Monday, December 03, 2018

Advanced Learning Work Session

Change is coming and I believe it will be tough love all the way around. 

Now could they all be blowing smoke?  Sure, I've been fooled before.  Except that this is a new superintendent who I continue to believe is charting her own course.  She finished her Listening and Learning tour; here's her report about that work.  I'll have a separate post on this report but she says:

Two main points of concern across the SPS community emerged that will require further consideration, thought, and engagement:

  • Parent fundraising varies considerably across schools, which has resulted in equity concerns from many stakeholders. However, there are different opinions on the extent of the challenge and potential solutions.
  • Enrollment in the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) don’t reflect district-wide enrollment patterns. There are a wide range of viewpoints regarding the root cause of this discrepancy and ideas on what the district should consider in response.
That she heard about the issues around this program from across the district surely seems to have struck a note with her.
I note the absence of Director DeWolf.  This is the second work session that I have attended where he has not been there.  I also see that he has yet to have a community meeting this year. 

Work Session Notes (agenda - both the Budget work session and AL work session documentation are together in one doc.  AL starts on page 20.)

Prior to the Work Session, there was one on the Budget for next school year.  One interesting piece of information from that session that ties to the one on Advanced Learning is that the district is going to have new categories of underserved students, expanding that group from about 15,000 to 18,000.  (See page 17.)  It was stated there is a need for subgroups of Asian/multi-racial students.  Director Burke said he like the "granularity" of this work but President Harris she wanted the general counsel to review this for risk analysis.

Starting the Work Session on Advanced Learning, Mr. Jesse said that that the State had come up with new guidance on this work, focused on better ways to engage schools and families.

He said the program needed to have a mission and vision for advanced learning in Seattle Schools.

He stated that services needed to be defined.

He emphasized the need to "promote equitable identification and access" and that there needed to be "district-wide implementation."

As the discussion went on it became clear that this means not just creating a feel-good mission/vision but that there would be clarity on what the program provides and that it will NOT be for principals to decide what those services look like. 

He also spoke about the consistency and quality of services especially in secondary.  He talked about what courses are available to whom and right--sizing schools for the master schedule.  (A big shout-out to Kellie La Rue who has consistently point out the huge influence of the master schedule in high schools.)

Harris talked about the frustration about the program.  She said Spectrum had been "dismantled" without transparency to families.  She said it was a polarizing conversation with talk about HC students "getting more" than others when the program has no curriculum, little PD for teacher and lack of clarity over definition.  She said 2E kids aren't truly addressed.  She also noted no spot on the Listening and Learning tour for this topic.

The Superintendent said that yes, that was true but that she heard from parents at nearly every one of her stops on this topic.  (Which should have told her something, no? But, still she didn't include a stop for Advanced Learning.)

Slide 9 of the presentation showed what documentation that the Advanced Learning Task Force is using for its work.  I noticed it did not have work from past task forces nor the presentation from local gifted ed expert, Austina De Bonte, to the Board in Spring 2016.

Director Patu said all of the mission/vision statements were great but "what does it look like in reality?"

Director Mack said that if they are talking about differentiation, then it has to be more than "do more worksheets" rather than engaging students.  She said, "The 'what' is a big hole."

Mr. Jesse said that staff was going "to do a road show and pull parents in for in-depth conversations."

Director Geary said that so much of the conversation about identification of student "it's like it's on the student."  She said there was a cultural shift around believing in intelligence in different forms and not just in acceleration.

Ms. Hanson and Mr. Jessee had drafts of mission and vision statements (see slide 7 of the presentation).  Director Mack said that it is important to have specifics about delivery of services.  She said there used to be a definition of APP and that no longer exists.

Jesse said, "We are purposefully going into complex issues so that we can have that understanding about systemic failures."

Harris also spoke of the issue of "building-based management" where HCC is placed and leadership is not engaged or supportive.  She said she has heard this anecdotally but "we need leadership to say I'm not sure your dislike for this program is acceptable.  It's non-negotiable because this is about students." 

Burke chimed in, "We are the leadership and we have to be united about what this is."

Geary climbed on the bandwagon.  "Our responsibility is to make sure that adults are not fighting the identification of students based on any dislike.  Differentiation dislike or bias around who should be in Advanced Learning.  These statements (meaning the Mission/Vision ones) are not capturing it for me.  We need to have hard adult conversations."

Superintendent Juneau added, "It's missing the heart of why it's important and why it's a hot topic.  We need to get the work done around it."  She continued, "We need to call out the elephant in the room that is racial equity; those who are underserved and not in the classroom."

Jesse pointed out that this was initial work from the Task Force.  He said it was time "to get about what the expectations are for consistency and it's not up to individual adults if they want to be in."  He added that they need to nail down expectations so that people know what is expected.  Director Patu said this needs to be in every school.

Harris chimed in that it's about accountability and review.  As an example, she called out the Honors for All at Garfield and said it has never been evaluated.  "Did it water down the rigor?  We don't know." To which I'll add, is it working? If so, how can it be expanded to other schools?  But again, there has to be consistency in what is done, not every school for themselves.

Jesse then said, "Yes, there will have to be a reset."

Harris added that she's for pilot programs but they need evaluation.

Jesse referenced Slide 11 which came from Whitworth College (it's a pyramid of services for Highly Capable students).  Burke said that at the top are apprenticeship and internships and perhaps that should be at the bottom.

Director Mack added that, around HC, is the understanding that there are many kinds of intelligences.

Jesse said that it is important to think of the CSIPs as "our binding document."  He said parents should be able to look at it and know what is truly happening in their child's school.   Director Mack concurred saying that "the intention is to create consistent statements of purpose.  We don't have consistent CSIPs and you can't manage it if they all do different things."

She continued, "We can put it in a document and say it will happen but where is the accountability?  Schools can say it's happening but it's not."

Burke chimed in, "What are the things we hold true to be common and below that is are individual buildings, innovating, applying and adapting to circumstances."

Geary added, "CSIPs can be very boiler-place and we can't give them words they just fill in."

Jesse then spoke about high schools and having a common set of AP courses at all three schools that are HC pathways.  He said they needed to get away from inconsistencies but it's a tight timeline.

Ms. Hanson said they are committed to a communication plan for parents, "We need to get this right for families."  She said they had looked at every school's CSIP and they know what is being promised.  She said they plan to follow-up, looking at growth data for each school and comparing it to the CSIP.   She said there would be regional meetings in Jan/Feb and that they are encouraging schools to have topics around AL and supporting students.  She said schools should be delivering on the questions from parents themselves.

Director Mack stated that there is pattern of referral and testing and that it should changing.  She said it should be "ongoing and rolling so kids can get in anytime."

Hanson then said that some kids don't test but under MTSS, we expect schools to look at data and serve those kids.  "If I'm  HCC-qualified, I may not get to be in the cohort but can I access services? Basic education says they should."  She said this is a mindset change that schools may understand but parents may not yet.

She also noted that the district now has a specialist for twice-exceptional students.  I'll have to find out who this is and how his/her services are accessed.

President Harris stated that Jesse and Hanson had not been in charge when the current AL programming was developed and "I know you didn't cause these problems."  She said there is a trust issue.

Jesse concluded, "Special Education is hard but so is this issue.  Rocks need to be upturned and owned because this has been a systemic failure." 

Hilariously, at one point, Mr. Jesse made reference to his own lasagna-making skills and suddenly, it was on between he and President Harris (who is also legendary for her lasagna).   It's good to see the Board and staff interact like this.

After the completion of this Work Session, I went up to the table where the Board, the Superintendent and Wyeth Jesse and Kari Nelson were seated.  I told them that I had been waiting 20+ years for a united answer to the Highly Capable/Advanced Learning program and its issues.  This is the first time I have ever heard a united front from both Board and staff. 

To hear staff say that schools - especially principals - are not going to be interpreting what services look like was incredible.   And, that it will not be about any single leader or administrator's feelings about gifted education but it is part of the district is something I have called for to happen for years and years. 

 To hear staff say that even if a student has not been tested for AL but the school has data that the student is advanced, even then that student should be served was incredible.

To call out 2E students as part of the work to get done was incredible.

It takes humility to say words like "systemic failure."

I do now see why this will take longer than most of we impatient people had wanted.  But, getting it right AND enacting change properly will be worth it.  It will - down to the school level - say that there has to be advanced learning for all students who seek it and schools have to find those students and fill that need.


HCC Parent said...

Honors for All has extended past Garfield and into other high schools. HFA has extended beyond 9th grade classes and into 10th grade classes. President Harris is correct to call attention to the fact that HFA has not been evaluated. Thank you for your oversight.

Bizaare said...

Why is the district quoting parents and calling attention to their race?

“We have great programs in SPS that are effectively preparing students for college and the future of their choosing. Let's build on those with a focus on finally making them equitably available for students of every background--especially those who have been historically underserved.” - White Parent/Guardian

● “I know that there are many amazing teachers and administrators who do good work.” - Parent/Guardian (Race Not Identified)

“Seattle Schools has a divide between resources of north end and south end schools. Schools without robust PTAs suffer.” - White Community Member

“Communication and inclusion of partners and communities in the decisions being made about the district.” - Community Partner (Race Not Identified)

If racial equity is a priority, why is that department so under-resourced? How can we hold the district and schools accountable to actual change?” - Community Partner (Race Not Identified)


Anonymous said...

My biggest concern and distrust is that they all use the ‘systemic failure’ as an excuse to dismantle what is left of advanced learning. And say MTSS will take care of AL/HC students.

Negative change?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Negative, I thought of that as well. And MTSS is an initiative that district staff have pushed hard on schools. But I think a fake-out to the Board would not be well-received. There was zero talk of ending any cohorts.

Anonymous said...

One key thing I take away from this meeting was that the board, AL, and the superintendent have finally come to agree on one crucially important issue:

Principals have been a huge problem for advanced learning.

Harris's statement in particular was, for Seattle, an honest-to-gosh dressing-down targeted directly at people like Ted Howard and Emily Butler-Ginolfi. I cannot recall a clearer rebuke ever of our many rogue principals. For her to say it with the tacit agreement of nearly everyone in attendance comes as a welcome shock and is a real sign that the ship could be righting.

Of note: it is common in many districts nationwide for principals to muck up advanced learning/highly capable programs, often with good intentions but just as often with incredible hubris or ignorance. Boards and superintendents simply have got to rein this tendency in, and SPS has had a real vacuum in recent years with regard to this.

Professional development for principals in highly capable is one of the single most important things that any school district can do, and this is especially true of ours.

I would very much like to find out who the new 2e person in SPS is, too. Professional development in this area is also crucial because a very high percentage of students who really need and would most benefit from HCC are 2e, yet they have been historically locked out of it.

I remain optimistic that student needs will finally be met. What a low bar! But it's a welcome change of wind all the same.

I'm also optimistic that sustained and effective measures (and not just lip service) for getting low income and minority students into the program are forthcoming. But I agree with Negative Change? that really all trust is gone, so Juneau, Jessee, and Hanson cannot risk even the slightest screw-up rebuilding that trust as they wade forward.


Anonymous said...

The new 2E person is Maki Ichikawa.

—Julie van Arcken, ALTF

Anonymous said...

There seems to be talk of racial equity, but what about low income and other kids who are likely also not represented? I am not sure if the district collects this data, but nationwide that is the elephant of underepresentation in the room. There are many kids of all races, including white and Asian who are low income and likely underrepresented.

If they are going to create subgroups for Asian, they should also create subgroups for White. Although I also understand that in the NW there is much less ethnic and religious diversity than other areas of the country. White is a very broadly defined racial group that has historically changed over time.

Equity Lens

Anonymous said...

SPS seems to have a scarcity mentality around AL, where they ration advancement, so I'd not share the optimism that others express. The trajectory is toward HC pathways that are more like Spectrum level advancement, with HC students having a ceiling placed on their advancement. While I'd agree individual schools have too much say in the delivery of services, which is partially a result of school level budget decisions, I have little confidence that SPS can somehow define and deliver robust AL services after years of chipping away at what little was left.


Anonymous said...

The report has links to a summary of student comments, one from a Tuesday town hall that seems to have been poorly attended (Co-host: Seattle Office of Arts and Culture at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center) to another held on a Friday at Nathan Hale (two pages of comments). It should be noted that "Representatives from multicultural student organizations at Nathan Hale High School participated in this session." The comments focused on diversity and equity, and also included this [from a Nathan Hale student?]: Conservatives don't feel welcome at Seattle schools.

worth reading

North/South Myth said...

One of the quotes Bizarre cites above is a myth: “Seattle Schools has a divide between resources of north end and south end schools. Schools without robust PTAs suffer.” - White Community Member

The highest average regional PTSA funding (at least for kindergarten through 8th grade) is in city council district 7 and 3 (basically north of I-90 and south of the cut). Magnolia, Queen Anne, Montlake, Madison Park, Capital Hill, Madrona, First Hill, Central Area.

Medium average PTSA funding in city council districts 1, 6, and 4 (SW and north of the ship canal until about 85th).

Then low average PTSA funding in city council district 5 (the very north).
And very low in city council district 2 (SE).

It appears that the better a parent's commute to downtown is, the more more donation money the child's PTSA brings in.

Anonymous said...

Did Juneau ever host a "listening and learning session" with the families of those kids enrolled in HCC services"? I hope so, because otherwise she still has alot to learn from those families.

I also agree with what DisAPP said on another post about the district really needing something to offer in between HCC and general ed, especially single subject honors. I don't think this should be exclusively test in either, but allow for opt in. They seem to be moving toward single subject acceleration, but so far only in math for middle school.

Also, they really need to do something about the lack of standardization between what honors means at the high schools.


Anonymous said...

How do principals get away with site-based decisions on implementing AL at their schools? This is at the core of equity problems in our district. If your principal is a strong believer of challenging students that are eager and ready for it, that school is more likely to offer acceleration/AP classes/walk to math/Honors. But if they don't support it, then it's MTSS for everyone. With the restrictions around open choice enrollment, you get what you get based on your address.


Anonymous said...

With much of the AL decisions to be based on the ALTF's work, I'm still skeptical. That the 4 draft AL vision statements were deemed ready-enough to present suggests there is still a lot of work to be done to even define the problem, much less solve it.

Here are the 4 draft vision statements and my concerns:

We want a consistent district-wide, gap bridging program for advanced learning focused on equity and transparency.

"Gap bridging" is too vague. Opportunity gap? Cultural gap? Achievement gap? Some other gap? Also, why the focus on equity and transparency and nothing about students and academic needs? Why a single "program" if they are talking about all types of advanced learners?

Identifying and removing barriers while providing rigorous curriculum to promote equitable learning opportunities across the district.
How is this an AL-specific vision statement? This should apply to all of SPS.

We eliminate the opportunity gap by providing all students equitable and barrier-free access to accelerated learning and enhanced, individualized instruction in their areas of exceptional aptitude.
Idealistic and aspirational, which I suppose a vision statement is, but it seems wildly optimistic and far from feasible. Plus, are we talking any area of exceptional aptitude, or "the basics"? And if "all students" have access to the same "accelerated learning," will it really be accelerated (or challenging) enough for those who are highly capable?

An Advanced Learning program that provides equitable opportunities for all Advanced Learners regardless of race, socio-economic status, learning differences or disabilities, religion, gender or sexual orientation. These opportunities should be consistently implemented in all schools, including the cohort-based programs.

First, it refers to an AL "program" and suggests it is for students who have been identified as "advanced learners" (i.e., have met some eligibility criteria). This is very different than the others, which seem to suggest more open access to AL opportunities. Second, and this is a big red flag, it blurs the line between services for "advanced learners" and those identified as "highly capable," suggesting that the mysterious "opportunities" (unclear in the vision statement) should be the same between AL opps and HC services.

Taken together, these suggest that members of the ALTF aren't all on the same page--either in terms of where they want to go, or perhaps in terms of their basic understanding of some of the differences in terminology. The district has recently used the team "advanced learning opportunities" to refer to general access to advanced classes or advanced instruction, regardless of any formal qualification criteria. The district has also defined "advanced learners" as a specific category of students who do meet certain testing criteria (i.e., the old "Spectrum" criteria). So what does "advanced learning" mean? Who is it for--all, or those identified as advanced learners? Or are we talking about two different versions of advanced learning services (not counting HC services)?

Maybe the ALTF has this all straight in their minds and it's just that the vision statements are confusing in draft form.... But given how vague and inconsistent the district itself has been about the terminology, I wouldn't be at all surprised to still see confusion. I hope they can clarify this ASAP, though, otherwise the use of these terms in the vision statements is essentially meaningless. You can't write a vision statement for advanced learning without knowing who you're talking about.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and I'm also not sure what to make of Juneau's comment that she doesn't see why AL is a hot topic. Is she not seeing the complexity of the issue, and that's it's more than "just" racial equity but also the nature of the services, delivery models, curricula staff attitudes, PD, etc? Does she think we have something good and just need to make it more equitably accessible? Is this where her decision to not hold an HCC-specific listening stop failed her?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Northender, it has been my abiding query - how do principals get so much autonomy especially on a district-wide program?

Anonymous said...


I didn't read Juneau's comment the same way as you. Melissa wrote:

Superintendent Juneau added, "It's missing the heart of why it's important and why it's a hot topic. We need to get the work done around it." She continued, "We need to call out the elephant in the room that is racial equity; those who are underserved and not in the classroom."

Melissa should chime in, but I took this to mean that she thinks the mission statements all fall short in that they don't get at the heart of why advanced learning is important (in and of itself) and why it's a hot topic (equity).


Anonymous said...

Also, why the focus on equity and transparency and nothing about students and academic needs?

This has been an ongoing issue. So much energy is focused on identification that the actual services seem like little more than an afterthought. Tack "honors" onto the course title and you're good to go? If there's no there there once students are identified, how is equity achieved? I'd also concur with the confusion around AL terminology. Where does HC fit in?

heaping mess

Melissa Westbrook said...

Simone, again, I don't get to ask questions but yes, it was more that Juneau was not satisfied with the mission/vision as stated and yes, what are the real issues (equity and services).

Heaping mess, I think that's what Juneau and the Board see - a very messy program that is confusing all around. Plus your point on what is actually happening in the classroom versus who is there is also valid.

Anonymous said...

Doh! Thanks, Simone. I misread it as "I'm missing" instead of "It's missing"!

But upon further review, I'm also a little worried about the last part of that comment--that racial equity is about "those who are underserved and not in the classroom." In what classroom? The cohorted HC classrooms? Because the students are all in some form of classrooms, and since the vision statement is supposed to be about the some form of a larger AL population and/or program, most students getting AL opportunities/program/services would be in a regular classroom. Unless she's talking about walk-to's or something, that "in the classroom" statement doesn't make sense to me in the context of this muddy AL vision--but walk-to's are just one small piece of the puzzle aren't used everywhere.


Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, you said: "I think that's what Juneau and the Board see - a very messy program that is confusing all around."

True. But I don't think it's really all that confusing. All they have to do is try to put together a table that has something like these 5 column headers--HC services in neighborhood school, HCC, Advanced Learning, GE grade level, and GE honors--and then has row categories that represent the different grade levels. Then they should try to fill it in with what is the curriculum for each of the core academic classes.

They will very quickly find that they can't do it. Mystery solved. It's not that messy of a program--because it isn't really a program at all. These are, for the most part, student designations. In some cases the student designation impacts the service delivery model, but what we mostly want to talk about is "what" the get, not how they get it. The how may be critical for the what, but it's the what that is the key.

It's messy and confusing because there's not really a there there. I challenge any district official to explain, in detail, the HCC curriculum in middle school, or what an HC student at any particular neighborhood elementary would get. Or what any Advanced Learner of HC-designated student at a particular high school could take.

Without a clear picture of what we're really talking about, however, these conversations and the ALTF work and the strategic planning are not likely to go as well as hoped. If everyone is making different assumptions about what the words mean and what the program is and what the interventions are, we're not likely to get to a place where things are implemented equitably and consistently. We can't operate the program/services with fidelity until there are programs and services to which we can be faithful. We need to start with the basics--what do we need at each level, in each category. If the ALFT could put together a simple matrix that highlighted those components, maybe then it would be easier for the Board, Sup't, and everyone else to wrap their brains around it when trying to have these discussions. A shared vocabulary would be a great first step.


Melissa Westbrook said...

DisAPP, here's the thing. In years past, the program was not nearly as byzantine as it is today. It wasn't coherent but at least you could pretty much understand the level and what might be happening at any Spectrum or APP school.

But then, slowly, district administrators either gave a silent wink to principals or just looked the other way and principals started doing whatever they wanted. (And non-APP/Spectrum schools rarely had solid ALOs as they were "required" to. That will be a BIG diffrence - that every single school will have to seek out and acknowledge their high achievers. Principals loved those kids for their test scores but most of them didn't want to do much else.)

So of course, a matrix should be created. And then followed, with few, if any, modifications.

A big thumbs up to a shared vocabulary beginning with "equity" and "racial equity."

Anonymous said...

In years past, the program was not nearly as byzantine as it is today. It wasn't coherent but at least you could pretty much understand the level and what might be happening at any Spectrum or APP school.

Exactly. It wasn't coherent then, and it's much less so now. Until there's some shared understanding, all attempts to solve the problems are bound to just create further confusion.


Anonymous said...

Melissa -- was there any action item given to someone from the district to get an evaluation of Garfield's Honors for All back to the Board or the ALTF asap or was the statement just made about the need for evaluation of pilot programs? Would be nice if this discussion led to actual accountability as opposed to just general agreement on the need for it at some nebulous time in the future.
Bias for Action

Anonymous said...

Well golly, I just found this May 2017 update on the Garfield HFA program that, according to slide 2, declares "Honors for All is honors level work." It gives a few selected quotes (not that convincing), identified the general texts/projects covered in some of the classes, and shows some photos (which look more like an art class?). Interesting approach to reaching their (foregone?) conclusion.

Here's the URL:

Has anyone seen ANY sort of real assessment, review, or evaluation of how this HFA conversion has gone since it started? The May 2017 presentation isn't convincing or confidence-inspiring.


Anonymous said...

@ Unconvinced- Honors in high school is interesting. Honors seem to be defined by the individual departments within the high school. It is also impacted by student demographics. But how it is defined and implemented seems to be largely teacher and department dependent.

It could mean honors for all 9th grade English classes. It could also mean a single class option where students who want honors designation do more homework, and don't have test make up options. It could also mean actual separate honors classes with different parameters that are actually different from core classes. Honors for all can also mean that everyone take the same AP class like they do at RHS.

Our high schools seems to offer all three variations. At our high school there are also some core science classes that have no honors option at all and are extremely challenging. In fact the feedback from the principal and kids are that the classes are hard enough, no need for honors for those subjects. It is very messy and there should be more of a standard across schools and departments.


Anonymous said...

What distinguishes "honors" level work from non-honors level work? For LA, I'd suggest more complex texts, more advanced writing and analysis, and just more of both. It's about pacing too. It's very unclear what the district means by honors level work.

Slides on HFA make it look like middle school, maybe elementary. How are students advancing their writing skills? More homework does not necessarily mean more rigor, either. It could just mean more busywork (drawings can take a lot of time!).

not impressed

Melissa Westbrook said...

Unconvinced, I had attended a Garfield PTSA meeting where Honors for All was kinda discussed (it was mostly teachers saying it was great). I don't see a lot of info in the link you gave and it's certainly not a real assessment.

Bias for Action, there was no timetable for a report to the Board on Honors for All but I sense impatience on the part of the Board. I have heard at least four Board members say - on different topics - that they have asked for months for information on an issue, told they will get it, and then nothing comes their way. I think President Harris will follow thru on this one.

HG and there you are. Where's the consistency to "honors" when the district allows principals and teachers to define it?

Grouchy Parent said...

The district really needs to follow up on HFA.

"A large study of restructured schools found only one detracked school that showed clear signs of educational success. {Differentiation and Opportunity in Restructured Schools," American Journal of Education 106 (3) (May 1998):385-416.} However, this school also enjoyed some extraordinary advantages: small classes, additional foundation funding for Saturday programs, and enormous latitude in selecting students and faculty."

Grouchy Parent said...

Teachers interviewed who teach at a detracked school were disappointed by detracking because of important outcomes that they had not anticipated:
1) Detracking presented them with irresolvable conflicts (teachers tried to steer a middle ground, but were acutely aware of losing students at both extremes)
2) Detracking imposed a uniformity that deprived slower students of mastery and faster students of challenge
3) Detracking raised doubts about the legitimacy of the class, even in the teachers' own minds
4) Teachers reported that bright minority students, in particular, tended to be shortchanged by detracking. Lower income families were not able to provide academic challenge outside of school that better off families were able to. And when these students were not receiving academic challenge at school, many did not receive it at all.
5) Middle-level students least likely to be neglected in a detracked class
6) Teachers tried to give faster students more work to keep them from losing interest, but the students already had an easy A in the class and were rarely receptive to the extra work. (Anyone who has kids should be familiar with this phenomenon!)
7) Detracking brought grading problems. Because 20-30% of the class had difficulty meeting standards that mid-level students can manage, many teachers felt forced to lower the minimal acceptable standards. ("I can't fail half the class, which is what would happen if I kept the same standards, so I'm more lenient when I grade lower-level students.")
8) Teachers don't know how to respond to the anger of faster students. When less-motivated students were neglected, they responded with passive disengagement or active disruptions which teachers could punish. Teachers found it harder to punish the bored, discontented faster students. Teachers felt embarrassed about their own assignments ("The high-level kids sometimes laugh when I pass them out… If I were in my own class,… I would be bored.") and sometimes felt the need to apologize to the high-level kids ("I'm sorry kids, but bear with me.") Teachers were embarrassed.
9) Detracking did not abolish inequality among students; it ignored it as much as possible.
10) Detracking forced teachers to ignore high-level topics.
11) When standards are lowered, students' further education may suffer.
12) Detracking may be harmful to low-income and minority youth who are not in the middle. The kids who cannot afford extra tutoring or summer enrichment programs, whose parents often cannot help them with homework, are especially at the mercy of the instruction provided in school. If detracting reduces the challenge for bright low-income youth, they won't get it elsewhere.

"In the eyes of the [teachers interviewed], detracking accomplished many transformations in a few short years. It transformed teaching from difficult to impossible. It transformed the ideal of equal instruction for all into practices offering less instruction for all. It transformed faster students from motivated allies to disengaged threats. And it transformed teachers from detracting enthusiasts into advocates for a return to tracking."

Until the problems of detracting are studied, practitioners should be cautious about proceeding to detracting reforms just because they sound appealing. There is a great risk of unanticipated negative outcomes. Good intentions and hard work are not enough to make detracting successful.

From "If Tracking is Bad, is Detracking Better" American Educator, Winter 1999-2000, American Federation of Teachers (https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ602761)

Anonymous said...

"Is it working?" It's a simple enough question, but impossible to answer if you haven't defined what "working" means. What does an "equitable" HC program look like? What does a "defined" HC program offer? Work backwards from that. Otherwise, zero accountability. Zero way to track and report on progress to the public.

Concerned parent

HFA Data? said...

It's important to analyze whether HFA is working for ALL student groups. This is particularly important for several groups of students: sure, highly capable students (they frequently get left out of analyses, many detracking studies haven't included these students at all), but more importantly, bright minority students (whether or not they ever even tried to get "advanced learner" status from Seattle's outmoded, bias-ridden identification system), below grade-level minority students, ELL, low income, African-American males (we had that whole commission, right? Any word on how HFA is going for them?), SPED students, students considered high risk for dropping out of high school, etc.

It's really unreasonable that there is no data on how all these groups of students have fared under HFA. And then that other group that one would hope someone would consider: teachers. How do they feel about it? Did it make their work easier or harder? Do they feel better or worse about the impact they're having on students now?

Anonymous said...

Well, the main reason given for Garfield's HFA 9th grade ELA "trial" was the belief that it would lead to more students taking Honors classes the following year and beyond (minority students in particular). HFA was supposed to help students realize that they could succeed in an Honors class, which they otherwise wouldn't have learned because they would not have chosen honors in 9th grade without being "forced". It should be pretty simple to provide data on that primary objective quickly. The fact that it hasn't been provided leads me to believe that the desired outcome has not been achieved, but perhaps I'm too cynical. If the desired outcome isn't being achieved, why is it still happening year after year?
Bias for Action

Anonymous said...

@ Bias for Action, I don’t recall when or where, but I feel like there WAS some statement at one point, maybe by Ted Howard, that even after HFA they were still having trouble getting more students to choose AP and honors classes later. Maybe many of the intended students find the HFA classes too hard, or they understand these might be watered down versions and think the next level would be too much.

It will also be interesting to see if this approach impacts the later success of students who do take AP classes. Are they less prepared for those classes, like HCC middle school students supposedly were for AP World History after middle school HCC became less consistently challenging? Do they do as well on AP exams as students who had distinct honors classes in 9th? Do they do as well as prior years on ACT/SAT exams a couple years after?

And where are any survey results, broken down by student type and prior experience. A few cherry-picked quotes tell us nothing. The pretty pictures say a lot though.


Stuart J said...

The College Board has a lot of data about AP test results. That data won't be helpful yet, but in a year or two may be. To get the data, people probably need to file a records request with a district. Here is the College Board overview https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/scores

Anonymous said...

@ Stuart J, for the data to be useful, we'd need them not just by school, but also by student demographics. We'd need to be able to compare them to prior years as well. I seriously doubt SPS would give anyone a de-identified data set that includes the necessary data elements, and I doubt SPS cares to do those types of analyses themselves. I could be wrong, though. What useful info are you thinking we could via an SPS records request?


Stuart J said...

I saw data a few years ago that was quite surprising. First, Franklin and Ballard had better AP Calc scores than Garfield. Second, those schools also had higher scores by quite a bit than Aviation HS.

That data was not disaggregated. But it appears the College Board can subdivide the data. Hopefully Seattle has been getting this data that is broken out and not just one overall number. So even if Seattle staff doesn't want to pull the data, a records request could specify "here's what's available from the College Board, please obtain the data." This could be obtained for several years.

Anonymous said...

I realize this is only one perspective, but my 2E kid loves the honors for all World History class, and likes the LA class even though LA is not a favorite subject. Having classroom discussions about history and literature with a students from varied backgrounds adds to the learning in these particular classes more than a faster pace or tougher grading rubric would. Math is both accelerated and opt-in honors, and that also seems to work well. On the other hand, 9th grade physics is very dull. It claims to be de-tracked, but with Spectrum and HCC kids in accelerated science classes, it's really just the bottom track. So, our experience has been that both honors-for-all and opt-in honors result in good classes, but that being in the bottom track of a tracked class results in a bad class. YMMV.

2E at Garfield

Anonymous said...

I also want to state that I think HFA history or lit class is a great idea.

I understand the general wariness surrounding HFA given the lack of overall forthcoming from SPS. But taken at face value, I believe 9th grade HFA World History would be a great experience for many students, HCC or otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Stuart J,

I’ve had students at both Garfield and Aviation who took AP Calc and that info doesn’t surprise me at all. Garfield has one truly incompetent AP Calc teacher who cannot manage the classroom and provided no direct instruction (except for the week he was videotaping lessons for his National Board Certification program). My child did well on the exam but was essentially self-taught using Kahn Academy. Aviation’s excellent pre-Calc teacher is now teaching AP Calc and exam scores have improved.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

@ Stuart J, data disaggregated by school doesn't help any, and the College Board wouldn't have the data we need. We would need linked data, linking individual student demographics (e.g., HC-eligibility, prior ELA MAP scores, grades, whether or not they took distinct honors LA classes or HFA version in prior years, etc.) to individual AP scores. SPS would have to link the data and provide a de-identified data set.

One could then see if AP Lang and Lit exams in 11th and 12th are similar regardless of whether students took distinct Honors and AP versions of ELA in 9th/10th like they used to do, or whether they took "HFA" versions in 9th/10th. You would want to see if it made a difference for HC students, and for non-HC students (possibly breaking that non-HC group into subgroups based on GPA, prior state ELA scores, etc.). You'd probably also want to control for teacher if possible. With all the nuances you might not be able to get statistically significant results for a while, but you could probably spot what looked like trends or patterns.

If HC students tend to score just as high on AP exams (and perhaps also ACT/SAT writing scores) in the end, one could argue that the HFA approach in early high school doesn't negatively impact their ELA learning and performance--and potentially benefits them via exposure to a wider range of student perspectives, an easier course load for a couple years, etc. If they do worse, however, there would need to be a lot of honest discussion re: the pros and cons, especially since Garfield is an HCC pathway school.

[Note: I'm not saying those outside tests are perfect measures of learning, but because they are external they wouldn't be influenced by potential site-based adjustments like grade inflation or curriculum simplification/reduction that would make using grades problematic.]


Continuum, Eh? said...

There is a huge benefit to students to get to know a wide variety of students.

That said, you've got to wonder why the district set it up so that some Garfield students can only participate in these HFA classes if they first:
1) are referred online via the Source by a parent or guardian when the student is in 7th grade or before
2) submit to 2.5-3 hours of brain testing on a Saturday (paper-and-pencil, standardized cognitive testing)
3) submit SBA scores in ELA and math proving that the student scores in the top 5% in both
4) during the open enrollment window when the student is in 7th grade (if not before), the parent selects an HC pathway middle school where the student attends at least 8th grade
5) if the district is satisfied with how and when steps 1 through 4 have been completed, only then will it allow some of these students to ride a bus an hour each way to get to Garfield to be in these classes

The district should ask itself: if it is so beneficial to Garfield students to have these district-approved-brain-tested children bused in and sprinkled into their classes like pixie dust, why wouldn't it be beneficial to students at Franklin or Interagency or Rainier Beach or Sealth or Hale or South Beach? Why would the district put human beings through a multiple-prong gauntlet of brain testing to take the same classes everyone else gets to take without brain testing? There is something very rats-of-NIMH-like about it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Garfield is our neighborhood school, and 2E kid never tested into APP/HCC because their learning disability directly impacted scores on the achievement tests. So, our view of HFA is probably quite different from that of someone who is busing across town for a test-in program.

2E at Garfield

Continuum, Eh? said...

Yeah, Seattle's HCC program keeps a lot of students out who would benefit from it. It's all just school. I find it bizarre how hard the district fights to keep children from accessing the program. If you ran a district with hundreds of students who could be learning more, learning faster, exploring concepts more deeply, progressing faster, why would you hold them back? And at the same time, why would you not look for an IDEA-covered learning disability in a child just because they have high cognitive ability? It's cruel and immoral. But maybe it's cheaper? Or at least it's cheaper to not provide the PD that would prevent these situations from occurring over and over again to student after student.

It's important for the board/administration to follow up on HFA and detracking and our district's extremely suspiciously low Section 504 rate because all these factors impact the well-being of children. And there's so much bias in the system. Without looking at actual data, there's no way to make sure that educational choices made for ideological reasons aren't harming the very students they were meant to help. Or other students that no one cared enough about to even consider when the choice was being made in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Continuum, Eh? I absolutely agree. I was pleased to see that Juneau's report on her listening tour mentioned 2E. SPS has been terrible at serving this population. I hope she gathers some data and does something to fix the situation. We remediated with private middle school. I hate to think about what would have happened if we hadn't been able to afford that. Garfield has been great so far. Maybe there's something to learn there.

2E at Garfield

Greg said...

Sounds hopeful. Thanks for attending and typing all this up, Melissa.

I know a lot of us are cynical after all that has happened -- I sure am -- but this makes me think that maybe there will be an effort to teach all children in Seattle. It certainly shouldn't be enough to teach the minimum and leave kids so bored they hate school. I don't know if we'll ever get enough money to be able to teach every child to the maximum of their ability, but with what we do have, trying hard to teach every child is something to aspire to.

It sounds to me like the new superintendent may believe this too. That's very promising.

kellie said...

Thanks for the shout out Mel. I am really glad that downtown is beginning to acknowledge the reality that the master schedule really does control everything.

That said, I am not nearly as optimistic as you are. I reviewed all of the documents and IMHO, there is a still an entrenched attachment to optics paired with a disregard for the mechanics of how things operate. Simply put, SPS has always had the opportunity to provide more rigor for more students. When you add more rigor, you either add more variation or you add more costs.

Adding more variation is very easy within budget constraints. When you add more variation, you add more programs and you add more class options at the top of the schedule. You are able to add more classes because you are reducing the number of typical classes. This then creates more variation and it is really clear that some schools have more AL than others and you have more tracking.

The other way to do this is with detracking and MTSS. Detracking creates the "optics of equity" However, detracking ONLY works when you ADD a lot more MONEY to the system. MTSS and the hundreds of other names uses for such programs, is supposed to be paying for MORE ADULTS to provide individuated supports at the both the top and bottom. Detracking also typically includes substantially smaller class sizes so that the teachers can provide more differentiation.

When you try to implement something like MTSS in a cost neutral manner, then all you have is more pressure on teachers to be the magic solution.

I hate to be overly cynical but ... there is no free lunch. SPS constantly tries to have their cake and eat it too. They want all the optics of detracking at the price point of adding variation. This presentation tells me that they are still tilting at that windmill.

Frankly, there are a few very economical options that could split the difference. But the most telling comment of all to me what Juneau's notation that she heard about inequity in AL at every stop on the listening tour. That amount of consistency tends to point to mythology.

Who remembers when all the problems in the district were caused by option schools and their exorbitant transportation costs??? If we just stop transportation spending, then we have enough money to invest in the classrooms and ... provide quality for all. That was never true but ... the narrative was foundational to nearly a decade of school closures. The narrative that somehow AL is the cause of inequity is ridiculous on its face, but that narrative has taken hold in the district.

AL is not inequitable. The process of qualifying for AL is very inequitable. That distinction is still lost in this conversation.

Anonymous said...

@ 2E at Garfield, you mentioned that your "2E kid never tested into APP/HCC because their learning disability directly impacted scores on the achievement tests" Was your student not able to get accommodations for the achievement tests?

Also, can you clarify what you meant by the statement that you "remediated with private middle school"? Did your child attend a middle school specifically for 2E students or students with learning disabilities, or was a regular middle school able to do that? Was simply being at the middle school the remediation, or were there extra services provided specifically for remediation. Did the middle school remediation involve grade level work, or 1-2 years above?

I'm always interested in hearing what solutions families are able to orchestrate for their students who aren't getting what they need through the usual SPS channels.

all types

Anonymous said...


Thank you for laying this out so clearly, as you always do. Your perspectives are incredibly valuable. I am a bit optimistic despite the deficiencies you cite, but I share your concern about the simplistic scapegoating of advanced learning, a perennial problem in Seattle that honestly we don't see in most other places.

Unlike our most recent superintendents, Juneau seems able to read people's motivations and see through their fixed beliefs (not just on HCC but most issues). She hasn't taken enough concrete action that I can see if my impression is borne out by those actions yet, so we'll have to wait and see. But I see some reassuring signs.


Anonymous said...

It is important to note that a successful appeal for HC eligibility will need to include supporting evidence that the student qualifies as “Most Highly Capable” or “Highly Gifted.”
Those qualifications usually indicate that the student’s scores approach three standard deviations (approximately 99.6%) above the norm on standardized cognitive and achievement tests. This threshold does represent a higher standard than that required for initial eligibility because the student has been given the benefit of individually administered assessments.

...from the AL appeals page.


The logic behind this change is incredibly faulty (and Exhibit A for why I'd share kellie's skepticism about the direction of AL). If students are testing in the HC range (whether through district or private testing), that indicates a need for services. Period. Why the rationing? And frankly, SPS is not delivering HC services geared to those testing 3 SD and above. Based on a normal bell curve, only 0.13% of the general population would even be expected to test at that level and above (compared with just over 2% at 2 SD and above). Do achievement tests even report above 99%ile? It should be noted this only applies to HC qualification, not Spectrum level AL opportunities. Why the disparity?

Optics and such, they take the back door approach to restricting the pathway to HC (and only HC) with private testing. They are sidestepping a formal policy review and seem to be making up different rules each year. Eligibility benchmarks used to be the same whether tests were district administered or privately administered, but this was not (and is not) detailed in Board policy. It's only on the AL website.


Sib said...

The earlier you provide AL services to students who need them, the smaller the opportunity gap. Some principals actually urge waiting until 3rd grade to attempt identification on the theory that students who are behind age-mates will catch up by then. But it doesn't work that way. This erroneous thinking is harming students. And it is harming them disproportionately, because students from wealthier better educated families have more opportunities outside of school for enrichment and advanced academic activities. Waiting until kids are older to identify allows years for the opportunity gap to grow. The earlier you begin services, the higher the trajectory advanced learners hit by the time they finish high school. Our district's botched attempts to close the opportunity gap have been increasing it. I'm sure the district has data showing as much.

I'm hopeful for change because so far I've been happy with what I've heard from Juneau. And I think national and state law are making course corrections that will actually improve equity instead of talking a lot about it while making it worse.

Anonymous said...

In theory, shouldn't the outcome disparities between HC students and others grow over time? If HC students are able to learn more quickly and deeply, with less repetition, grasping abstract concepts and applying them more easily, and often working with more intensity and passion, wouldn't you EXPECT the gaps to grow over the years? Why is that a bad thing, in and of itself? Why would you expect others to keep pace, when these students have exceptional abilities? Nobody complains if an young star athlete makes it into pro sports, but that's clearly an example of a widening gap based on ability. I've never understood why SPS seems so intent upon trying to turn HC students into more average students. It's bizarre. Why try to slow the trajectory of such students? (Our failure to equitably identify and serve all HC students is a separate problem; they, too, should be supported to learn deeply and quickly).

all types

Anonymous said...

@All Types

I think what Sib means is that highly capable students in underserved communities still experience gaps compared to other highly capable students, not to gen ed. If the underserved students are HC-identified aggressively at kindergarten level (via NNAT3 or othrwise), the gaps between them and other highly capable students are dramatically narrowed. If they are not identified until third grade, the gaps remain pronounced, statistically, in comparison with their highly capable peers.


My understanding is that the higher appeals standards were introduced in 2016 at the quiet behest of the Racial Equity in HCC group at Thurgood Marshall, which seeks to achieve equity in HCC, perplexingly, by disbanding HCC. As with any narrow/siloed decision making, many unintended consequences have ramified from that change, which Advanced Learning made without public announcement or community engagement. I suspect Michael Tolley was involved in this decision, so with his departure there may be freedom to act more rationally. Ironically, and sadly, however, Advanced Learning has made a change that makes it nearly impossible for most highly capable minority and low income students to qualify for HC, so they are harming the very students they purportedly want to help. They have also made it impossible for many 2e students (highly capable students who also have a disability) to qualify for HC. They have also made it impossible for a family to appeal a suspected or obvious testing error. The provision serves only to keep the program small, not to create racial equity.

In other districts, the highly capable are actively sought out, and ambiguous results are explored to err on the side of getting all highly capable students into the services they need, not on the side of keeping them out. Miami-Dade identifies 11-12% of their student population as highly capable, with good results for diversity. Our neighboring districts also identify a larger percentage of their students of than does Seattle, and Federal Way does a splendid job identifying minority students. It can be done if there is both the expertise and the will. I suspect AL has the will but lacks both money and expertise.


Anonymous said...

@ Simone, yes, I believe that's what Sib meant as well. I should have been clear that my comment wasn't meant to be a response to Sib--I was just musing. The comment reminded me of something I've often thought about re: HC and SPS, which is that the gap between HC and GE, seems like it should grow over time, not shrink--yet SPS seems to do all they can to narrow that gap, taking students who were operating several years ahead in earlier grades and turning them into students who are essentially on your typical college prep GE track come high school. SPS seems to want to push everyone to the middle.

all types

kellie said...

@ Simone and the other optimists.

I wished I shared your optimism, but I don't. Nearly 20 years of advocacy has taught me a few things and I share them in the hope that it informs your optimism and that you continue to advocate for effective AL.

First and formost, there is always a financial crisis. It varies from a scandal to a recession to legislative issues but there is always a financial crisis and every year precious time and energy that could be spent planning for students and infrastructure, is instead spent managing the crisis of the day. Of all the crises, IMHO, the levy cliff(s) have been the worst.

Recessions and scandals pass and have light at the end of the tunnel. The ongoing issue of levy authority and the potentially annual possibility that Seattle could suddenly lose 20% of its budget means that process of investing in students is pretty much at a stand still.

I don't think the full magnitude of this issue has really reached the public. However, the impact of simply not be able to spend money until the last moment, will mean that investments in teachers is precarious at best.

kellie said...

Next on my list is the ongoing challenging with enrollment forecasting and building staffing.

Total enrollment is now trending downwards, this could be blip or this could be the start of an ugly trend.

As anyone who has ever done projections professionally understands, projections are ALWAYS wrong. That is not a problem. They are ALWAYS wrong. Projections are your best guess about what the future holds. When your projections are correct, it is typically an accident, or it was not really a projection (aka only 3-6 months in the future)

The most important part of projections is doing your variance report to learn how your projected future matched the actual future. SPS has NEVER done true variance reports. Every variance report I have ever read, was created by parents and community members, not SPS.

They do these occasional snapshots of 2018 projected enrollment vs actuals but those are really just basic accounting reports, (where the students are counted). They are not true variance reports for projections, where you examine the 5 year projection vs actual.

Because SPS has NEVER done variance reports, mythology, not data, guides the enrollment narrative. During the recession, growth was because students were "returning from private school." Nonsense. There was not one private school that went out of business. There were some individuals who could no longer afford private school, but the private schools merely backfilled from their healthy wait lists.

We have had six years of lower than expected enrollment and it is being blamed on mostly on housing prices and even more toxically on "parent choice" and "stealing students." That fact that there is no data to support this, is not even slowing down this toxic narrative. Very simple variance reports tell a very different story about how growth has stalled at various grade bands and various part of seattle.

I did not do a variance report this summer but I am familiar enough with projections over the years that even a casual glance at the projections provided to me during the BEX task force this summer told me that the changes in AL are directly related to several enrollment drops.

But there is no conversation about AL and total enrollment because more enrollment is AL is more inequity on paper. That is a terrible narrative and not true but mythology has a power that is more persuasive than basic facts.

The final piece is this narrative about refusing to move waitlists because the choice system is simply "stealing" students from one school. That narrative is ludicrous beyond belief but it has taken root in the district.

Families that participate in the choice system have one foot out the door. The choice process is a way for SPS to load balance enrollment across schools and continue to enroll students, who are likely to leave the district. The idea that these students are stolen, equates them to widgets who are just supposed to be at their assigned school and completely overlooks any notion that real live human beings are part of the equation.

Anonymous said...

@all types
A large discrepancy between IQ and reading achievement scores is a diagnostic criterion for dyslexia. There is no way that a 1st grader with dyslexia will score at the 97th percentile on a reading test. HCC will not discount the reading test. The AL office did allow Spectrum designation with an 89th percentile reading score for a my dyslexic 4th grader, which is honestly an amazing score for a kid with dyslexia. I had an email discussion with Roger Daniels about this during our appeals, and he said that the HCC program was designed around students reading two grade levels above, and would not be a good placement. He was right about that (we have many friends in HCC), but SPS really has nothing that would work for my kid in elementary. Individual teachers tried, and we did private tutoring, but there just wasn't anything available until kid did badly enough on the SBAC. By that time, kid HATED school. Washington wasn't a good fit either, though some other SPS middle schools might have been ok. Garfield's HFA and opt-in honors classes are a good fit.

The private middle school wasn't designed for students with disabilities, but it was able to provide an environment where students with learning disabilities and those without could succeed. It had direct writing instruction, with writing done in class and red-lined by an LA teacher with a PhD. It had small classes allowing the teachers to tailor learning to the needs of each student. It had old-fashioned math without badly-written Common Core word problems, and a lot of project-based learning in other subjects. It had PE and Recess and Art and Music, every semester. It had lots of field trips for hands-on learning. Kid is now caught up to HCC friends in math, and a good writer. Kid also (mostly) likes school, and is confident in their skills as a student. It took a level of effort by the teachers at the private school that is simply not available at SPS. The support services that Garfield provides (tutoring, teen health center, clubs, etc.), along with being able to opt into honors, serve the same need in a different way. There are lessons to learn there.

2e at Garfield

Anonymous said...

@2e at Garfield, thanks for sharing. We, too, have found that smaller class sizes and more individual instruction can really help. That’s probably true for all students, but if SPS want to reduce gaps in academic outcomes—without imposing ceilings on high achievers—they really need to think about how to provide this sort of tailored instruction to those in need.

If your student did not get extra time on tests, they should. This will be especially important for standarfixed tests like the SAT. I think 100% extra time is usually recommended for kids with dyslexia. There’s a process involved (and different timelines for different tests), so if you are not already working with the school on that you might want to look into it ASAP.

It’s interestingbthat you said GCC would not have been a good fit, but HFA and opt-in Honors are. Is that simply because you think your child has fully caught up and could work at the HCC level now, or is it because you feel the HFA and opt-in honors classes are a little less demanding than what HCC erosions would be? For students who found HCC middle school to simplistic and boring, do you think HFA and opt-ins will be even less appropriate?

All types

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good thoughts, Kellie. Wish you were on the Strategic Plan group.

On the subject of Thurgood Marshall, Simone said:

"My understanding is that the higher appeals standards were introduced in 2016 at the quiet behest of the Racial Equity in HCC group at Thurgood Marshall, which seeks to achieve equity in HCC, perplexingly, by disbanding HCC."

I have been thru the latest batch of public disclosure documents about TM. Here's the latest:

- in a memo that was going to be presented to the Curriculum & Instruction Ctm in May 2016, staff said, "I would advise against publicizing anything at this point. Suffice to say that the draft language is being adjusted to allow for flexibility in program design." That's one way to make change without being accountable.

- Also, "Language mandates self-contrained cohort model in ELA and Math, but allows individual school flexibility for Diversity initiations in SS and Science." Wonder if this "flexibility" will go away if, as the Board and staff say, they want coherency in AL?

- In one email, Director Geary asked head of AL, Stephen Martin, about where a child can either "either Eckstein (home) or the entitlement of HCC (JAMS)."

- In a memo to staff (and I believe this is from Martin), he says, "With the shift to Common Core, automatically accelerating HCC students/classes two years ahead is no longer appropriate. While differentiated instruction is a necessity for these students, acceleration is not the only way to do this.

The advancement has to come from the rigor the teacher infuses into the content and instruction and the depth and breath at which the student can demonstrate mastery of a standard at consecutive, graduating grade levels."

- Interestingly, TM's waiver included survey results that had not a single negative comment. In the entire school, not one? Seems implausible.

- It also stated that "we have heard" from minority families that they would not enroll their child at TM because of the segregation.

- And probably the most jaw-dropping news is that the "head" of the Racial Equity group put out a flyer on AL that she handed out at various community events.

It had only the head person's name and email as who to contact about how to enroll. But this person, Devin Bruckner, does not work for the district so should the district be endorsing this information?

I know the district endorsed the information - at least the AL office did - because Stephen Martin said yes to paying for it to be translated into different languages AND paid for copies.

This is a swell thing for Mr. Martin to have done but man, I could have used this service in my years as a co-president of a PTA. I could have used free translation services and copy service to serve my community but it never occurred to me to just ask for it.

I'm being sarcastic here. It is not right for the district to have allowed this to be done AND to not have had the DISTRICT'S contact information, not just a parent. Especially a parent who has tried to undermine the very program she seeks to give other parents advice about.

Anonymous said...

I love the magical thinking.

- In a memo to staff (and I believe this is from Martin), he says, "With the shift to Common Core, automatically accelerating HCC students/classes two years ahead is no longer appropriate. While differentiated instruction is a necessity for these students, acceleration is not the only way to do this.

The advancement has to come from the rigor the teacher infuses into the content and instruction and the depth and breath at which the student can demonstrate mastery of a standard at consecutive, graduating grade levels."

Aha! So the teachers just need to provide more differentiation and rigor! Got it! Thanks, Mr. Martin!

For the record, Mr. Martin has had plenty of time to work on this issue, as the district has been throwing around the idea of dismantling HCC pathways for several years. And their current solution is that teachers should just do that thing they weren’t doing that made the kid want to switch schools in the first place? Awesome.

If it’s judt “leave it up to the teachers,” there really isn’t a program or service to speak of, is there? It’s like he’s given up. Maybe Mr. Martin needs to go on a listening tour to reconnect with HC families and hear about the realities of our students” experiences.

Ask us

Wondering said...

Are HFA teachers grading tests on a curve? If so, how would the curve impact grades?

So Tired said...

Kellie: did you hear what happened this year at TM around this? We lost a teacher. They took a 5th grade hcc teacher and shifted all 4th and 5th grade classes resulting in two 29 student 4th grades and two 29 student 5th grades and one 27 student 4/5 split in hcc, while there remain 2 5th grade gen ed classes at 13 and 17 students respectively, and 2 gen ed 4th grades at 20 and 22 students. I did the math, we could have given up a teacher and shifted things in another way that resulted in all classes remaining at 24 or fewer students, had there not been insistence on impacting only hcc. (They also took kids from other than just the abandoned 5th grade to the liking of the teacher taking the split and allowed additional unnecessary upset to the gender balance in the remaining class and put kids with that teacher for a 3rd year in a row that didn’t want or really have to move.)

Mihail337 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Are HFA teachers grading tests on a curve? If so, how would the curve impact grades?

And how do grades reflect knowledge and performance? If the same demonstrated knowledge and skills that result in an A for a non-HC student would earn an HC student only a C, what do grades mean for those interpreting grades and GPAs during the college admission process? It seems like grades become essentially meaningless to anyone other than the student and parent--in which case more descriptive feedback rather than letter grades would make more sense.

Leveling the playing field is important for equity sake--not changing the size or shape of it.

all types

kellie said...

@ So Tired,

I do not know anything about the internal politics at TM or staffing. I tend to stick to the capacity topic because if you know the history of bad capacity decisions, it is generally pretty easy to guess the inevitable political challenges.

Some building sites are pretty straightforward, other are just complicated and tend to remain complex regardless of the current situation. Thurgood Marshall has a long and challenging history from the point of view of capacity. Here is link to the building history project.


TM was built as a brand new school in 1990. As such, it is a relatively modern building for SPS. Despite the pretty new building, TM struggled with enrollment throughout the 90's and 00's. It was one of those "mysteries," a pretty new budding that just never filled.

Over that time, there were dozens of plans on how to better "utilize" such a good facility. The African American Academy was co-housed there at one point. There were multiple attempts to relocate TOPS to this building, so that Montlake Elementary could be closed and moved into TOPS building. Those are just a few of the many failed plans to fill TM.

During the era of the closures, TM was always on the watchlist, because of low enrollment. However, it was simply impossible to close such a new building. As many on this blog knows, the decision to move half of HCC to TM was made during the 08-09 closures. EVERYONE involved knew this was a bad plan. But after nearly 20 year of plans to fill the building, that plan stuck.

The plan has nothing to do with academics. It was clear from minute one, that there was not actually enough space for both the neighborhood students and another program. By 2008, planned density was causing the local schools to fill on their own. Just two years later, Rainier View needed to be reopened for capacity reasons.

It has been 10 years, and TM is naturally the flash point for the equity in AL conversation. There was great concern at the time of this decision, that placing APP at TM was going to deprive the school of Title 1 funds. The area surrounding the school is high poverty and the neighborhood students are entitled to extra funds and lower class sizes. Placing APP made that go away.

The answer at the time ... no worries, The APP parents will fundraise to make up the difference.

Who could have predicted this situation?? Who???

Anonymous said...

The issue with TM's class sizes is that the district uses the weighted formula to determine the number of teachers, but makes no distinction for the fact that they have 2 programs there and students in GE and HCC can't be in the same classroom, so "dividing # of students by ~25 to calculate # of teachers" doesn't really work for TM. Some years they received "mitigation" and got another teacher to try to make the issue less problematic, but that stopped happening a few years ago. The TM administration has always made larger HCC classrooms and smaller GE classrooms when forced to solve the issue. Which seems like the right solution, but only if it doesnt' become extreme. Washington is doing the same thing this year, but the principal seems to think it's ok to have 39 students in math classes and 38 in science classes with predictably poor results.
TM Parent

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