Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another open thread

Happy New Year! Discuss whatever you like!

A couple recent events that might be particularly good to talk about are reactions to last night's APP AC meeting (which covered "Governor's proposed budget cuts and impact on Advanced Learning, MAP testing, APP curriculum") from anyone who attended and Cliff Mass' recent rant on math education in Seattle Public Schools ("The Seattle Public Schools, has poor discovery math books at all levels; the Seattle School Board voted in the Discovering Math series last spring (4-3 vote), even though the State Board of Education found it 'unsound.' ... If your child is in this district you have a real problem").

Update: People have been sharing links to resources that might be useful to APP parents in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Anyone know what the story is on the tests required for qualifying for APP.

We have a kid going through testing this year and initally we were told that they'd have to do the Cogat and the MAP. Our kid did both and passed at an acceptable level.

Now we've gotten a phone call telling us our kid will also be tested with the Woodcock-Johnson assessment. Seems like a waste of money and time.

Anyone have a similar experience?

Steve said...

Woodcock-Johnson is the second test your child takes if he/she gets a high enough score in the first test.

Anonymous said...

I thought that W-J was being phased out in favor of MAP though.

That was what we were told by the Advanced Learning office. They said that they'd be using MAP scores unless a child didn't have MAP scores on record.

It's very odd.

A2Z said...

Map is stated on the AL website but that isn't the current achievement test. I would think Anon that your kid is in kindergarten(?) as it was done in one day for the older kids. If you got the qualifying MAP that should help with any application.

Anyone else getting scores back and are there any surprises?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone comment on last night's APP AC meeting? I'm particularly interested in what was said regarding the potential state funding cuts.

hschinske said...

Couple possibilities: one is that they're discovering the MAP scores are kind of all over the place, and don't want to rely on them too heavily yet. It's also possible that the MAP assessment they used was the K-2 assessment (Map for Primary Grades), which doesn't seem to have enough ceiling (as far as I can tell) to provide APP readiness data.

I was happy to have Woodcock-Johnson data for my kids, as I consider it a pretty good test, but of course it's annoying to be getting the run-around after you thought you were all through.

Helen Schinske

Skeptic said...

OK, I apologize for the entirely different topic, but if this is an open thread. . . Does anyone have any advice about helpful advocacy organizations for the gifted? I had naively thought that once my sons moved to APP, all their needs would be met and they would start having the most magical educational experience. Let me just say that life at Thurgood Marshall is anything but. (And no, I'm not just talking about the giant soiled bra on the sidewalk my little boys carefully stepped around today as we walked into school. At least it generated fewer questions than the condom box we stepped over for several days earlier in the year. Note to school staff readying the place for tours.)

But I digress. For instance, I have a friend who has lots of great things to say about her experiences with the Davidson Institute. Once students apply and are accepted, the Institute, from what I can gather, helps advocate for the student at her/his school and offers lots of enrichment opportunities. Does anyone have any feedback on Davidson or other organizations that can help do the job that APP schools aren't doing?

Greg Linden said...

[A note from the moderator, please keep it civil. I just deleted one anonymous personal attack in this thread. That kind of problem has been rare on this blog so far. Let's try to keep it that way.]

Shannon said...

I attended most of the APP AC meeting. I'm new at this so please correct me if I miss something.

Bob V said that he is advocating for MAP testing to be used for entrance to APP but it is "still a bit early" for it. He feels this will save money and be more effective.

I didn't hear him say that they would continue with the Cogat but I would like that confirmed. I fear the change to the program if application to the gifted program is entirely "achievement" based. The cogat is supposed to measure reasoning abilities rather than achievement in relation to curriculum. Since children across the SPS and from outside it, may have encountered curriculum at different levels and teaching of varying quality, I am sure we would agree that some form of 'aptitude' measure is important.

Perhaps it was assumed that the cogat would continue and the MAP would be instead of the Woodcock-Johnson scores?

Anyone else have a view on that?

Bob also mentioned using MAP as a screening tool to reduce testing of children who are not achieving anywhere close to the APP or Spectrum levels. He did say that this was not in the works now and that he did not have access to the data in this way BUT he is hoping to move in this direction in the medium term.

Perhaps the MAP plan from the AL office was not approved up the line. Another alternative is that they are collecting data to see how performance on the two tests correlate.

Shannon said...


Bob said that if the State funding was cut and not replaced his office would not function. His salary and that of key staff depends on it.

However, he has been given assurances by the Superintendent that Advanced Learning is a priority for the District and that they are seeking to expand access to AP Courses and advanced learning in general.

He mentioned that they had a new hire in the office, to manage a multi-million dollar grant they received from the Feds to "improve pathways from Low Income Schools (mentioned Aki K, Hamilton, Denny, Ingraham and Sealth among others) to International B. courses. Its called an API Grant.

When Bob V felt he could not manage they grant the Superintended said "just hire someone". So they have David Ogden on it. From an aside I believe he is pro AP and Bob is pro APP. Hrmm.

Noticeably absent in all Bob's assurances was any word about commitment to APP in particular. All the jargon was about increasing local access, pathways, diversity and IB. I don't know what to read into this but there it is. Apparently the AL office will remain. Will they be supporting APP or drawn increasingly into the current vision for AL. Dunno.

Apparently the Washington Coalition of Gifted Education is lobbying for gifted ed and needs support.

Greg Linden said...

Thanks for the notes on the APP AC meeting, Shannon. Did I read your notes right that there was more of a focus on parts of Advanced Learning outside of APP than on APP ("noticeably absent ... was any word about commitment to APP in particular") in this APP AC meeting? Any thoughts on why that might be the case?

Thanks also for the link to WAETAG. I noticed they have a great page with links to resources, including other groups that are helpful to know about. I did not know about the Northwest Gifted Child Association, for example, nor did I realize that Stanford's online EPGY courses started at the elementary level. Are there any of these organizations that people are using and finding helpful?

While we are sharing links, there are a couple elementary level math sites we have been using that others might find helpful, NumberNut and CarrotSticks. Anyone else have others they are using and enjoy?

Shannon said...

I'm not sure I represented the comment about support for AL vs APP accurately. There was lots of talk from Bob about how the District is behind AL and behind expansion of AL opportunities. Also talk on AP courses and how more AP courses are required, the mix needs to be better at Garfield etc. Also some talk about Pathways to IB in light of the API grant.

He did not mention the district being behind Spectrum or APP specifically. At another point in the meeting someone asked about the generous geographic draw zone for Garfield and others remained anxious about it, fearful that it capacity would be used as an excuse to relocate the APP "program" from Garfield.

Bob did not reply to this comment/question which was kind of swept away in the move to the next topic.

I don't like to speculate on the District's commitment to APP. I continue to believe that unless someone (at a high level) does some informed promotion of the program it remains vulnerable due to lack of understanding from non-APP SPS families and educators. Also, due to a perception of privilege which makes it unpopular in a climate of increasingly scarce resources and less than desirable outcomes for many.

There was mention at the meeting of teachers in integrated schools (eg Washington and Hamilton) who do not understand and resent the APP cohort /program constraints.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the notes.

My son (3rd grade) did the EPGY math for awhile before we transitioned to APP. He loved it, learned an incredible amount. Only drawback was that it's expensive.

ArchStanton said...

I think Shannon reported things accurately. Bob said more than once that the superintendent was very supportive of "advanced learning", didn't say anything about support for APP or Spectrum. He also said that the state funding pretty much paid for his office and testing. I expect that his position won't go away, but that more resources will be used to support ALOs in as a many schools as possible , probably at the expense of Spectrum/APP.

On a different note, it was mentioned that at Hamilton recently, a survey was circulated to help create a mission statement and inform the school culture when they move back into the remodeled building. The survey was clearly written by someone with an agenda against APP and had some pretty biased/loaded questions. No one was able to say who generated the survey, but they seemed to think that the data they collect will be used by one of the teams involved. There was some vague acknowledgment that the principal had some knowledge or endorsement of the survey - still, it was unclear why the thing would be used if no one would claim ownership of it (not to mention how poorly designed it was). Some from Hamilton said they were surprised because there hadn't been much negative sentiment expressed among the teams involved in combining the programs. --anyway it's something to keep an eye on.

ArchStanton said...

re: Skeptic

We looked into Davidson a few years ago and were turned off by the application (portfolio, really) they required. Several pages of personal information and far more detailed than most college applications. Without an obvious benefit we didn't feel it was worth the effort.

Dorothy said...

That Hamilton Survey was very oddly and negatively worded. You can find it here. The December PTSA newsletter, page five.

hschinske said...

The Davidson Institute is a great outfit from what I have heard, but they're concentrating on a different level than APP is. It's pretty much for kids who are outliers even within APP.

My kids did EPGY for a while in second and third grade. It cost a bomb and the schools paid essentially no attention whatsoever. Silly me, I thought transcripts from Stanford and Johns Hopkins would mean something.

The Johns Hopkins Talent Search is useful in a limited sort of way (more useful, of course, if you can afford the camps they offer -- we fall in the category where we wouldn't get financial aid, but they seem far too expensive). I got quite frustrated with them for not providing more detailed recommendations based on the results, though. I asked around on the GT-Families and TAGFAM listservs about other talent searches' feedback, and it seemed that Northwestern University's Midwest Academic Talent Search gave the most detailed information.

The mother of all gifted info sites is Hoagie's, by the way:

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, is the oddly worded question in the Hamilton survey this one?

"Value statement: It is NOT OK for some students to achieve at high levels while others do not. Agree/Disagree?"

hschinske said...

This was my response to that question in another discussion:

"Okay, taken literally, that statement is nonsense and no one *could* agree with it. Assuming they meant something else, presumably it has something to do with the achievement gap, and again, who could disagree that the achievement gap is too large? I simply cannot parse it as meaning anything where reasonable people could disagree."

Essentially, answers to that question would divide the answerers into those who interpreted the question one way, and those who interpreted it in another way -- not those who had different opinions about the answer to the SAME question.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

The references to "ability tracking/grouping" (two very different practices being confused) were also oddly worded and ambiguous. The "value statements" that one was expected to agree/disagree with:

It is NOT OK for some students to achieve at high levels while others do not.

All students have access to challenging and rigorous curriculum.

The school limits its use of ability tracking/grouping.

The school maximizes its use of ability tracking/grouping.

Academic achievement targets are clear and communicated frequently.

HIMS recognizes and praises positive and improved student behavior.

Diversity is important.

HIMS intentionally creates opportunities for cross-cultural experiences.

I think it would be really easy to mistake the purpose of the above: e.g., to say "Disagree" to "All students have access to challenging and rigorous curriculum" because you don't believe that is CURRENTLY happening (e.g., not having any 6th-graders in Algebra 1), and you wish to protest that state of affairs. In fact, they appear to be saying "Should we have this as one of the school's value statements?" and by that interpretation, I can't see how anyone could in conscience disagree.

But again, it's open to interpretation: some people might mean by that statement that each student should be challenged at an appropriate level FOR THEM, with grouping as needed to support different levels of challenge, and others would mean that all students should get the "good" curriculum that they fancy APP students are somehow hogging.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

"Bob said more than once that the superintendent was very supportive of "advanced learning", didn't say anything about support for APP or Spectrum."

I wasn't there, so I may be misinterpreting, but in general if Bob Vaughan used the term Advanced Learning, I'd expect him to mean the whole shebang -- APP and Spectrum and all. That's the way he's always used the term in my experience: just shorthand for whatever the Advanced Learning Office covers. In the old days he would have talked about the super supporting Highly Capable programs.

I don't know that I believe MGJ is all that supportive in reality, but I don't think you can say she is supporting ALOs over APP and Spectrum because of Bob's word choice, is all.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy said...

yeah, all that values stuff and tracking maximizing or minimizing and cross cultural diversity along with that other question about the mixing of grades. Shows either someone with An Agenda or some real discordance in the school.

Yes we believe in diversity and lots of cross cultural experiences, but ZOMG!!! 6th graders encountering 8th graders In. The. Hall!!!! No. Way!

ArchStanton said...

I also thought it was validating of my concerns about Everyday Math when Bob admitted at the APP-AC meeting that most APP teachers consider EDM to be a step backwards. It seems that everyone is afraid to say outright that the curriculum sucks, but teachers, principals, and even Bob Vaughan will drop enough hints to reassure me that I'm not wrong to be concerned.

Anonymous said...

Is Thurgood Marshall offering tours this year?

I see Lowell has several tours scheduled, but I don't see any similar information about TM.

Mercermom said...

I received a message that Thurgood Marshall tours are to be scheduled. I'd imagine there would be more information by the time of the open house.

Maureen said...

Does anyone know if Lowell and TM are doing Pay for K?

Shannon said...

Lowell is. The information is under the ALO link on the school website:

"Beginning in the 2009-2010 school year, Lowell Elementary School will offer a Pay-for-K Program. For more information about this program, stop by the school office or email Diane Hucthinson HERE."

Shannon said...

Does anyone have any ideas on how the new SAP will change school communities at the Elementary APP level?

I am not sure how full Lowell is but I have heard that the ALO is not 'full'. Is Thurgood Marshall expecting to receive more students in the ALO?

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

According to the memo on grandfathering, it looks like both Lowell and TM may have K capacity issues next year.

Lowell currently has 2 K classes, and I'm not sure if this predicted capacity issue is with 2 K classes or 1. There are 40 K students at Lowell now, but the higher grades in the ALO are not full. Half the students in K at Lowell did Advanced Learning testing, so depending on how many move, there may only be one large ALO first grade next year.