Friday, February 27, 2009

What Model for Lowell and Thurgood Marshall?

Like many of you, I was opposed to the splitting of the elementary APP program when the district proposed it and became more adamant in my opposition to the split as the district offered shifting rationales to defend the proposal. No matter how frustrated I got, however, I thought that there was a major silver lining in the District's otherwise uninspiring effort: the District's unswerving rhetorical commitment to improving participation in advanced learning programs by racial minorities and by students of low and middling socio-economic status. The optimistic part of me thought that maybe, just maybe, the District had a hidden plan in which it would rebrand Lowell and Thurgood Marshall as Advance Learning Academies, would actively recruit promising students from underpresented races and classes for the non-APP classrooms at Lowell and TM, and would develop sensible plans for integrating those students into the academic life of the APP program to the extent their performance justified it.

While such an approach would have had its pros and cons, at least it would have provided a clear vision for the schools and an explanation for why the APP program was being split. Though the results aren't in, the early returns suggest that the District does not have such a model in view. I have heard nothing about any outreach efforts to recruit students who would benefit from such a program to Lowell and TM, the Design Teams keep talking about compromising and balancing the needs of different populations, the schools seem headed for uniforms (which in this District at least is a strong signal of undesirability), and the schools seem actively interested in recruiting APP siblings (who, by definition, will not be adding to the diversity of the learning environment).

I have two questions. First, if the District's motivation is really to expand the diversity of those receiving advanced learning services, what steps are they taking to design Lowell and TM with that focus? Second, if that is not the District's rationale/model, then what is?

93 comments:

James W said...

At the Lowell closure meeting, I got up and asked the same question. Either they have a plan which they aren't sharing, or they don't have a plan. Which is it? Needless to say, I still don't know, and I suspect we will never know. Same for "motivations"---I have no idea, and I don't know anyone who does. I am still utterly mystified.

"We'll figure it out as we go" seems to be the modus operandi---as if there weren't any tough choices to be made that require some guiding principles to be agreed upon first. Ready, fire, aim.

Seattlehorn said...

I've heard various possible motivations. One is to make charter schools more attractive to a state that has heretofore shunned them. Another is to bring up average WASL scores, presumably to pad MG-J's career.

Her history may hold a clue. During Goodloe-Johnson's tenure in South Carolina, a "star" principal, heralded as a miracle worker, was apparently so pressured to provide the desired metrics that she cheated. She changed students' exams to reflect the desired results, and is now being investigated. Goodloe-Johnson came to Seattle before the scandal broke.

Imagine how those students, praised for their gains in reading, feel about school now.

Is it metrics at any cost?

You have to wonder why SPS giving up Title 1 money for Minor and Marshall is worth it.

Anonymous said...

I suspect what is going on is that Maria Goodloe-Johnson is trying to manipulate metrics by moving students from schools with high test schools into schools with low test scores. That will allow her to claim that she has reduced the number of failing schools despite doing nothing to improve education for our children.

Ultimately, people will see through the facade, but by then Maria Goodloe-Johnson will have moved on to another position elsewhere. Just like she did in South Carolina.

ArchStanton said...

Plan? I think we've seen all the plan there is.

If they really wanted to tackle the issue of race and class in ALOs, they would begin by improving and standardizing Spectrum throughout the district. That would have a far greater impact towards improving access to advanced learning for underrepresented populations. Improved Spectrum programs could be well positioned to identify APP candidates.

This just feels like 80s busing. The schools will look integrated from the outside and on paper. My guess is that is their objective. And if they get a handful of new poor or minority students into APP, they can call it a success.

Possibly, we will manage to avoid the pitfalls of the past and form a cohesive community, but it will not be with any help from the district. They have put the burden entirely on us to make it work.

Andrew Siegel said...

Here's a follow-up question: if the District actually adopted the model layed out in this post (i.e., seeking out top students from underrepresented racial and economic groups, developing diverse ALO classes side-by-side with APP classes, integrating the students in those ALO classes into the APP classroom to the extent that their classroom performance suggests would be appropriate, providing to all the students at said school with the kind of perks and opportunities that currently exist at Lowell) would APP parents be supportive? Would such a model be preferable to what currently exists at Lowell?

TechyMom said...

What about universal testing of the general ed kids at both schools for gifted status? Personally, I think we should be doing universal testing throughout the district. Perhaps these schools, with principals who believe in gifted ed, could be the pilots for such a program?

I'd test all the students this fall, and test all the kindergartners every year, and maybe one or two other grades.

Kids who test into APP obviously go to APP (would be nice if those at Lowell could stay there, but maybe that wouldn't work). Kids who test into Spectrum, who almost test into Spectrum, or who do well on one subject would go into the ALO. Maybe ALO teachers could nominate a student to move to APP based on performance.

James W said...

In the early days, when APP was IPP, I understand there was a concerted effort to achieve racial/ethnic proportional representation. I was in the program at the time, and it was certainly more diverse than it is today. However, my guess (only that) is the methods used wouldn't be acceptable given current restrictions on affirmative action.

I personally would be supportive of such a program---but I can't say it's preferable to what we have right now (pre-split). And I don't know what next year will be like. But a common "advanced learning" theme with a suite of offerings under a couple of roofs sounds like a much better idea.

James W said...

All this is predicated on the notion that identifying the kids is the problem. That may not be the case; if parents, teachers and principals (to say nothing of peers) don't want an advanced-learning-eligible child to go to a centralized program, for whatever reason, then all the testing in the world won't get that child through the door.

The other piece of this is the squishy term "we". "We" APP parents might think some kind of program design or testing process is a good idea. But "we" don't decide anything about how APP is run at the program level. The "we" here is the District, which has not shown themselves to be interested in any kind of forward thinking about APP.

I'd love to say if we can build a consensus somehow we can bring the District along, but that seems highly unlikely. The flaws of APP's outreach and testing process are the District's flaws, and we really can't do a lot about them. Just trying to be realistic...

Anonymous said...

A real roadblock to Advanced Learning is that some schools/principals/teachers do not believe in it and either do not promote testing or actually discourage it. Schools without AL opportunities have no incentive to promote a program that will siphon off kids.

Shoreline tests all 1st graders and you have the option of "opting-out" of the test. This comes closer to equity and access.

Charlie Mas said...

The District did not split APP to expand the diversity of those receiving advanced learning services. The very suggestion is absurd as the split does nothing towards that goal. They have no metrics or benchmarks for success and no explanation for how or why the split will help achieve any progress.

If they REALLY wanted to expand participation in advanced learning programs to under-represented groups they would do what the APP Review suggests and what Dr. Vaughan suggests: work on talent development. They would strengthen the Spectrum and ALO programs.

Look in the Elementary Enrollment Guide. There are 25 neighborhood elementary schools north of downtown and 20 of them - 80% - have some sort of advanced learning program. There are 31 neighborhood elementary schools south of downtown and only 8 of them - 26% - have an advanced learning program.

The District just created a new K-8 in the Northeast Cluster, Jane Addams, and placed a Spectrum program there - the THIRD Spectrum program for the Northeast Cluster. There are also three ALOs in the Northeast Cluster. Six of the seven schools in the cluster have an advanced learning program. At almost exactly the same time, the District refused a proposal to create a Spectrum program at Arbor Heights in the West Seattle-South cluster. There are six schools in that cluster and not one of them - NOT ONE - has an advanced learning program.

So the biggest obstacle to getting minority and low-income students into advanced learning programs is the shameful scarcity of these programs in the neighborhoods where these children live. That's not principals, that's not teachers, that's the District's program placement practice.

Any school can have an ALO and they will attract and retain advanced learners rather than lose them. The ALO model is delivered in an inclusive classroom, so there's no tracking, none of the elements that people find politically offensive in Spectrum and APP.

The talent is out there, but it has to be nutured. Right now it isn't. Right now these students are languishing in classrooms with criminally low expectations.

There is way too much diversity in the quality of the Spectrum programs. The District needs to apply some quality control and close or relocate those programs that don't measure up.

As for the models for Lowell and Thurgood Marshall, I think the APP model is great. No testing, just self-selection. Any student who accepts the challenge gets it. Given the very little space available at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall for neighborhood students - perhaps as few as 90 at each building after APP siblings take a lot of the general education seats - I suggest that the District not assign either school a reference area, but make them strictly choice schools. No testing required, but you have to choose it. All of the other tie-breakers would apply (sibling, distance, lottery). This only makes sense as the District would be severely challenged to draw a reference area that held only 90 kids. One good-sized apartment building could fill the school.

Katalin said...

I fully agree with the most of the responders.

There was no vision (the District so far could not name one that stood the test of reason); there was no real effort to ‘net’ more minority students for the program (consider the detrimental changes implemented during this year’s testing process as those were discovered and described by the parents of this past season’s ‘subjects’ of the CogAT-experiment); and yes, we all heard of the motivating forces behind G-J’s modus operandi, past and present and of her sense of loyalty or its lack thereof. In addition, the responsibility most definitely belongs to the District for the bleak results of their choices of implementation and selection of the culturally and linguistically bias identification methods during their ever-changing Advanced Learning testing processes over the years.

So, I do not view the District’s actions as such that those intend to ‘elevate’ students’ aptitude who are performing at below standard and at standard levels into the above standard level - these are definitions used according to the WASL score levels of learning achievement. However, do I view these actions as window-dressing moves? My answer is a most definite, yes.

As a parent of two APP students whom the District likes to identify by their physical characteristics for its own statistical purposes, and whose look alike peers by the deafeningly loud slogans of ‘access and equity’ and ‘excellence for all’ were supposed to be served: I view these actions of school closings and APP splits as so tragically misguided moves that exhibit a complete disregard of young children’s psychological needs, and which actions cause an unnecessary sense of loss and grief over long held student-friendships; an added burden of uncertainty to the families already facing an unprecedented economic ‘turmoil’; an increase in the level and number of other stressor factors experienced within families and by the affected teachers and students alike; and a real possibility of decline in the quality of the effectual programs and the delivery of their curriculums, to name but a few of these detrimental effects.

There are clearly defined regulations and ethical guidelines for conduct of research involving human subjects. Consequently, I see these events from this angle: we, parents and our children are being experimented with by the District in order to create a few spreadsheets and data that, eventually, might be showing some invented justification for this entire process; however, since I do not view life as a rehearsal - our children cannot afford to get it wrong first in their elementary and middle school educations . . . nor did I agree to be part of any experiment by virtue of enrolling my children into public schools, therefore, it is an understatement that I am not particularly pleased with the current and future results of the District’s actions.

Additionally, I do not know it either what the next five years will be like, nor do I know it for certain whether the GHS’s AP classes in quality and quantity will still be there when that time arrives for my younger one . . . Have I said it already that I am not particularly pleased?

Anonymous said...

Charlie said, "The District did not split APP to expand the diversity of those receiving advanced learning services. The very suggestion is absurd as the split does nothing towards that goal. They have no metrics or benchmarks for success and no explanation for how or why the split will help achieve any progress."

Then why did they split Elementary APP?

Anonymous said...

Katalin stated:

"consider the detrimental changes implemented during this year’s testing process as those were discovered and described by the parents of this past season’s ‘subjects’ of the CogAT-experiment);"

Please explain - what was the CogAT experiment apparently implemented this year?

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous asks "They why did they split Elementary APP?"

As a general rule, I do not make conjecture about the motivations of others. I often cannot determine my own motivations with any certainty.

If I had to guess, I would propose a plausible chain of logic that goes like this: Even after deciding to close T T Minor, the District still had a couple hundred excess seats in the Central Cluster (at Thurgood Marshall) and another couple hundred excess seats in the South Cluster (at Hawthorne). They would have closed these schools except the building conditions were too good for that. So they went looking for a program that they regard as portable to place in those buildings. This flow chart of thinking appears to be how the entire Capacity Management plan was written. The closest portable program was elementary APP. Because elementary APP is so big, they would have to split it, but that worked well for them, since they had two buildings to fill. How serendipitous! So that was their initial proposal. They invented a cover story about improving access and equity for APP, based largely on the Hawthorne location being closer to students in the south-end. This ignores the fact that 40% of south-end APP students live in the Central Cluster and ignores the fact that they failed to place the north-end program in the north-end. It was a story that no one was expected to believe, but it wasn't the driving force behind the move so it didn't matter that it was false.

Unfortunately, it just wasn't that great a proposal after all. Hawthorne didn't really have enough available space for half of APP and it didn't really make sense to close Lowell when Montlake is sitting right there as a significantly better candidate for closure - at least according to the stated closure criteria. So they started to scramble. They would leave Lowell open and close Montlake. No, that's a dumb idea. Montlake might fit the closure criteria, but that only shows how bad the criteria are, since it would be patently foolish to close Montlake. They really didn't know what to do. None of their moves made any sense.

At that point they threw up their hands and declared themselves done. They were left with a sort of half-baked solution that fixes the original problem - they removed the surplus seats in the Central Cluster - even if it makes no sense whatsoever. They kept the insane cover story about improving access and equity because they had been challenged on it so many times that their pride would not allow them to back down from it.

I can't say with any certainty that this is how it happened, but we all have experience with situations in which some element from an original plan gets carried through to the final draft even though it doesn't make sense anymore. I think we all have experience with committee actions or with bureaucratic actions in which the group tries to brass out a patently false explanation simply by repeating it and swearing to it over and over.

Why split Elementary APP? To fill some empty seats in the Central Cluster. If the Thurgood Marshall building or the Leschi building were not in such good condition they would not have done it.

Anonymous said...

Re: reference to CogAt testing

You may need to check with Advanced Learning or Riverside Publishing, but I think the test is administered differently according to grade. In grades 1 and 2, it's untimed and read aloud. In grades 3 and up it's timed and multiple choice. That may explain some differences? The question would be whether the test takers were given enough instruction to work their way through the test independently.

hschinske said...

I haven't checked with Advanced Learning (figured Bob Vaughan has enough on his plate right now without people who aren't directly involved pestering him), but my impression is that they've finally started using the tests for a year ahead (as the publisher recommends), but unfortunately did NOT follow the publisher's recommendation of keeping the SAME testing conditions for the grade. That is, the publisher recommends that, when screening for giftedness, the second graders be given the third- (or even fourth-) grade test, BUT that they should have the same administration conditions as any other second graders would have: the test being read out loud and so forth. (The tests are then supposed to be graded on norms for those students' grade, so that second-graders would be judged against how other second-graders stack up on the third- or fourth-grade tests. Age norms are also available and would work out about the same in most cases.)

Both these issues were clearly covered in the talk David Lohman, one of the authors of the current version of the CogAT, gave in the district a few years ago.

If they've changed the administration conditions WITHOUT changing the test, I am going to be very cross indeed.

Incidentally, the third-grade-and-up testing conditions favor some students -- I can't imagine preferring to have a test read out loud to me, when I couldn't go back and check questions. It would have been much harder work to focus on someone's voice that long than to focus on reading the questions myself. But by and large the testing conditions are supposed to be developmentally appropriate.

The test is timed in either case. In a way the timing is more stringent when the test is read aloud, as you have to go on to the next question (and cannot go back) when the test administrator goes on. I have been told that at a few schools the CogAT has been administered individually, but at most schools even the kindergartners are taking it in large groups and have to go with the flow.

Helen Schinske

pjmanley said...

I don't fear getting along with the Marshall kids or community. To me, that concern is way overblown.

My lingering concern is how this move benefits the kids currently at Marshall and remaining there after EBOC and the non-neighborhood kids get sent elsewhere. No matter what we do and how we do it, how does it not re-create Madrona in the old days?

I know there will be ALO's offered, and diversity may increase a bit, but how exactly do these two groups co-house without each being self-conscious about their different academic levels? And how is that beneficial to the current and non-APP Marshall kids?

Were I a typical gen ed kid, i.e., a typical, healthy, normal kid performing at my appropriate age and grade level, I can't see how APP moving in wouldn't negatively impact my self esteem and alienate me in my own school.

Sorry to be pessimistic, but I don't see bake sales and community-building exercises changing those facts at the end of the day. I fear the harder people will try, the more patronizing they'll become.

All I've heard thus far is a lot of sugar-coating and "be positive" reminders. We can talk about "one-school" forever, but how can that ever be so?

Please tell me how wrong I am and why. I need to hear it.

Seattlehorn said...

Were I a typical gen ed kid, i.e., a typical, healthy, normal kid performing at my appropriate age and grade level, I can't see how APP moving in wouldn't negatively impact my self esteem and alienate me in my own school.

Patrick, I protested this split because it was ill-considered, not because APP kids can't mix with general ed kids without harm. Many of us have "gen ed" or "spec ed" children who interact daily with their APP siblings, to no ill effect on either side! Differences in academic ability do not define an individual's worth, or provide self esteem, anymore than talent at basketball, and kids tend to "get this" much more easily than adults.

So yes, the "harder people will try" to unite the school, the more we will succeed, just as we parents do by occasionally choosing activities in which all our kids can participate.

What concerns me much more than any intellectual divide among the children is their parents' socio-economic divide, as evidenced by the uniform debate. Folks making over $100k a year don't know what it is like to earn less than $30k.

Anonymous said...

The last full-time job I had paid well under 30K, though I wasn't trying to raise kids on it. I've never lived as part of a family that was making anything like six figures. I've qualified for WIC, though we never needed it. I've qualified for subsidized healthcare (paying the minimum on Basic Health). I have worn secondhand clothes all my life. Do I understand what it's like to be really poor? No, probably not, but I'm not so darned rich as to be utterly clueless, either. And I think there are a lot of Lowell parents like us. Moreover, many of the ones who are well-off themselves are not from wealthy families, but worked their way up.

Anonymous said...

Re: CogAt testing

So how was the test actually administered and scored this year? Were 2nd graders given a 3rd grade test (which would explain Seattlehorn's post)? And were they grade or age normed or both? If they were only grade normed this would favor older children and adversely affect a child with a summer birthday (who is almost a year younger than some of their grade peers). On what basis would you say age and grade norms would work out about the same?

You say either way the test is timed, but there is a big difference in the pacing being set by the person giving the test and a child being in charge of finishing in time (especially for a young 7 yr. old 2nd grader).

There really needs to be some clarification on all of this...

James W said...

Patrick touched on something which I think is the key lesson of the Madrona experience. The "two school" problem didn't occur because APP parents didn't try hard enough. As they tried harder, matters got worse.

This whole process has made me reflect on my unquestioned assumption that the more that parents are involved in a school, the better. But we may now be in a position where an APP parent's instinct to pitch in could create resentment between the programs.

I want my kids at a school where parents can engage and contribute, not one where doing so is seen as "pushy" or "butting in," which was the case at Madrona. I don't like the thought that volunteering to help out in the classroom, etc., could somehow be seen as a negative.

But I have absolutely no idea what to do about this.

pjmanley said...

Come again, Seattlehorn:

So academic performance, like athletic talent, is irrelevant to a child's self-esteem? Hmmm.

So all the parents, teachers and administrators I've spoken with, including those from Hawthorne, Marshall, TT Minor and Cooper are just plain wrong. Well that's news to me, and I'm sure them too.

Seattlehorn said...

Whoa, PJM. I didn't say talent was irrelevant to self-esteem; I said it was not definitive. See the book "Mindset" (highly recommended by Lowell staff). People who are told that intelligence is programmed (rather than plastic and developed through effort) are indeed at risk for low performance and low self-esteem, no matter WHAT level they are performing at. (APP kids are at particular risk, as many assume they must live up to the label of SMART at all times in all areas, and become fearful of failure.)

Comparisons are naturally a concern for this merger. But do our children -- no matter their abilities-- feel defeated -- inspired -- or neutral -- when someone else is better at sports, for example?

All are possibilities. Talented educators (and parents) provide appropriate challenges that develop mastery, which leads to a self-esteem that is less vulnerable to comparisons.

We can argue (and I have) that stand-alone gifted programs are better for elementary kids, but that battle is lost.

Our challenge now is to make this merger work. I Do hope all families are given some guidance on how to "depression-proof" their children, preferably by staff aware of the science described in Mindset, or in another great book, The Optimistic Child.

pjmanley said...

SH: This is going nowhere. I'm not suggesting what you imply, nor do I want to further rain on anyone's parade.

Good luck to all.

I'm outta here.

Seattlehorn said...

Regarding CogAT testing, the AL Office says the scores are nationally normed by age within 3 months. They don't use grade norms.

Helen, it is not true that both tests are timed, if we are to believe the AL Office. They said this about our daughter's first grade test: "Questions were read out loud once and questions cannot be repeated. Students fill in the bubbles in their own test booklet. The pace of the test moves along with the pace of the group and it is not timed." And this about her test in 2nd grade: "Students read the questions themselves and fill in the bubbles on an answer sheet. It is timed."


I have inquired about which test and version was administered and will post it here when I get a response.

PJManley, I'm sorry if I offended you. There is no parade to rain on, only a dark tunnel that will benefit from more light and less heat.

Seattlehorn said...

Okay, here it is: CogAT Form 6, Level A was given to 2nd graders this year.

According to Dr. Vaughan: "Although the level of CoGAT used this year in our second grades is recommended by the CoGAT test authors for screening for gifted programs, I am also planning on corresponding with the authors to discuss their views on the test format demands and their implications for estimating cognitive ability. It may be that since the test was developed several years ago, there has been a general drop off in achievement testing nationwide. There certainly has been in Seattle. The lack of practice with standardized achievement testing using booklets and answer sheets may be having an impact. Next year, our district is looking at reintroducing regular achievement testing district-wide beginning as early as kindergarten."

Wouldn't it be great if SPS admitted its error and provided free appeals testing to 2nd graders? For the sake of equity and access? And I'd like a pony with that!

dj said...

Do folks have thoughts about the TM design team update sent out yesterday?

Anonymous said...

seattlehorn,

pjmanley is on target with his questions, and i would encourage him not to leave, but stick around and continue to share insights.

when you say "Differences in academic ability do not define an individual's worth, or provide self esteem, anymore than talent at basketball, and kids tend to "get this" much more easily than adults" you are so wrong i'm not sure where to start. were you at the meeting at Lowell during the first proposal phase? the one with like 500 parents? Julie B talked about her visit to Hawthorn. when she was in one of the classrooms one of the kids piped up with "All the smart kids are coming here next year!" and she said the energy completely left the room.

are you dismissing a firsthand report from a principal who VERY much cares about ALL kids (not just APP kids) ?

i can't imagine self-esteem NOT being adversely affected. even if the parents are really good about not saying anything, kids will be kids. even if there is no malicious intent, there is no possible way that things are not going to be said, or whispered in the classrooms, hallways, lunch, recess.

do i like this? no way. but do i put my head in the sand and say that it's not going to happen and that these things do not help define kids' self-esteem? not a chance. kids are MUCH more aware than you are apparently giving them credit for.

how do we help our kids be the best building-mates that they can be? do we talk with them explicitly about the program differences, in which case they are now attuned to them?! but if we don't, they will hear and talk about things anyway, and without the benefit of parental guidance. honestly, i don't know how we're going to go about this as a family.

and yes, the concepts from Mindset are important. for ALL kids. regardless of our efforts to downplay the divide, the labels "smart kids" and "not-so-smart kids" will exist. they already appeared at Hawthorn even before any program move was decided!! think about how scary that is. from a Mindset standpoint, don't you see how this will be detrimental? this will pigeonhole the kids far worse than being in their own buildings where hard work can pay off with much greater rewards.

are there things that can be done to mitigate the worst damage? hopefully. but i am in no way optimistic about the situation.

the other great point brought up by pjmanley and JamesW is the "more can be less" philosophy when it comes to involvement by APP parents. we all dig in and do so much for our schools and our kids - it's a big part of why they are where they are, both in school and in life - but if history is any indicator, that may not always be appreciated in a shared building, even if it's help directed at other kids. or worse, it may even be resented. APP parents are not going to stop being super-involved with their kids and their classrooms. nor should they.

this is an area where i really hope Greg King can be helpful. we'll see.

Seattlehorn said...

Clearly I did not express myself very well. I absolutely agree that self-esteem is, in part, a product of "social comparison." But it is my understanding that the negative effects of social comparison are less powerful in children than in adults, and that the negative effects can be mitigated -- with prophylactic, internalized experiences of mastery and social acceptance.

As my son said last night: "Being good at something doesn't make you a good person. Being good to people makes you a good person."

Let me add that social comparison's negative effects include not only shame and depression on the one side, but arrogance and apathy on the other. If we don't hear anyone fretting about APP kids becoming arrogant from this merger, perhaps it hits too close to home for us.

My other point was that the differences in socio-economic class may have more impact than differences in ability, at least in our society. (There is a whole school of thought on why Americans associate riches with virtue, and many books to come, now that we're collectively suffering for that shibboleth.)

Regarding parent involvement, it would be good to hear from former Madrona principal Hal Kimball, to see what his perspective is on how to avoid resentments. Anyone have his number?

Also, there is at least one professional psychologist reading this blog. Please lend us your expertise.

Ben said...

Well, ever since the split came up, I've been griping about the effect it could have on gen ed kids AND APP kids. I don't want the APP kids to say "We're the smart ones" or "Being 'smart' is bad."

Anonymous said...

That is an interesting theory, Charlie Mas, that it was a combination of incompetence, indifference, and an unwillingness to admit error that led to the current outcome. Incompetence often is a more likely explanation than conspiracy.

Ultimately, however, it does not matter if the Maria Goodloe-Johnson is motivated by cynical opportunism, incompetence, or indifference. The reaction should be the same to all of these. She needs to be replaced with someone who is competent and motivated solely by improving the education of our children.

Since the current school board seems unwilling or unable to act, we should seek to remove as many of them as possible in the next election cycle.

Eventually, we will get a board that is willing to act and the leadership the children of Seattle deserve.

Robert said...

Now that they seem to have adjusted the start times we are considering K at Lowell verses our reference school... So sorry but a bit off topic but does anyone remember how many north APP students will be assigned to Lowell next year and if you are one of them are you going to send siblings to Lowell as well?

Seattlehorn said...

Robert, we are considering Lowell for both kids, but need to know more about the ALO program.

For anyone interested in how social comparison works in classrooms, and how depression is a risk for both low and high achievers, check out this study:
"Being Admired or Being Liked: Classroom Social Status and Depressive Problems in Early Adolescent Girls and Boys"

Robert said...

Thanks Seattlehorn...

I found the old sps numbers 260 n/qa/mag and 220 south but that is with a very small 5th grade. There never was projected numbers during the closure process was there?

Anonymous said...

elizsand:

At the last PTA Board mtg we got the numbers 220 north, 280 south. A lot depends on how the walk zone families go, however.

Robert said...

Great. So things really have changed since that data was put forth from north to south. Oh yeah, that was pointed out to refute the access issue!

Seattlehorn said...

The following carefully-worded response regards the change in 2nd grade APP testing this year (a 3rd grade level test was provided with 3rd grade level delivery methods). It is from Dr. Vaughan:

The level of CoGAT used for second graders represents a bit of a jump in terms of test-taking ability. Unlike in first grade, when students are read information aloud by a teacher and then choose pictures in a booklet, second graders have to read problems in a booklet and make answer choices on a separate answer sheet. To make the test even more challenging, the quantitative subtests are timed. I'd be inclined to consider your child’s year-to-year change more due to the change in test format than any drop in her cognitive ability. Although the level of CoGAT used this year in our second grades is recommended by the CoGAT test authors for screening for gifted programs, I am also planning on corresponding with the authors to discuss their views on the test format demands and their implications for estimating cognitive ability. It may be that since the test was developed several years ago, there has been a general drop off in achievement testing nationwide. There certainly has been in Seattle. The lack of practice with standardized achievement testing using booklets and answer sheets may be having an impact. Next year, our district is looking at reintroducing regular achievement testing district-wide beginning as early as kindergarten.

You are certainly welcome to appeal the conclusions reached by our Selection Committee. Other test evidence that disputes our results is a persuasive tactic to support your appeal. As participants in an ALO school, however, you are also free to make the case with the school that your child needs to pursue a more ambitious academic agenda, regardless of the results of our tests. ALO’s are places where kids qualified by our office and school identified students are both supposed to be accommodated.

Seattlehorn said...

Let me add that my request for free retesting of my 2nd grader was denied (no pony, either).

Does anyone how to obtain answers from the district to such questions as: Were all schools affected? Who authorized the change? What was the purpose? What are this years's 2nd grade results compared to last year's? Does this mean a smaller-than-expected APP 3rd grade?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Shannon said...

I think the critical piece of information from AL is whether there is evidence that the test altered the scores. Did a significantly smaller number of 2nd graders qualify for APP and Spectrum this year or where results consistent?

I would also be interested in WHY the choice was made to change the delivery method.

As Helen says, individual children could do better or worse under these conditions (my son hated having someone read them out to him last year. He said he got bored. He likes to race through tests leaving his responses unchecked in his wake) but the overall accuracy of the test is what is important.

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

Yes, some 7-year olds would probably test well hanging upside down, but that is no reason to do it :-). According to the ALO coordinator at our neighborhood school, this is a widespread problem, not a few isolated students, and worthy of investigation. Charlie? Any suggestions?

hschinske said...

"The level of CoGAT used for second graders represents a bit of a jump in terms of test-taking ability. Unlike in first grade, when students are read information aloud by a teacher and then choose pictures in a booklet, second graders have to read problems in a booklet and make answer choices on a separate answer sheet."

See, that's NOT what David Lohman, co-author of the latest version of the CogAT, said in his speech in Seattle a couple of years ago. He said use the higher level, yes, but keep the test administration developmentally appropriate. He definitely said that the third-grade test could be read aloud to second-graders.

I would also be concerned that the test may have been wrongly scored (say, second-graders scored according to third-grade norms instead of second-grade ones). You'd think the use of age norms would make that a lot harder, though.

Helen Schinske

Seattlehorn said...

I was very late to the PTA meeting last night and I hope those who were there for the first hour will fill us in. These are some of my take-aways:

1. There will be an ALO program, but there is no plan yet for what it looks like, no will there be a plan before open enrollment ends. Dr. Vaughan assured us that he and Carla Santorno are committed to ALO at both sites.

2. APP siblings will have preference, but will not be guaranteed transportation, only offered it on a space-available basis.

3. SPS demographers will attempt to equalize the # of APP classes at both sites, after which there may be opportunities for families to select an out-of-cluster site. This thing seemed pretty fuzzy to me.

Dorothy said...

Slightly different aspect of original topic. I had dinner last night with a retired teacher. She taught before and during busing at one of the elementaries that was mostly Af-Am before busing. At that point, they were very flexible with grouping by ability throughout the day. Then came busing and the Horizon program. While the building was integrated, the rooms were not. And that was the end of flexible ability grouping for anyyone. Horizon classes were full and no sharing. One Horizon teacher though, asked my friend if she could send a girl across the hall for math. Her math achievement was way below the other kids. My friend said sure. The parents said no way.

That reminded me of something another friend with kid at a NE elementary told me a couple years ago. A school with regular ed and Spectrum. In order to meet everyone's needs for mathematics, the plan was to have flexible grouping. To make it work, both regular ed and Spectrum kids would blend. Horrors, some Spectrum parents were completely furious and tried to stop it. I don't know what happened, my friend's kid graduated.

I can see both sides. I am in favor of the fluid, flexible ability grouping. It would have helped a lot at Lowell even. In my son's experience, there was no attempt to differentiate or meet all students' needs. However, I can also see where some would worry. Especially if their kid were only barely getting their needs met in the current situation (ie, Spectrum being kinda lukewarm) and worrying that blending would dilute it even more instead of doing what it ought to do which would invigorate learning. Lack of trust? The truth is though, some parents of kids in the advanced program do have knee-jerk reactions against blends that could be beneficial for all. But the blending might not work, as well. Tough one. This is going to be a tough one.

Another aspect that I haven't read or heard discussed yet. Relating to blending anything, PCP or anything. The culture at Lowell is that you could look around the class in September and it would be exactly the same kids in June, just a little taller. I know of one (1) child who moved to Lowell mid-year. Perhaps there are more, but I doubt many. As far as I know, general population schools all have turnover during the year, and schools with lower SES have a quite higher rate of such turnover. APP teachers are not used to that.

Charlie Mas said...

The idea of ability grouping is fine, it is the practice that worries some folks.

Even in Spectrum programs with waitlists in the upper grades, there often aren't enough district-identified Spectrum-eligible students to fill a classroom in grades 1 and 2. Schools have always found high-performing students who were not district-identified as Spectrum-eligible to fill these seats and it has always worked just fine for everyone.

In schools that aren't even close to getting enough district-identified Spectrum-eligible students to form one-half of the class, ability grouping can go one of two ways. If the Spectrum students are kept together for most of the day (as the District definition of the program dictates) it generally isn't a problem. If the Spectrum students are spread across the classes (in violation of the District definition) and are only brought together for reading and math - along with other high performing students - then it is essentially a pull-out model and it is not Spectrum.

The fundamental question is whether the model is designed for the benefit of the students in the program, for the benefit of the students outside the program, or for the benefit of the teachers.

Charlie Mas said...

Are many APP families choosing the Lowell and Thurgood Marshall general education programs for the siblings of their APP-eligible children?

I'm curious about these numbers and how they will influence the school culture.

Also, are many families within the Lowell walk zone choosing Lowell for their APP-eligible children? I'm curious about how this could impact the balance between the two programs.

Robert said...

Yes on both of those for my family Charlie. As we are only in the walk zone we are on the list behind assigned siblings, new K students in the TTM reference area and then finally by distance. Since last year TTM had ~40 K students I'm not sure if we will be able to get my daughter in to the single gen ed k class.

One other interesting issue is are any of you considering the other APP E program then that assigned to you and if so why?

Oh and we also applied to UCDS for all three (including our youngest pre k student) and if money grew on trees we would send them all to UCDS if they got in.

Laura said...

Wow, I thought Lowell APP got automatic sibling preference for gen. ed. slots.

Robert, do you know if low priority is just this year or forever? If so, this policy is not consistent with other co-housed programs such as special ed or spectrum. I know several families now all at View Ridge because they got sibling slots with older sibs in both special ed and
Spectrum (non-reference area families, that is). Lowell would be the only school I know of that had sibling preference for only some of the students, not all.

Julie Breidenbach has asked all APP - TM families with incoming K students to contact her and consider TM kindergarten (my paraphrase, "I'm hoping many future APP students are in that kindergarten, I have many plans for those little ones")

We will look at Lowell K for our daughter for 2010 if APP offers sibling status.

Shannon said...

I am confused about the walk-zone. Does't the walk zone mean you are allocated to Lowell? Is it a second-tier allocation?

When we toured Lowell JB said that "sibling preference is sibling preference" for either program and encouraged siblings to apply.

Mercermom said...

My understanding of the Walk Zone amendment is that APP students who are in the Walk Zone are automatically able to attend Lowell if they submit a request during Open Enrollment. The tie-break language applies to "other APP" students (i.e., if you live near Montlake and would prefer Lowell over TM, you're behind siblings). See District web re this.

We are in the Walk Zone, but we're planning to send our son to Thurgood Marshall. Factors that have led us to this include Julie B's move to TM, the importance of our child having classmates to transition with him to WMS, close APP friends who will move there (one of whom is also in the Walk Zone), the fact that our older son will be at WMS, the option of bus service (as life gets more complex with a child at middle school), and a desire to be part of ensuring strong APP elementary programs. On the last point, we are concerned that APP families in the greatly expanded Walk Zone chose to stay at Lowell, and that future APP kids chose to go to the school their neighbors know, it could have a significant impact on the size and strength of the TM program.

Anonymous said...

From my understanding, all central area APP families are sent to TMarshall, but they can request placement at Lowell. The walk zone families are given preference to Lowell over families outside of the walk zone. I also understand that sibling preference will be a factor in getting into Lowell. I believe Robert is talking about something else. His family is in the Lowell walk zone but his APP child has been assigned to TMarshall. He also has a younger child that they may want to go to gen ed kindergarten at Lowell. Neither of these kids will give the other kid priority at Lowell - each kid will need to get in on their own. He could have one kid get into Lowell and one not because siblings trying to get into the same school aren't put through the system together. Sibling preference doesn't come into play unless one kid is already in the chosen school. We saw this last fall with incoming kindergarten twins who were assigned to different schools. Robert, please correct this if I didn't understand your situation correctly.

Interestingly, it sounds like TMarshall will be at full capacity. While APP families can request to go to the other school, it sounds like no one will be let into TMarshall because it's so full. On the other hand, I believe the school district would be happy if some APP families chose Lowell over TMarshall to help with over-crowding there. Just as families said over and over during the closure hearing process, APP will barely fit into TMarshall.

Robert said...

For us in the walk zone we have been assigned to TM and that is where we would have sibling preference. Not to confuse things more but we will have sibling wait list "linkage" for next year as as our oldest would be re-assigned to Lowell from TM. Any subsequent year we would have sibling preference as my oldest would be assigned to Lowell. Our plan is to go to Lowell so we can continue walking but I agree that there will be an issue once we go to middle school but my daughter will have the Lowell gen ed kids as their expanded cohort as well as those in the WZ to go with to WMS.

Robert said...

Oh and on the "expanded" walk zone... The walk zone is still smaller than all reference schools and still is goofy. This year you can walk across E. John to go to TTM next year you can't cross John the opposite direction to go to Lowell. I have pointed that out but we will see if they make the change.

dj said...

We are assigned to TM and will be sending our daughter there. We are about equidistant between the schools, and decided that between the fact that Julie is going to TM, my daughter's friends are going to TM, and the Washington cohort issue, it made more sense to accept that assignment. Not to mention I am more than ready to be done with all of this.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat off subject, but if TTM/Lowell and TM lose their Title 1 funding, they no longer have to make AYP according to NCLB. It' my understanding that only schools receiving Title 1 funds have to show AYP. So no Title 1 money = NO SANCTIONS. Without sanctions, kids cannot "opt-out" of their school because it is low performing. Only schools with 75% FRE lunch have to be Title 1. At 40% FRE, schools can opt to have Title 1 funding, but don't have to. SPS is going to look so much better on paper now.

Anonymous said...

A look at the data for affected schools
(from OSPI 2008):

TT Minor - 82% FRL, Step 1 sanctions
T. Marshall - 84% FRL, Step 1
Cooper - 80% FRL, no sanctions
AAA - 90% FRL, Step 5
Meany Middle - 73% FRL, Step 4
Summit K-12 - 55% FRL, Step 3

So after closures, the number of schools required to accept Title 1 status (FRL>75%) will decrease, and greatly increase the SPS chances of making AYP. All without really changing anything. Is this what is meant by "data driven" decision making?

Anonymous said...

And more on Title I - AS#1 has been told that the threshold has been changed from 40% FRL to 55% FRL in order to request Title I funds (see SaveSeattleSchools blog). With fewer schools getting Title I funds, less $ has to be spent on supplemental tutoring when these schools go into Step 1 of NCLB. More money saved!

The board approved a contract with Sylvan for over $1M to fulfill the tutoring obligation for Title I schools. Wow.

Will lots of schools be losing Title I money with this new district threshold? I would be very interested in seeing this years numbers compared to next years numbers. Is MGJ trying to stay one step ahead of NCLB? How is this helping SPS and how much Title I money is the "cash-strapped" district forfeiting? If anyone is more familiar with NCLB or thinks I'm dead wrong, please inform. It's all making me pretty sick to my stomach.

Anonymous said...

See OSPI:

http://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/pressreleases2008/AYP/SchoolPrelimreport8-28.pdf

Step 1 - Students can transfer to a school that is not in school improvement (transportation provided)

Step 2 - Offer school choice and tutoring

Step 3 - Schools must take "corrective action" and continue school choice and supplemental services (tutoring)

Step 4 - School plans for "alternative governance"

Step 5 - Must institute "school restructuring"

So, it's not just savings with tutoring (which don't kick in until Step 2), but fewer Step 1 schools mean less choice and less spent on Transportation.

Robert said...

We are one of those Lowell WZ folks and I am wondering if any of you are in the same pickle as we are. We have a child going into kindergarten next year and because we were re-assigned to TM that is where we would have sibling preference not Lowell. I believe, there will only be 26 Kinder seats at Lowell next year so as it is set now we would be in line after all siblings, students in the old TTM reference area and anyone who lives closer to Lowell than we do.

Laura said...

Robert,
I'm sorry about your not getting sibling preference at Lowell -- just another stupid layer to add to this rotten onion.

First, if you haven't already done so, confirm with Tracy Libros (SPS enrollment head) that you, indeed, don't have sibling preference. Do not accept an answer from anybody else at enrollment (or Advanced Learning). Second, you may wish to contact Board Director Sherry Carr, because it was her amendment that passed allowing for the Lowell WZ -- I reread the minutes from the closure meeting, and there is no mention of "on a space available basis" for the walk zone, so there should be no need for your child to un-enroll and then re-enroll at/to Lowell. You do get "sibling-linkage" status, and I have seen, on blogs, that sibling-linkage trumps reference area (Blogs are never wrong, right?) The enrollment guide, however, makes no mention of sibling-linkage. Finally, there may be no need to worry about a Lowell Gen.Ed assignment -- it may not be as popular as you think. Here's some historic data to ponder (http://www.seattleschools.org/area/eso/hist_enr_final0809.pdf). TT Minor had a wait list for the first time last year (1 kid, probably for the Montessori program). Ironically, your reference school, Stevens, had one of the largest waitlists in the city. (Ok, not that you could then swap your Stevens spot for a TT Minor/Lowell spot, but I had to mention it.) Furthermore, current TT Minor families will get enrollment preference after siblings and reference area, to any school they want -- ORCA, TOPS, Montlake, Stevens, and on and on. Then, their younger kindergarten siblings get linkage. I predict that many popular school openings (and there are a few every year) will be filled with TT Minor kids -- they're not going to go to Lowell.

Dr. Libros' contact info:

Tracy Libros
Manager
Enrollment and Planning Services

206.252.0511

trlibros@seattleschools.org

Good luck, Laura

Robert said...

Thanks Laura!

Tracy and I are email pals... or at least that is perhaps how i see it.

Alas, there will only be one K class where there have been historically two... And that served a far smaller school. A point my pal seemed to gloss right over... Makes it easier to serve all those APP students though!

So on to Stevens my reference area school... SPS' little joke. In the center of private school ville unless you live in eye sight of Stevens you can't get in most years because they have a bubble year and ELL students get priority. On the cusp of this area we would have to have kids every six years to insure K enrollment.

We are allergic to rotten onion stew... Our future is uncertain; as only an uncertain future has been offered to us by SPS. Just shows that supporting a minority point of view is not good when the PTB want readily shelf-able kids.

All this talk about predictable and close... Our choices are neither.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

You posted that schools have always found high-performing students who were not district-identified as Spectrum-eligible to fill empty Spectrum seats and it has always worked just fine for everyone.

You're right up until the very last word. I would agree that it usually works out okay, if not ideal. But not always. And definitely not for everyone.

sonicgal said...

Laura - I am curious why you predict that most TTM students will not choose Lowell to attend. Since I heard that most TTM parents are not v active in the school, I was thinking perhaps they'd just get their assignment (to Lowell) and go....without trying to take advantage of their newly prioritized enrollment status. Is this something you've heard, is it based on enrollment info so far this month? WOuldnt they likely follow their principal to Lowell? Just wondering....

dj said...

I am not Laura, but to my understanding in general when students are moved in this fashion only about half of them show up at the school to which they have been reassigned.

The TTM principal has only been at the school for a year. I am not sure how deep personal loyalty to him would run. Keep in mind also that the Montessori program is being moved to Leschi, which skims off two classrooms worth of students, and perhaps some of the siblings of those kids would be going to Leschi as well.

Charlie Mas said...

A significant number of the students at T T Minor are not from the T T Minor reference area. They were not simply assigned to T T Minor as their reference area school; their families selected it as an active choice.

Many of them were, no doubt, choosing the Montessori program. Those students will likely follow it to Leschi. As for the others... they chose T T Minor for aspects of the school that might not transfer to Lowell. I find it hard to believe that anyone who actively chose T T Minor would actively choose the general education program at Lowell.

TechyMom said...

A lot of people in Central put tt minor as their 4th choice behind tops, Stevens, mcgilvra and montlake. I suspect many of them see this as an upgrade. Parent I've talked to in Central are excited about having two new options in T Marshall and Lowell.

Ben said...

But Marshall was already an option for them.

TechyMom said...

Marshall will be a very different school next year than it is now. Julie has big plans, there's a bunch of PTA money coming in, and the ALO will probably allow walk-overs to APP classes.

gavroche said...

"Marshall will be a very different school next year than it is now."
Yes of course it will--for one thing, a good number of the Thurgood Marshall kids are being squeezed out of their own school, and Lowell's evicted APP kids will take it over and make up the majority of the student body.
"there's a bunch of PTA money coming in" Really? Do the Lowell & TMarshall parents know that's expected of them? With the APP cohort cut in half, so will APP PTA funds be cut in half, and in a recession, I don't think anyone can assume that parents are able to contribute as much as they have in the past. So where is this promise coming from? And why is it up to the PARENTS to fund this experiment? It was the superintendent and school board's idea to split a solid school in half--not the parents'. Shouldn't the district be footing the bill for any costs required to make the schools "equitable"? Also, I've read that the Thurgood Marshall design team has requested/been granted(?) $10,000 from the district to make its library APP appropriate. If so, the district had better provide $10,000 to Lowell as well, if it is serious about making the two schools equal. Lowell could do with a new boiler and some mold abatement. A few more books in the library wouldn't be a bad idea either.
As for the walk-overs, while that may be good for the gen. ed. kids in TM or Lowell who could benefit from some APP classes, what does that mean for those kids in other schools who took the advanced learning test and just barely missed out on qualifying for APP but don't get the benefit of these "walk-overs"? Or the many, many more kids throughout the school district who have been identified as Spectrum students but are getting little to none of the extra academic challenges that they need? How are these "walk-overs" fair to all them? In an alleged quest for "equity and access," the school district is potentially creating at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall another kind of inequity. Julie may have "big plans"--sure, don't we all. But to what extent are they grounded in any kind of reality?

Ben said...

Just a word about the TM library. As is it now, it is completely inappropriate for APP students. My Lowell 1st grader will be going to TM next year, and I surely hope the TM library can be brought up to speed.

TechyMom said...

I didn't say it was fair. I said the school will be popular. Those are very different statements.

another mom said...

"As for the walk-overs, while that may be good for the gen. ed. kids in TM or Lowell who could benefit from some APP classes, what does that mean for those kids in other schools who took the advanced learning test and just barely missed out on qualifying for APP but don't get the benefit of these "walk-overs"? "

gavroche,I was thinking the same thing. As it is currently administered, APP requires a student to qualify via a test for the service. Students in schools other than TMarshall and Lowell will not have this opportunity. While it may seem like a wonderful thing to do, it screams inequity.

Shannon said...

I was at a tour during which Julie B made reference to the PTA money. It is not a projection of PTA fundraising but that the savings (??) or fund held by the Lowell PTA from previous years contributions will be shared between the two programs. I think this is a substantial amount ... around 100K

dj said...

Of course the possible access of non-APP students in just a couple of schools to APP courses that they wouldn't be able to access elsewhere is in some sense inequitable. But it's also the sort of thing that will make gen ed popular at those sites, I would think. If you live in the central cluster, you know that there is a decent-sized population of parents here whose kids don't get into one of the popular Stevens/Montlake/McGilvra sites who then either send their kids out of cluster, send their kids in-cluster and start working the waitlists, or go private. If Lowell and Thurgood Marshall end up "working" (by which I mean, parents in the gen ed population are happy and APP parents continue to enroll their kids), I would think those sites would become popular precisely because they aren't "equitable." Frankly, I have a younger child who will be in kindergarten the year that my older child is in fourth grade, and I have my fingers crossed that I can plop him down at TM with my daughter.

Certainly none of this has anything to do with the hypothesized goals of increasing diversity and access to advanced learning, but it would have to do with the goals of increasing the number of public schools parents select on purpose.

Of course, who knows what will happen with the new assignment plan next fall.

Seattlehorn said...

Regarding Lowell PTA funds, the last Thursday note said there was still "$29,000 left to raise to cover this year’s budget." Does anyone know what the PTA is financing this year? Beyond teacher stipends?

BTW, Julie B. mentioned last week that PTA teacher stipends are equal no matter the program or how many students, and gave an example of a happy spec ed teacher who got the same $500 despite having only 6 kids in his class.

TechyMom said...

I think some Spectrum schools do walk-overs. I know that some, including nearby Leschi, fill up Spectrum classes with teacher-identified high-performers when there aren't enough Spectrum students. This doesn't seem that different to me. Does it to others?

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said...

Word is that the APP curriculum will not be ready and implemented for Fall 2009.

This would be a big failure by the District and a big promise broken.

gavroche said...

Wow--and I mean that sincerely. That is a big deal. But of course Bob Vaughan couldn't do it all by himself in nine months--we all knew that. The district truly has absolutely nothing in place to make an APP split work. Nothing. And it has never made the case for doing it in the first place. Meanwhile there are rumors of attrition from the program (MGJ's goal perhaps--in her secret quest to level everything down to sameness as if all kids have the same needs), as well as T.T. Minor families who are not choosing Lowell. It is absolutely mind-boggling and inexcusable that the district is eviscerating one of its strongest schools and programs. Why don't they just leave APP intact at Lowell, where it is functioning well, and focus on the kids in the district who really need care and attention? One thing no one is really talking about is how the APP split will benefit the Thurgood Marshall and T.T. Minor general ed kids. Arguably it won't. At least one Thurgood Marshall teacher said as much on the Save Seattles Schools blog months back. There are promises of APP PTA money, but what else? How are their academic and emotional needs resolved by cohousing with APP? I'd say that they aren't. So who is really looking out for those kids? There are so many other more intelligent ways to manage the schools than the irrational and punitive methods being attempted by this superintendent and school board. Their legacy is going to be shameful. When we all look back and ask, Who destroyed Seattle's public schools, we may well be able to name this superintendent and this board. We need more parent power. WASL boycott anyone? I'm with you on that, Charlie.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the new APP curriculum a task Dr Vaughan was assigned prior to the split? I believe Dr Vaughan was working on this from the beginning of the year. Then, when the split happened, he was supposed to work on the new APP curriculum, create ALO programs at TMarshall and Lowell, and create a new Spectrum at Jane Addams. I don't think anyone could do all that.

I don't think the district ever had any intention of doing this split well. My feeling is Lowell will be closed under the new assignment plan and "north" will be moved again. I think they are trying to get everyone back to the neighborhood (something many APP families won't do). A long while ago someone said the district is trying to create a bunch of Stepford Wives. It certainly looks to be.

Ben said...

The goal is to "have APP at every school," which, of course, means nothing. 1 or 2 or 6 kids in every grade at every school doing accelerated work means those 1 or 2 or 6 kids will not be served. We all know it. How COULD they be served in that scenario?

But it serves 'em right!

No, I don't understand it either.

Shannon said...

When people talk of "attrition" from APP, I wonder where parents are thinking of going?

We've been touring our cluster (NE) and Lowell and its clear to me that (other than Thornton Creek) there is no school in which he would not stick out and become a bit of a problem. Compared with tours of some other schools the energy and joy of the children at Lowell is tantalizing.

Realistically, most of us aren't going to move into another district. Are there local public schools which have capacity which in any way compare, even with the spectre of APP in its butchered state? Private schools? We are coming from an independent school and the costs for multiple kids are very high - even with a professional income.

I am sure that some people will leave but without many viable options I suspect that there will be a good cohort of APP families at both sites. As a newcomer, I hope we can focus on constructive ways to work as a community to ensure APP continues to thrive with a large cohort of kids not as isolated gifted curricula administed to isolated children.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone currently in the APP program would like it to continue and thrive. Unfortunately, I don't believe that is the goal of the district. The parents can hope and try for whatever they want, but without district help it won't happen. Lowell currently is a great school (yes, there are some problem, but overall we've been happy), but it will be tremendously different next year.

The district has already gone against the advice of the APP audit in several ways and now, apparently, won't have the curriculum in place in time for next year. The current APP parents were told that this united curriculum would be a way to ensure the schools were as equitable as possible. It was also said that this curriculum would help to get the new programs up and running quickly. This lack of curriculum could be a major problem in another way. If our current teachers stay, things will be like they are this year, but here is talk of RIFs which would mean new teachers teaching APP. No unified curriculum would be difficult for these teachers, especially if they are not familiar with APP.

I agree that many APP qualified children won't get an education that meets their needs in a neighborhood school. I have spoken to several people however who are going to try. I also know of several people enrolling in private school. While I believe most parents will stay due to lack of options, there will be attrition. There was talk on another site about some APP parents homeschooling. We'll see.

Shannon said...

Thanks for explaining the significance of the unified curriculum. Its hard to follow all the pieces of this puzzle.

I know people talk about homeschooling. I do. But its rarely sustainable. It takes a combination of organization, commitment, money and the right mix of parent-child personality for it to be a success. Compared to neighborhood schools it is appealing - especially with the many gifted children who pick things up so quickly and are eager to develop and own pet projects. Anyway, not for a cohort.

I can see there are big pitfalls for a split program but hope springs... and all that :)

I am still utterly confounded about the reason for splitting the program. Other than purely ideological witch hunts against perceived privilege I can only imagine that they are hoping to 'use' the enriched program and relative affluence of the APP program PTAs to 'ride along' other programs to appear better.

Anyway. No need to discuss that now.

We are a new APP family and going to try it for a year and See What Happens !

Robert said...

Now at Lowell we have: 26-1 student ratios. 60% male students. Many of the kids are off the scale in half of the curriculum load while just making it in the other. Dedicated volunteers and parents. Staff that has been trained and is focused to deal with highly gifted students. Several years of growing pains to achieve a program that meets these kids needs. The Lowell way.

So what will we have next year and where is that trajectory headed? I would be more confident if I knew why it was split in the first place as all of the publicly stated reason were refuted. The only reason that seems to fit is standardization; which for a population which is by definition not standard darkens the hope for the future especially as we are now going to have to split limited resources.

Anonymous said...

Parents planning on staying at Lowell next year may want to watch a few comments from the last school board meeting:

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/watchVideos.asp?program=schools

At 21 minutes into part 1 Bonnie Wilson (a current TT Minor parent and a member of the Lowell BLT and Design Team) speaks. It sounds like there are major financial disparities between TMarshall and Lowell. I don't know if everything she says is correct, but I do know that some of it is.

Like Bonnie, and another poster here, I will be shocked if Lowell isn't closed next year as part of the new assignment plan. The district doesn't appear to be putting any money in to the building.

Dorothy said...

"Why don't they just leave APP intact at Lowell, where it is functioning well, and focus on the kids in the district who really need care and attention?"

Is it functioning well? I am not sure you could claim that it is functioning well and at the same time be unhappy that curriculum reforms aren't ready for the Fall. If it's functioning well as is, we didn't need curriculum reform. In that case curriculum issues shouldn't be an issue with the splitting of the program. (Other issues, sure, but not curriculum.) Or am I missing something?

Did the audit conclude it was functioning well? Isn't that what prompted the curriculum reform? The united curriculum is needed to make sure every classroom is equitable, something that has not been true in the past, even under one roof, one administration.

My neighbor's child is eligible for APP first grade next year and I really do not know what to advise. (And yes, the neighbors have asked and are desperate for any information I can provide from my experience.) I said that I thought there'd be some chaos, but that everyone would try hard and make it work. But I also said that there was finally to be some curriculum reform as well which was a big plus from my perspective. But now? Sigh. And a 9:30 start time is just awful logistically. The commute times will be longer (more traffic and many arterials allow parking after 9AM) and it means getting home in the afternoon around 5PM.

Ben said...

Can I just say how impressed I am that Lowell and TMarshall have now seen 3 changes to the proposed bell time since the rejiggering was announced? First they were to be the only K-5's with an 8:00 bell time. Then they were not changing. And now all K-5's will be (approximately) 9:30.

Oh, and things might change in 2010.

gavroche said...

"I am not sure you could claim that it is functioning well and at the same time be unhappy that curriculum reforms aren't ready for the Fall. If it's functioning well as is, we didn't need curriculum reform."

I never said anything about curriculum "reform." I simply said a stated, thus replicable, curriculum. What I understand is that the APP elementary curriculum has not been specifically written down and officially established ('codified'?). This is one of the reasons that we parents told the board and superintendent that they could not equitably divide and replicate the AP program. Of course, that didn't matter to them--they went ahead with their pre-determined obsession to break apart the program anyway.
And now that we know that Thurgood Marshall can keep its Title 1 funds, while the T.T.Minor kids transferring to Lowell lose theirs, ($400,000 is allegedly heading to Marshall and less than $200,000 is allocated to Lowell), evidence is piling up that the district is creating two separate and unequal APP schools.
So much for "access" and equity" (Goodloe-Johnson's final rationalization for breaking apart APP). Added to this, the district is apparently not providing transportation to Lowell for all the T. T. Minor kids (whose school they are closing), therefore no "access" for them. I stand by my statement that the district has never established how an APP split will benefit APP students, and has been all but silent on what the subsequent forced mergers will do for the (mostly FRL) TTM and T. Marshall kids. The one thing the district IS on track to replicate successfully is the failed APP/gen ed experience at Madrona. (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19990810&slug=2976509)

Ben said...

Well, to be fair—and this is killing me—the Board never said they cared about access for non-APP kids. They said they needed to improve access to APP. And they never said they split APP so that the two new APP programs could be equitable.

But I agree: Everything they DID say was nonsense and the split was and is a terrible plan.

Anonymous said...

In regards to next year's transportation to Lowell, not even APP students are truly guaranteed transportation with the new cluster stops. Even the enrollment guide wording has changed to transportation "generally" provided.

If you are a family with children at two different elementary schools (one at Lowell and one in the neighborhood) it may be next to impossible to get both kids to school on the bus. The neighborhood stop will be within the 0.5 mile walk standard and the cluster stop may be a mile away and you just can't be in two places at once.

gavroche said...

Ben -- Yes, the Board & Superintendent did dance around a lot of things. But the fact is, if they are going to claim to be concerned about "access" and "equity," then how can they in good conscience apply this concern only to one group of kids? They effectively hypothesized that more diverse kids would choose APP if it were moved 3 miles south. But if the Board and Supt. don't also care about making Lowell accessible to the diverse TT Minor kids, then they are hypocrites. And what about "access" and "equity" for the Summit kids whose school the district is eliminating entirely? Or the diverse Cooper kids who are getting booted from their building and sent every which way so another school of kids can move in? In the many meetings and conversations with SPS staff, representatives and board members various among us had, the APP community was indeed told that the split would result in two strong APP schools. Remember all the happy talk about shared PTA funding, fabulous design teams, 'floating all boats,' kumbaya, etc. etc.....? There was, however, no talk of evicting Thurgood Marshall kids from their school to make room for the APP kids, or preventing TT Minor kids from getting to Lowell, or the Title 1 inequities between the two schools (TMarsh keeps theirs, TT Minor kids lose theirs)--something the district clearly knew about long ago. What I'm saying is, the district selectively and verbally champions what serves its agenda, but it does not come anywhere close to taking actions that result in access, equity, let alone "excellence" for all.

Ben said...

gavroche—you and I aren't arguing. I think the split is terrible. I think all the "reasons" for the split were disingenuous. I was just pointing out that when the Board said "access" and "equity" they were talking about access to APP and... And I don't exactly know what they were pretending to say about equity, actually.

I'm not disagreeing that they sure look like hypocrites.