Thursday, February 26, 2009

Welcome

This is obviously a time of transition for the Elementary APP Program in the Seattle Schools. In the last few months, APP parents and other stakeholders have shown a remarkable level of engagement with issues related to the future of the program. These conversations have taken place in a variety of less-than-ideal fora--for example, on the school's own Lowellink, on other broader Seattle Schools blogs, and on an email lists that have grown to hundred of names. The purpose of this blog is to create a single, dedicated space where APP parents and other interested parties can come to discuss the many issues raised by the School District's decision to transform the Elementary APP Program. Welcome.

20 comments:

agibean1958 said...

Thanks for starting this blog, Andrew. I'll pass the word.

Robert said...

Great!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting this. One thing: I hope the Advanced Learning office at SPS is notifying *incoming* APP parents about this and other information resources. It's been hard to find out what's going on after the closure/consolidation decision was made. Hopefully, they'll send parents of kids who just became eligible for APP a letter telling them how to get involved.

Shannon said...

Hi
My son is entering 3rd Grade and public school. I am not sure whether he will be eligible for Lowell as we are waiting the outcome of an appeal after narrowly missing on the Cogat scores.

I confess, even if the appeal is successful I am in two minds about whether to pick Lowell. We are in the NE Cluster and I like Thornton Creek and there is this new Spectrum program at Jane Addams (not sure if I should feel fear or excitement). I was SURE last year but now I am concerned and do not know what order to rank our school preferences.

Why am I worried in particular?
1) The sense of real fear and unhappiness from APP Families makes me nervous.
2) The sense of uncertainty - what WILL the program look like next year?
3) The implications of an 8am start time when bussing from the central NE Cluster. I mean, we get up at 6.45am but still, that is a RUSH for oru 45 min bus time.
4) Uniforms - not a dealbreaker but another big CHANGE for my kid from dragging on any-old-thing in the morning.
5) The sense that more big changes are coming with the assignment plan.

I hope to gather information and advice from you guys to make our decision easier.

Shannon

Seattlehorn said...

Not sure where to post this, but I finally received an answer from Virginia in the Advanced Learning Office to my paper request (citing FERPA, thanks to Dorothy) for information on the APP testing of our 2nd grader. The test was indeed administered differently this year, e.g., no verbal instructions, timed and cut off, bubble sheets.

I don't know if this method of testing was district-wide as I could only get information about my child. The norms were national and age-based, according to Virginia.

Regardless, how can it be equitable given that previous 2nd graders were not tested this way, and that "timed" testing has a negative impact on scores (particularly in the case of bifocaled, perfectionist kids like mine, whose reduced score was the result of unanswered questions, not errors).

I'm peeved. Please tell me what I'm missing in this picture.

Anonymous said...

Seattlehorn - Wow, that's very interesting info. That may explain the differences in my child's scores from this year(low) and last year(high). She came out saying she didn't understand what to do on some parts and wasn't allowed to ask questions.

Shannon - My advice is to go to the open houses.
Talk to the APP families who have had their kids in gen ed and Spectrum. APP may be changing, but it's probably still more of a known than the new k-8.

Keep in mind:

-Spectrum is different at different schools
-Even if your child is eligible for Spectrum, you may not get a spot in the NE. Especially if some NE APP families choose to return to their cluster.
-If Thornton Creek enrollment is still based on a cluster-wide lottery it may be difficult to get in.

Anonymous said...

Shannon,

I live in the NE cluster too - and have had kids in APP schools for years now. I have not found that there is real unhappiness and fear among APP families - though it is of course a time of great change in the program. Keep in mind that middle schools currently start at 7:40 am when you consider the change in start time - and from the NE area, my kids pick up a bus at 7:10 - not too bad. For us, the benefits of the APP program - the teachers, the other students, the curriculum - have always offset the inconvenience. We are trying to maintain a positive attitude int he face of the changes - most APP families we know seem to be doing the same.

Anonymous said...

(to add to the above posting - 7:10 AM bus pickup for middle and high school - 8:15 AM for Lowell)

Charlie Mas said...

The District made a lot of promises to the APP community this year. They promised a written, taught, and tested curriculum. They promised equivalent programs at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall and equivalent programs at Washington and Hamilton. Those are big promises.

The District has made a lot of promises to the advanced learning community in the past, but failed to keep those promises. If these promises aren't kept, the program and the quality of childrens' educations could be seriously damaged.

As our sorry history with the District's promises have taught us, they don't have to keep any of their promises. There's nothing we can do about it. They are not accountable to us.

I suggest that there IS something we can do about it. I suggest that we make a list of the District's promises to the advanced learning community - all of the promises - and we set objectively measurable benchmarks for confirming that these promises were kept. Then we all opt our children out of the WASL until the promises - all of the promises - are kept.

I'm saying that no APP student should take the WASL this year. More than that, none should take the WASL next year if the promises have not been fulfilled by that time. Each year a determination should be made about whether or not all of the promises have been kept and, if they have not all met their benchmark for completion, the WASL strike continues.

This is the only tool we have to enforce accountability on the District.

None of the APP schools are Title I schools so none of them will suffer any loss of funding as a result of lowered WASL pass rates. There will be no negative impact or consequence to the schools, the teachers, the students or their education. In fact, if the students aren't taking the WASL they will have more time to spend learning.

It is your right, guaranteed by the state, to remove your child from participation in the WASL. It is your child's right to refuse to take the test. Except for the 10th grade test, the WASL is not required for anything. The WASL does not provide you, your child, or your child's teacher with any meaningful information about the child's academic progress or status. This is particularly true for students in APP. Not only isn't the WASL useful that way, starting next year, the District will be looking to an entirely different set of assessments for that data.

There is no good reason for your child to take the WASL, but there may be good reason for you to hold your child out of the test - to exercise some accountability for Seattle Public Schools, to put some pressure on them to fulfill their promises this the advanced learning community, and to serve as a model for other communities looking for accountability from the district as well.

If we don't do this, then how can we make the District keep their promises? They have not kept their promises in the past.

Anonymous said...

As an APP parent, I do not believe boycotting the WASL is the solution. Am I frustrated by all the changes? Absolutely. Yes.

Do you remember what happened to Summit when they didn't want to move? Goodbye Summit. And what about AS#1? It hasn't served them well to opt out. Let's not shoot ourselves in the foot and use our children as pawns. We would only be hurting our community of children and teachers by boycotting WASL.

For many of us, APP is the only true choice for our kids. Private schools are not an option. We are left with no choice but to make the mergers work.

And really, all we have to do at this point is watch the train wreck happen. I don't think a boycott will be necessary.

Charlie Mas said...

So we shouldn't boycott the WASL because it might upset the school district and they would respond by eliminating the program? Are you serious? Are you really that scared? When has it ever been good policy to appease a bully - and you have cast the District in the role of a bully. And if you think that the District's plan is a train wreck then what do you have to lose anyway?

Boycotting the WASL doesn't keep the mergers from working. On the contrary, it is to insist that do their part to make the mergers work.

I can't help wondering what you plan to do after watching the train wreck?

Anonymous said...

Seriously Charlie, a WASL boycott? What positive outcomes do you foresee?

What message do you want to send your children?
Certainly it would be that you make the best of a situation. It's the school communities that will make the mergers work.

Seattlehorn said...

I have already opted my APP child out of the WASL, and would support a boycott for all the reasons Charlie mentions. The first positive outcome is immediate: our kids won't be wasting instructional time on the WASL.

Charlie, what measurable benchmarks do you suggest?

Seattlehorn said...

"What message do you want to send to your children?"

LOL. Apparently the opposite of this: that it is acceptable to stand by and "watch the train wreck happen" instead of doing out best to prevent it, with the tools at our disposal.

Anonymous said...

Seattlehorn -

Are you implying that parents haven't done their best to puts the brakes on the "train wreck"? That couldn't be farther from the truth. Despite their best efforts, the train is moving forward...

Seattlehorn said...

Not at all. Many of us did our best to prevent the split of APP, and are now doing our best to make the mergers successful. These are not mutually exclusive efforts, and while parental support is critical to a successful APP, it isn't sufficient. The WASL boycott is a great idea.

Charlie, I'm wondering what the benchmarks should be around PCPs. On a tour last week, I heard the Lowell gym teacher mention that she is not getting her mandated time with the kids (PE is cycled every 3 weeks with Music and Art).

Later, Julie B. mentioned that one year at Lowell, the PTA funded extra P.E. time in the cafeteria, which is bigger than the gym. Increased enrollment soon made it unavailable (instrumental music now uses the stage). Perhaps reduced enrollment will change that.

Is there a mandate for physical activity? I understand that Rep. Jeanne Kohl-Welles recently tried to attach one to the education bills but failed.

TechyMom said...

Charlie,
Thurgood Marshall will get Title 1 funds for 2009-2010. Julie confirmed this at last week's Marshall tour. A WASL boycott could have consequences for Marshall.

Charlie Mas said...

I will say it again, just in case it has not penetrated. Keeping our children out of the WASL until the District fulfills their commitments to our children and the program, does not - in any way - damage or diminish the quality of their education, the education of other students in the building, the solidarity of the new school communities, or the cohesiveness of the merger. I would hope that the general education programs at the schools would join us in demanding that the the District fulfill their commitments to us all.

We have no other tool for demanding accountability from the District. None.

If the District fails to support the students, the schools, and the programs as promised, THAT would be detrimental to the success of the mergers. Once the District fulfills their commitments, the students start taking the WASL again.

Anonymous (at least one of them) asked:

"What positive outcomes do you foresee?"

I foresee a community that feels empowered to influence their treatment by the District. That's a positive. I foresee a District that recognizes that the community can hold them accountable. That's a positive. I foresee a District that will fulfill their promises to these students. That's a positive.

"What message do you want to send your children?"

I want to show my children that they do have means for standing up for themselves when dealing with large institutions that exercise tremendous power over them. I want to show my children that they control themselves and their actions and do not have to comply with orders that do not benefit them. I want them to get the message that they can demand that promises to them are fulfilled.

I agree that it is up to the school communities to make the splits and mergers work. Demanding that the District fulfill their promises is part of that work.

Seattlehorn asks: "Charlie, what measurable benchmarks do you suggest?"

First we need a list of all of the promises. Then we can determine a benchmark for each one. What promises have been made? I know that one of them was the written, taught and tested curriculum. The benchmarks for that would be 1) a written document that constitutes a curriculum 2) evidence, in the form of teacher performance evaluations, that the curriculum was taught, and 3) evidence, in the form of formative and cumulative assessements, that the curriculum was tested.

Seattlehorn said...

Hey Andrew, can we start a new thread on the WASL boycott?

Charlie Mas said...

Last word, from a Lowell meeting last night, was that the APP curriculum would not be ready or implemented on time. That would be a big broken promise since the viability of the whole APP split is founded on this curriculum.