Sunday, November 1, 2009

What would you like to discuss?

What would you like to discuss here on Discuss APP? What is on the mind of elementary APP parents?

Please add ideas to the comments on this post. I will gather them up and, over time, post individual discussion threads for each one.

So, what are you eager to talk about?

26 comments :

Robert said...

Great. Thanks! I hope you don't mind I put that this blog was back up in the SPS blog.

What I would like to discuss is the different outside programs like at the UW math camps.
How folks are dealing with the split classes.
Having a northern location for northern APP elementary.

Anonymous said...

Which math camps are you talking about? CSSS, SIMUW? Are there others? Are there any during the school year, or are they only summer camps?

Skeptic said...

Does anyone want to share their thoughts about trying to get more differentiation inside the elementary classrooms? I keep hearing stories from parents who are frustrated by the one-size-fits-all curriculum, even though we all know that our kids are as different as they are similar and many would benefit from learning that was better tailored to their needs. Why are teachers so loath to offer this?

Charlie Mas said...

I would like to get a sense of the interest that north-end elementary APP families have in a north-end location for the program.

There are a lot of reasons to relocate the program closer to where the students live (McDonald is a likely spot), but it would be good to confirm that the community has an interest in a move before slogging through the process.

ArchStanton said...

I am absolutely interested in a North APP Elementary site.

My main concern right now is what I perceive as a lack of differentiation. Is differentiation not really a part of the APP philosophy/pedagogy? More and more it seems that APP "accelerates" the child two grades from whatever point they enter and leaves it at that. I'd like to hear how other parents feel APP is doing at meeting their kids' needs.

It seems that within the top few percent that there is a pretty wide range of abilities. My sense is that those kids that are outliers even within APP are barely getting their needs met (or not). In many ways it feels like the outliers in APP are having an experience similar to what most APP and Spectrum kids are having in General Ed. classrooms. Maybe it's the best we can hope for... I had expected something more.

At curriculum night, we asked our child's teacher about differentiation with regard to math. The response we received indicated that the teachers were pretty much sticking to the EDM curriculum and that if a child wanted to do additional worksheets during their free time they could. Unsatisfactory. I'm not asking the teacher to push high level math down my child's throat, but she will choose to read a book, given free time. Likewise, when she comes home from the library with simple chapter books, I have to wonder if anyone is looking at what she is checking out and making other book suggestions.

We are seriously beginning to wonder if we could opt out of EDM similar to what was discussed in this thread: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2009/10/opting-out-of-middle-school-math.html

Anonymous said...

As far as a North End elementary APP - wouldn't last year have been the time to do it? At this point we want some stability and would not look forward to yet another transition. For APP kids Lowell is already their 2nd or 3rd school - add to that the transition of the split and it's just too much.

Greg Linden said...

Thanks, Robert and Charlie. I'll definitely put up a post for discussing opening a north end APP elementary school sometime in the next several days.

Looks like there is also interest in discussions on math, dealing with the split, and enhancing differentiation in the classroom. I will look at getting those up as well over the coming weeks.

Other suggestions for topics? Other things people want to talk about?

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I WOULD have been interested in APP north end for the last 8 years. My youngest is in 5th at Lowell so it is a non-issue. But I just said to someone yesterday, that if I had another elementary child right now, I would skip APP altogether, and keep them at Olympic View. (right down the street) My feeling is that it would not be worth the bus ride, now.

-elise

Greg Linden said...

Oh, one more, I likely will do a discussion thread on class size, picking up and continuing on a comment on the Save Seattle Schools blog.

Skeptic said...

I would also like to hear people's thoughts on WASL/MAP testing and APP kids. Is it true that parents can opt out of having their kids tested? And if so, what is the process and why don't more APP parents opt out? I'm not clear on how WASL/MAP testing benefits our kids. Can't we assume for the most part that they are performing up to grade standards? And since APP teachers generally seem so averse to differentiation, can't we also assume that teachers aren't using this data to tailor our kids' learning to their specific strengths and weaknesses? So why do we subject our kids to this process? Just to be helpful to a district that isn't exactly, shall we say, attentive to the needs of the gifted community?

Robert said...

Oh and I should add a few topics that where hijacked on the sps blog like APP qualified teachers, increasing program diversity and issues with testing last year.

And I would second interest in class differentiation. I know that last year my daughter was given separate spelling sheets but was only tested on what the class was doing which she had long since mastered.

Anonymous said...

I would also be interested in more discussion about MAP testing -

Why is the District not releasing all scores to parents (they've only committed to sharing beginning of the year scores at fall conferences, but not mid- and end-of-year scores)? Of course you can just ask your child to write down their RIT score at the end and then report back to you...

How will teachers really use the data? Kids are expected to test into the 95-99% range, so what's another test going to tell them?

The problem with opting out is that then you don't have data to argue for the mythical differentiation.

Robert said...

Anon, I don't know much about the classes actually (hence the thread) but it is for older kids and at the UW. I have spoken to some GHS students and they really enjoyed them and it may be the only way to get into calculus (ap?) in HS.

hschinske said...

The MAP is individualized and not confined to a single grade level, so in theory it should work well as a judgment of how the children are doing at curriculum two years above level.

I think there may be a split in tests between fifth and sixth grade levels, though (I've run into references to tests for "2-5" and "6+"). If that's the case, teachers would need to be sensitive to which children are maxing out the 2-5 and need to switch to the 6+ to get meaningful results. I would *hope* they're not using MAP for Primary Grades, which is just K-2.

a mom said...

I'd love to talk about all of the above, and more.

An anonymous commenter posted this bit from the APP AC Committee Agenda:

"Other issues on the agenda which didn't have a chance to be discussed were: perceived disparities between the schools, perception of confidence in the APP program, communication between staff and parents, time outs between ALO and APP classes for disciplinary reasons, bullying, how safety issues are handled by the staff, ways to build community, what can parents do?"

I'd love to discuss and know more about all of these items. I would also like to discuss everyone's take on how each of the APP schools are doing with the transition, and what the Parent Community can really do to help create a better school experience for our kids.

With regard to the North APP location, I would be very interested in moving the location to MacDonald. It would mean another transition for my son, but I think it would be a good change in the long run.

Shannon said...

I would be very interested in a North End location.

I feel that there is differentiation in our 3rd grade, at least as much as can be humanly expected with a class of 29, skewed toward boys and definitely 'energetic' but my son is new so perhaps those who have been in APP a few years may have more informed expectations.

I would be interested in speaking with others about APP Advocacy. I sense that many decisions have been made by the District in relation to APP and whether or not they align with prior policy or are articulated, the intentions of management are set.

I would like to know whether others are planning a strategy in support of APP and against the various possible outcomes. These things are best not done as a confrontation against a single event but as a broader community campaign. I think that there is a strong incentive for the District to disperse the cohorts - even among my educated and liberal friends there is much snide commentary, ignorance and barefaced envy about the APP program. In that environment it makes it easy for the District to undermine the program and implement it however it sees fit.

I would like to discuss our response to the likely scenarios rather than sitting and wringing my hands while picking out private schools for my son and (careers for myself to pay the bills). I see people relying too much on stated policy or else displaying a kind of hapless despair. If these are our only options I need to be more vigorous in our open house tours in the years ahead.

For now, APP is providing my son with a good community of learners and plenty to think about. (We are at Lowell)

Shannon

Greg Linden said...

Okay, all sounds good. I plan on posting on these topics over the next several weeks. Just so you know, I'll probably post each topic separately, leaving a few days between each, to give a good time for people to talk about each one.

The list of queued up posts I have right now includes:

North-end APP with a summary of the comments in previous discussion on Save Seattle Schools and a list of questions about what needs to be decided. Include whether north-end should be in addition to or in place of Lowell or Thurgood Marshall, location of north-end APP, whether it should be done immediately or wait for the current split to become more stable, whether one or more 1-8 APP schools should be on the table.

APP advocacy, what we can do to become an effective political organization, build support in the community, district, and school board, and ensure the continued long-term success of APP and other alternative programs in Seattle Public Schools.

The purpose behind WASL/MAP testing for APP students and whether we can (and should) opt out. There as been some discussion of this on Save Seattle Schools (in particular, Charlie Mas has been suggesting that APP could threaten a boycott, others have argued that could backfire).

Math, the current math program and issues with it, external opportunities for supplemental math.

APP program diversity, the perceptions around it (and whether they are true), and how to improve it.

Qualifications of APP teachers, needs of APP students, whether those needs are being met with current APP teacher requirements.

Differentiation in ability, whether current level of differentiation in workload is sufficient, what could be done to improve. Note this comment: "More and more it seems that APP 'accelerates' the child two grades from whatever point they enter and leaves it at that" and that doesn't help "kids that are outliers even within APP." Also this one: "parents who are frustrated by the one-size-fits-all curriculum"

Class size, whether current class sizes in APP are unusual, attracting people who otherwise would go to private school (see comment in Save Seattle Schools blog on this), impact of class size, what can be done to improve (such as either reducing class size or adding assistants).

Community, how to preserve with the split, how to improve across grades. May play into advocacy topic, perhaps include there?

That is all I have right now. Any I missed or others that people might want to see?

ArchStanton said...

Great job, Greg!

I'd say that's a pretty thorough assessment of the issues and concerns that I have and that I have heard others raise.

If I were to add one, off the top of my head, it would be that IMO the new bell-times make it challenging to arrange play-dates or give the kids down-time because there is often, at best, an hour between bus drop-off and dinner. I don't know about everyone else, but my kids are up at 6:30 or 7 am. I feel like we should be scheduling play-dates before school. It's not the first battle I would choose to fight, but it's just another change that has had a negitve impact for us.

Thanks again for taking on this blog. At the neighborhood school level, it seems like so much gets done informally as parents interact while picking up, dropping off, and volunteering. Having APP be an all-city draw makes it hard to create those connections - splitting APP only helped to further disconnect parents. Maybe this blog can help to get the APP community (elementary, at least) engaged. We don't have to agree on everything, but it's nice to know what others are thinking and not feel like I'm operating in a vacuum.

I hope everyone is spreading the word that this blog is active.

Dorothy said...

How about calendar sorts of things, like registering for the PLUS and other talent search tests. When, where and why.

Along that line, this may be premature for those with elementary school kids, but if you have a middle school student or HS freshman who doesn't feel like school is meeting their needs, This Monday, November 9th, is the informational meeting for the UW Academy for Young Scholars. There is probably another session specifically for Transition School. Even if your child might not be eligible for a couple years, consider bringing them to learn more.

lendlees said...

Thanks for taking this blog on, Greg. Since the saveseattleschools.blogspot seems to get hijacked enough with APP issues, it's nice to have a place 'to call our own'.

My only other issue is with transportation. There are a couple of issues that have come up this year that I'm not sure everyone is aware of or is affected by.

1) Community stops: I was looking forward to having a place where we could interact with other APP families in our neighborhood, and potentially create a support system for those who need to get to work early, etc... But, instead, we have a bus that winds through the neighborhood picking up single (or two) families at a time. Seems like such a waste of resources when they are laying teachers off, not maintaining buildings...

2) Discontinuing of multiple drop off locations: I'm not sure if anyone was aware/affected by this change, but according to transportation (and the Lowell office), you are not allowed to have multiple drop off locations anymore (aka: MWF child goes to after school care and TTH child comes home). I think transportation has made some exceptions, but they aren't supposed to. Has this become a problem for anyone?

hschinske said...

I don't have a kid in elementary any longer, but I think discontinuing the multiple drop-off thing sounds like a real pain (especially as there is no way they can keep you from just writing green-card note after green-card note). My son used to take the bus from Lowell to Boychoir rehearsal in the University District, along with several other choir members at Lowell. It worked out extremely well and certainly saved parents a heck of a lot of time (I used to have to pick my daughters up at WMS twice a week and then we would all have to wait around until Lowell got out).

ArchStanton said...

What lendlees said, especially with regard to the community stops. I forgot about that, being preoccupied with more pressing issues.

Anonymous said...

How about a discussion about reunifying elementary APP?
It seems like there must be a lot of operational inefficiencies associated with the split and minimal benefits.

Ben said...

I would love to go back and undo the split.

Will never ever happen.

Stephanie said...

What are your concerns with APP?

I am a parent advocate for APP who is tired of our ineffective APP advisory board and is doing someting about it.
I am your APP PAC ( parent advisory committee) representative. I am also on the Seattle Council PTSA as VP of Enrichment.
I have 2 children at TM in APP, a 1st grader and 4th grader.
I Have filed a complaint with the ombudsman at the district about the violence on the playground at TM. I am trying to get district help on the playground and help for Julie B. who seems overwhelmed.
I also have a meeting next Wednesday with the CAO Susan Enfield for half an hour to discuss APP issues. Please email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss. I will be reporting back to this blog about what I find out. I am tired of complaining and want to take some positive action to help our children.
Sincerely,
Stephanie Barnett
VP of Enrichment Seattle Council PTSA
APP PAC Representative
sdonath@aol.com
206-931-4405

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