to teach ahead of grade level. It's a crap shoot out there at SPS--some schools support advanced work, some grade bands within schools, and sometimes it's just one or two teachers within a sea of administrators who simply won't.

Money doesn't solve everything. It helps, but there are a lot of issues within SPS that money won't fix. I'm honestly not sure what the answer is.

Big Mess

Anonymous said...

What will they do? I'm afraid the answer will either continue to be "nothing", or they will further dimnish and dismantle the program. Our oldest has been in the Advanced Learning program for 8 years (currently a 9th grader), and it has been absolutely chaos at the District level. (School level has been ok). I think it makes no sense to ask what they're going to do, especially if you anticipate something positive. No one wants this program - it will continue to die from active neglect.


Anonymous said...

I think this is a great move by the state to try to find more low income kids. I am not sure advanced learning in SPS releases what percentage who qualify for advanced learning are also F&R lunch, indicating lower income. Do they? They release race related data in relation to advanced learning.

We know of two students who qualify F&R lunch in HCC. I actually helped one parent learn about the program and was not surprised when the student qualified through school testing. The student did not enter until 7th grade. We know several more who qualified for spectrum. They are white, but then again this area of Seattle is also predominately white. The Eastside overwhelmingly has Asian kids qualifying for advanced learning, and it is interesting that whites are underrepresented.

The SPS HCC parent group advocating for more "kids of color" in advanced learning seem more focused upon race, rather than poverty etc in advocating for inclusiveness. I read an SPS report from 2013 that concluded poverty was more of a barrier to advanced learning than race in SPS. I am really glad the state is advocating to help find more low SES kids. We should be trying to find as many low SES student as we can of all races. In predominately white Seattle though, this will also mean finding more white (& asian) low SES kids. They don't seem to be the focus.
-a parent

Anonymous said...

Too bad the state isn't also pushing SPS to provide solid gifted ed services. Children who really need something different--not just a year of two or acceleration--are ill-served by the current program. We need something for the outliers.


Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought when they tested all the SE 2nd graders, they DID find a population that qualified based on CogAT, but didn't based on MAP/achievement. This to me is the real issue - the kids are highly capable, but I assume since they haven't been getting services, their achievement scores don't reflect their true capability. Nothing was done to catch these kids up, from what I remember, and I assume they're still in their neighborhood schools. If they want to truly grow this program to be more diverse, I would first relax the achievement barrier. Assuming they would be identified early (2nd grade seems to be a standard in many districts), they should be able to catch up in achievement in the following few years.

Southend Parent

Anonymous said...

@ Southend Parent, if that's the case, that's definitely a population they should focus on. I've long advocated for some sort of academy or program that would help get these kids up to speed. If we need to pilot a few approaches to see what works, let's do it. Maybe we say these kids need to be at least at grade level to participate in whatever pilot. Maybe some are allowed to just jump into HCC, some get additional supports while doing so, and some get additional supports prior to jumping in.

But still, back to my earlier point, if we're going to focus on intellectually gifted rather than high achieving, it would be nice if the instruction were consistent with that, too.


Anonymous said...

The district stands VERY firm in not allowing students into HCC based on CogAT alone, with out also qualifying on the MAP / SBAC / whatever achievement test they are using.

Our kid, who is 'twice exceptional' (ADD and issues with handwriting), qualified for district wide CogAT testing 3 times during elementary (in 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade, in 4th he was not invited to test). Each time he was within a point of two of making the MAP cutoff for the language scores - had no problem with math. Yes, I appealed (twice, in 3rd and 5th grades). I got letters from experts describing his specific learning disabilities. I was told by the district on both appeals that he was not qualified for the program because he would not be able to keep up and that what really matters is achievement, not ability.

So there is a more essential question of whether the kids in the program are those who are "highly capable" or "highly achieving". There is imperfect overlap between these two groups. The highly capable group needs something different, not necessarily straight up acceleration, but a deeper dive into the materials. What we're getting from the district is acceleration only. Based on this approach, perhaps they were right not to admit my child (in the upper 1% of CogATs 3 times) to the program. But I think focusing the program on achievement is deeply flawed.

Sadly, the ship has sailed for my highly capable student. School is a boring place. I have concerns about how this will play out, but we do what we can. This is a lost opportunity to educate bright kids from all income levels, some of whom may have extra challenges. I am sure that there are many kids across the district in a similar place - and some just never get invited to test.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Southend Parent, good comments. Ditto on Sixwrens.

What is weird is when the district staff tells the Board that they need to examine and figure out what is happening in AL. When they created it. And they run it.


Anonymous said...

Of course, the HCC/APP blog is already listing resources for appeals, and the paint hasn't even dried yet during the initial screening.

Information=power, especially in this district.

About Time

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Melissa. SPS District likes to point fingers, but the created the program, recommended the policies, and steer site and principal selection. It seems as though they have a curriculum and instruction team and a capacity management team at odds with how the future will play out for the program, and then there's the superintendent who calls it the HCC industry with a laugh, apparently publicly mocking anyone involved. It's all so strange. They don't want to take responsibility, yet they hold the reigns.

Parents have been making recommendations for decades on how to change identification and service delivery to improve equity, but every idea has fallen on deaf ears.

Doors Windows

Anonymous said...

Southend Parent,

If SPS relaxed the definition of HCC eligible to include kids with lower MAP scores, don't you think there will be a proportionate number of white and Asian kids allowed into the program that weren't before? Wouldn't the net effect be to just increase the number of kids in HCC without significantly changing the diversity of the cohort?


Unknown said...

My impression is that all of the focus on retesting to get better scores - which is only available to families who can afford it - is for the CogAT. There is no recourse for low MAP/achievement scores. So the current set up biases toward inclusion of highly achieving kids. If SPS was serious about modifying the program to be more of a "highly capable" program, they could simply relax the achievement requirement and remove the ability to seek private CogAT testing. And they'd universally test in 2nd grade - possibly with a second test either in 1st or 3rd grades.


Anonymous said...

Sixwrens wrote: "School is a boring place...This is a lost opportunity to educate bright kids from all income levels, some of whom may have extra challenges. I am sure that there are many kids across the district in a similar place - and some just never get invited to test."

THIS IS THE CRUX OF THE ISSUE FOR SO, SO MANY PARENTS. I have had multiple conversations with parents about AL (and learning in general at SPS), and I hear this concern echoed over and over again. Many parents know their kids probably aren't "gifted," but hope against the odds that somehow they test into the AL program in order to experience some kind of challenge in school. They know AL is probably not the best fit, and they really don't want to send their kid somewhere out of the neighborhood, but the neighborhood school has lowered the bar nearly to the floor and they are desperate.

Personally, I have watched over the last three years as my middle schooler's love for math (and enthusiasm for learning in general) has dimmed, and I am deeply saddened by this. I respect his teachers and know they are trying hard; personally I believe most of them are hamstrung by SBAC-focused language and assessments and district mandates. So what can I do? I'm lucky that I have the time and ability to supplement at home right now, but not all parents can do this, and I can't do it forever. So I sign my kid up for the AL test and cross my fingers. I'm not alone.

We need more rigor for all. Across the board. Why is SPS seemingly allergic to rigor? It's insulting and embarrassing, and ironically it leads to the besmirching of the district's gifted education program.


Anonymous said...

No you can retest achievement sixwrens using other standardized achievement test designed for such placement (unlike sbac or MAP). Strange you don't know that considering your 2E kid"s appeal.

The State has this right it is about SES/ ELL and not about race. SPS GIVES leeway for these kids as part of the application process but more should be done for the none title one schools.

My understanding is that the screening has resulted in few HCC kids being identified almost all were spectrum which is now gone.

Love life

NE Parent said...

The HiCAP Asian population in Seattle is not significantly underrepresented. Instead, it’s Black/ African Americans and Hispanics that accounts for almost the entire HiCAP underrepresentation issue in Seattle.

So to fix the problem, Seattle needs to significantly increase Black/ African American and Hispanic participation, while not significantly increasing White and Asian participation.

Let’s consider each population. With regards to Black / African Americans, for the most part, English is not the issue, with the exception of African Immigrants. Instead, one only needs to look at the number of Black/African Americans with “4”s on the SBAC. Statistically, the numbers track very closely to the low numbers that are identified as HiCAP. The SBAC is given to everyone, during the school day, with everyone taking the same practice tests, and without nominations. And it’s pretty hard to argue that the SBAC math test, for example, is sufficiently culturally biased against Blacks in favor of Whites to account for the difference. So the reality in Seattle is that the only way to significantly increase the proportionate participation of Black / African Americans is to: (a) effectively lower the required scores (likely for both CogAT and Achievement Tests); or (b) increase the testing performance as compared to Whites. Anything else is really just window dressing.

With regards to Hispanics in Seattle, there is the same base issue as there is with Blacks / African Americans: they don’t perform as well on the achievement tests which are given to everyone with the same in-class practice tests etc. With Hispanics, there is the added issue of “language”. If the district continues to use achievement tests for eligibility and they want Hispanic participation to increase, in addition to the issues stated above, they are also going to have to offer both the math test and the ELA test in the student’s native language.

So what should we expect from the district? First, we can expect more window dressing, like additional outreach, that won’t make a meaningful difference in the numbers, but will make people feel like something is being done. Behind the scenes, the district is going to have to consider race when deciding eligibility, while pretending otherwise so it doesn’t get sued. If they fix the race issue, they will fix a lot of the low-income issue as well.

The easiest way to do that is to get rid of the hard test score cutoffs (except in reality keep them for most Whites and Asians) and to take the new money from the state to hire a few people that feel passionately about racial equity and put them on the selection committee to look for the highest achieving Blacks and Hispanics in the district and to then write up the justification for their selection.

I believe that given the same background Blacks/ African Americans and Hispanics can proportionality perform just as well as Whites and Asians, but that early on the biggest opportunity gap exists outside of school. This initial GAP is then compounded over time for minority HiCAP students because they didn't' qualify early on and they are not sufficiently challenged in school. So early on, I believe we should lower the bar, however, its done.

Anonymous said...

Sixwrens, I want to address a couple of your statements that are misleading.

First, private testing isn't a retake of the CogAT. Private testing is a different test, often the WISC, and is considered to be more accurate than CogAT. It's administered one on one by a licensed psychologist trained to interpret the nuances of the results. False positives on a WISC test are very, very rare, while false negatives on a CogAT group test are known to be common.

Second, SPS provides these secondary tests free of charge to FRL families. Many psychologists provide testing services on a sliding scale to families who don't qualify for FRL but need assistance. Some insurance policies even cover testing in the case of learning disability diagnosis. Your claim that these are only available to families who can afford it is a common misconception but it's simply not true.

So "retesting" isn't happening, and the idea that only affluent families can test is a myth. But yes, there are problems. The biggest is families have to be savvy and connected to know about things like insurance coverage and sliding scale fees and FRL testing. They have to vet psychologists and anticipate and book their test appointments in advance before the slots all fill up. SPS does a very poor job of communicating resources. So, @About Time, thankfully there are community resources like the HCC blog that do their best to alert families of these options.


Anonymous said...

We should remember that the point is not to get more/different students into HCC. The point is to find more of the students that need services, and deliver services to the students. Given that HCC barely exists as anything more than a cohort of students, I doubt that putting more/different students into HCC will result in them actually receiving the services that they need and that many current HCC students are already not receiving.

Keep HCC as it is if people find that it works well, but don't assume it will work for all newly identified students. Find a way to give them what they need rather than only what the district is in the habit of providing.


Anonymous said...

"I believe that given the same background Blacks/ African Americans and Hispanics can proportionality perform just as well as Whites and Asians, but that early on the biggest opportunity gap exists outside of school".

@NE parent-- Yes, there is lots of research that demonstrates this is the case. Research indicates economic background (& education level of parent) is a stronger factor than race. In addition, poor whites and poor Asians are also less likely to qualify for advanced learning programs.

It is also informative that wealthier districts such as Mercer Island and Bellevue have an even higher number of students who qualify for advanced learning programs.

Irene also makes a really good point.

Jet City mom said...

We were not FRL, but low middle income when our children had independent intelligence testing done, which our insurance paid for.

Neither my husband or I had much of an education background. Neither of us had attended college, and I had dropped out of high school, but we both felt education was the key to expanding our childrens future.

Both did well with the independent testing, one topping out the Stanford Binet and scoring 160+ on the Wppsi & Wisc.
However she did not qualify for any additional support or services through Seattle public schools using group administered achievement testing.

On the advice of the neighborhood kindergarten teacher ( and the educational psychologist at the UW), we began looking for alternatives to the neighborhood school.
I thought one of the choice schools could work, but unfortunately they had very limited slots outside the immediate area.
However, the educational psychologist was on the board of a private school, and she suggested that we consider it. It seemed very different from the program at the public schools, small classes, child directed experiential learning and admittedly a little chaotic.
They also seemed happy to offer very generous financial aid, and after considering our paltry options at the public level, it seemed our best choice.

Many kids whose parents do not have advanced education could also likely benefit from an enriched classroom.
I have been a constant proponent of socioeconomic diversity in the schools, it seems a missed opportunity not to take advantage of that opportunity.

T.J. said...

If only the district hadn't gotten rid of Spectrum. And if only so many ALO schools weren't philosophically opposed to letting students walk to math. And if only classrooms had decent in-classroom libraries. Then when you only have a 1/2 time librarian and can't find anyone to check books out to you from the aging, dilapidated, smells-like-mildew school library, maybe the classroom shelves would have a book for you to read. Unless your teacher just started teaching your grade and all the books in the teacher's personal library were from when she taught a lower grade. And you're reading above grade level, but there are only 4 books at your reading level in your classroom and a couple weeks into the year, you've read them all. Then your parents need to go to the public library and get you books and send them to school with you everyday so you'll have something to read. What about the kids whose parents don't send them to school with something to read everyday?

The district runs advanced learning. Why don't they know what it is? Why don't they know how it's doing? Why are the needs of advanced learners an afterthought when the CSIPs are drawn up? Why doesn't MTSS cover what to do with students who are ahead of benchmark?

Anonymous said...

So far the best solution seems to be an affirmative action scheme. Other districts do exactly that, they give an equalizing bump to students who have faced adversity.


Anonymous said...

We have two cut-offs, don't we? One for qualifying as Highly Capable (thus eligible for HCC), and another qualifying as an "Advanced Learner" (and eligible for whatever they may--or likely don't?--provide). Someone mentioned that the Title I screening they did in the past identified few HC students, but more Advanced Learners. Why not just make a special eligibility rule that says any FRL or ELL student who meets the AL cut-off is also deemed eligible for HCC? The revised eligibility could even be extended to ANY student at a Title I school, under the assumption that their overall educational experience might not have been as rigorous.



Anonymous said...

i think it is great that they are focusing on ell and frl. i would add 2e. but i would never do this based on race. those who claim falsely that race needs to be considered are so off the mark it makes my head spin. funny that the race and equity team have never addressed the board about how this is a problem and a few ways to solve it. it is a whole department that oversees everything. al department also has their own team too.

progressive seattle chose to only screen the southeast t1 schools, then they went to all t1 schools. cool, but what about the poor hidden kids or ell kids at none t1 schools?

i would think a high iq 98+(sps uses a very modern cogat to reduce bias) and proven spark should be enough for all kids, regardless of math/reading achievement. yeah so some may need a bit to get to great grades but they add to the class and will get things from the class too. i know too crazy right.

the whole push to kill the hs pathway sure shows why this is misguided. the district needs to figure out a program. they currently really have none. they did 10+ years ago. before tolley. now all we hear about is race and not curriculum, pathways and more watering down of rigor. oh and that all those involved are surely racist or why would they try to put their kids in their almost all white school into an almost all white hcc program. surely not curriculum, pathways and needed rigor.

no caps

Sandy said...

Ultimately for me it comes down to the question of: should students in the largest school district in Washington state be able to complete high school in public school and go to U.C. Berkeley (as one of our board member's children did) or Stanford or Harvard or wherever? Obviously those schools are hard to get into. But if a public school student is bright and works hard, should it be possible or impossible for them to get into one? Obviously that's not going to be the choice of most of the 78% of our students who graduate from high school. But do we shut the door on the few who can and want to try for it? We need to work back from the goal and see what education it will take. Do we make it possible for the students who want it and are capable of it to get that education?

Anonymous said...

The workload and expectations in APP were significantly higher than today's HCC. When there was only one location each for ES, MS and HS, there was some level of consistency in curriculum (created by teachers and passed on to newer teachers). Long time teachers managed to hold the program together. Parents fretted more about whether or not they would get into their neighborhood school of choice and how large the draw area would be (1 mile from the school, 1.5 miles from the school?). There was still Spectrum, which served more students than APP. The rigor of APP is gone and the HCC is essentially Spectrum.

There has been an overall lowering of academic expectations, across all program levels. Content and skills are seen as "rote" learning, and there's a pervasive belief that students will magically learn and improve without explicit instruction. As long as SPS embraces this magical thinking, little will improve. The presentation at the Lincoln meeting is Exhibit A for such beliefs.

magical thinking

Anonymous said...

Students from SPS certainly can and do go to Berkeley. Nor is being in HCC a given for those who get in. This type of thinking: that HCC must be there for the 22 percent who "can and want to try for it" (as if kids not in the cohort cannot or do not want to try for it) is exactly why the program is so reviled by so many.

Hint: Colleges don't care that your 3rd grader was in HCC. They do care about high school achievement, based on how the child progressed from freshman to senior year. They do care about taking rigorous classes within the building they are in. Not compared to other buildings. They do care about standardized testing scores. Again, none of these categories are correlated to HCC status entering high school.

Offering priority AP class enrollment to the HCC cohort is suspect enough. (See standardized test scores vs. HCC qualified kids. Let's just say HCC status does NOT represent.)

All SPS high schools to the best of their ability need to offer honors or AP classes across core subjects. This does not mean every high school should offer every possible AP class or math level. That is simply not possible with budget levels. Hint: Private schools don't offer every possible highest level course either. All should offer college admissions counseling. All should offer enrichment opportunities. Kids coming into high school from HCC should be monitored and mentored for taking challenging classes and should be given a list of competitive colleges in their areas of interest along with knowledge of how to access scholarships and ways to access college if their family has little money. That's about all HCC-cohort kids should get or that the program should offer. "Can my kid compete to get into Berkeley?" Notsomuch.

Can kids from any standard public high school in Seattle get into Berkeley? Right now? Yes. Yes they can. The level of rigor at SPS high schools is just fine. The number of kids who are not perhaps the sparkling academic wunderkinds their proud parents believe they are or should be? Now that's another thing altogether. Ask any SPS high school principal.

Annoyed Bigly

Anonymous said...

@no caps-- I agree with you entirely, all 2E, ELL, FRL kids should be focused on regardless of race and screened. Qualifying for HCC is not as simple as income or education level of parents either, as Jet City mom mentioned. If that was the case all higher income kids with college educated parents would qualify etc. But income and education level of parents do play a role regardless of race. There have been similar recent studies (standford) on the black/white achievement gap that highlight income plays a much larger role than race. We need to get to the root of that barrier.

Anonymous said...

I think the 22% number was about high school graduation rate, not hcc participation. I see that you are annoyed, Annoyed, but that post was about the general rigor level of SPS, not special rigor for anyone. And fyi, college admissions officers absolutely look at rigor between buildings. Some high schools prepare students well for college. Some schools do not. When students start to come in unprepared, colleges raise the bar for the sort of student they'll accept from that high school.

Next Step

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Content and skills are seen as "rote" learning, and there's a pervasive belief that students will magically learn and improve without explicit instruction. As long as SPS embraces this magical thinking, little will improve. The presentation at the Lincoln meeting is Exhibit A for such beliefs."


"Hint: Private schools don't offer every possible highest level course either. All should offer college admissions counseling. All should offer enrichment opportunities."

Also amen.

Anonymous said...

@ Annoyed Bigly,

Care to share those data you alluded to re: HCC population and standardized test scores? The data that show "HCC status does not represent" (whatever that means)?

This does not mean every high school should offer every possible AP class or math level.
And...nobody ever said they should. That's kind of why we have HCC pathways.

Kids coming into high school from HCC should be monitored and mentored for taking challenging classes... And there's the rub. For many kids, the only way they are going to be able to take classes they find challenging is if they have access to AP classes. To just say "well, all high school classes can be challenging!" is total BS. Its' like the Honors for All joke.

Kids coming into high school from HCC should be monitored and mentored for taking challenging classes and should be given a list of competitive colleges in their areas of interest along with knowledge of how to access scholarships and ways to access college if their family has little money. That's about all HCC-cohort kids should get or that the program should offer. Awesome. That's mostly what they want--courses that are sufficiently challenging. Glad we're on the same page.

Can kids from any standard public high school in Seattle get into Berkeley? Right now? Yes. Yes they can.
Of course--but that's partly because colleges look at more than just grades and courses. If you're an underrepresented group--by race, income, disability, gender for major, etc., your chances are a lot better. If you're an Asian male interested in computer science though, and you go to a school that doesn't offer many AP classes and doesn't have a reputation for a strong curriculum, you can pretty much kiss your chances goodbye. That's a whole different equity issue though, so probably not of interest to you.


Anonymous said...

Its a pity we really don't fund the school system in a manner where offering advanced classes for small numbers of students is possible. This is the crux of the issue.

If there are 8 kids who need Calculus BC, you're often out of luck. We can't spare a teacher for that low of a number.


David said...

I've always found it odd how in Seattle we act like gifted or HC education is some niche/novelty/fad in education science, and we spend years and years spinning our wheels trying to reinvent the wheel - when in fact it's a well-researched area and there are many successful model programs throughout the country (and internationally). NAGC has actually set up a whole set of standards that can guide the development of HC programs (here's a link to them: http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/national-standards-gifted-and-talented-education). NAGC has also developed best practices for identification of HC students from underrepresented groups (income, race, ethnicity, immigration status). But even if you want to ignore NAGC or similar organizations, there are many school districts that offer strong HC education programs that we could model ourselves off of. But instead we just flub on as though no one has done any of this groundwork competently for us. That's mystifying to me.

Sandy said...

@Annoyed Bigly,
"They do care about taking rigorous classes within the building they are in. Not compared to other buildings."

Yes, so it's not like colleges will mind if some of Seattle's students go to a "hard" high school and take a bunch of AP classes or earn an IB diploma. That wouldn't be a bad thing.

Plus, it's weird that almost no HCC students choose to go to West Seattle, Sealth, Franklin, Cleveland, Hale, and Beach if just taking the hardest classes in the building is all colleges are looking for.

Anonymous said...

"almost no HCC students choose to go to West Seattle, Sealth, Franklin, Cleveland, Hale, and Beach"

--yet those in the assignment areas of these schools have essentially no choice but to attend these schools that are widely considered to be second-tier or worse. HCC students have some choices...but the gen. ed. locals--NOT.

SPS has set up a student assignment plan that is custom-built for charters and vouchers.

For those who are so opposed to De Vos--planning to protest her visit, portraying her as the anti-Christ to their own liberal values--yet continue to scare off real attempts at fairness and justice by using "busing" as the Willie Horton factor:

well, we can't have "busing again" or gerrymandering or real choice schools (if it involves "busing")...but I'm open to, you know, "ideas and discussion"...

you have no credibility left.

About Time

Anonymous said...

...If there are 8 kids who need Calculus BC, you're often out of luck.

Isn't that one of the primary reasons for pathway schools? Having a big enough cohort of students working beyond grade level that a school doesn't have to say, tough luck? Same goes for language pathways - they can offer advanced language classes that wouldn't otherwise be available at each neighborhood school. Few private high schools offer Calc BC (at least when we toured years ago). One school even suggested Running Start. That SPS, with a student population large enough to offer advanced classes that even private schools can't always offer (due to their small size), can't seem to figure it out continues to boggle the mind.


Anonymous said...

@David - you are so right. Well stated.
As a parent all of my interactions and email exchanges with the SPS district office could be published as a chapter in Fashionable Nonsense.


Anonymous said...

Annoyed Bigly says: "That's about all HCC-cohort kids should get or that the program should offer."

Unclear says: "Awesome. That's mostly what they want--courses that are sufficiently challenging. Glad we're on the same page."

The school district has not within the past quarter century had any statement of what the intention of any advanced learning program is: not what the program should or should not offer, not what the curriculum should include, not what needs it should be designed to meet, not how it should meet those needs, not whether there is expected to be any way to measure whether the program is accomplishing any of the things that people imagine it ought to do.

This leaves everybody free to imagine that they know what "the program" should be, and then to be disappointed because the school district can't hit a target that it has never tried to see.



Anonymous said...

We don't have a gifted program in Seattle...we have an accelerated program that you are only eligible for if you are both high achieving and qualified as highly capable on Cogat. Therefore many people are simply automatically excluded. Kids who start out disadvantaged (typically but not limited to or always black, recent immigrants, lower income), younger for grade, etc) are more likely to not make the achievement cut off, regardless of whether they get a leg up on admission criteria...and do we want them to get that leg up - if they are far enough behind, does a pure accelerated program make sense for them? Conversely, kids who are high achieving academically, but not highly capable (possibly those who are older for grade, are early achievers) won't qualify and could spend the first several years of school bored.

There have to be better alternatives that actually address the needs of those who need gifted education (both early high achievers and those who need a little more time to get going) and those who need a little more rigor/enrichment until the classes start to even out a little.

NE Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes to Irene and NE Parent; good comments

Anonymous said...

Here is a district does it in a reasonable and fairer way.


Limited English Proficiency and low SES get 8 extra points.

Since SPS is so overworked, apparently, and under-funded, without a doubt, why don't they just duplicate Houston's program?


Anonymous said...

I agree l, but not to knock anyone's socks off but the al office has said for years they are taking consideration of the applicants ses and ell status.

of course there should be a set number l or should there be... i leave it to the district to define it.

No caps

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see some numbers if AL is giving low SES and LEP students a leg up, because the numbers in the HC program indicate otherwise. Private school on the public dime seems to be reserved for CONNECTED white and Asian kids.


Anonymous said...

You don't have to be "connected" to get into HCC. The district sends a testing invitation letter to every student that meets the initial screening criteria, and they screen all (either via the CogAT screened in Title I schools, or MAP/SBAC scores for everyone else).

And again, there's no way this is like private school on the public dine. It's a nice sound bite, but far removed from reality.

Big sigh

Anonymous said...

@ Big sigh - Sending a testing invitation letter is a notoriously weak and ineffectual way to get more kids of all backgrounds into the HCC program. Universal testing should occur during the school day at all schools - just like SPS does with the PSAT and SAT.

And the connections that get someone into HCC are the implicit and unspoken and tacit connections that get people ahead everyday - affluence, native English speaker, white usually certain Asians sometimes, and property in certain Seattle neighborhoods like NE Seattle and Capitol Hill. Sorry to be so blunt, but that has been my experience.


Anonymous said...

@SAD, I don't know the numbers this year but you can't tell how many students in any category qualified by looking at the number enrolled. Some parents of students that qualify for HCC choose not to enroll. Some of those are from historically underrepresented groups who do not enroll because they do not see HCC as something that will help their students become leaders within their communities, because it does not offer the kind of connection to community that some neighborhood schools provide. This is only one example of the several types of students for whom the drawbacks of HCC are greater than the benefits.


Anonymous said...

HCC is not private school on the public dime. In the SPS it is accelerated - moving 1 or 2 years ahead in math and english. The classes are the same classes that all the students in the district take (and the same crappy curricula) The HCC cohort have just taken them 1-2 years earlier. It is not a great model for advanced learning and within the HCC community the acceleration has been administered capriciously and based on classroom capacity. However, one advantage of this system is that its administration can be tracked - in other words, parents knew if their students were in the appropriate class or not. The changes proposed will leave the administration of advanced learning to the whim of individual principals, many of whom are hostile to advanced learning. In the future parents will not be able to determine if AL opportunities are being administered or even what they are. Supposed activists for equity are making it easy for the district to shirk its responsibility to provide challenging curricula for all students. As an educator myself I can tell you that it is much easier to lighten up on students and leave them unprepared than it is to challenge students. SPS is definitely moving further and further toward dumbing down the curriculum. HCC parents have long been critical of, not just HCC/APP but also the curricula chosen by the district for administration to all students. That is one of the reasons the district administration hates the HCC families so much and often takes to this blog to denigrate them. Its a toxic situation.


Anonymous said...

What specifically are these "implicit, unspoken and tacit connections" in your anecdotal evidence? (Not being sarcastic - I really am curious about the reasons behind the open and accepted bias in Seattle toward certain swaths of the community e.g. Asians, NE Seattle).


kellie said...

My understanding of "private school on the public dime" is vouchers and most charter schools. HCC is nothing close to this.

Private school is truly defined by the ability of the school to say NO. No, you can't come to this school. HCC has to accept all students who meet the criteria.

We can argue what that criteria should be all day long. But just the same way that the criteria for an attendance area school is that you live in the attendance area. And the same way that the criteria for an option school is that you apply during open enrollment and are assigned based on that criteria. If the criteria for HCC is met, then the student is enrolled.

The simple truth is that public school has a wide variation in learning needs. There are students multiple grade levels below and students multiple grade levels above.

I don't think anyone believes that HCC is the best model. There are many other districts with much better models.

That said, the claim that advance learning equals private school is specious and deeply distracting to the creation of any actual solution. I define actual solution is one where more kids are getting their needs met.

Anonymous said...

Lots of the usual complaints but no constructive suggestions save affirmative action.

Telling to say the least. It's pretty clear most are content to exclude.


Anonymous said...

With all these discussions and critique of HCC, I encourage you to put your energy into the group Paramount Duty fighting for more money from the state and for SPS. I feel like people are debating things that will not significantly help the overwhelming majority of kids in SPS. I encourage people to fight for funding that will have a much bigger impact on equity.
-big picture

Anonymous said...

my friend has a black student and isn't interested in the HCC program...doesn't feel excluded, just not their thing.

Clearly students are being missed in the identification process, and then there's another group that could qualify but wouldn't want to participate, and some who might barely qualify if it weren't for the achievement requirement, then there is everyone else. Should we get rid of the program because it isn't something my friend (and others) want for their children? Honest question.

Back to my friend-- She says they don't feel excluded, they just would rather stay with their neighborhood community and don't want to have their boy pushed ahead in math, but they don't care if someone else puts their kid in HCC. She is just one example, and obviously nit representative of a variety of populations and perspectives. But this makes me wonder: Who is the source of the disdain for HCC, white parents or black parents? If it's white parents, have they checked in with the families with black, brown or native students to see if they are representing their viewpoints? If it is black or brown parents, can you please make a suggestion of what would be your preferred way to serve black/brown gifted children so they are not excluded? Please speak up, I would like to hear from you!

Likely, many parents are simply not reading this blog and don't have time to navigate the SPS system. It would be nice to hear from this population (not the usual squeaky wheels) to find out what their ideas are for creating a better gifted program and a system of schools that isn't exclusive, if indeed that is what they feel we have. Maybe that survey that went out will uncover some useful perspectives, though it seems many people were missed and it was limiting in how feedback could be entered into the system. At least SPS tried to get feedback, that's a positive first step.

Ground Up

Anonymous said...

If we don't have program like HCC where advanced, gifted, whatever you call them, can get some challenging work to do in school, we are shortchanging not only those students but all of society. These kids are the future discoverers of medical miracles, leaders of our messed-up world, engineers to take us into space, etc.

SPS has a responsibility to educate these kids and give them a chance to help save our injured planet.

Could it be done without separating the HC students into homogeneous classrooms?

It seems that SPS finds it cheaper and easier to just put up a questionably fair testing regime and then defend the outcomes that disproportionately exclude poor students, black students, Native students, ELL students and SpED students.

DO we have the laziest district in the world, the most incompetent, the most racist and classist or is this really the best Seattle can do in 2017?


Melissa Westbrook said...

It's pretty clear most are content to exclude."

I don't see that and what was your suggestion, Penguin?

Wondering, your last sentence? You said a mouthful.

Anonymous said...

Oh Penguin. Sigh. That parents haven't solved this problem by coming up with a magical new idea to solve this persistent--and pretty much nationwide--problem of disparities in HCC is hardly evidence that people are content to exclude. The solutions are out there, written up by groups that study and make recommendations on these sorts of things. The district has seen those recommendations, too. This was a thread about what do we think the district will do, not what creative new--untested--ideas parents might have. Even if we did have new ideas, SPS doesn't listen.

But go ahead, make it all about those elitist, exclusionary parents again, like usual.


kellie said...

About time said

"almost no HCC students choose to go to West Seattle, Sealth, Franklin, Cleveland, Hale, and Beach"

--yet those in the assignment areas of these schools have essentially no choice but to attend these schools that are widely considered to be second-tier or worse. HCC students have some choices...but the gen. ed. locals--NOT.

This comment is insulting to those schools and misleading about advanced learning "choices." Franklin sends the largest number of students to the UW every year, because the UW knows students from Franklin are college ready. Cleveland is an option school with a long wait list every single year. Everyone is there by choice. Hale has an inclusive philosophy and also an annual wait list. Anyone that has ever heard a Rainier Beach student testify at school board meeting would not be so dismissive when discussing Beach. Likewise with Sealth and WSHS.

The original statement about HCC students not choosing those schools has a lot more to do with the needed course offerings and the Calculus AB example is perfect.

High School is funded by the State of Washington at much lower rate than the K8 grade levels. As such, there is even less money to go around at high school. Not every student needs Calc AB to be college ready as this is several years outside of the typical high school sequence. There is not funding to put Calc AB on the master schedule for every school for a handful of students.

However, there are many students for whom Calc AB is just the natural progression for their math sequence and SPS needs to provide Calc AB is a way that both serves students and is fiscally responsible.

At the moment, SPS has only one advanced learning option - the cohort. However, what advanced learning "looks like" varies widely from elementary, to middle school and then to high school. For high school, there needs to be 1-3 high schools that are required and have the needed cohort size to provide these classes on the master schedule. Otherwise, SPS is essentially saying that once you reach this level in math (or science or name your subject) SPS no longer provides classes for you and you need to go to Running Start or explore online options.

Anonymous said...

Kellie, I don't have high school students. I do know that no one on this blog (and these are the well-connected parents in the district) is clamoring to get their children into these schools. As well, the comments on the HCC/APP blog consistently report that they are thankful that Roosevelt and Ballard have been their default schools since they wouldn't want to send their children elsewhere.

Second-tier is nothing to scoff at in the scheme of things, especially since SPS outperforms the state average. But the fact remains that there is a tiered level of high schools that are unfairly available according to address (except for HCC).

If the HCC crowd doesn't think those schools are good enough for their kids then they are not good enough. "Needed offerings" is code for advanced offerings which is code for high quality.

Being the messenger doesn't mean I'm putting down the students who attend those schools. That is a classic lawyer tactic to avoid addressing the issue, which in this case is the highly disparate quality of schools in Seattle and the SAP.

Almost Time

Anonymous said...

Advanced offerings is not code for anything. It means advanced offerings. All SPS offers HC students is acceleration. They could offer something else, but this is free. They receive the same curriculum, 1-8, only earlier. Then they get to high school, and it is true that HCC parents find unacceptable that sps only wants to offer 2 years of science or math at some schools. All parents would. 4 years of core classes is extremely basic education.

Plenty of people clamor to get into those schools. I am aware of many parents who finagle into Hale especially. Less often hcc parents because then their kids have to repeat 2 years of science. Gen ed parents in general don't want that either. I don't think any kid should have to repeat classes they have passed. I understans it would be cost prohibitive to offer advanced classes with small numbers of students who need them, so a pathway makes sense.


Anonymous said...

sleeper, someone named "sleeper" stated on the HCC/APP blog that they will likely be choosing Roosevelt, a non-pathway school. "sleeper" has also remarked that Hale is not challenging enough.

Since there is an SAP that limits students (except HCC) to essentially be at a high school based on the family address, where's the justice here? If there are some neighborhood high schools that have enough offerings to take some parents out of the "pathway" then what about the ones that would never be considered because (let's just cut to the chase) they are not high quality enough? Their local students are stuck.

The variety of offerings at schools are very much dependent on the socio-economics of their region, thanks to a strict SAP that would be considered unacceptable in most larger school districts.

Almost Time

Anonymous said...

Yes, Roosevelt offers 4 years of math for students who have been accelerated. Hale requires hcc students to repeat years of science and will not offer 4 years of math. That is not elitism, there's no special quality I am looking for, just 4 years of core classes. I had hoped it would be at diverse Garfield, but I don't think that will remain an option. I definitely think any kid who will run out of core classes at a high school should be allowed to opt to a high school where they can complete a normal high school schedule.

I think high schools should be required to offer 4 years of sequential classes to follow the classes they place middle schoolers in, but SPS and some principals do not agree. Interestingly, while elementary and middle school principals are lukewarm at best on the HC pathway, high school principals overwhelmingly favor it. High school really is different.

Please stop trying to piece together my personal details. I will also pay you the respect of not trying to out you on a blog.


Anonymous said...

The immersion pathway also allows families to choose, I believe, on the same theory-completing a sequence of classes. I am *hoping* when Lincoln comes online there will be some choice back in the system. I do actually know more families who try to opt into Hale than RHS.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like an "I get the cake and eat it, too" type of response. Options are great, aren't they? Too bad most high school students don't have any. Even worse, some/many are forced into an inferior school because they are being held hostage to their street address.

If you are going to defend the SAP (or "piggyback" on the Kellie defense train) by giving the message that the SAP's okay as long as there a few pathways, don't be surprised if you get called on hypocrisy. Someone named "sleeper" (whoever you/they are--and I could care less) gave a completely different message to a different audience on a public blog. Outing? Get real.

Sort of like Clinton's "deplorables" comment or Obama's "guns and bibles" comment getting called out.

Over Time

Anonymous said...

That mysterious person was talking to people mostly in the same boat- with kids accelerated by the hcc program, which not all high schools in seattle feel they have to complete four years of core classes for. Most students come in at physical science, and every single high school in the district offers a 4 year science pathway starting at physical science. This blog is not intended mostly for hcc families, and so I am more specific if I explain what is missing. Specific classes. Sure, I also am not a personal Jill Hudson fan, but the offerings there are not "inferior," and whatever limitations there are only based on her philosophy, not student profile. She has an educational vision she is implementing, which is highly, highly popular, and certainly "works" to get kids into all levels of higher education institutions. It dovetails nicely with similarly popular Thornton Creek. It is at odds with acceleration, however.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Almost Time, I would remind you (and readers) that it is important to be clear about what is fact and what you are stating as opinion. You consistently put forth your views as if they are fact and they are mostly opinion. Like:

"Needed offerings" is code for advanced offerings which is code for high quality."

Is it? It might be but it also is the district's way of serving advanced learners. They cannot afford to have the number of AP or IB offerings at every single high school. So how to save money and serve those students? You have a couple of schools that have many offerings. There is nothing nefarious in that. Would it push other parents - non-HCC - who might want a more college-focused track for their students? It might.

And I agree with Sleeper - many parents would like to get into Hale and Franklin.

We do not out people here. You are welcome to reference comment elsewhere but do not attempt to provide linkage. You wouldn't like it.

I think the question is if a high school has more advanced offerings, does that make it better? It may drive more involved parents sure. That tends to create a stronger PTA. But much of how great a school is remains in the hands of the district and THAT is where you should direct your ire.

Again, what do you want the district to do in order to provide equity to students AND fulfill their legal mandate for HCC students in a cost-effective manner?

kellie said...

@ Over time / Almost time / About time,

Could you please pick a moniker and stick to it. It is very challenging to try to follow you with shifting names.

"No one on this blog" is an incredibly sweeping statement and like all sweeping statements blindingly inaccurate. The SAP does allow for ALL students to have some choice. Now the fact that downtown wants to eliminate as much choice as possible from the SAP, will once again have a greater impact on general education students than HCC students, who have some protections as a protected class.

No one is "forced" to go to Cleveland by the SAP because Cleveland is an option school. That said, downtown wants to change this status and remove that option for ALL students. Franklin has a huge waiting list every year and plenty of space to take many of these students. The simple fact that downtown limits that choice artificially is a problem.

You state that you do not have high school students. Then you most likely do not know that high school is the master schedule. Plain and simple. There is no "grade level" experience in high school. There is only a master schedule and a mysterious process where students access classes on those schedules.

There is huge distinction between the offerings on a master schedule and the "quality" of a school. They have little or nothing to do with each other. Instead the master schedule is a reflection of the cohort and "needed offerings" of the students assigned to that school.

"needed offerings" is not code for "quality" and because of the way that high schools are funded there is zero possibility that it could be code. The state only requires 3 years of math to graduate high school. Because of the way the State of Washington dramatically underfunds high school, not every high school has the capability to offer math to the level of Calc AB as part of the master schedule process.

The simple point here is that Calc AB is not required for a high school to be "quality." Many private schools do not offer Calc AB because they simply do not have enough students who need that offering. However, SPS does have more than enough students for whom Calc AB is simply a needed offering.

kellie said...

Almost time said,

Being the messenger doesn't mean I'm putting down the students who attend those schools. That is a classic lawyer tactic to avoid addressing the issue, which in this case is the highly disparate quality of schools in Seattle and the SAP.

When students from Rainier Beach testify, I listen closely. I have been very impressed by the depth, quality and persistence of their testimony on behalf of their school. These students have repeatedly testified to the opposite of your statement. They have said that when people "put down" their school, they feel it personally. As such, I would invite you to consider that calling multiple schools second tier and describing students as forced into second tier schools is not the same things as creating a conversation about the "highly disparate quality of schools in Seattle and the SAP."

That second conversation in one that I am happy to have. There are many problems with the current SAP. There are many problems with how the enrollment department implements the current SAP. That said, the old pure choice system had even more problems.

I don't believe there is a perfect SAP. However, many issues you ascribe to the SAP are not SAP issues but budget issues and issues about how SPS decides to allocate limited funding and staffing at the building level. Changes to the SAP won't fix that.

Anonymous said...

@ Almost Time, you said:

Since there is an SAP that limits students (except HCC) to essentially be at a high school based on the family address, where's the justice here? If there are some neighborhood high schools that have enough offerings to take some parents out of the "pathway" then what about the ones that would never be considered because (let's just cut to the chase) they are not high quality enough? Their local students are stuck.

Here's the thing. The "justice" in it is that those local students are not likely to be "stuck." They didn't participate in HCC so likely don't need Calculus as sophomores, then 2nd year calculus and AP Stats in order to get 4 years of math in. The local high school generally provides a coherent, sequential pathway that works for the local population. It's really quite a simple concept to grasp. HCC students living in the Hale boundaries, however, need access to another school, since THEY would indeed be stuck if forced to go there. That's why we have pathways. They are a direct response to the need for higher level classes by a specific subset of students.

Is it possible that there are a few non-HCC students who are also on similar trajectories and need access to a school that has more advanced offerings? Probably. Not many, but likely some. In such cases they should be able to petition the district to let them choose a school that offers an appropriate course sequence. Or better yet, their guidance counselors should identify that gap when they are picking classes in the spring and they should work to help them get into an appropriate school if the student and family want that and don't want to have to go the Running Start route later instead. That should really be the goal--and expectation--everywhere: the opportunity to take 4 years worth of math, science, etc. without having to repeat a class and without being forced into Running Start. The level of courses offered in order to do that, however, may vary by school, regardless of "school quality."


Anonymous said...

Hale offers AP Calculus AB. The class was packed at 45 students and there were multiple classes also packed. Same with Physics. There is also AP Environmental Science offered. Hale offers 4 years of science and 4 years of math.

Which SPS high schools offer AP Calculus BC? I would only expect Garfield to offer that.

I know of several HCC qualified students that chose Hale over Roosevelt or Garfield or Ingraham. One achieved a perfect score on the ACT. Some families value inclusion. It doesn't make Hale a second tier school. It just makes it a different school.


Anonymous said...

So I poked around. It looks like AP Calculus BC is offered at Ballard, Roosevelt, and Garfield. It is not offered at the Stem high school, Cleveland and it is not offered from what I can tell at Ingraham. I suspect that kids wanting more than AP Calculus AB are heading to Running Start.


Anonymous said...

@HP, when you say "Hale offers 4 years of math," you mean for SOME students. For those who went to HCC elementary and took Algebra 1 in 6th, that's not the case. Those students are ready for Calculus as sophomores. They can get that, but then what? Plus, it's worth noting that some HCC students are ready for Calculus even earlier, but they can't take Running Start until 11th grade. They need a high school with even higher levels available in 9th-10th, to hold them over until RS is an option.


Anonymous said...

But I am not talking about HCC, I am talking about Gen Ed. Both Ingraham and Garfield are the HCC paths. Most schools do not offer Calculus BC. Only the schools with enough advanced students offer it and sometimes AP Statistics. If an HCC kid is ready for Calculus AB freshman year, is there any high school that has 4 years of math available to that kid?


Anonymous said...

@ HP, yes--HCC students often need access to higher level classes, and that's what the HCC pathways are for. My comments were mostly in response to @Almost stone above, who was trying to make the argument that wasn't fair and just. My argument was that while it's not EQUAL, it is EQUITABLE, since the needs are different. Your postings support my argument.

As to whether any high school can provide 4 yrs of math for such an advanced student, I do not believe so. That's why I mentioned Running Start. But since RS isn't an option until 11th grade, schools need to at least offer enough for someone taking Alg 1 in 6th to be able to take Calculus in 10th. That's the bare minimum if they disband pathways.