Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Open thread

Talk about whatever you like!

Update: In the comments, an anonymous parent writes:
Sometimes, I really wish APP parents wouldn't live up to their awful stereotypes of caring only about APP and being entirely obnoxious about it.

I wish people would take the time to breathe and consider that there are more things going on in the District than just their own kids.
That seems likely to generate a lively discussion. Let's make this thread about that. I'll post another open thread in a couple days to bring up other topics.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of 2 APP children, so I understand some of the concerns that APP parents all share. Really, I do.

But sometimes, I really wish APP parents wouldn't live up to their awful stereotypes of caring only about APP and being entirely obnoxious about it.

I do think some parents have legitimate issues. But let me tell you, most parents don't get a representative that gets a 1/2 hour sit down with the CAO. Most parents don't have an entire director dedicated to the needs of 4ish schools (given that they are all shared, it's probably more like the size of 3, but I was being generous).

APP has one of the lowest percentage of free and reduced rates (possibly even THE lowest?) in the District. The kids are solidly middle class and don't have a lot of needs that other kids in the District have.

Should the quality of teaching be better? Yes. But it should be in most parts of the District, not just APP. Differentiation and scaffolding should be happening in ALL schools, not just APP schools.

I am often quite embarrassed by the APP parent community, so much so that I almost didn't enroll my children. I wish people would take the time to breathe and consider that there are more things going on in the District than just their own kids.

avid said...

You should refrain from stereotyping the parents in the program. It's very convenient to write off the whole APP program by claiming (incorrectly) that we're a bunch of high-maintenance whiners whose kids are privileged.

Many of us have children in and out of the APP program. I haven't personally noticed much difference in the behavior of parents in and out of APP. If the only thing that makes APP parent advocacy embarassing is that it is happening in the context of APP, then I think you shouldn't be embarassed.

IMHO the inequalities that exist in APP are the result of the fact that the district has spent more energy on the appearance of diversity at these buildings, than on actually going out and identifying gifted students in underrepresented groups.

(Although last year we were told that they did make personal appeals to a number of families of color who qualified for the program, but then didn't send their children. Honestly I can't whip up a lot of sympathy for families that don't take advantage of the resource.)

Want to diversify APP? How about we eliminate the portion of the entrance tests that requires prior academic learning beyond your grade level, which your child (pretty much by definition) didn't get in SPS. Right there, the district is selecting for families with resources for preschool, tutors and the like, perhaps to avoid giving nothing but an IQ/cognitive abilities test to kids. However, I think they would find more underrepresented students that way.

Robert said...

With two kids in the APP program you don't think your kids have needs... That's a good one!

Don't be embarrassed Anon as one parent community's attempts to better a program should better the District overall... Also, many of the issue "we" advocate are general issues (safe playgrounds/bldgs, differentiated learning, reasonable class sizes and quality teachers to name a few).

Where are you seeing this program centric obnoxious behavior? (On this blog devoted to APP? That's another good one!) Give me an example please. I ask because I have not seen anything other than what I would hope to see... INVOLVED parents.

Finally folks please let's not let this dissolve into a have/have not blog ... We can get that any time at SPS. Share some facts or examples to your entry or leave the blogging to those that have them. And oh yeah Anon, the Director oversees Advanced Learning which is also the ALO and Spectrum programs.

hschinske said...

Avid, it also quite often happens that students have very high achievement scores coupled with much lower aptitude scores. When a year's testing data was accidentally released once, the students with the greatest disparity between high ach/low apt scores were mostly African American and on FRL -- there were a number who had double 99th-percentile achievement scores, yet CogAT scores too low for either program.

There really isn't a hard divide between aptitude testing and achievement testing anyway, particularly when group tests are used. To some extent you're always testing learned material. Personally I think that any time there is such a disparity, the lower score should be revisited as potentially inaccurate. In particular, group testing of young children is bound to have some kids scoring far too low (my own son came out of kindergarten CogAT testing running for the bathroom, for instance).

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

I cannot at all see why a call for something like differentiation within APP is taking ANYTHING away from a call for differentiation at other schools. If anything, the fact that we can squawk a little louder than the average parent is GOOD for publicizing the lack of differentiation everywhere. If the testing situation is unfair even for middle-class kids with highly educated parents, surely it is MORE unfair for students with fewer advantages.

Helen Schinske

ArchStanton said...

Okay, I'll bite. I'll even try not to be snarky.

I don't believe that APP parents are very different than other socio-economically advantaged, involved, and active parents in any other school. Are there individual APP parents that set a bad example and give us a bad name? Absolutely. (Am I one? Maybe, sometimes.)

APP is an easy target. Plenty of other communities (e.g. Laurelhurst, Olympic View, Sacajawea, Montlake) have very involved communities that raise lots of money and advocate strongly for their kids and schools. (I'm willing to bet that they get face-time with the big-wigs, as well.) Sometimes they even get singled out for it, but they can always deflect criticism by pointing at APP.

"I really wish APP parents wouldn't live up to their awful stereotypes of caring only about APP and being entirely obnoxious about it.[...] I am often quite embarrassed by the APP parent community, so much so that I almost didn't enroll my children. I wish people would take the time to breathe and consider that there are more things going on in the District than just their own kids."

Okay, Anon, what does that look like? What would you have us do?

Should we not advocate for ourselves? I don't think that's the answer. It just makes it easier for the powers that be to steamroll their agenda over us and everyone else.

Should we advocate for other communities? Perhaps. Some of us do - even those of us without kids in other schools. But sometimes, other communities don't want our involvement and view us with suspicion when we try.

Heck, even when we advocate for ourselves, it often seems fruitless. Still, for those instances where we do make gains, I think it sets an example for others that there is strength in communicating, organizing, and working together.

Do we have our own Blog, while others don't? Yes. Should we discontinue it because of that? Hardly. I think it provides one example of how we can communicate and organize. That doesn't mean it's the only, right way and that everyone should emulate us, but it shows that it can be done.

Possibly it irritates some that we are just too visible. Maybe we look bad to others because the blogs are where we air our dirty-laundry. It is hard for parents of all-city draw schools (not just APP) to organize and communicate. Much of the behind-the-scenes work and discussion that (at neighborhood schools) happens during pickup/dropoff, walking to/from, playing on the grounds before/after school - can't be accomplished as easily, so some of that spills over into the forums. The school websites don't provide a real forum for this, and if they did the different schools would still be isolated from each other.

Anonymous said...

I'm going on a hunger strike until Laurelhurst parents start lobbying on behalf of Adams Elementary, and Bailey-Gatzert parents campaign for improvements at McGilvra!

wseadawg said...

I'll bite too. What's your point Anonymous?

How do you know I don't care about other kids, programs, etc? You don't.

You are broad-brushing your single, subjective impression onto an entire community for apparently disrupting your higher ideals of what things should be like, in a the better world you envision.

What I personally disfavor are tut-tut attitudes while Rome burns. The community has been pushed around, lied to, manipulated and many children are now experiencing violence at school. It's a little hard not to be selfish when your kids are being beaten on and sworn at during school.

Fiona Cohen said...
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Fiona Cohen said...

Maybe our thread-initiator, or someone, could give some specific examples, from this school year, of the kind of "entirely obnoxious" behavior that stereotypical APP parents engage in.

bf said...

I would like to point out a situation where APP parents specifically advocated for kids who were not in APP, and that was in the discussion around the elementary split. Many parents expressed their concern about the general ed/ALO kids being housed with the "smart kids" and what that would do to their self esteem. Perhaps one could argue that this was disengenous and that APP parents against the split were coming up with any argument against the split, but I believe that APP parents were sincere and very concerned.

Robert said...

Oh yeah Anon, if you read the SPS blog you will notice that many APP parents advocate/post for general ed FREQUENTLY. One example: Charlie Mas.

wseadawg said...

BF: I'll take the side that agreed with John Stanford's view, which led to splitting the different cohorts during his tenure to preserve the self-esteem and best interests of both cohorts. Reading that passage of his book, one could feel the genuine sincerity in his heart when he made that decision.

But what's done is done, and of course, some will flat-out refuse to believe that any APP parent gives a damn about other kids in other schools.

Of course, the shallowness of that view ignores the reality that all of these non-APP kids are members of our community now, and in the future, and it therefore makes zero sense not to fight for them, as many of us did last year for the Special Ed kids, Nova, Summit, SBOC and TT Minor last year.

Right now, we have to deal with front and center issues of rebuilding an APP program that took a severe hit this year.

pjmanley said...

Charlie Mas said: (On another post)

"Dr. Enfield's remarks at the Board work session on Attendance Area boundaries when she denied the existance of high school APP and said that she intends to dissolve high school APP as soon as the number and selection of AP and other advanced classes at all high schools meets a baseline."

What is this all about? Has anyone else heard this? Is this the brilliant plan for the future of APP? This would be a death sentence for the elementary and middle school programs. Who would send their children away from the neighborhood, severing and weakening all those relationships, to be in APP for a few years, then be tossed back to the same neighborhood? Can anyone tell me why any parent would do that?

If this is in any way true, we need a summit with the CAO and Superintendant right away. We bought in for the long haul and made all the difficult decisions and trade-offs in exchange for the guarantee of a Garfield diploma. If they are going to yank the rug out from under us, I will be furious.

Anyone else have anything to share on the subject?

ArchStanton said...

Anyone else have anything to share on the subject?

Oh yeah, that. I had kinda' filed it away with Cheryl Chow's recent remarks and was waiting for Charlie to report back - he was going to contact her wasn't he?

Nevertheless, it reinforces my sense that the powers-that-be are willing to let/help the APP program die a slow death. At this point, we're hoping the program will cover us through middle school (or maybe even just elementary) when more private options might be available.

Between the split, Everyday Math, and an obvious lack of support from the district; we feel that this is not the same program we toured and were excited about two years ago. We feel dissatisfied.

Our lack of confidence is such that, once again, we are exploring (and applying to) different options - private schools, back to the neighborhood, homeschool - to see if there might be a solution that we can feel good about.

I'm not threatening to leave APP, 'cuz I don't believe anyone will care if we do - just sharing where we're at.

spsmarketshare said...

If I could, I would like to make a more general point here, not specific to APP, but responding to the anonymous parent's implication that middle class kids and parents don't belong in Seattle Public Schools and, if they want to be there, need to be quiet and undemanding.

Seattle Public Schools cannot succeed without attracting middle class children. They have failed miserably at this so far. Seattle has one of the lowest public school participation rates of any major city in the US. Only about 68% of Seattle children attend public schools compared to 80-90% for normal US cities.

Low appeal aggravates most of our other issues with our Seattle Public Schools. High market share is critical to have community support for public schools, to be able to pass taxes that fund the public schools, and to maximize the involvement of parents in helping the schools. Seattle Public School funding from state and federal sources also is directly tied to enrollment.

This is a death spiral that has been going on for many years. Until most parents see Seattle Public Schools as an attractive option, our schools will have little support, fail to improve, and fail to educate the children of Seattle.

Telling middle class parents and kids they don't belong is not going to help. Lowering class size would help, but would be very expensive. Embracing the desires of all parents in Seattle, including middle class voters, would help. And one of the things Seattle parents want from Seattle schools is alternative programs.

Whatever we do with Seattle Public Schools, attracting the middle class back in our schools will have to be part of the solution. This anonymous parent is not helping.

Robert said...
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Robert said...

pjmanley and arch,

This is from the APP Update:

APP high school assignment to Garfield will remain!
Despite recent comments by outgoing School Board member Cheryl Chow, yes, APP is offered in high school--at Garfield-- and the APP cohort will continue to be assigned there. Dr. Vaughan has addressed the erroneous public statements and, after conferring with CAO Enfield, will very soon provide a statement to clarify how the program is offered at Garfield.

pjmanley said...

Arch & Marketshare say it well.

I also want to rant a bit about the uber-liberal self-hating, yet patronizing attitude that leads to the conclusion that there's something wrong or shameful about being solidly middle-class. As erroneous as that label has become over the past two decades due to the constant assault on the historic "middle-class," I believe there is little distinction these days between "middle-class" and "working-class," though it depends on one's own definition. In today's world, I don't see a whole lot of difference between a buyer or a renter, for example. Sure, one has satisfaction of ownership, but until the bank is paid, what is really "owned"?

But why are we even talking about this? Don't we all pay taxes and want strong public schools? If those with means are considered to be "taking advantage" of the system when they could go private, then I ask: Would it be better if they went private? Do we want to embrace any more divisions between the tiers in society that we already face?

I find it incredibly patronizing and condescending to label people and presume the only thing they care about is themselves and their kids. Because some folks have the time, or are willing to invest it lobbying for their kids, does not mean, ipso facto, that anything is taken away from other groups.

I find such zero sum game thinking to be as bad and lackadaisical as the black/white thinking process employed by our former president. I.e., too lazy to delve into the details and see more than one point-of-view. (Just my two-cent opinion.)

Just my general rant from the woods, but really, in my opinion this class-war stuff is misplaced. Aren't all children "entitled" to a good education and a safe school? Who on earth wants or believes in separate standards for those? Just because one group is less advantaged than others doesn't mean a system should focus solely on those kids, or before you know it, other programs will collapse and the problem will get worse. The rising tide raises all boats. Parents advocating for their own groups should be encouraged and emulated, not criticized. That's what I believe, anyways.

Charlie Mas said...

Some questions have arisen regarding my report on CAO Susan Enfield's position regarding high school APP. Here's the whole story.

I attended the November 3, 2009 Board work session on attendance area boundaries. During the Board discussion period, Director Chow said that she didn't think that APP students should have their guaranteed access to Garfield because, in her words, "there's no program" for them there. Please remember that Ms Chow is a former principal at Garfield. What sort of program do you think was available during her administration? She certainly didn't feel any need to create one that she would recognize. The current principal at Garfield, Ted Howard II, definitely knows that he has a program there and he definitely knows that he has students that he needs to serve with it.

Susan Enfield responded to Director Chow by saying that they couldn't end the APP assignment to Garfield until all of the high schools offered a minimum set of AP (or IB) classes. She assured Director Chow that she was working hard to get those classes into the other schools. Her perspective was clear. She agreed that there was no program and she was working to get it dissolved by building up the advanced learning opportunities in the other attendance area schools.

Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson seemed confused by Director Chow's assertion. While the Superintendent did not directly contradict Director Chow, she vaguely expressed the suggestion that she had a different perception. The superintendent said a lot of words empty of meaning ending with a sort of agree-to-disagree conclusion. The superintendent never clearly stated that there is a program for high school APP students, but she raised some sort of ambiguously other view.

Director Carr ended the conversation by cheerfully saying that as the other high schools developed more AP and IB classes, the APP students will just naturally choose their attendance area schools over the questionable program at Garfield. The sense here was that there was no need for the district to take any action to end the preferential enrollment to Garfield for APP students since it will soon melt away.

I was sitting behind Mel Westbrook and next to Dick Lilly during this part of the meeting. They heard what I heard.

I was really troubled by this discussion. Soon after I had to go home to my family. I stopped in the back of the room to chat with Chris Jackins. He also confirmed that he had heard what I had heard. I asked him why the CAO hadn't just corrected Director Chow and clearly stated that there IS a program for high school APP students at Garfield. Just then, Ms Enfield got up from the table and started out of the room. "Why don't you ask her yourself" he says.

As Ms Enfield came by I asked her. "Why didn't you correct Director Chow when she said that there is no program for APP students at Garfield?" She responded "Really? Which classes are the APP classes?"

We had a VERY brief exchange in which she made it very clear that she did not believe that there is any such thing as high school APP.

This is a true and accurate recounting of the events. Respectfully submitted, Charlie Mas

Charlie Mas said...

Regarding the Anonymous commenter at the start of this thread.

I, too, wish that APP parents would not care only about APP. I also wish that other families in other schools and programs did not care only about the schools and programs that their children are in. Ah, if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. Human nature, being what it is, makes it so that people care most about their own interest. I couldn't say that this is more or less true about APP families. I don't think it is any more.

Actually, any person who requests a meeting with the CAO is likely to get one. The problem isn't that an APP family member did, the problem is that other family members don't.

APP does not have an entire director dedicated to the program's needs. Dr. Vaughan also has reponsibility for Spectrum, ALOs, AP, IB, PSAT testing, AP testing, and early entrance kindergarten. There may be more on his plate than that. So saying that APP has a director for itself was not generous, it was ill-informed.

Just because APP students, as a whole, don't have a lot of economic need doesn't mean that they don't have academic needs. One doesn't have anything to do with the other.

Anonymous is right that every student should have a good teacher and every class should include differentiated instruction. That applies to APP as much as anyone else. APP families are just as needed as anyone else to advocate for this - for all students.

Instead of being embarassed by APP families (I'm usually proud of them when they advocate for children - their own or any others), try being the change that you want to see. Try advocating for other students instead of shushing people who are.

Robert said...

Charlie, the "GHS APP conversation" is foreboding... But don't you think that there is a chance that your bringing this to the forefront might have got her up to speed (based on the APP Update)? That said, I wonder why they couldn't have any cohort specific gatherings at GHS...

Charlie Mas said...

Robert wrote:
"But don't you think that there is a chance that your bringing this to the forefront might have got her up to speed (based on the APP Update)?"

Honestly, no. She was very confrontational with me about the idea of high school APP. She was saying that she didn't correct Director Chow because she thinks that Director Chow is right. Not only right about there is no program at Garfield, but also about the desirability of dissolving the cohort at Garfield to make more room for neighborhood students at Garfield.

As for the idea that she has now "seen the light" or changed her mind or even simply been chastised, forget it. She's not like that.