Saturday, December 01, 2018

Garfield Student Speaks Out on Honors for All

In advance of my post on the Work Session on Advanced Learning this week, here's a column from the Times written by student journalist, Millan Philipose.

 Phillpose writes about his early frustration in school where he was well ahead of most students academically and was bulled/teased because of it.  It was only when he went to Lowell Elementary (the former home of APP/HC) that he blossomed.

He argues that the changes at Garfield High School with its "Honors for All" was a bad move.
But Garfield, despite being one of two designated high-school pathways for the HCC program, is at the vanguard of the movement to dismantle ability-grouped classrooms. Garfield’s “detracking” movement began with Honors for All in September 2016, a controversial initiative that forced all freshmen to take honors humanities classes. It continued two years later with a decision that silently extended Honors for All to sophomore English and eliminated the standard-level U.S. history class for juniors.
 I had not realized that Garfield had extended HfA to other subjects and I'd bet neither do members of the Board. 
There is an undeniable lack of racial diversity in Seattle’s advanced-learning programs. Last school year, black and Latino students represented a combined 27 percent of the district’s population, but only 6.2 percent of the HCC, according to the district.

This inequity is unacceptable, but eliminating our current system would be harmful and unnecessary.
He expands on a great example of gifted program in Miami-Dade where they find more gifted students of color while still having self-contained classes.

I believe that there is going to be surprise all around as the Advanced Learning Task Force and AL staff do their work.  What I heard at the Work Session was talk I had been waiting to hear for over 20 years.

Change is coming.


Anonymous said...

Miami-Dade is actually a good model for what a highly capable program should be doing (including gifted classrooms). Their program is also just about 11%-12% of the student population in that district, significantly larger than Seattle's. Our district artificially constrains the size of the program, with staff often asserting falsely that our program is too big. It's really way too small.

Congri undr Palm Trees

Jeremy said...

With spectrum dismantled there is pretty much just HCC and standard education. Seattle also does not make it easy to get into the gifted program. Families with means will either jump through the hoops or seek private schooling. (Why are we not concerned that wealthier and nonminority students are underrepresented in the school district?)
Also, with achievement being a component of HCC admissions, English language learners would be at a severe disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

"Why are we not concerned that wealthier and nonminority students are underrepresented in the school district?"

Because the school district still gets the tax money.


Anonymous said...

You are uninformed. State allocations to the district are based on monthly enrollment figures. The actual reason is that district administrators only feel a moral obligation to serve poor and minority students. This is evident in the lack of a sense of responsibility for educating wealthier and nonminority students who are enrolled in the district.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...


Families in the district are in fact concerned that wealthier and non-minority students are underrepresented in HCC. In fact, Advanced Learning has received recommendations many times over the years from HCC and other stakeholders on the HCSAC and on several task forces (even before the current task force) about needed changes, but the district clings to its unfair systems for identifying and serving all highly capable students. The district chooses to administer its program in a biased way, which does not reflect what HCC parents want, nor what the community at large wants. There is also the problem that the district doesn't follow the law (no continuum of services, no multiple objective criteria for qualification [which means multiple ways to qualify, not "meeting all of multiple high bars"], practices single-criterion exclusion [violates the multiple criteria provision], no appeals [in name only]).

You raise a terrific point about achievement. If we have opportunity and achievement gaps that correlate to race and income (and we do), then requiring high achievement to qualify serves no purpose other than to racially segregate admissions. This is something the district chooses to do, and it is not something families want. Other districts avoid this kind of thing by any of many easy and inexpensive means. Los Angeles requires high scores in either cognitive ability or achievement, but not necessarily both (either alone is a defensible and valid measures of high capability). There are many other ways to mitigate gaps in identifying highly capable students. The district continues to ignore most of these ideas, but not at the behest of families. Families want and have asked for equity over the years.


Anonymous said...

@Simone, can you clarify a few things?

First, what you mean by "no continuum of services"? If "continuum of services" is intended to refer to multiple service delivery methods, don't we have that (to some extent) by virtue of having (a) at least theoretical differentiation within neighborhood schools, and (b) HCC cohort and pathway schools? The fact that you can opt into or out of the cohort suggests multiple service delivery models to me. Are you saying that we need to have even more service delivery models in order to have a continuum, and if so, what are some examples of what we're missing? I have some things I'd personally like to see (e.g., more flexibility/collaboration re: partial homeschool/independent/online learning; better services for 2e students; better service sfor single-subject gifted; and services appropriate for those at 99.6th+ percentile), but I'm curious about what you think it missing to provide a full continuum.

RE: your comment that we have "no multiple objective criteria for qualification [which means multiple ways to qualify, not 'meeting all of multiple high bars']" and "practice single-criterion exclusion [violates the multiple criteria provision]," I had assumed that this from SP 2190 sort of addressed that, at least for underrepresented students. Is that not the case? Also, while it's in the procedures, I'm not sure to what extent it plays out in reality.

From SP 2190: NOTE: If a student demonstrates cognitive ability in verbal, quantitative, or non-verbal
reasoning AND qualifies for free or reduced lunch, English Language Learner services,
and/ or Special Education services, the student may warrant further consideration by
the Multidisciplinary Selection Committee (MSC) if there is strong teacher/ educator
input to do so.

RE: your comment that we have "no appeals" or appeals "in name only," that is so true. Raising the bar to 99.6th percentile (about 3SDs above the mean) was one of the most ridiculous things SPS and the AL Dept ever did. Our HC services are clearly not designed for students scoring 3+ SDs above the mean, and those students are incredibly poorly served by SPS. Why would you limit appeals to that group? I assume that most such students leave SPS and families try to piece something together themselves instead. It's such a joke that's the new threshold for appeals, and it demonstrates that SPS and the AL office are either (a) incredibly clueless about their own services, or (b) completely unconcerned with serving HC students well. Maybe both. Optics probably play a role, but if the primary concern is optics it still goes back to "a" and/or "b." The idea that the threshold is higher because appeals students have the "benefit" of private testing is absurd--they are using tests that are much more accurate than the tests SPS uses, which, due the variability in scores, would tend to over-identify students (according to SPS thresholds, that is).

IMHO, we need a program for high achievers--that relies on achievement criteria only, uses a lower threshold, and that lets many additional kids in--and a separate program for highly intellectually gifted, which also admits students who may not be achieving as high as "expected." Both should be sensitive to challenges that impact the scores of low income, minority, ELL, and other disadvantaged students, and scores should be considered in that context. We also need teachers--and apparently district and AL Dept staff--who understand these differences and know how to adequately serve these students.

[Note to the anti-HCC set: Please notice that I said "adequately;" not "ideally" or "perfectly." Please also note that I recognize that many other SPS subgroups are also not adequately served, which is wrong and should be addressed, too. We should have appropriate curricula and instructional practices for all types of students.]


kellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kellie said...

I'm always surprised that most conversations about disproportionality in HCC only references SPS enrollment data and does not reference City of Seattle population data.

With somewhere between 25-30% of Seattle students enrolled in private school or out of district, the overall numbers do matter to truly create equity. Gifted program tend to more closely remember the overall population of an area, not the district.

Here is the link to the City of Seattle' demographic info. This includes both the 2010 census data as well as estimates of how this has shifted over the last 8 years.

Of note is that Seattle has a poverty rate of 14%, which is very different from SPS.

Anonymous said...




I'll do my best:

- Correct. “Continuum of services” means a continuum of service levels, as it does in special education. (Note: HC services, like all K-12 basic education, implicitly must cover K-12!) In its documentation, SPS seems to have misconstrued the law and regulations, either willfully to get out of offering a true continuum or, bless their hearts, out of ignorance.

You’re right some schools (claim to) offer differentiation above grade level, but not by district policy, and less often at poorer schools than at wealthier ones. I would support your ideas. I would also like to see full special ed services (ACCESS) in HCC; opt-in walk-to arrangements for ELA and math in all elementaries; grade skipping should be allowed if not encouraged in many cases; students > 50th %ile L4 in ELA or math and all Spectrum should be able to opt into HCC courses in middle school.

- SP 2190 takes many pages to say only two things:
1. You must pass all required batteries on the CogAT and achievement test (ITBS), or you don’t get in.
2. The MSC can make mysterious different decisions behind closed doors without any stated rationale.

If you look at testing syllabi for almost any other district, you will instantly understand the process. In Seattle, the process is completely opaque! The MSC reserves the right to allow low income students in, as you point out, but how they go about that is not disclosed (and evidently not well leveraged, given the lack of diversity of the HCC program). Critically, it also means that not all students have multiple options available to them to qualify. That does not follow the law.

Instead, we should be using a serial testing protocol allowing for any two of various relevant tests as indicated by a child’s specific circumstances (eg Naglieri Screener, ITBS, Torrance, WISC or similar, full NNAT3, and data review). One-on-one testing such as the WISC should proactively sought out when there are conflicting data (eg low achievement but high cognitive results), and there should be widespread use of data review to identify students making significant growth over time (even if below set bars), etc. NNAT3 should be identifying kindergarteners, especially for low income and minority students, because the earlier the access to HC services, the narrower the gaps. Our MSC should probably also be much bigger so that individual children can be considered more thoughtfully.

In the end we actually have a single, rigid pathway without any transparency with no improvements in diversity to justify the current set-up.

- The appeals bar is not statistically defensible, you're right. Only 0.009% of the population could succeed on appeal.

AL claims they use higher appeals (unlike any other district anywhere) because of some supposed advantage from a one-on-one test like WISC. That makes sense only if you believe that the CogAT is a flawless test and that the district always administers it ideally to groups of kids, none of whom are having a bad test day the day they take it, and that the district always does data entry on results correctly. WISC is a much more credible and reliable (though not perfect) result, and the district should always defer to WISC results any time they don't match CogAT (and not vice versa); the maker of the CogAT would agree. The district should be using WISC itself in many cases.

We can't have a rigid single path to qualification and effectively no appeals! We either need a flexible, adaptable model using multiple combinations of tests as listed above, or we need sensible appeals as a "check and balance" in a very large, complex testing system where testing errors can and often do happen.

We should also have ongoing qualification and enrollment. Currently we keep HC students out of services they need and deserve under law for two years if they fail to qualify the first time. The system is too hard to navigate and keeps kids out. That's also outrageous.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Simone, read my thread on the AL Work Session; much of what you advocate seems to be in the works.

Eric said...

The sad thing is that this is the easiest way to close the achievement gap- eliminate the high achievers from the district. Force them either to private school or make them so bored that they underachieve. So long as the school board makes "close the achievement gap" the primary criteria to judge the district on, destructive policies like honors for all will gather steam. On the basis of metrics, they work.

It's all a fine example of Goodhart's law at work:
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."