Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Second HCS Advisory Committee email re:boundaries

Dear HCC community,

Last month the HCS AC sent an email to the District and Board of Directors regarding the high school boundaries as part of the Student Assignment Plan for the 2019-20 school year. The District then shared its proposal to create five pathway schools for the Highly Capable Students.

In response, following discussion at our November 7th HCS AC meeting and subsequent feedback, we revised our statement and sent it to the Superintendent and the Directors today in advance of any Board discussion (please see below). Final votes by the Board continue to be slated for January 2018 with implementation in Fall 2019.

We strongly encourage the HC community to participate in the Boundary Meetings and provide immediate feedback to the District regarding any potential changes to the HC pathways. Emails can be sent to - and

To: Superintendent Nyland and Directors
From: Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee
Date: November 15, 2017
Re: Proposed Highly Capable High School Pathways/Student Assignment Plan for 2019-20
Dear Superintendent Nyland and Directors Blanford, Burke, Geary, Harris, Pinkham, Patu, and Peters,
In light of the recent District proposal regarding highly capable pathways for high school and the upcoming Board vote on the Student Assignment Plan, the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee (HCS AC) would like to voice its concerns and support for aspects of the proposed increase of the number of pathway schools to five. In particular, we:

  • Understand the rationale for the selection of Ballard and Roosevelt as HC pathways schools;

  • Are concerned about the selection of Lincoln attendance area students being assigned to Garfield as their pathway school;

  • Recommend that Garfield remain the only pathway school for the Central, Southeast and Southwest in 2019;

  • Suggest that the District first build up the AP and rigorous course offerings at Franklin and West Seattle first, then revisit the idea of making those schools HC pathway sites; and

  • Urge the District to grandfather current high school students and eighth graders into their current high school or pathway.

The HCS AC is comprised of teachers and parents at the elementary, middle and high school levels whose collective experience with highly capable students in our District spans several decades. We have reviewed the numbers of HC students in each of the proposed pathways (see attached) and considered the equity issues that currently and could potentially exist. Please consider our recommendations on the District proposals, rooted in the following analysis and supporting rationale.

Proposal for North End
  • Support: The redirection of Northeast and Northwest area HC students to north-end high schools alone would dramatically reduce the number of HC students at Garfield, easing Garfield’s capacity issue and providing an equitable experience closer to home for north-end students. Selecting Ballard and Roosevelt as pathway schools makes sense and aligns with trends: Many HC eligible students already choose their neighborhood school over Garfield (129 at Ballard, 155 at Roosevelt). Pathway changes diverting north-end HC students from Garfield would add about 300 HC students to both Ballard and Roosevelt, creating cohorts of 400-500 HC students at each. This would allow for effective delivery of counseling, meet their social emotional needs, and provide robust AP and elective offerings beyond the already-robust selection of courses (16 and 18 respectively) at both high schools.

  • Concern: We struggle with directing Lincoln-area students to Garfield for two reasons: commute challenges and prioritizing services closer to home. 1) The trip to the Central District is much more difficult than the trip to Ballard, particularly taking public transportation (Metro) in our city’s geography. In fact, this drives many families from Wallingford, Magnolia and Queen Anne to choose Ballard or Roosevelt over Garfield. 2) Lincoln-area families should have a north-end HC option. Under the current plan, if area HC students choose not to attend Garfield, they would be limited to a neighborhood school (Lincoln) which lacks access to the higher-level HC math and science classes they need, because Lincoln is a roll-up school with limited grades and associated classes in its first years of operation.

Proposal for Central, Southeast and Southwest
  • Concern: We strongly stand by our recommendation that Garfield remain the single HC pathway school for students in the Central, South and Southwest areas and not split for several reasons: resulting disparity in number of students, as well as impacts to course offerings, cohort size, and finances.

    • The splits would create a significant imbalance between the north and the south. Garfield has 428 HC students total, very similar to the potential number of HC students at Ballard or Roosevelt. Here is the current breakdown: 184 students from the Garfield area, 95 from Franklin, 41 from Rainier Beach, 32 from Chief Sealth, and 76 from West Seattle, totaling 428 students. The proposed splits would distribute HC students as such: Garfield, 184, Franklin, 146, and West Seattle, 145. This creates significantly smaller HC cohorts at these three high schools than at the two high schools in the north end, where Garfield, Franklin and West Seattle would have HC populations of 15% or less, compared to north-end HC populations of 30%.

    • No guarantee of course offering parity at Franklin and West Seattle. Currently, Franklin offers 10 AP classes and West Seattle offers 12. These schools would need to significantly increase their offerings before 2019 to align with Garfield, Ballard and Roosevelt. Despite District assurances--and we do support increased advanced learning options at all high schools--limited District resources and fewer Advanced Learners at Franklin and West Seattle would not be sufficient to drive a master schedule for these courses. West Seattle parents have voiced these concerns, and Franklin faces problematic programming of repetitious Physical Science and Biology courses in 9th grade when HC students would already have taken those classes in 7th and 8th grades. This raises many questions about whether the District could guarantee that HC students at Franklin and West Seattle have the same (or similar) offerings as students at Ballard, Roosevelt and at Garfield now, as well as what the process would be to address the scenario if parity did not come to fruition:

      • Would honors LA and SS options be offered in 9th grade as now at Garfield? Would Franklin require HC students to repeat Science as at Nathan Hale? Would Franklin adopt a new model, and would it be desired? What would the reduced number of HC students at Garfield mean for their ability to sustain current advanced learning offerings?

    • West Seattle parents have expressed a variety of opinions about a local high school pathway. Some support a HC pathway closer to home, while others are concerned that the smaller cohort size would make it challenging to expand the number of AP offerings at West Seattle High School.

    • Significant demographic changes could affect financing of Garfield activities. Currently 42% of Garfield are HC students and 38% of the school are Free-Reduced Lunch (FRL); this proposal would reduce the Garfield HC population to about 10%. For better or worse, the number of affluent students would drop significantly, thus affecting PTSA fundraising and music, drama and science fundraising that happens at Garfield. Whether the Garfield community regards these as positive changes is something that should be factored into the equation as well.
Another important consideration is the issue of underrepresentation in the Highly Capable Cohort. For decades, the District and this Committee have wrestled with the highly problematic fact that the Highly Capable Cohort does not reflect the demographic makeup of our district either racially or socio-economically. We believe that the place to address these problems is with testing and identification and with talent development for those students who show potential but do not yet have the achievement piece. Finding solutions at the pre-K and elementary levels is expected to bring results over time. It is important that we serve the needs of every child, including the highly capable cohort. Splintering current HC south-end students into three high schools would not solve the disproportionality problem.

For these reasons, we strongly urge the District to pause with the idea of splitting the HC students up among five high schools. The two schools in the North--Ballard and Roosevelt--already offer an array of AP courses along with robust arts programs, and the addition of more HC students at these schools would have negative impacts only if there is not capacity to accommodate them. Conversely, splitting HC students in the south across three high schools raises many questions and concerns about implementation and equity while only creating a fraction more capacity at Garfield (244 seats).

We strongly support the increase in AP offerings at Franklin and West Seattle. The District should commit the resources and work with those schools to create those opportunities first, then, in two more years (2019) look at whether the split of SE and SW HC students to those schools in 2020 makes sense. Changes of this magnitude to the HC model should be part of a larger plan for these students. We should not be looking at High School separately from the program as a whole.

Finally, we would like to reiterate our request for grandfathering of HC students at any of their current schools. Changes at the high-school level have significant implications for college entrance and any student or family who has committed to a particular high school should be allowed to continue down that road until graduation.

Thank you for your consideration.


Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee

Monday, November 13, 2017

High School Pathway Demographics

By request, this is a thread to discuss demographic and enrollment issues with the proposed High School Pathways. I'll try to collect data here as well.

Data from the recent HCS AC email:  This is not at all consistent with the previous district data below.  The only explanation for the count change was a huge shift in the 9th grade cohort and inaccuracies in prev. counts.

That's visible in the P223 reports for Roosevelt (up 70+ in 9th) but less so in Garfield/Ballard (both up 25+ in 9th) .

Current Cohort Data

9th 46
10th 33
11th 28
12th 22

9th: 73
10th: 31
11th: 27
12th: 22

9th 101
10th 120
11th 86
12th 83

Still waiting on real data but you can infer from the overall numbers  that about 147 North kids go there and the total is  about 572 kids. There are about 200 9th graders not full accounted for above.

Overall HC cohorts from 2016-2017.  Note: the huge jump in the now 9th grade cohort.

See:  for more interesting numbers.

Data from the board retreat this year:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sudden Change in Appeals Policy

Without any outreach, announcement, and in the middle of the identification process the AL office has changed its appeal process.  Unlike previously, any private test scores will need to be 3 standards of deviation about average i.e. 99th percentile as compared to 95th percentile from the district administered test.

"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 are 3 standard deviations above the norm on standardized intelligence and achievement tests. This does represent a higher threshold than for the initial eligibility process because the student has been given the benefit of individually administered assessments. Students who meet the published cognitive and achievement test threshold scores are not guaranteed a successful appeal.  All documents submitted for the appeal will be considered in conjunction with all other academic performance data, including, but not limited to: recent achievement assessments, classroom performance, and teacher input.
Appeals decisions are final; there are no appeals of appeals. Also please note that if your student is deemed ineligible, you may refer the student again for retesting the next year."

This is all governed by the existing procedure:  which has not been modified since last year.

While procedure changes don't require board approval, I'd argue this change is badly done on a process front. Any changes should occur before the testing season occurs and be vetted in public. We already went through this last year, when the office attempted to change rules midstream and was forced to back down.

[Thanks to several readers for bringing this to my attention.]

Friday, November 3, 2017

November '17 Open Thread


The pathway plan made it out of the operations committee yesterday. If I read the timeline correctly, there are now a few weeks before the real vote (assuming this is considered part of the transitional plan). So now is the time to contact Director's with your concerns.  

Interesting Math Story

"A New Zealand maths exam for high school students has been criticised as “impossible” with even the brightest students left despondent and in tears at the difficulty of the questions."
I had fun looking at it and maybe others would appreciate showing it to their geometry students.


Here's a deeper dive from JoLynn Berge at the district on the HCC budget:

"1. How much HCS money is expected this year, compared to previous years? 
$1.1m in FY17-18 (which includes the increased funding from the 2017 legislative session of about $600k); prior year was $524k.

2. What is the state HCS money being used for, exactly? (Parents hear it goes to buses and testing, and nothing else!) 
Here is an object summary for program 74 – HC for the 17-18 budget:
0 Debit Transfer 3,100
2 Cert. Salaries 546,549
3 Class. Salaries 228,515
4 Staff Benefits 272,002
5 Supplies/Materials 166,525
7 Purchased Services 55,000
8 Travel 10,200
9 Capital Outlay -
Total 1,281,891
Most of the expenses within our Advanced Learning department surround testing students for eligibility as Advanced Learners or Highly Capable (e.g. materials, proctors, contracts for grading, etc.) and supporting professional development for teachers on accelerated or differentiated curriculum (e.g. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate teachers).

3. Does the SPS master budget show HCS line items (personnel, curriculum development, transportation, etc.)? I recognize that the Advanced Learning office is responsible for more than HCS, and so I’d guess that some salaries and expenses accrue to more than one purpose.

Yes, the budget book on page 44 shows revenues (without the increased state revenue which came out too late for us to include in this) and budgeted expenditures are shown on page 54. We will still be subsidizing the program out of our M&O levy, but to a smaller amount in 17-18.

In the Buildings

Finally how are things going on the ground? On that topic, I thought I'd share a picture of my personal triumph for the season: the first Math Club Bulletin Board at Jane Addams.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

HCC Pathway decisions in the latest board materials

This is from a draft of the agenda and so may change but there are a couple of  decisions here that  I think are concerning :

  • Franklin as a pathway for the SE.
  • The lack of capacity impact analysis.
Note: yesterday I assumed this was also up somewhere in the Board Agenda. I have not found it there  yet so that's another reason to treat this as a draft like I originally wrote. In any case I would be surprised if this is the end state.

Monday, October 30, 2017

HCC Advisory Committee Position on the High School Boundaries

Dear HCC community,

As you are probably aware, the District is considering changes to the high school boundaries as part of the Student Assignment Plan that will go into effect for the 2019/20 school year.

Meetings are happening and feedback is being collected, and the HCS AC has sent the email below to make clear our position and recommendations regarding the highly capable and high school pathways.

Today the HCS AC sent an email to the Superintendent and the Directors expressing our position (see below) in advance of staff preparing their recommendations to the Board in November. Final votes by the Board are slated for January 2018 with implementation in Fall 2019.

We strongly encourage the HC community to participate in the Boundary Meetings and provide immediate feedback to the District regarding any potential changes to the HC pathways. Emails can be sent to - and

The three most recent proposals can be found here:

Remaining meetings include:

Email sent 10/30:

Dear Superintendent Nyland and Directors Blanford, Burke, Geary, Harris, Pinkham, Patu, and Peters,

As you consider changes to the Student Assignment Plan and specifically to the High School Boundaries, the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee would like to make its voice heard on potential pathways for HC students.

Right now, Highly Capable students have a guaranteed pathway to Garfield High School with an option to attend Ingraham IBX. The HCS AC recognizes that Garfield High School is significantly over capacity at nearly 2,000 students this year. With the recent expansion of HC sites to three middle schools in the north end of Seattle (Hamilton, Jane Addams, and Robert Eagle Staff) and one in West Seattle (Madison), we also recognize that an expansion of the HC pathways for high school is a pragmatic option.

HCS AC strongly recommends that the Superintendent and Board consider adding no more than one new pathway for HC high school students in the north. Furthermore, there should not be an expansion of pathways in the south, and Garfield should remain the HC pathway for students in the south end. We strongly support and encourage the expansion of Advanced Placement courses at additional high schools, but that should not mean dispersing HC students into all high schools. We further recommend that all HC identified students be grandfathered in at their current school.

This committee has long held the position that decisions regarding program placement should not be driven by capacity issues. The integrity of the program at all levels is contingent on having a cohort size that can sustain robust and rigorous offerings. This is also the case at the high-school level.

In our District, the highly capable service delivery model is a combination of acceleration together with increased depth. This means that HC students have experienced this style of learning with a group of their peers for years (perhaps even since first grade). For this reason, there should continue to be options for accelerated study at the high-school level. The most common incarnation of this in high school is Advanced Placement classes. Garfield as a pathway school has a robust offering of AP classes in the arts, math, science, literature, social sciences, computer science and foreign languages together with additional offerings in theater, music, visual art, and journalism.

If an additional pathway were to be created in the north for high school, it is critical that a site be selected that can offer a comparable array of classes as those offered at Garfield and that any site allow students to continue on with their learning without needing to repeat any coursework already completed.

As the District opened new HC sites at the elementary and middle school levels, this Committee--along with the Advanced Learning Task Force in 2015--recommended that cohort sizes remain strong in order to maintain the critical mass necessary to provide the academic and social emotional supports to meet the needs of this population of students. A robust cohort size helps enable efficient use of the limited resources available for the social emotional needs of this population.

Over the course of several decades, the parents and teachers of HC students in Seattle have advocated for the same set of principles for the service and program delivery to HC students. Those that specifically relate to program placement include:

  1. Provide consistent and appropriate curriculum across all sites
  2. A critical mass cohort at each site
  3. Principals, teachers and counselors that are truly committed to and experienced in supporting highly capable and 2e students and their education
  4. Sites with welcoming and supportive communities
  5. Providing a continuum of strong and rigorous programs for highly capable students

We strongly urge the Superintendent and Board to take these points into consideration as they consider any changes to the pathways. Rapid proliferation--or even elimination--of pathways through high school would cause too much inconsistency across the District for HC students and it would create a lack of opportunity for many students who have been accelerated in their learning for many years.

Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee

Monday, October 23, 2017

More Assignment Plan / High School Pathways Updates

First this document was put out by the district:

"One area of this work under review is how we serve our high school advanced learners. Given the opening of Lincoln High School in 2019, development of new boundaries, and the upward trend in the number of students who are eligible for Advanced Learning services, we have been seeking input on how to improve access to high school Advanced Learning programs and courses across the district.

Additionally, as part of this review we have been examining the projected Highly Capable (HC) enrollment at Garfield High School. Currently, HC seats at Garfield are reserved for any student who has participated in the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) in eighth grade. Within a few years, the majority of Garfield’s student body will be students who have participated in the HCC program, limiting neighborhood student enrollment and access. Garfield will struggle to meet HC capacity needs while also maintaining strong neighborhood student enrollment."

Current Draft Plan:

The main new piece here is a stronger guarantee of grandfathering for current Garfield students.

Still extremely problematic:

  • There is no plan for how to serve students at their reference schools. There really isn't any budget to compensate for low numbers of kids who need  particular classes. Deferring the planning process such as it is will not lead to good outcomes.  

  • The outreach process is literally occurring after the votes about the decision have happened. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Two Updates from the HC Advisory Committee


The 2017-18 meeting schedule for the Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee is listed below. All meetings are on Tuesdays and run from 6:30 until 8 p.m.

Meeting Schedule
November 7, JSCEE, Auditorium
December 5, JSCEE, Room TBD
January 9, Garfield High School Library 
February 6, JSCEE, Room TBD
March 6, Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Library
April 3, JSCEERoom TBD
May 1, JSCEE, Room TBD
June 5, Madison Middle School, Library
Also, they are posted on the District site here:  

Nominations for Positions Still being Accepted

The Highly Capable Services Advisory Committee is gearing up for the year and we have a number of open positions to be filled. The committee includes parent representatives from each school that houses the Highly Capable Cohort. Reps attend monthly meetings during the course of the school year and meeting this year are held the first Tuesday of the month, beginning in November.

Nominations are now being accepted for the following parent representative positions:

Cascadia Elementary
Decatur Elementary
Fairmount Park Elementary
Eagle Staff Middle School
Hamilton International Middle School
Madison Middle School
Garfield High School
Ingraham High School

Please use the Link to the Form to apply and send to the HCS AC Chair, Jeanne Thompson at Priority will be given to applications received by Friday, October 20.

The first Advisory Committee meeting will be Tuesday, November 7 at JSCEE Auditorium. Additional details about the meeting times and places will be coming soon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Student Assignment Plan Open Houses

Dear Families,
You are invited to a Student Assignment Plan (SAP) Open House where district staff will be available to answer questions about updates to the 2018-2019 SAP including Special Education, school choice and Advanced Learning opportunities in high schools.

Also at the meetings, families can review the recommended high school boundary maps and provide feedback. New high school boundaries will be implemented in 2019-2020 to accommodate the opening of Lincoln High School in Northwest Seattle and an addition at Ingraham High School. The top three boundary scenarios are posted to the High School Boundary Task Force Recommendations page for community review.
During the week of Oct. 30, all families will be invited to participate in a survey and provide formal feedback on the three recommended boundaryscenarios.


Eckstein Middle School Lunchroom, 3003 NE 75th St.
Oct. 23, 2017, 6:30-8 p.m.

Ballard High School Commons, 1418 NW 65th St.
Oct. 26, 2017, 6:30-8 p.m.

McClure Middle School Gym, 1915 1st Ave. West
Oct. 30, 2017, 6:30 – 8 p.m.

Cleveland High School Lunchroom, 5511 15th Ave. South
Nov. 8, 2017, 6:30-8 p.m.

West Seattle High School Lunchroom, 3000 California Ave. SW
Nov. 9, 2017, 6:30-8 p.m.

These informal meetings will follow an open house style, so families may arrive as their schedule allows. Translation services will be available at each meeting.
For additional background information and a decision timeline, please see the High School Boundaries page. Please note that the boundaryscenarios presented are not finalized and some details are subject to change as we integrate feedback from families, students and staff. Staff will present a final recommended High School Boundary map to the Operations Committee on Dec. 7. We anticipate the School Board will take action on new High School Boundaries at the Jan. 17, 2018, Board Meeting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spectrum Updates

The year long review process initiated by the Advanced Learning department is moving along. Spectrum is a bit out out of this forum's focus but since I expect the review to turn to HCC this is worth examining.

Review Phase 1
Program Review
Literature Review

On the positive side, the parent response sections reflect real frustrations with the program and the authors were up front about the issues.

On the less positive side, there's a lot of distrust of  any sort of grouping on the principals side and general belief that a single classroom meets everyone's needs. This includes dislike of practices like walk-to math.


There's obviously a huge gap between these two positions.

The conclusions are disappointing in the sense that they are mostly stay the course:

I'd argue that this is what both the central staff and most principals claim is already happening on the ground especially with programs like ALO.  There is no  analysis on what changes would need to be taken to make a difference for students.  Realistically, the way the AL department is setup it doesn't even have a mechanism for implementing any of these. Site based management means any such change is up to the 90+ principals in each building.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Editorial: We need both Maps with and without HCC Pathway(s)

The current High School Boundary Advisory committee has been working with a set of scenarios and maps that don't clearly indicate whether they assume an HCC pathway in the numbers. This has made evaluating them and the effect of the pathway on capacity harder to determine.

If you believe that minimum cohort sizes are need, or preservation of peer groups is important, or capacity requires the cohort to move in order to balance numbers in various buildings these need to be discussed and generated right now while the decision making process has not gone down one path blindly.

From a pure process standpoint, until the pathway choice is made, its broken to not chart out all the possibilities. Further, its not that much work to generate such maps.

I'd urge readers to contact board members and staff asking them to do the right thing here.

Flip Herndon, Associate Superintendent, Facilities &
School Board+senior staff -

Monday, October 2, 2017

October '17 Open Thread

Well its a month into the new year and we're definitely in the thick of things already.

Testing and Identification

The testing season has started and we've often had questions about the process in the past.

Here's old link I had for info on the Cogat Test: CoGat7 Info:

Also the general cutoffs used by the district are found here:

For parent's involved this year, how is it going?

West Seattle

I'm not sure how many readers we have  in W. Seattle, but this is the 1st year of W. Seattle being the pathway, given the overall situation I'd love to hear any status updates.

Math Contest

"The USA Mathematical Talent Search (USAMTS) is a free mathematics competition open to all United States middle and high school students.

As opposed to most mathematics competitions, the USAMTS allows students a full month, or more, to work out their solutions. Carefully written justifications are required for each problem. The problems range in difficulty from being within the reach of most high school students to challenging the best students in the nation. Students may use any materials - books, calculators, computers - but all the work must be their own. The USAMTS is run on the honor system - it is an individual competition, whose competitive role is very secondary. (Although we do give prizes.)

Student solutions to the USAMTS problems are graded by mathematicians and comments are returned to the students. Our goal is to help all students develop their problem solving skills, improve their technical writing abilities, and mature mathematically while having fun. We wish to foster not only insight, ingenuity and creativity, but also the virtue of perseverance, which is equally essential in scientific endeavors."

There are sure to be other H.S. threads so what other topics are on your minds.