Updates on Advanced Learning

The information I present comes from several sources.  One of them is a member of the Advanced Learning Task Force, Kari O'Driscoll.  (I'll just state that when I was on the Closure and Consolidation Committee, we were warned NOT to talk about our work and allow the designated folks on the Committee, the chairs, to make all public comments. But that was ages ago - maybe service on a taskforce or committee has changed since then.)

It appears that Superintendent Juneau and staff are forging straight ahead with changes to HCC without waiting for the recommendations from the Advanced Learning Taskforce or Board approval.  Actually, I don’t think they need the Board’s approval but letting the Board know there are changes being made BEFORE they enact them would be a professional courtesy.

Evidence (phrasing in red indicates findings)
  • I saw at the Loyal Heights principal's page that there is an Advanced Learning survey. I clicked open the link and it was indeed live and seems distinctly geared to parents.
The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Advanced Learning Task Force (ALTF) is interested in hearing from families about their experiences with Advanced Learning in SPS. This survey is specifically focused on students identified as Highly Capable (HC). Please complete the following survey using the following link: https://forms.gle/TtHUEEP7gHsx5rSu9
However, there is nothing at the AL page or the AL Task Force page so I asked Kari Hanson. Here’s what I was told:
This survey is for students. And a “sub-group working at the behest of the ALTF are (sic) the owners of the survey.  So it's an ALTF survey but the district gives no system-wide notice of it? Gee, almost as if they want to discourage participation and then, discount any findings.
  • Also there are two Phases to the ALTF work (this might have been mention previously and I overlooked it):
- Phase One (I don’t know precise star or end dates)
- Phase Two “of the project will be focused on reaching historically underserved populations to seek input from groups who have not had access or opportunities. An update from the Student voice sub- group that provides more details can be found in the minutes from our October meeting due to publish this week."  

I will provide the link to those minutes when they become available.
  • Kari O’Driscoll said on a Facebook page that the AL Taskforce was not told anything about STEM by TAF and there were members who were "shocked" to learn about this initiative.
On that information, O'Driscoll at the CA-RAV Facebook page, has a back-and-forth with several readers about changing HCC at WMS:
Emily Lieberman 
I appreciate your service on the task force and everyone who volunteers for SPS! I know this suggestion didn’t come from the task force, but what Samara Louton said is true at the middle school level; the district is planning to end the “HCC” model in our area at Washington Middle School while continuing to provide it north of the ship canal. This was discussed at the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC) meeting this past week and is known by families at WMS and in the WMS pathway. (Instead the district is hoping to bring in an organization called the Technology Access Foundation to co-manage the school under their model—that might be for a different post.) This is of concern to the parents of highly capable students who feel that it's inequitable to end access to HCC in one part of the city only (and especially if that’s the southeast, where about 40% of the HC students at WMS are nonwhite). Parents know and appreciate that you (the task force) are working on recommendations to address the inequities in our current system, but until the district implements a new plan for providing HC services, it is upsetting to see the only access to HC services being eliminated in our area only.
Wyeth Jessee is the person who said there that next year the HCC model would be discontinued in our area only if TAF comes to WMS. I’d be interested in chatting further about this if you’re interested, I have kids at TM and WMS and know many parents who are concerned that the district keeps saying this despite the fact that the Advanced Learning Task Force hasn’t made its recommendations yet and the Board has not changed its highly capable policy to allow HCC to be discontinued in the south end only.
Ms. Lieberman makes a good point - the district seems to NOT be waiting for the Board or the ALTF to forge ahead.

Another commenter, Chantel Hazlewood says:
You should know that at a PTA meeting at TM this week, Wyeth Jesse was directly asked that question, since implementing TAF at WMS would eliminate a cohort there (this was confirmed by the TAF leadership at a meeting on Saturday). A parent asked him “is a similar plan being proposed north of the ship canal at this time” and he said no.
Another good point - changing HCC just for one school while keeping it the same elsewhere until the entire program is changed seems, well, inequitable to some parents.
  • O'Driscoll also said there is “another group of folks who are working specifically on secondary ed programs and there isn’t community representation overlap between their group and the ALTF."
The district confirms the existence of this other group but I believe it is made up of district staff only. This pivots off "a Board Resolution in 2017-2018 where the board directs the Superintendent and staff to engage in a collaborative planning process to develop a scope and sequence of advanced courses that will be provided at all high schools and address preparation needs for such a plan at middle schools. A report is to be produced this fall that will detail the plan.” It will also include “a definition and a working description of honors course work."
  • I am seeing use of this phrasing both inside and outside the district, almost like someone got their talking points to others.  It is “to seek input from groups who have not had access or opportunities.”

Here’s what I said to Ms. Hanson:
You can ask Legal about this phrasing but it makes it sound like the district deliberately prevented some students from accessing HCC. I don’t think that is a factual statement in terms of the district’s program.

And I asked “Are you saying that the district deliberately did not allow access to HCC programming to some students? 
  • There will be a Highly Capable & Racial Equity Services Advisory Committee (HCRESAC?) “similar to the HC Advisory Committees of the past.”
“This group will have a new charge that will align to current needs for engaging with policy, but will primarily focus on newly developed future procedures should/as they form. The new charge and subsequent formation of this committee is anticipated by early 2020 and will involve an application and review/selection process as was used to select the ALTF in the spring of 2018."
  • There is also a missive from a lengthy group of people of color activists called “Community Voice for Equity in Seattle Public Schools.”  I will try to get the letter in a form I can link.  I can't find a website or Facebook page for this group.
The letter seems to be only about HCC.  I find it hard to believe a group could think that by changing HCC in Seattle Public Schools, you will fix all equity problems.
  • They do have some good wording around segregation saying that keeping the status quo for HCC would "increase" segregation.  I’m glad to see that it is being acknowledged that segregation - separate from any program - exists in this district.
  • However they are parroting the line that “students of color do not currently have access to services.” I don’t agree. I do think there are barriers of communication but legally, the district’s highly capable programming is available to all. The group is correct in saying that it’s not good that the majority of the funding for this state-mandate service is spent on testing.
  • Serious commitment to AL in all schools provides access, opportunities and resources for all of our students and addresses the potential for high achievement in all of our schools.
Well, that might be true on paper if the policy is changed. 
However, I would want the district to define “access” versus “opportunities.” For example, I know that the Superintendent wants to see equitable access to field trips. I don’t know of a single school that doesn’t have at least one field per year for students in their school. Anyone? And, would that mean the Superintendent would limit the number of field trips any given school could take so no one gets to go on more of them than any other school?  Or would the district pay for field trips for schools that have few?

And as for resources- good luck with that. When the AL office spends most of its funding on testing, I’m not sure there is much left. I suspect it goes for PD for teachers but I know of no HCC program that gets much in the way of resources like consumables. And, if you talking about 100 schools serving HCC students, you’ll have to find money somewhere.
Or the district might try their time-honored ploy of putting in a new initiative and then telling schools to find the money in their own budgets to enact it.
  • "All schools should share the responsibility of providing robust learning experiences to students."
Sounds great but please MAKE principals do this. Because they didn’t when there were ALOs so I’d like to know what will be done to compel them to do so in every classroom (especially without more resources).

The lead for this group is none other than Romanita Hairston, one of the applicants for Betty Patu’s job. Other signers include: Manuela Slye, SCPTSA president, Erin Okuno, noted SE Seattle activist, Emijah Smith, yet another one of the applicants for Patu’s job,several staff from MLK, Jr. Elementary, some parents of HCC “identified” students, assorted community members, Jeff Clark, principal at Denny MS, Stephan Blanford former Board director (still trying to be relevant), and the Maple Elementary PTA Board.


Another Group said…
I love that the same people keep forming groups. These small little groups are meaningless. They are intended to push the district in a pathway while ignoring the voices of 5000 students and their parents.
Anonymous said…
@MW "I don’t agree. I do think there are barriers of communication but legally, the district’s highly capable programming is available to all."

MW, why do you insist on continuing to spread false information?

It is well established nationally that underrepresented students in HC programs will continue to be so unless local norms or alternative entrance criteria are used.
"Communication" will have no significant impact WHATSOEVER.

As long as SPS continues the same eligibility requirements, highly capable students from underserved communities will continue to be excluded from accessing services. That is a fact.


Anonymous said…
@Another Group, folks continue to pretend the whole 5,000 HCC families think alike. completely untrue.
And ultimately there are not only 5,000 students that count. We are talking about 53,000. Consider looking at the bigger picture.

@MW, I hope candidates that do not win the upcoming election stay as involved in the district to continue to advocate for what they believe in. I am grateful for Miss Heirston and Miss Smith.

Fed Up
Anonymous said…
You know who’s voice is being discounted, demonized, and ignored by the district in this entire HC debacle. The families who are actually in it. For some reason our individual stories and experiences don’t matter. Weird, right? The district treats us all as a homogeneous group, all exactly alike and “privileged”. Getting some fantasy extra fancy resources that other students don’t get.

This is news to this parent who grew up in a rural part of the country in a solidly lower working class family of 6 in a 1200sq ft. House with 1 bathroom. The first of the family to go to and graduate from college. Working my way though community colleges first at a gas station until I eventually transferred to UW for my senior year. It took me 7 years but I guess I had “grit”. So I have a child and enroll them in the neighborhood school. The first few years did not go well as they were deemed a behavior issue and allowed to sit in the corner and read all day except for walk to math (the only class that behavior was not an issue). My child was counting to over 1000, adding and reading simple sight words before K. They had a very rich vocabulary. I guess I shouldn’t have read and talked to them as that is now considered too much of an advantage,My child entered the HCC after the principal not listening to my lack of learning (except for math). They did NOT enter on appeals, though subsequent neuropsych testing confirmed very high verbal intelligence and spatial skills yet weak processing and short term memory (common on autism and ADHD). Exactly the type of 2e kid that typically does not do well in the group testing situation for HC identification that SPS uses (so the arguement that appeals not be allowed potentially shuts out a whole other group of kids).

Mine is just one story. For us the journey with SPS ends next year as we are transferring to other opportunities. All this animosity towards families like ours makes me feel like my family is unsafe and unwanted. I definitely feel my child would be unsupported. It’s really sad because SPS should be a world class district. Instead of looking for solutions to bring everyone up it is determined to tear down an entire group of students who did exactly as the district asked and accessed a program it designed.

And as far as the promises to provide AL at all schools any of the HC families who already went to the neighborhood schools know that doesn’t happen and I don’t see a plan proposed except vague promises. By the way, the walk to math at the neighborhood school my child attended was eliminated a few years ago...

Good Luck
Another Group said…
Good luck. Thanks for sharing your story.

The district will use the same loud individuals to push their agenda; they do not represent 10% of the district's population.

As one commenter states "More noise please".
Enough, I am talking legally. If the district was excluding kids, there would have been a lawsuit long ago. You are right (mostly) about testing but the district has been using a non-verbal test that reaches more ELL and low-income children.

The method that the district has used may not have brought in many children of color but yes, it is open to all and in the eyes of the law, that's important.

SPS needs to do better, for sure, and I have said that for decades.

Fed Up, I agree with hoping for all candidates to stay involved. My experience is that about half do.

Good Luck, yes, it is interesting that several parents of color have come before the Board and communicated their experiences in the program and that they want it to continue with self-contained. Then those who want HCC to not have self-contained seem to be calling those parents "tokens."

Anonymous said…
@Good Luck I have a similar story, as does my partner. Also first on family to go to college. One set of G Grandparents (immigrants) had zero education, grandparents had an education through 8th grade in the US, my own parents barely graduated high school. The other side had single mom households, very poor, for 3 generations at least. My partners parents did not graduate from high school. I also know others with kids who are single parents with similar stories. I also FRL qualifying HCC kids, who are also white and Asian. Unfortunately people love to make dichotomies, it is rich vs poor, black vs white. It is a sign of the times unfortunately and in politics as well.

Anonymous said…
There are NOT 5,000 gifted students attending SPS. Where do people get these numbers?

If there are 5,000 that are classified as gifted then there is a problem with the SPS definition of gifted.

Get real
Anonymous said…
There is no generally agreed definition of giftedness for either children or adults, but most school placement decisions and most longitudinal studies over the course of individual lives have followed people with IQs in the top two percent of the population—that is, IQs above 130.

In general that would put the HCC program at a max of 1000 students NOT 5000. There seems to be some fraud going on in HCC. That must be where the private testing comes in. If you have the $3,500 then your 120 IQ kid gets in.

Anonymous said…
@ITS TRUE says, “. There seems to be some fraud going on in HCC”

And there you have it, the desperation so thick, reverting to the Twitter discourse of the presidential administration. Looks like maligning children who need advanced instruction has finally jumped the shark.

More Noise Please
Anonymous said…
More than 2% of a district's population can test above the national norm. It's not atypical in cities with a major university - Berkeley, CA, is similar. It means MORE students need something beyond the grade level curriculum.

Eliminating private testing will not eliminate a HC student's academic needs. They might have to wait longer for services as they wait another year to test (adding to the cost of district testing, as more students will then test multiple times), and it may mean more 2E students go underserved - how is this a good thing??

different truths
Anonymous said…
Stop Stop Stop, the USDE ruled against my 2e child citing there is no requirement for districts to serve students above a general education. If parents think they have a case against SPS over HCC and 2e then I suggest that you hire a lawyer and sue. You will most likely lose your suit.

HCC for 2e is provided for out of the kindness of the district. It's legally up to the district how to implement AL and where to provide those services. I don't like it and you don't like it, but my $7.500 down the drain lawyer says those are the facts.

You will not find a successful lawsuit over failure to provide FAPE to a 2e student. If I had a million dollars to blow then I would pursue this case all the way to the SCOTUS.

SPED parent
"...the USDE ruled against my 2e child citing there is no requirement for districts to serve students above a general education."

Citation, please.
Anonymous said…
OK, but 250% increase above the average seems unlikely. Seattle is not Berkley.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, you called the lack of identified underserved students in HC a "communication" issue and it's not.

You also were refuting the claims be the group that underserved students are excluded. The group did not say anything in the legal sense. Instead of backing up the spirit of the need for underserved students, you chose to counter the claim with your years-long mantra about it being open to all.

You simply have not been an advocate for underserved children getting identified, and your attempt to backtrack and parse words when you're called on it is not credible.

kellie said…
Here is the link for the demographics for the City of Seattle.


You need to look at the entire population to determine ratios and hot spots, because the population of SPS is not a direct mirror for the City of Seattle. Likewise, the population of Seattle is not a direct mirror for most of the US.

The Seattle area has multiple major employers that employ a highly educated work force, (UW, Children's Hospital, Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, etc).

You need to use local norms in order to get a straight 2% ratio. If you are not using local norms, it is pretty easy for your total numbers to vary by several standard deviations.

Enough, I have been to enough meetings where parents of color have said, "I didn't know anything about program" to say there are communications issues. Clearly, family engagement on this could be better if there are that many unidentified students of color. We can disagree on this but that's my opinion.

My point was that in a legal sense, the district is doing what it has to do. You are looking at it from "the spirit of need for underserved students" which I also support. But if people outside of SPS see "students are/were excluded" they may wonder how the district could legally do that. You have to think about the optics and understanding of everyone you might seek to reach.

I have been an advocate for underserved students and you are welcome to search the 10+ years of this blog to see it. Or the 20+ years of videotape of Board meetings where I did it.
Anonymous said…
This commentary should be shown at the Democratic National Convention next year.
This is Superintendent Denise Juneau's legacy for Seattle.

David Horsey's Cartoon: Seattle Public Schools Dumb Idea for Gifted Programs



Horsey works for the LA Times. Our School District (and it Superintendent) have become a national disgrace.
First, "Math is Racist".
Now "Cancel Advanced Courses if the Class is Too White".

Dumb Ideas
Anonymous said…
@Melissa-I have heard from a number of parents of 2e kids that they were more or less told by the district that they had to choose which services they got-either special ed services or HCC, but not both. This came up quite a bit at Cascadia a few years ago when principals were telling parents to go to Cascadia because those kids "got more." Reality was there was no "more" (i.e. sped + HCC) but it removed those kids (and by way of inference, their "problems") from their reference school.
-long road
Long Road, well, that's just sad.
Anonymous said…
"I have been an advocate for underserved students and you are welcome to search" MW

I have read this blog for years, you were an outspoken advocate for Spectrum, which separated students and notoriously left the remaining classrooms with more students of color, FRL, and with most of the EL and students.

Whenever readers questioned the demographics or entrance criteria, you replied "it is open to all" and you made no attempt to advocate for alternative means of identification for underserved children.

Any readers who attempted to further pushback about the dynamics of Spectrum and its segregation or the lack of underrepresented students in HC were told to "move on" or were deleted by you.


Anonymous said…
Correction: Whenever readers questioned the demographics or entrance criteria of HCC...

Anonymous said…
@ Enough, I agree with you. When I think of MW, "advocate for underserved students" is not what comes to mind. But I can be convinced otherwise.
@MW,I acknowledge you have been a title 1 volunteer for as many years as you have. That is real work. How is that volunteering going? I think you have expressed support for HC services for all. How many underserved students from that Title 1 school have been able to access HCC because of your advocacy?

Fed Up
Anonymous said…
@Fed Up

Your accusations about Melissa not advocating for alternative means of testing into Spectrum are hard to swallow. Back in the era of Superintendent Stanford and Superintendent Olsefsky, Spectrum was offered throughout the District. It was during the era of Superintendent Manhas that Spectrum and APP were cut in the South End of SPS.

It is not Melissa's fault that Spectrum was curtailed by SPS. Numerous people spoke out about the District's decision to cut Advanced Learning opportunities in the South End. Call those administrative decisions what you want. Cost-savings, Institutional Racism, Intentional, etc. It was not the fault of parents, like Melissa.

Charlie Mas, who co-founded this Blog, was the most vocal members of the community, speaking out about the lies and deceptions issued by SPS about how they admitted students into Spectrum and APP. For instance, SPS stated on its website that applications to Spectrum and APP were reviewed by a "Committee". Turned out it was only a Committee of one person. She was never around when hundreds of applications to get students into Spectrum and APP arrived at the Stanford Center. Some of these applications were "lost". Outraged parents were allowed to appeal. Again, one person reviewed the appeals. So don't go blaming parents and advocates like Charlie Mas and Melissa Westbrook for the past bumbling mistakes of SPS. Superintendent Juneau is making her own bubbling mistakes now.

Spectrum has been around from about 1983. The program has served thousands of Seattle families over 35 years. Various Superintendents have managed it, including several Superintendents who were People of Color. It is hard to see how Advanced Learning opportunities are inherently racist. When people limit access to Advanced Learning, based on racial criteria, or socioeconomic criteria, that's Institutional Racism. Who makes those decisions within SPS?

Seattle Parent
Anonymous said…
Private testing did NOT gain us access. I would have been thrilled if it had. Our 2e kindergarten student had anomalous MAP results. I appealed. Her Cogat results, which were school administered, more than met requirements. As did private IQ tests (Woodcock-Johnson and WISC). We also had a letter of recommendation from a teacher. No dice. We had to wait a year until our student had a qualifying MAP score.

Fair? Not fair? I suppose it depends on who you ask. It was unfortunate that my kid did not learn anything academically during the year she was not admitted.

--Just one story
Enough, yes, I supported Spectrum because it made sense to keep more kids in their neighborhood/region. I started being an activist BECAUSE of the inequities in Spectrum. Yup.

.."you made no attempt to advocate for alternative means of identification for underserved children."

Absolutely not true.

Fed Up, trying to bait me? Won't work and I don't talk specifics because it would wrong. You will soon see something I did to advocate for some kids of color at a Title One school.

Just one story, thanks for that.

Anonymous said…
Not baiting, asking for real outcomes.
Over and out.

Fed Up
Fed Up, I don't have to justify my life to you.

Over and out.

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