Saturday, November 10, 2018

District Calls Off Whitman Meeting over RESMS Capacity Issues

 This letter went out yesterday.  A few thoughts:

- I'm sure JAMS won't like the movement of Olympic View students to their school but, according to the numbers presented, it's not a huge influx. 

- That sentence "there will continue to be overcrowding" at RESMS and LS seems to me to be a bit of "okay, if you won't play our way, too bad."

Not a word about the district and the LS principal and RESMS principal working together to ease issues with co-location.

- I urge readers to write to Superintendent Juneau and the Board and demand better.  This is shoddy work on the part of Tolley and Jesse.  schoolboard@seattleschools.org

- Wonder what the speakers list for next week's Board meeting will look like?
Dear Families,

Thank you to those who have participated in the conversation around over-enrollment and building capacity issues at the campus shared by Robert Eagle Staff Middle School and Licton Springs K-8.
We have decided to slow down the process after meeting with families on Nov. 7. As a result, we are canceling the meeting scheduled for Nov. 13 at Whitman Middle School.

We will be moving forward a recommendation to the School Board that assigns all Olympic View Elementary neighborhood students to Jane Adams Middle School for the 2019-20 school year. The recommendation will also include grandfathering for current Robert Eagle Staff students.

As a result, for the 2019-20 school year there will continue to be overcrowding at the Robert Eagle Staff and Licton Springs K-8 building. We are working with the school leaders to schedule meetings to discuss more thoughtful engagement and future plans.

A work session on School Boundary Changes is scheduled for November 19 at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence from 4:30 – 6 p.m. This update will be discussed at the work session.

We look forward to working with families to develop a long-term solution that addresses the capacity issues and reflects the needs of students and families.

Michael Tolley                           Wyeth Jessee
Chief Academic Officer             Chief of Student Supports


NE Parent said...

I attended the recent REMS meeting and many of the past school board meetings where REMS was debated.

With regards to the option of moving Licton Springs out of REMS, it was clearly a non-starter given the lack of prior engagement. The Licton Springs community had been promised space at REMS for years by the school board. It's unfathomable to believe the district could have forced Licton Springs to move without their consent. And its unfathomable to believe the district could have garnered their consent within the alloted "month" of time on an issues that has been close their hearts for so many years. The same applies to converting Licton Springs from a K-8 to a K-5. This country has a long history of breaking promises to Native Americans, and the Licton Springs community was promised space at REMS. Forceable evicting them from REMS is the kind of action that would garner national media attention, and for good reason. The way this was proposed at the recent REMS meeting was in my opionion unconscionable.

Splitting off a small portion of Olympic View to send to REMS while sending the rest to JAMS was never a justified decision. At one point it was called "an oversight". Then, it was decided it couldn't be fixed, because there wasn't enough time to correct it before open enrollment. The numbers are not that large as many of the affected students have already waitlisted into JAMS. My understanding is that the JAMS core facilities including the library and cafeteria have sufficient capacity, even if this decision requires new portables, although that still seems to be an unknown. As this change has long been supported by the affected community and it will help with the severe overcrowding at REMS next year, it seems reasonable.

Without Licton Spring agreeing to "move out" or become a K-5, splitting the HCC community between REMS and Whitman doesn't solve the problem at REMS because REMS will still have too many students. So while this may be part of the eventual solution, it also may not be.
For example, perhaps the final solution will mean feeding another elementary school to Whitman.

In the end, I believe the district has done the only thing it can do until it undertakes further engagement.

muh said...

In the end, I believe the district has done the only thing it can do until it undertakes further engagement.

I am frustrated by this because we all knew this was coming for two years. About a year ago we started pushing the district to have these discussions immediately. I remember writing the words 'Please don't put it off until we run out of time for discussion before open enrollment.' And yet, here we are.

Still, I think NE Parent has it right - this is about all the district can do at this point.

Of course, we're still all going to be upset next year, because short of finding a new building somewhere, there are no good solutions.

NNE Mom said...

They could allow REMS students to opt into Whitman and then actually move the wait list.

Melissa Westbrook said...

But again, the district knew this was coming. But, as is their MO, they wait it out until "something has to be done" and then present "solutions." Not to her credit, Director Mack said she didn't like "the process" but something has to be done.

Ok, how about demoting or firing people who don't do their jobs? How about looking at staff and saying, "You knew this and yet you are forcing me and these parents into a hasty decision and calling it 'family engagement?'"

One of major mistakes that every single Board has made since I have been covering this district is to NOT hold staff accountable for problems of their own making.

NNE excellent question and it begs another one: Why are they allowing Whitman to twist in the wind a la Washington, Lowell, etc? Hmmm.

kellie said...


I have a slightly different point of view. I do think it is to Director Mack's credit that she stated an ugly and uncomfortable truth. Nothing in this district gets better until the problem is clearly stated.

This "process" is a disaster. There is no doubt. This problem was manufactured and could have been averted over a dozen times. And ... something has to be done.

As I mentioned on the other thread. Last year, when TWO portables were added, downtown reassured the community that the next year would be used to for the process of resolving this. One full year later, rather than get resolution, downtown pushed this ridiculous and damaging lists of "kick someone off the island."

Hitting the pause button for another year is likely to create as many problems as it avoids and there is the real possibility that by next November, the options are even worse.

Whitman will still be under-enrolled and with their deeply reduced offering, unlikely to refill anytime soon. (Anyone remember Flip Herndon's testimony that Whitman would quickly refill and that it was intentional to reduce the school this much.) Licton Springs will still have inadequate space. RESMS will still be swiftly growing.

There are somethings that could mitigate the damage but none of those things are going to happen by hitting the pause button and ending community engagement. As NNE parent mentioned, there is a lot of mitigation that could happen via the choice system. But at this point, trust has been shattered on that topic.

There are plenty of students drawn into the RESMS zone who are physically close to either Eckstein or Whitman. It is very likely that families would choose away from over-crowded RESMS and into a different middle school. But because downtown has crisply and clearly violated the choice process for multiple years now by refusing to honor "space available" it would take a lot of effort from downtown to assure people that this is not one more broken promise.

Replacing the portables at Whitman would be a good first step. Portables that had an intended life cycle of 20 years that have been in place for over 50, does not inspire confidence.

And let's not forget. This is not an isolated problem. Many of the same issues in the Whitman / RESMS split can also be found in the Washington / Meany split. Hopefully, the district would solve both problems simultaneously by simply doing what should have been done before the schools opened.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kellie, we'll have to disagree on Mack if only because I have heard this from Board member after Board member thru the years and nothing ever changes.

If directors think that staff set up deadlines that are too short, then they should get the Superintendent to change that pattern.

However, I quite agree that waiting is not good. In fact, I almost wonder if staff wants to see things get worse.

As I said in one post on this topic, the district has not seemed to have any problem buying new portables. I've read BAR after BAR where they have in the last three years. They can buy more for Whitman.

I think the Meany/Washington split did have issues but Washington's most current problems are directly because of the new principal.

Anonymous said...

Another disaster waiting to happen could be that the Lincoln boundary was drawn too small so further tweaking will need to be done to alleviate overcrowding at Ballard and Roosevelt. At the end of the Board meeting where they took the vote last year, Director Mack suggested they add a Phinney area to Lincoln as some parents had said they would prefer to go to Lincoln, but by then I think they were all exhausted and no one responded.


Anonymous said...

Hey Superintendent Juneau, are you listening?

If you were behind the abrupt decision to rethink the presented options, good for you--because your staff really blew it with that list of possible "solutions".

However, a full-on "pause" is not what we need. We need actual fixes, now. Work with the community, listen to how this was all supposed to unfold (e.g., original plans prior to last minute decisions, follow-up steps that were supposed to be taken to mitigate problems), learn about the plentiful warnings voiced by the community--but that went unheeded.

Seattle seems to have a long history of administrators and board members ignoring community concerns, even when reasonable data suggest these concerns are warranted. Then when the (anticipated) problems come to pass, SPS acts like "it's not our fault, how were we supposed to know such and such would happen?" Well, because community members told you it was likely! SPS often seems to have tunnel vision--unable or unwilling to see anything that doesn't fit its agenda on any particular vision. But here's the thing. There are a lot of smart, informed people in this community. I have been completely impressed with the level of detailed knowledge many have re: various aspects of this district. I have been impressed by the willingness of community members to obtain data and do their own analysis to try to shed light on topics when the district doesn't. I have been impressed by the willingness of people to step up and help out on all sorts of matters. I have been impressed that community members are often the ones able to answer tricky questions or provide historical context when JSCEE staff have not been able to do the same. I have been shocked by my frequent feelings that I need to submit a public records request to obtain information from staff on key issues--shocked not only because there is so little transparency, but also because I've never been so distrustful of a school district before Seattle.

In other words, you have a smart and committed constituency, should you choose to use it. Those who have or have had kids in our schools know how things actually work, not how they do on paper. We can see the nuances of a proposed policy, and the ripple effects, much better than those who sit at a desk down at the central office. Their perspectives are limited, and that's natural. But we have a whole lot of "test cases" in the community--each student can be an example of how the policy or procedure may play out for a specific group of kids. By not listening to community concern UP FRONT, you are saying you don't value the experience of all students. I understand that you can't please all of the people all of the time, but you'll notice that customer satisfaction levels are very low in SPS. We can do better--but YOU have to set the tone. No more pitting schools or communities or programs/services agains each other. Not more going into public meetings unprepared or unwilling to field and answer tough questions. No more vagueness to obscure the truth, no more fake promises. No more failure to hold top staff accountable for their failures. If you want to move away from this "crisis mode" of management and start preventing some problems in the first place, I urge you to listen to the community.

Due Diligence

kellie said...


I hear you. So much damage has been done over the years with the mantra "the process is flawed but we have to do something." The very mess we are discussing came to be because of that mantra.

The 2013 Growth Boundaries. The board clearly stated. "These boundaries are not going to work when the time comes for the schools to open. We know this. We know the process was flawed." They knew they were using data that was two years old and didn't even reflect the current reality let along the reality a few years out ... but yet, they had to do something.

In 2016, when overwhelming community feedback pointed to serious problems with RESMS, Washington, Hamilton, Mercer and Whitman ... the same response. We know the process is flawed and we have to do something.

IMHO, the big distinction is WHEN. There is this idea that the board has to vote on these issues in November so that open enrollment and everything else happens "on time" It is this hurry up, decide, or everything falls apart that is the real problem.

If the district had taken a few extra weeks back in 2016 to really look at the problems, we wouldn't be dealing with the same exact problem now. There is a pretty distinct list of schools with substantial boundary problems. Every year, the statement is that we are out of time to address those problems. And then another year passes.

Last year when two portables were placed at REMS, it was clear this problem was not going to solve itself. I have zero confidence that giving the process another year will make any difference. The situation will only be more intense a year from now.

Whenever the district finally decides that all of the middle school feeder pattern issues need to be addressed, the process will be pretty ugly.

Anonymous said...

@ kellie, and these same stall tactics seem to happen on multiple issues. When the district finds a problem isn't easy to address, they seem to just sweep it under the rug for another year in hopes that it will magically disappear in the meantime.

Don't like what the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee might say about the advanced learning re-envisioning process? Put their involvement "on pause."

Can't figure out how to (belatedly) handle the new 24-credit requirement? Put that process on pause.

Not sure how to handle the RESMS, LS, Whitman mess? Put it pause for another year.

And so on.

The common thread in all those "pauses" seems to be Tolley, and the lack of meaningful community engagement early in the process seems to be a big factor in why the pause button was needed. Is he too busy with other things, or does he not know how to handle these issues? In either case, help is clearly needed. There simply must be a

better way

NE Parent said...

I have never been more ashamed to be an American than I was at last week’s capacity meeting. The ultimatum presented to the Licton Springs community, in my opinion, was utterly unconscionable.

To call it anything other than an ultimatum, belies the facts. On the face of it, four options were presented. But in fact, to alleviate the overcapacity issue, there were really only two choices presented. The first choice would have required the entire Licton Springs community to move out of REMS. The second choice would have required the Licton Springs community change from a K-8 to a K-5 as well as for the HCC community to Split to Whitman and for the Olympic View community to feed into JAMS.

In other words, Licton Springs was given an ultimatum; either move out or change to a K-5. To suggest otherwise, based on the presentation and discussion, belies the facts.

The treatment of the students at Licton Springs raised at the meeting is utterly heart-wrenching. Yet the option of moving a feeder school out had been already categorically ruled out by staff.

The Licton Springs community was promised a school. They fought hard for it. They fought long for it over many years. The school board voted to place it at the Wilson Pacific/ REMS Site because the REMS site has sacred meaning to the Native Community. The school board made promises with respect to space.

I for one plan to file a complaint with the Federal Office of Civil Rights for discrimination against the Native American community. In my opinion, the district has clearly broken and is continuing to break Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"In other words, you have a smart and committed constituency, should you choose to use it. Those who have or have had kids in our schools know how things actually work, not how they do on paper. We can see the nuances of a proposed policy, and the ripple effects, much better than those who sit at a desk down at the central office. Their perspectives are limited, and that's natural."

From your lips to her ears.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just received early word that Michael Tolley may be on his way out. Details to come.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the condition of Whitman...

I was a Whitman student 20 years ago. The facility was in abysmal condition then.

While I'm living out of the Seattle area these days, I get back often.

When I was still in the city I had occasion to attend community events, etc, over the years at Whitman. There had been some minor work done, but overall, it was still abysmal.

The portables out back were older than old ... I've seen so many new portables pop up around the district, and yet the same portables from the 1950s were still in use. And, before Whitman's downsizing, they were providing a substantial amount of the school's capacity.

And regardless of how poorly Whitman scored on the various building condition inventories over the years, very little capitol money flowed there. It is utterly puzzling.


Anonymous said...

I was at the RESMS meeting last week, I was involved in the RESMS opening and boundary/feeder school challenges two years ago, I attended part of and watched ALL of the 2013 boundary discussion and it makes my blood boil. How many supers have we been through? 3 since then? 4 including interim Enfield? I don't recall any longer because we've had no stability. I don't think many parents who attended the meeting last Wed understood who Michael Tolley is and how much of an abject failure has has been for all our kids. Curriculum and Instruction-scope and sequence, continuity and consistency between schools/offerings/classes, 24 credit, Math, Science, Foreign Language, HCC curriculum, and of course, now he has Enrollment. Well, I shared with him that I was offended by his presence last week. I don't think that was the "community engagement" he had in mind. He has failed in his basic responsibilities and needs to follow Flip out the door. And, at the same time, the Board (Rick Burke oversees C&I) needs to hold SPS responsible for poor choices, lack of transparency, non-data driven decisions, and the litany of challenges that SPS creates themselves. I hope that Superintendent Juneau actually understands these issues and has come to a fast understanding that parents feel they have been put on pause for years. If not, it would be wise for her to leave now and not bother to waste our time. As for Tolley, it is music to my ears to hear that there may be a change. Our district deserves a lot better. All of them. By the way, Choice is Equity!
-Long Road

Anonymous said...

“I have never been more ashamed to be an American than I was at last week’s capacity meeting.”

Have you ever heard of President Trump?

Keep Dreamin’

MonikerMom said...

I picked up my kid at soccer at Whitman last week. I can't believe what a dump that school looks like. Totally embarrassing for our city.

Anonymous said...

Tolley is gone?! O joyous day!!

I fully expect to see him hired by some charter school before the school year is out.

Cookie Party

Anonymous said...

Ok that would be welcome news MW. Especially if it is because Juneau understands his divisiveness. Flip and now Tolley. Hum

Caps optional

Anonymous said...

@ Caps optional,
If you are trying to guess whether Juneau had anything to do with it, don't know about Tolley. I do know Flip had been interviewing elsewhere for at least a couple of years, prior to Juneau.


Anonymous said...

The district's attitude towards Whitman is confusing. We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood with good elementary schools and a strong high school. Yet, as far as I can tell, the middle school is being left for dead. Because of the low enrollment, there are limited course offerings. Many of the language teachers left for REMS. And now I hear, despite its condition, it has dropped to #15 on the list of possible projects for the next BEX. It was high on the list of schools in need of upgrades until they factored in enrollment, at which point Whitman, for all purposes, dropped off the list.

To solve this the district could either:

*Remodel/upgrade Whitman, thus increasing its desirability and use this to attract a larger student population.

*Redraw the boundaries, increasing its population and thus course offerings and chances of getting a remodel.

*Ignore the problem and hope it will go away - leaving Whitman to flounder.

Who in their right mind could believe that the third option is really the best? Why does the district appear to be choosing this option??

-NW parent

Anonymous said...

@ Caps optional, I think Tolley has been looking for a while, too. In 2016 he was reported as a superintendent finalist for Bainbridge. I remember getting my hopes up then...


Outsider said...

I live in the south, and have no dog in the fight, and no direct contact with the situation, so what follows is just a guess. Feel free to ignore. But I wondered -- everyone on this blog is scratching their heads about seemingly inexplicable past decisions on middle school boundaries, which produced easily predictable trouble; and also about seemingly inexplicable limits to the current solutions the central office bureaucrats would consider. No answers are forthcoming, and yet no one has mentioned the R-word.

It was always my impression earlier that racial percentages were the primary driving factor in setting school boundaries in north Seattle. Again, this is a total guess, but maybe that is the missing factor without which district decisions can't be understood. Perhaps moving a logical feeder elementary school from Eagle Staff to Whitman would make one or both of those schools either too white or not white enough. If you could sit down with a spreadsheet showing the racial mix of each school, and of each relevant sub-population, perhaps you could easily see which future moves could be considered or not.

And while we are considering seemingly inexplicable attitudes in the central office -- people seem to be puzzled by the fact that SPS bureaucrats, who are otherwise relentlessly progressive PC equity educators, seem to be so callous toward Licton Springs, a school designed to serve a disadvantaged and long suffering population. But you have to remember that schools like Licton Springs might cause some cognitive dissonance in the PC mind. The dominant progressive paradigm is forced integration and inclusion. Concentrating a disadvantaged community at a particular school is not exactly PC, even if members of that community wanted it so. SPS bureaucrats seem to be trying to weaken Licton Springs with a thousand cuts, with the intention of shrinking it and perhaps ultimately getting rid of it. Bloody-minded as it seems, perhaps that is consistent with their ideology. Or at a minimum, it might provide ideological cover within the bureaucracy for killing off the school for other reasons.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tolley had interviewed as well for at least one superintendent job. I'm not sure it matters where he is going; it matters who replaces him and if Juneau does the smart thing and launch a search for the person who will be her right hand.

Outside, if only they did racial gerrymandering but I doubt that's the case.

I do think you may be right about LS; I never believed for a minute that they would get all they were promised. They need to be treated like World School and given a permanent home. You don't see TOPS or Hazel Wolf fighting for space.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of top administrative positions - the district has advertised an opening for the new Chief Operations Officer position.


Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...


I think that does play a factor, yes. However, adding HCC to a school tends to make the school less white (cf. Decatur, which is or is about to be a minority majority school, right in the middle of View Ridge's assignment area). The same will be true of Lincoln, which without HCC would look essentially the same as Ballard. The fears about a too white RESMS probably can't alone explain the boundary issue, since they also got HCC.


Your point about progressive cognitive dissonance when it comes to "inclusion" is right on the mark! Little of the research that gives rise to the philosophy of inclusion in special ed included minority populations or highly capable students. While special ed students do have better outcomes in their "least-restrictive environment," the same is not true when you isolate minority students away from each other. It is also not true when LGBTIQ students are isolated away from each other. It is also not true with highly capable students. All have worse outcomes in social and emotional development as well as academic progress because the environment is not "least-restrictive" for them. For these students, the research has identified various models that work better, most of them variations on clusters.

When bureaucrats approach problems ideologically instead of in a data-driven way, they become a detriment to students and not a benefit to them.


Katie said...


I found reading this document quite perplexing while all this is going on. I don't understand the decision to buy back a lease for 6 mil in order to collect rent from tenants directly and stating this building is not going to be needed for 7-10 years. Meanwhile SpEd kids at a school a 10 minute drive away are receiving their education in an open hallway?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Why thank you, Katie. I had forgotten about this. I remember smiling at the time because, several years back the district had said, "No, we can't go breaking leases."

Could this be a home for Licton Springs? It's not a big building so unless it was torn down and built up (and I'm not sure there is the footprint to go higher), it's a modest-sized school.


Eric B said...

To me, about 90% of the point* of having Licton Springs at the RESMS site was the cultural significance of the actual springs on site and promises to the Native American community. Breaking promises and moving the Native program off of culturally significant lands because the majority feels they need it has some fraught history. Especially when there's another solution that actually solves the other major middle school capacity problem--underenrollment at Whitman.

Katie said...

I completely agree Eric. The fact that a year ago the district promised Licton Springs not only a permanent home at this sacred location, but room to grow only to have this happen a year later when anyone with only superficial knowledge of the situation could predict it is completely offensive.

There are some people in the LS community that think Lake City should at lease be explored if a move is inevitably forced by the district. Why does the district want LS to move to Webster? According to the district's own slides only 6% of LS families live over there. They had plans to open that building as a neighborhood school long before moving LS was ever talked about. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I can't help thinking forcing a move to a neighborhood difficult to get to for most of the LS community would be a way for them to get rid of a school they find inconvenient. Move LS, the numbers drop and then they can justify closing it using the same logic they were using when presenting closing the LS middle school. Create problems which decrease enrollment, then try to close the school based on low enrollment.

Anonymous said...


First of all, nobody is entitled to a perfect education, or even a great one. Courts have found public school students in special programs are only entitled to a floor of opportunity. They aren't entitled something optimized for them. Having segregated programs may indeed be a benefit to some, but we don't have to provide that even if it were true. Giving one group a perfect segregated education means that others are clustered together at highly disadvantageous rates, especially when the ones getting the better education have grown to be a really large group. It's really a glaring, and new making inequality. Read McOutta here who correctly noted the horribly high rates of disability and other disadvantage including race and economic status in schools where segregation is practiced. She wanted a full segregated perfect solution for her child anyway. Secondly, national gifted program evaluations can not disaggregate income since it is highly correlated to the highly capable designation all across the country. Face it, CogAt measures income right out of the box. We already know a high income group is going to outperform a lower one. And finally, in SPS our testing has shown, and program evaluations have shown, that HCC students in the program don't score better or have better outcomes than those that opt out. If it isn't producing markedly better results, then why keep the program as something separate? This is the argument against charters as well, and most of us accept that willingly. We all do know that all students have to be served appropriately. But some can not expect to receive something way better than others.

LS students should be entitled to a decent education with classrooms, reasonable electives, PE, field trips, special education with real classrooms and access to motor skills rooms too. The "PC" police in Seattle - would love to see a thriving, optional Native program - but they don't want to do the work to make it a reality. Given the small size of LS, that work includes money. The fact that such a program is optional, makes perfectly OK.


Anonymous said...

Oh Mickey,

A few corrections and clarifications:

You said "courts have found public school students in special programs are only entitled to a floor of opportunity," but WA state law says that highly capable students ARE entitled to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction. By calling that their "basic education," the legislature has essentially said that their floor of opportunity is a little bit higher, because they come in working at an already higher level. It would be hard to require them to go to school if they weren't able to have the opportunity to learn, right?

Nobody it talking about "something optimized for them." NO student in SPS gets a program optimized for them. The closest would be neurotypical students, those who fall within the bulk of students who are 1 SD above or below the mean. That group represents about 68% of students, and curricula are typically developed with this group in mind. So I guess you could say that the standard GE curriculum and instruction are optimized for that group of average(ish) students, right? Why should they get optimization if others shouldn't?

You said that "giving one group a perfect segregated education means that others are clustered together at highly disadvantageous rates, especially when the ones getting the better education have grown to be a really large group." First, not perfect--at all. Second, this doesn't create the racial segregation. If HCC were dissolved and these students went back to their neighborhood schools, racial segregation would not change much. In many cases, it would be more extreme, since HCC schools are often a little more diverse--racially and in income--than the assignment schools.

Re: "the horribly high rates of disability and other disadvantage including race and economic status in schools where segregation is practiced," can you please clarify which schools are the ones in which segregation is practiced? I wasn't aware of any.

Yes, income may be highly correlated to HC designation, but correlation is not causation. If "we already know a high income group is going to outperform a lower one" as you say, then why not just assign students based on parental income? Students of high income parents could start school in 1st or 2nd grade, and others could start in K. If the goal is to provide everyone with the education they need, placements should be based on their current abilities.

Re: that program evaluation you mentioned, it was an incredibly poorly designed evaluation and there are numerous explanations for why they found what they did, and the conclusions that have been made based on the data are equally faulty. This has been discussed many times here, but you clearly don't want to acknowledge the many flaws. Additionally, if a program isn't producing the results you want, the logical next move is to try to fix the program to get better results--not assume it's not needed in the first place.

Nobody expects anything "better" than anyone else. HCC uses the same curriculum, just on an accelerated schedule that is a better fit. Given that the curriculum is still designed for GE students, however, it may still be a worse program than it is for GE. Not as bad as GE curriculum at GE pace, but still definitely not "better" than what GE students get.

all types

Anonymous said...

Not so fast, all types

HC ( no extra C, it’s a service, not a cohort) may cover the same content centered curriculum as contemporary students, however, they do so in an exclusive segregated setting; a very different experience. The fact that they are not testing better, given all the exclusive advantages they receive, makes one wonder.

Institutional memory

Anonymous said...

@institutional memory/FWIW

So would you say someone who personally chose "exclusive segregation" privately via private appeal while decrying segregation ad nauseam publicly is a hypocrite? Apparently, exclusive advantages are no guarantee as to outcome.

Margaret Hagerman in the LA Times:

“Still, even some of those parents’ actions reproduced the very forms of inequality they told me they intellectually rejected. They used connections to get their children into selective summer enrichment programs or threatened to leave the public school system if their children were not placed in honors or AP courses that they knew contributed to patterns of segregation. So even as parents promoted to their kids the importance of valuing equality, they modeled how to use privilege to get what you want. White kids absorbed this too; they expected to be able to move easily through the world and developed strategies for making it so.”

Pattern Recognition

Anonymous said...

@ Institurional memory, Mickey was clearly talking about the cohort with all those “segregation” comments, hence my “C.” Yes, I know there are HC services—and one form is HCC (with 2 C’s).

This “exclusive segregated setting” is largely a myth. HCC students possess a similar range of abilities as are present in many GE classrooms. While HCC (and HC-eligible not in HCC) is not as diverse as the district, HCC is as diverse as the neighborhood schools that tend to send students to HCC. In other words, students who leave their neighborhood school for HCC are usually NOT switching to a less racially diverse, or higher income, school. They are not getting a bunch of “exclusive advantages”—just a curriculum schedule that is marginally a better fit.

Can you please clarify which test scores you’re referring to when you say HCC students don’t test as high as you seem to expect? HC students, whether in HCC or not, do tend to test well. If you’re talking about grade-level content tests, remember that HCC students take those tests a year or two after they cover the subject, too. If you’re referring to things like the PSAT (for NMSF status, we’ve already been over that. Many times.

All types

Anonymous said...

@ Mickey who said " Face it, CogAt measures income right out of the box. We already know a high income group is going to outperform a lower one."

Mickey it's not that simple. If that were the case all of HCC kids would also have siblings in the same HC program. But a majority of people I know with multiple kids might have one in HC and two who are not.

In addition all the kids in the same neighborhood of same demographic and income would also qualify. Income is but only one factor in that it provides resources and stability for students that may help them thrive and also qualify.

There are also low income kids who may also qualify if given resources and stability. My dad was probably one of them. He was highly gifted (as demonstrated later on) but never identified as a child. He had a widowed single mom on welfare and grew up dirt poor in the S. Bronx and went to a high school with a 30% graduation rate. As a child my brother was identified for gifted services which was also under special ed (another state) and I did not. It is not as simple as A+B=C. It is one factor, but not the only one.


Anonymous said...

@Mickey "LS students should be entitled to a decent education with classrooms, reasonable electives, PE, field trips, special education with real classrooms and access to motor skills rooms too."

Bigger comprehensive schools can offer more resources, activities etc. It is one benefit of going to a bigger public school. This is a public school district, that is also strapped by state budget and already has issues adequately supporting special ed and other students. I don't think we should be funding private small schools, but should supporting and committing to programs that do well in outcomes to support and affirm students who may otherwise be disadvantaged.

LS would likely benefit from being incorporated as a program into a larger comprehensive middle school, so the can share in resources and funding as well.


Anonymous said...

Segregation implies state sanctioned divisions by race. Are there racial imbalances? Yes. Those using the term "segregation" know SPS does not segregate, but they will continue to use the term, nonetheless.

words matter

Anonymous said...

Words do matter. Segregation can mean separation by group. HC undoubtedly segregates itself, academically, socio-economically, geographically and yes, racially. To many that appears the point of the exercise.

Institutional memory

Anonymous said...

@ Institutional Memory, words may matter, but your comment doesn't make any sense. HC is a designation, not something that can segregate itself. HC is a designation given to individual students, many of whom are in their neighborhood schools, where they are served in mixed classes.

HCC, a particular version of HC services, does involve separating students academically--that's kind of the point. It is one way of allowing for appropriate differentiation, since teacher are usually limited in what they can provide in a mixed classroom setting.

HCC is NOT segregating students geographically--our student assignment plan does that. If HCC were suddenly eliminated and all those kids returned to their neighborhood schools, geographic segregation would not be any better. It's the same with socioeconomics. These are not HCC-specific issues--they stem from our housing patterns. If you have a problem with geographic and socioeconomic segregation, you're barking up the wrong tree. The tree you want is the SAP.

At the root of all your concerns seems to be the fact that ELL, FRL, SpEd, and certain racial groups of students don't fare as well on the eligibility tests and thus don't qualify for HCC at proportionate rates. In that sense, your real beef is with the eligibility process, which most agree is flawed and needs some tweaking. Many also feel that the district needs to do more in the way of talent development, to help promising students catch up and/or qualify or HC services.

all types

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jane you said this:
I don't think we should be funding private small schools, but should supporting and committing to programs that do well in outcomes to support and affirm students who may otherwise be disadvantaged."

And are you speaking only of financially disadvantaged? Because the smaller schools the district does have are usually small because of building size and/or high numbers of F/RL or they are safe havens for LGBQT students or sometimes kids with disabilities.

If you had heard the parents from Licton Springs - one with an autistic child and one with a blind child - tell their stories of their children feeling safe and being part of a community, it would not be so easy to tell them to assimilate into RESMS.

Nova, Center School, Licton Springs help save kids' lives. I've heard stories about this over and over and we need a few microschools just for this purpose. South Lake High School exists for the purpose with daycare for young moms.

Institutional Memory, the district decided on self-contained, not the parents. And that was a decision made long ago.

The district does the testing, not the parents.

HC is self-contained in pathways that reach north and south, east and west and were created by, you guessed it, the district. Not the parents.

The district itself could be doing several things to make the program more balanced but both the district and the Board have chosen to drag their feet. Not the parents.

Anonymous said...

All types,

Of course students in HCC obtain better test scores. That’s how you qualify. That isn’t the point. The point is that the district’s own evaluations say HCC scores aren’t improved over what they would be outside the cohort. If academic improvement is the goal, the a cohort model isn’t providing that value. It’s a club. There is no state mandate for that. And yes of course HCC student needs must be met. We all know that the definition for meeting needs is wildly different. The state does not mandate a cohort, 5 favorite foreign languages, the best music programs, theater, Oceanography, a minimum AP selection or anything really. To my mind, failing to specify the needs specifically by the state is actually a Floor of Opportunity, like everyone else.


Anonymous said...

The point is that the district’s own evaluations say HCC scores aren’t improved over what they would be outside the cohort.

As another suggested - the district "evaluation" was somewhat limited and somewhat flawed. They compared performance on --grade level-- assessments for math and reading. They did not present results by grade or assignment school, nor account for selection bias. If memory serves me, there was a positive benefit for math, but LA results were more mixed (given that the math curriculum is much more defined and sequential, and there is essentially no LA curriculum, the results were not too surprising). Students who feel their needs can be met at their neighborhood school are more likely to stay at their neighborhood school, yes? The district report did not indicate which schools had the most students opting out of the cohort - it would surely be interesting data. Another question might be, is the HC academic programming perhaps not rigorous enough? So many questions to explore...

Go ahead and keep repeating the sound bite, but know it rings hollow, and would be insufficient info - as presented by SPS - for setting policy.

facts matter

Anonymous said...

@Melissa It's a double edged sword. We have some small schools, but they may have less resources than larger comprehensive schools. This is leading to inequity such as the situation at Licton Springs. I understand what you are pointing out Melissa that in multiple cases the benefits of the choice of a smaller school outweigh disadvantages. The examples you gave are excellent and I agree. In other cases it might also make sense to locate a program within a comprehensive school to have access to more resources.


Anonymous said...

@ Mickey, I have not seen anything anywhere that says the point of HC services is to increase participating students' test scores. Yes, the poorly designed evaluation used that as their primary outcome measure, but the design of the evaluation was flawed in many ways. For example, participation in HCC is via self-selection. Any time you're dealing with self-selection bias, you need to understand if there are important differences between those who opt into the cohort compared to those who don't. Those of us in SPS who are familiar with SPS schools, HCC, and/or HC students, know there are many reasons why someone would make a particular choice...and we also know that the reasons behind those choices are just as likely to influence test scores. If you want me to go into some of the obvious reasons, I can--but I feel like this has been sufficiently discussed in the past. The bottom line is that while the findings provided by the evaluation said one thing--the data--there's too much missing information to make the leap you're making re: the interpretation of that data.

Because those who opt into HCC may be different than those who don't, you can't assume the scores of those who remain outside the cohort are the baseline for what HCC students would achieve if they also remained outside the cohort. There are many stories of students who struggle big time in the absence of sufficient challenge, but who then do much better when they finally gain access to a more challenging curriculum and/or intellectual peers.

Not hating school because it feels like an absurd waste of time, and not feeling socially isolated, are both important reasons for a cohort model. I've never seen anything that says better test scores are the ultimate goal, have you? It's about recognizing that students so far outside the norm aren't likely to be well-served in a typical classroom, nor are they likely to find peers to whom they can relate. Consolidation of these students in a smaller number of schools allows them to be taught at their level and perhaps even make friends for the first time.

Re; your suggestion that HCC students get "5 favorite foreign languages, the best music programs, theater, Oceanography, a minimum AP selection," etc., that's some nice spin. Which HCC students get 5 "favorite" foreign languages--and are you suggesting that they get access to foreign languages that others don't get access to? The best music programs? Doesn't Roosevelt--a non-HCC school--maybe top that list now? The strength of music programs is probably more based on parental income than HCC status--and non-HCC students at those schools have just as much access to those classes anyway.

Is theater somehow HCC dependent? My student in a non-HCC elementary had access to theater, but then was not able to participate when at an HCC middle school--go figure! I think some of the north end high schools have great theater programs, too, but they aren't HCC sites either.

Is oceanography really something to get that riled up about? From what I understand, non-HC students also have access. You have to remember, though, that high schools often have unique offerings. Garfield may have that oceanography class you covet, but other schools that are not in our assignment area have things my HC student would have much preferred (e.g., biotech academy, digital filmmaking pathway).

The state didn't specify the specific requirements (e.g., on a class by class basis) because there is so much variation in what districts, and schools, offer. But by saying that HC students need access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction, they made their intention somewhat clear. "Accelerated" has to be in relation to something, and in this case it's compared to a GE curriculum (otherwise there would be no need for the legislation).

all types

Anonymous said...

he cohort is NOT mandated.

So true, but the cohort is very, very popular, even though the data available shows no gains from being in it as opposed to not.

Nothing gets the bloggers here more fired up than the cohort, that's for sure.


Anonymous said...


Frankly, that is either sheer ignorance or intentional misdirection. Academic growth is exponentially improved when in the SPS HC cohort, by definition in fact, because the students are 2 years accelerated, and almost all place into 8th grade-level math and ELA in 6th grade. Some even place into 9th grade courses at cooperative schools. I mean, for crying out loud the stories people make up to pick on these kids!

A cohort is used for social emotional development reasons. A cohort would not be necessary if an extremely talented teacher, with dozens of hours of professional development in highly capable education and social emotional development, and a supportive principal with similar PD overseeing this same process in every classroom, had a cluster of at least 6-8 students per smallish class, and that extremely talented teacher was also really good at differentiating at the very high and very low ends. Not just at the low end, but also at the high end. So, no, not extra worksheets or help "tutoring" other kids. Actually differentiated work. Since that teacher is the exception rather than the rule (and if she exists, she gets paid a higher salary in a job in the suburbs), outcomes are better if the cluster is realized as a cohort. Otherwise, trajectories for these kids are abysmal: social isolation, bullying, depression, substance abuse, high drop-out rates, and worse. This is a needs-based, whole-child intervention. These are not the kids in J. Crew ads getting all As. These are the quirky awkward kids with advanced interests and delayed executive function and motor function that I'm sure certain people on this blog picked on mercilessly in school.

Cohorts aren't needed in high school, except for financial reasons unless you can think of a way to afford college freshman and sophomore courses in every high school in a large district. Small districts can afford this since they usually have only one or two schools, but that's not us. But grade school and middle school, they need this intervention.


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Seattle Citizen said...

Zutalors, while I agree with you generally, I would suggest that ALL students need the sorts of supports you enumerate...at length...Small classes, cohorts, social emotional, etc.

While some of your arguments have merit, each child in every school has their own unique set of needs, academic, social, emotional and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Adding to @Z's comments:

1) There are many kids not falling into the "quirky, awkward" characterization - HC is primarily an academic intervention. Qualification is based on test scores. Yes, students can feel out of sync with age peers when they are far ahead academically, and they can be asynchronous in their development (ahead academically, but more like age peers emotionally, which is why grade skipping is not always the best option), so services are about more than just skipping ahead in the material. Cohorts allow students to work ahead academically while still (hopefully) having age appropriate materials and work loads. What's appropriate for an 8th grader may not be appropriate for a 6th grader, even if that 6th grader can read at a college level.

2) Cohorts ARE needed in high school. While classes may not be cohorted, there needs to be a critical mass of students needing advanced coursework in order for those classes to exist (especially true for math and science). HC students may do fine at schools like Roosevelt and Ballard, because there is a high enough demand for some of the advanced courses, even without an official pathway designation, but that is not the case for all high schools. RHS and BHS are also large, so multiple sections of advanced courses can be offered, allowing for workable schedules.

Apple seems tied to the idea that cohorts are about exclusivity, when the goal of cohorts is access to services.


Anonymous said...

@Apple, trying to stoke the fires, said "Nothing gets the bloggers here more fired up than the cohort..."

Any guesses as to why people care about the cohort? Because it's the only way their child can get decently served! Not perfectly served. Not served with the ideal curriculum, ideal teachers, in ideal schools, with the ideal classmates, etc. But served in a way that provides some level of academic challenge essential for growth, as well as an understanding of an appreciation for their learning styles by their teachers and fellow students.

Remember, kids in HCC were originally in neighborhood schools. For most, they didn't work. For those HC students that do remain in the neighborhood school, I think it's folly for people to assume that that proves the GE program works for all. WHY do they stay, and WHAT do those students have access to? Do they have schools that actually differentiate? Does the school provide something else that adds academic challenge, such as language immersion? Do the parents pay for and/or provide access to extracurricular enrichment, such as tutors, online programs, robotics clubs, math circles, UW Saturday classes, etc.?

When I kept my HC-eligible kids in their neighborhood elementary schools that did not even have Spectrum, it was not because they were getting HC services or sufficiently challenging education there--it was because it was the most convenient school, we liked the idea of them getting to know neighbors, and, most importantly, because we were providing other, more appropriately leveled, learning opportunities at home. Had we not been able to afford the time and money to do so, we would have moved our kids to HCC sooner. To think that comparing test scores of HC students in or out of the cohort tells you anything about what academic programming leads to what is pure folly. Unless you know what interventions are received by each group, you can't compare scores. I strongly suspect that those who opt out of the cohort do so because they make use of OTHER INTERVENTIONS instead. And while there's a decent chance that those extracurricular interventions actually provide more benefit to HC students than does the far-from-ideal HCC program, many families don't have the time, resources, or desire to essentially home-school their child on top of regular public school. For those families, HCC is especially important.

If SPS were truly interested in understanding the cohort-related issues--which we know they are absolutely not--they would annually survey the families of HC-eligible students re: their decision to stay or go, how long they tried the neighborhood school, what worked or didn't, when they joined the cohort and why, what has been their experience in/out, what sort of outside educational supports they are providing, whether their children had any special learning needs/challenges, etc. They would also collect demographic data such as school(s) attended, parent education and income levels, etc., so they could see if HC students at certain schools were more likely to stay/leave, see if parent income correlated with ability to provide outside supports in lieu of HCC, etc.

all types

Anonymous said...

@ Seattle Citizen, of course all students need the sorts of supports "zutalors" mentioned. Nobody suggested otherwise. And while small classes might not be a feasible reality for most students given our fiscally strained system, implicit in zutalors' comment is a recognition that for most in gen ed, the gen ed program does provide a decent cohort, opportunities for social emotional growth, etc. Yes, every student has their unique needs, and we should do our best to address them all. For many students, the GE setting will adequately address them. For many HC students, it won't.

That said, there are other students besides HC students for whom the basic GE program won't be a great fit. What other unique academic, social, emotional, or other needs do you think we need to prioritize? It would be great to hear more about those and your ideas for doing so. I believe SPS is already working on many issues unique to certain groups, (e.g., African American Advisory Committee, Racial Equity Teams, maybe MTSS interventions?). We also have option schools that offer different educations styles for those who need them. The district is theoretically working on an approach to ensure that struggling students are able to meet the new 24-credit graduation requirement. The district has done PD on trauma-informed instructional strategies. I know the district often seriously falls short in many areas--some of the above, as well as things like native education and special ed.

all types

Anonymous said...

At BHS they have serious problems with advanced math classes for kids coming in from HCC, they have no offerings beyond Calc b/c, yet there are maybe 20 students who will need another AP math option next year like AP Stat. But even a big school like BHS or RHS have many high level language classes and certain AP classes with only one or two sections and students must make decisions.

The biggest problem with middle school is advanced math. You see schools like Eckstein which can offer a class in Geometry(maybe there are Algebra II students?). Even Salmon Bay offers Geometry, although I doubt it's a full class. They may run a two-level classroom like they do at many middle schools.

I think if the HCC cohort students stayed at McClure, Whitman and others, there would be enough students to offer Geometry and Algebra II with even pre-Calc in a two-level class for those who need the challenge.

As far as socio-emotional, I don't see how it's good for one group to be socially isolated. That isn't the research for any other group.

I know Melissa has argued that the services aren't available at local schools, but if the kids aren't there that need the service advanced classes won't just be on standby waiting for them.

I think everybody would be happier if there was a clear path for capable students from their neighborhood school through the local middle school to graduation from their local high school with descriptions of the advanced classes offered and how to access them, whether through HC or AL designation, or other means for non identified students.

The way it is now, parents can try to get service where they are assigned. But there is the cohort option which guarantees advanced coursework, so it's a hard choice.

The other problem with the current approach is that students who need advanced math but can't clear the LA hurdle are stuck, and vice versa. Plus 1000 HC students who don't join the cohort aren't getting the same opportunities.

HC level classes should be available at every middle school in the district, immediately.


Anonymous said...

All types,

Are you saying that Equity teams are irrelevant to HC? That racial equity is someone else’s problem?

Institutional memory

Anonymous said...

@ Bookworm, HC students are often socially isolated when in a GE setting. Being in a cohort allows them access to other students who can relate. These are often the types of students who, in a GE setting, get bullied and don't make friends, and for whom most of their conversations are with adults instead. If every school were able to make HC-level classes (not just in-name-only HC-level) available for all that were ready for them, that would be great. People would need to be fine, however, if there were only 6 kids in an advanced class, though, right? Kids who need more advanced work than their peers don't come in neat packs of 28 or whatever it is.

@ Institutional Memory, no, I'm not saying that at all. How did you come away with that? Maybe I need to be clearer.

all types

Seattle Citizen said...

all types,
You argue "that for most in gen ed, the gen ed program does provide a decent cohort, opportunities for social emotional growth, etc."

Yet the only indicator used to put students into an HCC cohort is a test score indicating some academic aptitude at the moment of testing. The top...3%, is it? Academically?

How are the other 97% getting THEIR needs met in a "decent cohort"? How is the student in the top 10%? Or in the bottom 10%, struggling? No other group of students is thus separated into its own cohort. One might suppose that there are 10% of students who routinely struggle, for instance, yet THEY don't get a separate cohort. Why not? In fact, if their issues are determined to be special ed issues, LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) REQUIRES that they NOT be placed in a cohort, but rather mainstreamed where possible because the law believes ALL students should not be subjected to the discriminatory impacts of isolation from their mainstreamed peers.

What about gen ed is providing a "decent cohort"? Are you saying a gen ed classroom is a "decent cohort" for all the students in it, all of the 97%?

Anonymous said...

If students require a segregated cohort because they are academically advanced but socially challenged, should the converse be provided as well? That is, should there be special cohorts for kids that are socially advanced and academically challenged?

- Wondering

Anonymous said...

@ Seattle Citizen, that’s quite an extreme and fanciful interpretation. I’m suggesting that if you look at a bell curve, about 2/3 of students are within a standard deviation of the mean. So yeah, if we’re talking about academic achievement, the majority should find the GE curriculum pretty appropriate and should find many intellectual peers to whom they can relate. Notice I’m not making any promises or saying “all” or the like. We’re talking in general terms. And since we’re talking about school, I believe academic achievement and/or capability is a reasonable criterion on which to cluster students. Not the only one, and not in all cases, but an important one of kids are to be challenged at appropriate levels.

In a sense, the middle 68% ARE in their own cohort—the GE cohort of average performing students, for whom curricula pacing were developed. That’s how they get some of their needs met. GE is, in many ways, just as much a separate program as HCC—it’s designed to meet the unique needs of a certain group (hint: it’s not HC students). You could argue that this group is actually larger, including students within 1.5 SDs. In a normal distribution about 86% are within 1.5 SDs of the mean. That’s certainly “most” students.

I see you may have (intentionally?) misinterpreted or taken offense at my use of “decent” as something not intended. Please understand I meant it to refer to decent SIZE, nothin else. I have never judged or made any assumptions about the decency of students, nor would I.

It’s not a zero sum game. Providing more appropriate service to students at the upper end of the tail (98th percentile is about 3 or more SDs above the mean) does not mean students in the equivalent part of the tail at the other end should not also get appropriate services. For many of those students there will be SpEd services, MTSS interventions, etc. regardless of where students fall, they should get appropriate services. The idea behind LRE is to not place a ceiling on students’ learning opportunities. When you’re talking about students at one end of the curve, placing them in GE settings may accomplish that. However, at the other end of the curve, a GE setting often represents a ceiling, imposing a restrictive environment.

Can we not all agree that all students need an opportunity to be challenged and learn? I really don’t understand what’s so complicated about that. If low performing schools send few kids to HCC, sending them back home wouldn’t have much impact on other students at the school. In schools that send many kids to HCC, what’s wrong with those schools such that they can’t retain these students? That seems to be the real problem—that schools don’t want to be bothered to differentiate for HC or advanced learners.

All types

Anonymous said...

For the older HC group to which you are referring at BHS, perhaps they can take AP computer science which can count as a math. They also offer an advanced computer science course following the AP course. Or I would go talk to the principal so he is aware, maybe they can offer a section AP stats. The HC population at BHS and RHS has been growing exponentially yearly it seems. However math is no longer part of HC. Most of current 9th we know are also no longer 3 years ahead due to changes in math placement in middle. Most of the younger set of kids coming into BHS and other schools such as IHS, RHS etc from HC and elsewhere are only ahead 1-2 years in math. I think this plan to integrate them into neighborhood schools instead of pathway high schools to serve them has been in the works behind the scenes for awhile.

High School Parent

Anonymous said...

@Bookworm To make my point clearer, your concern about general ed kids needing access to advanced math in middle, advanced math is not exclusive to testing into HC. My child was in an HC middle cohort at HIMS and most of the other kids were also HC.
In high school has noticed many general ed/spectrum etc kids in her class which is two years ahead, from non HC middle like Salmon Bay, are really struggling. Maybe they had less skilled teachers in middle or maybe they are not ready. The pace can go very fast in some HC classes in middle (teacher dependent) and we definitely noticed a huge difference from general ed elementary.

High School Parent

Anonymous said...

The way it is now, parents can try to get service where they are assigned. But there is the cohort option which guarantees advanced coursework, so it's a hard choice.

The high school cohort does NOT guarantee advanced coursework. Students may be encouraged to take Running Start classes. The IBX program (really, it's no more, it's now called early entry IB or something like that) used to offer an advanced IB math course beyond that taken by 2nd year IB students, but now there aren't enough students to offer the class. Even Calc BC may or not be offered - it depends on the demand. Fewer than 20 students and it's unlikely to be offered. Students are also sometimes left without a core class because schedules don't work. When the higher level classes have only one section each and they conflict with each other, students are left without a class. When Lincoln opens, this will be more of an issue at BHS and RHS.

High schools prioritize the schedules of those needing to graduate. The advanced coursework is low on the list of priorities, even at HC pathway schools.

no guarantees

kellie said...

I have been thinking about this fabulous process in SPS where sometimes narrative goes unchecked and certain stories begin to reach mythological status. It is one of the reasons why this blog matters so much. The process of double checking narrative.

There was this one data point, once, that indicated that HC students might have similar test scores both inside and outside the cohort and now there is this story that this is now evidence. That a story, plain and simple.

But I think a far more corrosive narrative has built up in this thread and that is the narrative about what is "expensive" when it comes to educating students. Throughout this thread there is this notion that Licton Springs is expensive and therefore, there are all these helpful solutions make Licton Springs less "expensive." I think that narrative needs to be challenged.

IMHO, Licton Springs is not expensive. It is simply that SPS has spent so little money directly on students for so long that we have completely lost perspective on what a genuine equity solution looks like.

Licton Springs has the highest per student cost in the district. But that cost is only one data point in how SPS spends money. The missing piece is that even with the highest per student cost, the dollars per students is still less than the State per student funding. This means that Licton Spring is simply using all of the dollars on the students and is not sending lots of extra dollars downtown for overhead and initiatives.

In a large district like Seattle, I think we can afford a few schools that cost the full funding. This is in large part because we have so many schools with pitiful per student spending. And IMHO, it is absolutely appropriate that the highest per student funding is being spent in this manner on a historically underserved group.

Anonymous said...

So Kellie to be clear you are stating that the district is spending more per pupil on Licton Springs kids than most all other students in the district! In contrast, kids in the HC program at REMS (often a scapegoat for all problems) we know receive among the least amount of per pupil spending. The music program exists at REMS like it exists at most large middle schools. But the driver is not money. The driver is the abilities of many of these kids combined likely with resources parents have to spend money after school hours on lessons. This would also be similar at other large middle schools with similar demographics of kids, like Eckstein etc. However there is still a disparity that needs to be remedied as it sounds from description that Licton Springs kids have much less resources, no field trips, no music etc. One solution in my opinion might be for LS to become a program to be able to access the music etc at REMS. However, there may be drawbacks to this as well.


kellie said...

@ Parent,

I am saying something quite different. Downtown has treated Licton Springs like a "problem to be solved" for many many years, in large part because of the strong bias towards lower per student costs, that can be found with LARGE schools.

Equity costs money. Plain and simple. We have seen hundreds of equity proposals over the years, with zero dollars attached and predictable results.

I am cautioning against "helpful solutions" like make Licton Spring a program inside a larger "more cost effective" school. I am questioning the entire premise, put forth by downtown, that the cost effective school should have first priority at this location and that the "expensive" program should be moved or absorbed.

We have plenty of cost effective schools. We have enough cost effective schools and programs that we can afford to spend a little bit more in schools that actually make a difference. Particularly when the "expensive" school is still within the range of State funding.

By analogy, transportation used to be "expensive." Back in the day, Seattle spent far more money on transportation than the State of Washington funding formula. As such, general education dollars needed to be moved from he classrooms to pay for transportation. Currently, Seattle is well within the formula and the State reimburses 100% of transportation. The idea that we will save money by cutting transpiration is just silly, but yet that narrative persists as well.

I am challenging the narrative that we can't afford Licton Springs. The story that this program is expensive has been repeated so many times, that people treat this story as truth. IMHO, it is not true.

Just so many years of looming budget disasters has created a loss of perspective about how we look at our schools and how we think about allocating resources to schools.

Anonymous said...

I do know how high school works, I have a daughter at Ballard, I was referring to the inequities of elementary and middle school.

In elementary and middle school parents who opt for the HCC Cohort know that their kids will be able to access two year ahead work, including Biology in 8th grade, GUARANTEED!

However, Bio is NOT available to ANY HC students at Whitman, Eckstein, McClure, Aki, Denny, Salmon Bay, Blaine, etc.

Also Bio and Algebra II are not available to any students who have high or very high math abilities but can't clear the LA component of HC(against best practice, i might add).

As far as the bullying of HC kids and therefore the need to isolate them, bullying has to do with the bully not the academic ability of the victims and most importantly, the staff at the school.

Yes, I have known teachers who seem to want to bring the "gifted" kids "down a notch" and it is wrong and no principal should allow it, but is the answer to isolate them? That isn't what we do with SpEd or ELL or ADHD or kids with disabilities, and they get bullied plenty. The research shows it's harmful to isolate them. Is it really about bullying that we have a cohort model? I don't think so.

I will agree that the HC students in GE schools are sometimes shy to show their ability, especially when there are so few of them, which is due to the siphoning effect of the cohort. That is the critical mass problem, that we hear about, but the HCC cohort model is causing it to happen!

But I get it, the cohort is very attractive as it does guarantee the high level coursework and also being surrounded by other HC students in core classes. Very hard to resist.

We agonized over sending our daughter to Hamilton(she was Spectrum id'd in K and we retested her in 5th(district test only) and she was id'd as HC), knowing she would get advanced coursework there that she would not get at Whitman, but we let her decide and she had challenging work, good teachers who demanded more from her than others in the same class. In middle school, grades are not so standardized and teachers can require the same effort from a diverse ability range to get an A, i.e. the results may be different, but the kids who get A's are all reaching 90+ per cent of their ability.

So she took Bio at Ballard, went through AP Chem and is in Calc a/b this, her senior, year. She also started Japanese at Ballard, as she plays music and coudn't take language at Whitman, and is in her fourth year. She just got her ranking and it's the top 10%, so she did OK, but it's too bad and unfair that she couldn't take Bio or more advanced math.

Both Whitman and McClure are mostly drained of HC students these days as well as when we were there, but, like I said, the district puts parents in a very difficult position.

The district says that HC services are available, but can they really be expected to offer 8th grade Bio or Algebra II to three students because all the other HC students go into the HCC cohort?

The district is creating the demand for the HCC cohort by practically forcing parents to put their kids into it.


Anonymous said...

@Bookworm So your HC daughter chose Whitman her neighborhood school over her pathway middle school of HIMS and received an "ALO education".

Sounds like at Whitman she could take one year ahead math & science alongside non HC students. So was able to take one year ahead math and one year ahead Bio coming in as a 9th grader at Ballard. There are kids coming in to BHS outside of HCC with two years ahead math from other middle schools in the area.

If they put all the HC back in the NW or NE neighborhood school area and principals were supportive it probably could be done well as there are so many kids and lots of spectrum kids as well.

However, I have concerns with dismantling HC at middle school because we have a very large diverse district and some middle schools might be able to serve HC kids, while others cannot. If the district was truly committed to the program this would not be an issue, but they also group them together at schools to save money.

In addition, there are issues with some principals including at Whitman, who are not very supportive of offering multiple advanced classes. HC kids need access to advanced classes and classes with advanced standards as part of a "basic minimum" education according to state policy. LA and SS was also different for HC at HIMS moving at a much faster pace and following advanced standards. Likely it is teacher dependent, but a teacher supportive of advanced learning and differentiation explained that she would HC cover material in a couple of days, spectrum in a week and general ed for at least two weeks.

Former HIMS

Anonymous said...

@Bookworm "Yes, I have known teachers who seem to want to bring the "gifted" kids "down a notch" and it is wrong and no principal should allow it, but is the answer to isolate them? That isn't what we do with SpEd or ELL or ADHD or kids with disabilities, and they get bullied plenty. The research shows it's harmful to isolate them. Is it really about bullying that we have a cohort model? I don't think so."

The research does not show it's harmful to isolate them. This is incorrect. It is helpful when they have peers! Speaking from experience my kid had such a tough time in a neighborhood elementary school socially. Middle school at HIMS with other HC identified kids and deep friendships developed. She had so much in common with many of the kids and they understand each other. There is a ton of research about gifted kids who lag socio-emotionally and are much more likely to have anxiety, ADHD, ADD, autism and other issues.

In addition, they are NOT isolated. They take math with non HC kids and electives, band, orchestra, foreign language. At least 3 classes, half the day (plus lunch period), combine non-HC kids. In addition, at some schools such as JAMS, HC and spectrum kids are taking science and other classes together as well.

Former HIMS

Anonymous said...

@ Bookeorm, if you are so worried about the social impacts of this supposed “isolation” of HCC students, please understand that they are often MORE socially isolated when they are in regular schools, where they can find few intellectual peers. The cohort does the OPPOSITE of what you think. For many HC students, it orovides the first opportunity for developing deep friendships. They also learn how to work hard, how to cope with mistakes, how to not always be the high scorer, etc. these are all important aspects of school—and things that more typical students can get in a general education setting.

As to Your expressed concern that these kids will have no exposure to more typical and diverse students, there’s little cause for concern. HCC is often mixed as it is (with some shared classes), and students of all stripes participate together in extracurricular sports, clubs, church activities, art programs, neighborhoods, and LIFE. There are plenty of opportunities for HC individuals to be around non-HC individuals as they grow and age and learn. The biggest concern should be that they have ample opportunities to see that they are not alone in feeling so different.

All types

Melissa Westbrook said...

All Types, you hear this about homeschooled kids as well.

Anonymous said...

I think Bookworm makes a valid point about the district creating this choice for parents. The district uses fear to coerce parents in the cohort making it pretty clear that their child won't have access to advanced work or intellectual peers unless the go into the cohort.

Therefore advanced work is not there at non-HCC middle schools because all the HC students are gone. If the district was serious about meeting the needs of all students who can work above grade level, they would have every 6-8 middle school guaranteeing Algebra II and Bio are available. I think as many have stated, the cohort helps with managing the student population. Not to sound paranoid, but it could also be to keep the HC parents, who tend to be more educated and wealthy, busy. The district does like busy-body parents as anyone who goes to "community" meetings knows. The HCC battle is a big distraction. From what? I'm not sure.


Anonymous said...

"Not to sound paranoid, but it could also be to keep the HC parents, who tend to be more educated and wealthy, busy. The district does like busy-body parents as anyone who goes to "community" meetings knows"

There has not been an income analysis of HC parents versus the average income from their neighborhood. We are not wealthy and have an HC qualified kid. In fact we likely earn much less than most in our neighborhood. A good amount of families in all of Seattle are wealthy and educated!

A Parent

Anonymous said...

You can't have it both ways. You can't continue splitting the HC cohort, then expect all schools to offer Algebra 2. There won't be enough students at a given MS needing Algebra 2 (or some other 2+ year advancement). Only in regions where there are more HC identified students would schools be able to reliably offer more advanced courses. Without pathways, the students least likely to have access to Algebra 2 (or Bio or...) would be those in schools with fewer HC identified students. That's why many districts offer pathways to a limited number of schools for the most advanced coursework - you need a critical mass of students needing similar coursework. It's a cost effective means of providing services. This shouldn't preclude SPS from offering Spectrum level offerings at other middle schools, and that is part of the issue - SPS seems reluctant to ensure and support a minimum core of advanced course offerings for non HC pathway schools (what happened to Spectrum?). Numbers wise, aren't there more students identified as Spectrum level than HC level? And what does "advanced" even mean? It gets more nebulous every year.

(how are things going with the latest AL task force??)

another 2cents

Melissa Westbrook said...

L, "busy body parents?" Well, that's a nice term.

Another2cent, excellent points.

Seattle Citizen said...

all types,
I understood our use of the word "decent" perfectly: those who aren't HCC have "decent sized" cohort of all the students besides HCC.

I wonder what you mean by "low performing schools"?

Anonymous said...

@ Seattle Citizen,

For one, those who aren't in HCC also often have cohorts that include HC students, since clearly some HC students stay in their assignment schools for some reason (e.g., family logistics, school that actually differentiates, parents provide extra challenge outside school, etc.). Decent-sized cohorts did not refer to the exclusion of HC students.

Two, I can't tell if you're somehow trying to turn my words against me or insinuate something, but I don't think the use of "low performing schools" is that controversial or confusing. If you look at the district's "School Reports", some schools do much better than average in terms of percentage of students demonstrating proficiency in math or ELA, while others are significantly below average. That might be referred to as "low performing." There's no judgement there--it may make perfect sense that those students don't score as high, given their other challenges such as high poverty levels, high ELL rates, etc.--but they aren't scoring as well.

The district has also at times distributed hotspot maps that show the school assignment area of students who qualify for HCC, and these tend to show that HC-identified students are clustered in certain areas. My point was that in areas with few HC-eligible students, making those students go to their assignment school is not likely to result in significant changes to the rigor of GE classes (i.e., the number of students is too small to have much impact). In areas with a lot of HC-identified students, there are already a significant number of HC-identified students staying at the assignment area schools (because a significant portion of students opt out of HCC), yet the supposed impact of this on increasing overall rigor at these schools apparently isn't great enough to convince a bunch of other HC-eligible students to stay there.

We can keep parsing comments if you like, but I don't see how this is getting us anywhere. Isn't the goal to allow all students to learn? Is it really essential to have students who score approximately 3 SDs above the mean in a classroom in order for everyone else to learn? That doesn't make sense to me.

all types

Anonymous said...

"HC undoubtedly segregates itself, academically, socio-economically, geographically and yes, racially."

30% of the kids in my kid's HCC class are, like him, either Asian, or half Asian. Do they not count as a race?