Sunday, November 29, 2009

MAP testing

After multiple requests ([1] [2] [3]), here is a thread to discuss MAP testing in APP.

Related to this, ArchStanton posted a few references to documents that might be helpful for parents who want to convert the MAP scores to grade levels or to use the MAP scores to help find appropriate books.

Please see also a recent, broader discussion of MAP testing, "MAP (Measures of Academic Progress)", on the Seattle Public Schools community blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do you want a new APP Advocacy group?

In the comments to an earlier post, a few parents were interested in much more APP and advanced learning advocacy, saying they wanted a group that promotes the programs, improves participation in the programs, and helps parents and the district better understand the value of these programs for Seattle Public Schools.

Let's open a discussion on this. How would the mission of this group differ from the APP Advisory Committee? How would you like to see it structured? Who would want to be a part of the group? What specifically should the group start with to have the highest impact in their advocacy?

If you have any thoughts on advanced learning advocacy, want to see more of it, and are interested in helping, please add a comment here. If there is a critical mass of people willing to make it happen, perhaps this is the place to find each other.

Open thread

Discuss what you like!

Update: On request, let's make this both an open thread and a spot for talking about parent's reaction to teacher conferences (for those classes that had them this week).

Friday, November 20, 2009

What do parents want in APP leadership?

There are some comments on the previous post that could be lifted and turned into a broader discussion on what parents want in APP leadership.

One parent complained:
Why doesn't [Bob Vaughan] return parents' phone calls or e-mails? (For that matter, why have I gotten a "voicemail full" response on several different occasions when trying to leave a message for him?) And why, to offer one more example, does he allow his office to run the APP testing process in such an unresponsive and frustrating manner?

I know that the APP AC members like to run their meetings as "We love Bob Vaughan" pep rallies, and I have heard some parents argue that no one should expect much from a person expected to do so many jobs at once. But ... I see a well-meaning but overworked and timid bureaucrat who seems afraid to make waves with district colleagues, school boards members, administrators, and even teachers.

So while he's busy avoiding conflict (and parents), APP suffers. Do ... [we have] an effective advocate for our kids?
Another followed with:
[Bob] doesn't have the staff to do what needs to get done and therefore chooses to do what seems fun, more like pet projects, like spending all this time on middle school app science, when what was promised (and needed, has been needed for eons) is a comprehensive elementary school APP curriculum ... [and] quality Spectrum programming throughout the district.

His department is so underfunded. Why? Given all the bloat and growth in central administration, why didn't the HC office get any of the pie?
Frustrations with specific people aside, let's talk about the broader issue here. What do parents want in APP leadership? Ideally, what should APP leadership be doing?

Update: In the comments, Charlie Mas and ArchStanton suggest APP would be better served if the APP Advisory Committee was focused on advocacy. If the APP AC will not advocate for APP and advanced learning, ArchStanton proposes that parents create a new group for advanced learning advocacy. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is there support from the CAO for high school APP?

There appears to be some uncertainty about the support from the Chief Academic Officer for Seattle Public Schools, Susan Enfield, for APP at Garfield. In the comments, Charlie Mas wrote:
[In the] November 3, 2009 Board work session on attendance area boundaries... Director [and former Garfield principal] 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.

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.

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.

[Later] 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.
The APP Update e-mail recently sent by the APP Advisory Committee promises more information on this soon, saying:
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.

Be reassured that the CAO supports the program, supports the model, supports the work of the Advanced Learning office, and supports the cohort at Garfield.
Parents obviously are concerned. pjmanley, for example, wrote:
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?
And ArchStanton depressingly writes:
[This] 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.
On a related note, PTSA VP Stephanie Barnett has a meeting with CAO Susan Enfield today. She has promised to report back on what she finds out.

Update: Stephanie Barnett reported back on her meeting with the CAO in the comments, saying, "There is support for the APP program and all of the advanced learning programs."

Update: In the comments, Charlie Mas disagrees:
She can SAY that she supports the programs but let's see her DO something in support of the programs.

Stephanie was lied to. We have all been lied to. They do NOT support the program. CAO Enfield in particular does NOT support the program. If she did, we would have the curriculum. If she did, the staffing in advanced learning would not have been cut. If she did, we would have a meaningful assurance of quality in Spectrum and ALO. If she did, we would have more than three ALO's south of downtown - there aren't any at all in West Seattle.

[CAO Enfield] can SAY that she supports advanced learning, but where is there any evidence of that support?

Another open thread

Replacing the hijacked converted open thread with a new one. Discuss whatever you like!

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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Advisory Committee meeting notes

As ArchStanton noted, the official meeting notes from the November 3 APP Advisory Committee meeting are now available. You can get to them in the APP AC Seattle Google group. To make it easier to access, I made a copy available (PDF).

Some excerpts from the meeting notes:
The top concern was student safety and staff response. There was a lengthy discussion in which parents brought up examples of unsafe behavior at Thurgood Marshall, mostly during recess. Several parents voiced concerns that not enough was being done to control students' unsafe behavior.

Julie Breidenbach provided a number of comments to address the concerns. She emphasized that in order to institute a discipline program it is important to develop relationships with the students and to get their buy in. Adults have to understand what is driving the students' behavior. She noted that trust in those in positions of authority needs to be established. Some students are too rough on the playground and staff has frequently had to work with them to modify their behavior. The key is to help kids find alternate behavior that fulfills their need so that the discipline can be a learning experience. This takes time to put into place.

In the meantime, other practices have been initiated to help students deal with the changes. The library has been made available to kids during recess. So kids who don't feel safe on the playground have an alternative. Attendance in the library has decreased which suggests that more kids are feeling comfortable going out to the playground during recess. More adults have been assigned to recess duty.

[The] final topic [was] concerns about equity and/or disparity in the two APP elementary programs. Parents who were specifically interested in this topic also interpreted it in different ways. One view was that the extra effort and attention required to address issues of safety and discipline at Thurgood Marshall would detract from the academics there. Another parent voiced concerns about the very large second grade classes at Lowell as compared to the classes at Thurgood Marshall. Gregory King replied that he is trying to remediate the large class sizes by using tutors in the overloaded and split classrooms.
There also was a list of concerns that were mostly unaddressed in the meeting. Those concerns appeared to included what APP and ALO means and whether those definitions were being violated, people's confidence in the APP program, and the level of support APP has from the district.

The same day these meeting notes came out, there also was another e-mail from the APP advisory committee titled "APP Update". A full copy of that e-mail is available from the APP AC Seattle Google Group. An excerpt from it is below:
These transitions are challenging and are works-in-progress--no doubt, this will continue to be a bumpy year, but APP is intact, our elementary and middle school students and staff are adjusting.

Lowell and Thurgood Marshall face unique challenges .... We feel it is very important to acknowledge and address very real parent concerns, and balance those with the realization that it will take time to work out the transitional issues at all our schools.

Our schools will be different from here on out, our children's experiences will be different, hopefully better in the long run. It will clearly take all of us working to help our schools succeed and thrive. It will also take our patience as we hit some bumps during this transition year.

Know that lots of people -- parents, teachers, principals, staff -- are working hard for APP's success, and be reassured that the CAO supports the program, supports the model, supports the work of the Advanced Learning office, and supports the cohort at Garfield.

The APP AC will do what it can to help with communication and raising issues with appropriate people at the District, School Board, the PTSA's, and you, the APP community. We will devote the APP AC Meeting December 2 at Lowell to discussing many of the issues which we did not get to address at the November meeting, plus a few other important topics. Please continue to write us with your concerns...we are working on them.
The e-mail also very briefly addressed keeping APP mostly self-contained and curriculum changes in math and other subjects at all APP levels.

From the frustration I see in previous discussion threads, I have to wonder how this will be received by the APP community. The demand to wait and be patient seems to confirm, as a couple people ([1] [2]) wrote, that "we [can't] even agree ... that violence in the school will not be tolerated" and "no kid should be scared at school". Another parent said earlier, "People needed reassurance that something was being done" and needed to see "the district ... properly resourcing the merger" but "weren't satisfied". Charlie Mas added, "The whole legitimacy of the APP split was predicated on having a written, aligned, taught and tested curriculum for APP... but not only have we no curriculum, we don't even have an acknowledgment of the promise." So then, will the latest be viewed, as one parent angrily wrote, as more of "the typical oddly pro-school-district rhetoric offered by the all the APP AC toadies"?

Please see also the earlier threads, "Impressions from the APP Advisory Committee meeting?" and "What was not discussed at the APP Advisory Committee meeting?", which have parents descriptions of what happened at the recent meeting and what some of their concerns appear to be, including the ones I mention above.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A meeting with the Seattle Public Schools Chief Academic Officer

Stephanie Barnett wrote in the comments:
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 something 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.

Stephanie Barnett
VP of Enrichment Seattle Council PTSA
APP PAC Representative
Please contact Stephanie directly to work with her on this. Please also use the comment thread for this post to discuss what we should do to take some positive action to help our children.

Update: Charlie Mas offers a detailed list of issues for the CAO in the comments, including the promised but missing APP curriculum, whether high school APP will continue to exist, the need for a north-end APP, and the lack of response to the APP audit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Missed commitments: APP curriculum and APP review response

Over on the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog, Charlie Mas writes, "What's Due and What's Overdue", a long list of "how horribly slack the Board has been about holding the superintendent accountable for all of the things that are due or overdue."

Two of the items are:
  • An aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum for APP
  • A response to the APP review
Let's do a thread on these here. Anyone have any thoughts on these? Explanations on why they not yet done? Opinions on how they should be done? Ideas on how to push the administration and get the board's help in pushing the administration to get them done?

Update: In the comments, Charlie Mas adds:
The whole legitimacy of the APP split was predicated on having a written, aligned, taught and tested curriculum for APP. The APP Review specifically warns the District NOT to split the program without implementing a curriculum first. The curriculum was promised to be in place for the start of school this year, but not only have we no curriculum, we don't even have an acknowledgement of the promise - let alone a revised timetable.

It is, once again, the District staff shafting the community and nothing that the community can do about it. The Board doesn't care. They always take the side of the staff against the community. Always. Every time. They will not help us.

The APP review was done two years ago and yet the District has no response. This is supposed to be a project in the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All", and every strategic plan project is supposed to have a timetable, a scope of work, and action items, but this one has none. It is a non-event. Again, the Board doesn't care. Our elected representatives, the people charged with holding the superintendent accountable, absolutely refuse to do represent our interests or hold her accountable.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

APP Math

There has been a lot of discussion (and frustration) in the comments on previous posts about math in APP. One parent wrote:
Don't get me started on APP's failure to teach our kids math!

[The] frustrations I'm facing with my APP first-grader ... He was home-schooled last year and pick up all kinds of math basically by osmosis, but now that he's in school, his math learning has ground to a halt. His teacher seems too overwhelmed by teaching in general to even tackle the notion of differentiation.

When I asked Bob Vaughan himself if he thought it was fair for a child who had been working on multiplication and division and fractions at home to sit through endless lessons on two-digit addition and subtraction for the entire first grade, he actually told me that it might be a good chance for him to go back "and appreciate some of the nuance of all the math he had already learned." ... Maybe Bob Vaughan would rethink his satisfaction with the APP math curriculum and the unspoken no-differentiation rule if more parents made their frustrations known.
Another said:
The math issue is a continuing problem. For middle school math we were instructed to purchase the "Algebra To Go" textbook in order to assist with homework, if needed, in our child's 6HH (APP) class for 6th grade ... After sitting down with our child for a few minutes with the new book, he was working algebraic equations, understanding "isolating" the "x" variable etc. with ease. Something that they haven't even talked about yet in their CMP class.

We haven't supplemented our kids in math at all up to this point - but this makes us think that we really have done them a disservice - assuming that they were getting what they needed at school. Frustrating - but at least the instructor gave us a useful tool to teach at home.
Another wrote:
The irony about the math situation is that many kids are in APP because of their math abilities. Yet, in our experience, when they get into APP there is no differentiation. Being in APP is actually holding them back.
And a fourth worried ([1] [2]) that:
More and more I am becoming conviced that the Everyday Math curriculum is doing more harm than good ... It's enough to make me want to homeschool. Especially having a daughter who is capable, given the right instruction.

My main concern ... 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.

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 ... 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.
A lot of this appears to center around concerns over recent changes in the math curriculum and the level of individualized challenge children are getting in APP math.

Let's open up a thread on this topic. Are you happy with the current math instruction in APP? If so, what do you like? If not, what do you think should be done about it?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What was not discussed at the APP Advisory Committee meeting?

From the previous thread, it is clear that both the APP Advisory Committee meeting on Nov 3 and the discussion afterward was dominated by APP parents concerns over safety at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.

As parents wrote in the thread, this was for valid reasons, as many parents feel their children are not safe at recess, there have been many incidents and injuries, and many parents feel the response has been inadequate. As one parent said, in obvious frustration, "Until we can even agree on a basic fact ... violence in the school will not be tolerated ... nothing will change." Others argued the safety issue threatens the very future of APP. Several demanded the safety problems be addressed immediately.

As important as safety is, there were other issues that people wanted to raise at the meeting. As one parent said:
Almost the entire time for elementary APP discussion was used to discuss safety issues at TM.

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?
Leaving the other thread for continuing our discussion of safety, perhaps we could discuss the unaddressed issues here?

From what I see in the discussion threads, the questions people wanted to discuss but were not able to included:
  • What happened to the transition teams we were promised? Did the district properly resource the merger and, if not, what can we do to get them to?
  • What does APP and ALO mean (and has it changed due to the split)?
  • Since one of the reasons for the split was to give greater access to APP, was that goal achieved? Did more students enroll in APP this year compared to previous years? What does it mean for the split to work?
  • What disparities do parents and students perceive between Lowell and Thurgood Marshall and what can be done to address them?
  • How confident are parents in the APP Program? What can be done to improve our confidence?
  • What level of support does the APP Program appear to have in the district? What can we do to improve that?
  • How can we build community between APP/APP at the separate schools and APP/ALO at same school?
  • What can parents do? One parent felt that we all are just "wringing our hands ... in hapless despair." Other than that, what can we do? What can we do to get better results?
I tried to pull everything I found in the comments to recent posts. If I missed anything or there are topics that is not yet in the comments, please feel free to add more in the discussion for this post.

So, what do you think? What are your answers to these questions?

Update: Minor change, merged two similar questions in the list.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Impressions from the APP Advisory Committee meeting?

The APP Advisory Committee met earlier this week. Minutes from the meeting are not available yet, but some reports are trickling out from people who were there.

In particular, ArchStanton wrote in the comments to an earlier post that:
Questions that were emailed did not get answered because a lot of time was spent (for valid reasons) discussing safety, behavior, and communication issues.

Let me also add that I was simply dumbstruck by the admission that the T. Marshall community (teachers and students) was not prepared for the arrival of APP this Fall. (This was part of a discussion where it was acknowledged that there was culture shock on both sides.)
Anyone else attend the meeting? Thoughts? Comments? Could you summarize what happened?

Update: A summary by Skeptic from the comments:
Most of the meeting consisted of worried TM parents demanding action on playground safety--and receiving few answers.

There were about 10 Lowell parents in the room compared to about 40 TM parents, and the Lowell parents I talked to at the meeting felt sheepish about bringing up their relatively minor concerns after they listened to some of the stories of the TM parents.

The safety issues are worrisome not just for the anxiety they create, but also, as one mom pointed out during the meeting, because they are demanding so much time and energy from the staff that might otherwise be put toward learning and trying to improve the school.

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?