Sunday, January 17, 2010

Only 2-3 weeks for APP eligibility appeals?

A parent alerted me of an issue for new children wanting to enter APP of very tight deadlines for APP eligibility appeals.

According to the "Appeal Process for 2009 - 2010 Testing Cycle", the "test scores and eligibility results will be mailed on or around January 29, 2010". But, according to that same page, if you want to re-test and appeal the eligibility decision, you must do that by "mid- to late- February."

This means parents have an extremely short window, only 2-3 weeks, to have a child re-tested and prepare their appeal. This window is so short that most places that can do that kind of testing (Woodcock-Johnson and WISC-IV) in Seattle may have no appointments available in the time parents have before the February appeal deadline.

The advice going around seems to be that, if you were not invited to the second round of district testing, then you can be sure you will get a negative result in the eligibility letter when it arrives. If you might want to appeal, do not wait for the letter to arrive, but book your appointment for private testing now.

Apparently, a similar situation happened in past years. This very tight APP appeal deadline seems inherently unfair if a mistake in testing has been made, likely to exclude otherwise eligible children, and particularly likely to exclude children of parents with limited resources and time. Please discuss it further here in this thread.

Update: A good discussion in the comments, not only on APP eligibility appeals, but also on other topics that might be helpful to people considering elementary APP next year.

Update: One parent, going through the APP eligibility process this year, writes:
We are still waiting on our letter! It just occurred to me that appeals are due 2/24, and as of Friday 2/5, we still don't have information. If we want to appeal and get a letter from our current teacher, we will have to get that from her ASAP because of mid-winter break coming up. This process is ridiculous!


hschinske said...

I don't remember exactly how tight the deadline was in the past, but it's *always* been a good idea to book an appointment for private testing before you're sure you'll need it. They'll be just as happy if you cancel later, as someone else will surely want the slot.

Helen Schinske

Mercermom said...

I believe it has always been a very short window.

Greg Linden said...

Any thoughts on why the window is so short? And whether it should be?

Maureen said...

The advice going around seems to be that, if you were not invited to the second round of district testing, then you can be sure you will get a negative result in the eligibility letter when it arrives.

Are you specifically talking about younger kids (K and 1st)?

Advanced Learning says: "Testing. All students take a test that measures their cognitive ability (the Cognitive Abilities Test). In addition, a reading and math achievement test may be administered depending on grade level and eligibility requirements. WASL scores are reviewed for 4th-7th grade students. Students in grades 4-7 with no WASL scores on record may be administered the ITBS. Kindergarten and first grade students who are eligible for the additional reading and math achievement tests based on their Cognitive Abilities Test scores, will receive a Woodcock-Johnson achievement test."

So it seems that for 4th-7th grade at least, no news isn't necessarily bad news. (can't tell for 2nd and 3rd)

Greg Linden said...

Yes, this is for eligibility for elementary. Sorry, I should have been more specific.

Lori said...

We tested our first grader this year, and I seem to remember the letter saying that they would be using the MAP scores for the reading and math portions of determining eligibility. Anyone else remember reading that? I didn't see it on the website tonight.

My child tested in the 99th percentiles in both subjects on MAP this fall, and we just did private testing last week, which put her in the 98-99th percentiles for cognitive ability, depending which result you look at (FSIQ and GAI).

She did not get called back for additional testing by the district, however. Honestly, I'll be stunned if the district says she isn't APP-qualified. I guess we'll see in a few more weeks what their testing revealed. Now I'm worried. Did other first graders get called back for more testing?

Anonymous said...

We have a Kindergartener who we had tested this year. We inquired about testing at the beginning of the year and received email from SPS staff saying that they would be using the MAP test for qualifying Kindergarteners.

That apparently has changed because our kid was tested recently with the Woodcock-Johnson after apparently qualifying on the Cogat.

I don't know what the testing schedule is, but as I understand it from the website, letters go out around the 29th of January, so it may indeed be meaningful if your child is not receiving an achievement test in the next week or so.

Smart of you to pre-emptively test privately. I would have never thought to do that.

Greg Linden said...

To clarify, I had two goals with this post, one to warn new parents of the very short deadline, the other to question why the deadline is so short. The second has not been addressed yet in this thread.

Does anyone know why the deadline has been and is so short? Is it just, as the website says, that "the Advanced Learning office has limited resources"?

Is there a reason that the appeals process could not be streamlined, allowing for a longer deadline? My understanding is that the test score is the only thing that matters in the appeal process, not the teacher's comments, examples of student work, or other things that "may be included".

What if the appeal process was no more than simply submitting a qualified test score that established that the child can score above the threshold for eligibility? That only would require the Advanced Learning office to quickly examine and confirm the score. It would significantly reduce the work of processing the appeals and and allow for a longer appeal period, would it not?

The current process appears to be explicitly designed to limit APP eligibility appeals. As I said earlier, that prevents mistakes in testing from being corrected, is likely to exclude otherwise eligible children, and is particularly likely to exclude children of parents with limited means. Is that what we want?

Anonymous said...

I don't get the impression that any part of the APP testing process is designed to make it easy for a qualified student to get admitted.

From the ridiculously early deadline to request testing to this crazy window for appeals, I think it's all sub-optimal from a student's perspective.

Add in that the district doesn't make it easy for families arriving in the district mid-year to enter the program, (See,
postID=3752032188045443918) and I think you see a general pattern of the district considering APP not a serious need for students, but more of a nice to have for those who manage to jump through all the hoops in the right order.

Why is this so? I think you're asking the wrong people.

hschinske said...

"My understanding is that the test score is the only thing that matters in the appeal process, not the teacher's comments, examples of student work, or other things that "may be included"."

If you've *got* the test scores, that's all that matters -- the student's application doesn't have to be especially impressive. The converse is not necessarily true; students on the borderline have gotten into Spectrum or APP on appeal based on further recommendations or whatever, without further testing. I suspect this may have changed around under different leadership at Advanced Learning, but the examples I'm thinking of were under Bob Vaughan's previous tenure. However, the time for considering appeals is so short that a complicated appeal package may not get proper consideration.

By the way, I just checked on the SpectrumAPP archives, and in 2004, I got my child's letter from Advanced Learning on Feb. 3, and the deadline for submitting an appeal form was Feb. 10, with the deadline for submitting test scores or other information being Feb. 20. Appeal decisions then had to reach parents before the Feb. 28 enrollment deadline, so the Advanced Learning Office was obviously having to hustle through appeals as well.

Helen Schinske

Lori said...

My guess is that they need to know exactly how many spots they are offering for APP prior to/concurrent with open enrollment, which is March 1-31 this year.

Let's say my 1st grader doesn't get offered a spot based on district testing but we appeal with the private results and she gets in. We apply, thus opening up a seat at her current school that can now be filled during open enrollment.

I'm curious how many people appeal per year, on average, and how many appeals are successful. Are we talking 3 or 4 or more like 10 or 20? If it's a really low number that appeal and win, then you could argue that a longer deadline wouldn't have too great of a snowball effect throughout the district. If it's a large number that appeal and win, it makes sense to try to nail things down as soon as possible.

Just my personal thoughts, based on absolutely no knowledge since I haven't been thru this before.

Lori said...

Anonymous said "From the ridiculously early deadline to request testing to this crazy window for appeals..."

I agree that the fall deadline is ridiculous, especially for Kindergarteners. We waited a year to test simply because no one knew my daughter well enough to complete the teacher evaluation 3 weeks into the Kindergarten year! This year, we had her K teacher complete the form because again, the 1st grade teacher didn't know her well enough by October 8th to write something meaningful and accurate.

Why does it take over a month from nomination to testing, and another 2 full months from testing to results, but we get maybe 2 weeks to appeal?

hschinske said...

The only figures I remember having seen are these, from spring 2002 (originally posted on SpectrumAPP; sorry, the format will probably be garbled):

Eligible in 1st Round Eligible But Young Eligible on Appeal Total %
1st Grade 28 3 9 40 23%
2nd Grade 30 2 10 42 24%
3rd Grade 25 4 21 50 42%
4th Grade 29 1 8 38 21%
5th Grade 18 9 27 33%
TOTALS 57 197 29%

No data on how many appealed and how many were denied, nor on how many were accepted on the first round partly due to private test results being included in the initial application (in effect pre-appealing).

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

We can present the case of the second-grader who tested in the 99% percentile through private testing and was not admitted to the APP program anyway. He had tested to their standard on the achievement test, but came in extremely low on the CoGAT because of testing anxiety... we had his IQ tested (99th percentile)and presented our appeal, which they rejected on the grounds that the appeal provided "insufficient evidence to reverse the earlier decision." So never let it be said that you can just test in on the basis of private testing, at least, it didn't work that way for us.

Anonymous said...


What does 'Eligible But Young' mean in your data?

Anonymous said...


I realize you data is pretty old, but still I'm surprised that a third of the kids in APP got in via appeal.

I was always under the impression that appealing was for the out of the ordinary case. This makes it look like it quite common.

hschinske said...

I'm not sure what "eligible but young" means. It may refer to the fact that APP used to routinely hold back students who had entered kindergarten a year early or otherwise skipped a grade. They even used to recommend that students who had late summer birthdays repeat a year on entry to APP.

Anon. at 2:13 -- I've honestly never heard of a case like yours before. Which IQ test was used? If it was the then-current version of the Wechsler or Stanford Binet, and the test results were less than a year old, I'm stumped. It sounds like a plain error to me.

Helen Schinske

Shannon said...

To appeal you have to submit both the IQ and the Achievement tests, regardless of the scores they get. Did you submit the achievement test too?

I was warned about the narrow testing window. After my son told me about this Cogat experience ("It was so cool, it started snowing and I asked if we could go outside but they said 'no' so I watched the snow a while and then they told me to just guess the questions I had missed.") We did private testing in November.

The private testing was far better than I had expected. Not so much the scores but the wealth of data on my son that the full report included. Until that point I had not really believed those who had urged me to pursue testing for him. I had thought he was just verbal and imaginative. The report gave me a new framework to work with my kid and really improved my parenting to give him more of what he needs.

I tell everyone who can afford it to do testing in the fall. You know your options and there is far less stress throughout the process.

Anonymous said...

hschinske & Shannon - it was the WISC-IV, and the appeal rules were clear that they did not want to see additional achievement test scores if you were already in range on their own achievement tests. And they make very clear in the decision letter that will provide no further information or justification, so don't bother asking. I can only surmise that the result was due to our teacher evaluation or to some subjective decision-making on their part. Very disappointing result, especially since we paid $$ to get the independent testing, only to find that a "successful test" was apparently meaningless to the decision in his case.

Mercermom said...

It is also my understanding that an appeal need only be supported by outside test scores in those areas where the child did not meet the threshold. The Advanced Learning staff, like anyone, can make mistakes. I know of a student who received a letter saying that he was not admitted based on District testing, despite scores that met the criteria. When AL was notified, they corrected the error. I am sure that AL would not refuse to respond to an inquiry about a result that apparently contradicts the admissions criteria, treating that as an an attempt to appeal the appeal decision.

Mercermom said...

Re Greg's second question about short timeline: While I can't speak to the District's justification for the short timeline, I have always found the statement that "most families don't appeal" when their children's scores are lower than expected, combined with the short deadline, to send a message that if you try to scramble to submit appeal materials, it's only because you're a pushy parent with unrealistic views of your child's capabilities. Maybe not intended, but that's the message I read.

Jessica said...

My son is entering K fall of 2010, but we had him tested this January as we are also considering private.

Does anyone know if we can use these scores for appeal next year if he does not qualify with the seattle school distric testing? The scores he received on the WPPSI would qualify him for APP.

Anonymous said...

My son is currently in APP in 2nd grade. We had him tested in K using WPPSI and then went through the district testing last year when he was in 1st grade.

I had the same question last year; at the time the Advanced Learning staff told me that, while the testing was done with a timeframe that they would accept, WPPSI was not an acceptable test for an appeal as there are areas that WISC tests that WPPSI does not.

I would check with the Advanced Learning office to see if their policy has changed; I believe the website lists the specific tests that are suitable for an appeal.

Hope that helps.

hschinske said...

WPPSI is not an acceptable test?? That is news to me; I know many kids who qualified using WPPSI scores. The WISC cannot be used before age six, so that would eliminate a lot of kindergartners right there.

The Stanford-Binet V, on the other hand, *can* be used for the full age range, so that would surely be acceptable.

Scores from outside testing can be submitted with the original application, by the way, but the child still has to take the CogAT and whatever achievement test is deemed necessary. However, if they already have outside scores, they take those into consideration with the original application and don't make you file an appeal. At least that's how it used to work.

I just checked the district site, and sure enough, they say only WISC-IV and Stanford-Binet V: That is a new policy; I hope to goodness all the local testers know about it! I think some have not been trained on the Stanford-Binet, so if you wanted a particular psychologist to test your five-year-old, you might be out of luck.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...


I have an APP kid at Lowell and I have heard that lots of kindergarten parents tested their kids for APP. I have also heard that many of these parents don't understand that if your child qualifies for APP, they have to move to TM. As a kindergarten parent, have you found this to be true? I have heard that many of the kindergarten parents are happy, and I wonder if many of them would stay in Lowell in ALO instead of moving to APP TM.

TechyMom said...

The K parents at Lowell I've talked to do understand that their default APP assignment would be TM. There is some hope that there may be lottery seats available at Lowell, as that's allowed in the SAP and transition plan. Who knows? There are also a few kids in K at Lowell who live in the Lowell walk zone.

The ALO K classes are very good, and many families are happy. I expect that families will be touring TM and Muir (since it seems likely that many of these kids will qualify for Spectrum rather than APP). That's pretty much the same decision a family makes moving from any neighborhood elementary school to APP, isn't it?

Jessica said...

Anon -- Thanks for the info. Frustrating since most of the local private schools that use testing suggest the WPPSI.

I don't think my tester knew that only the WISC or SB results are accepted by Seattle, since she suggested using the results for APP qualification if he didn't do as well on the CogAT. She is on the list of recommended testers.

Thanks to the new SAP, we have been moved into an elementary school area we are very excited about, so we would probably stick with our neighborhood school anyway. I don't know if I would want to pay the tester fee again.

Lori said...

Us too, Jessica. We did private testing recently for our 6-year old 1st grader, and the doc recommended the WPPSI, which is accepted for children this age applying to private schools, and she believed, for APP appeals. I didn't even think to check with the SPS website myself. The WPPSI is supposedly valid up to age 7 years plus 2-3 months or something like that.

Oh well. If my anxious, perfectionist daughter didn't test accurately in a group setting this fall with a woman she never met before, I won't be surprised. It's part of why we pre-emptively tested privately in a one-on-one setting where her anxiety would be lower. We didn't want to be scrambling for an appeal appointment at the last minute when they are hard to get.

Oh well. Live and learn. SPS sure doesn't seem to make it easy to get your child into the right program. Luckily, we like our current school too and there will be an ALO option there next year.

hschinske said...

Lori, that doctor really let you down in a couple of respects, and I hope you let her know. The only reason to use the WPPSI rather than the WISC for a six-year-old would be if you suspected that she were *below* average, and wanted to make sure the test had enough items to assess her accurately at the *low* end. Children age six and seven who are of even average intelligence, let alone children suspected to be gifted, are generally held to be more accurately tested with the WISC-IV. Ceiling effects mean it may actually be more difficult to get a gifted-level score on the test for younger children, not easier.

Helen Schinske

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

Thanks for the input, Helen. We have a lot to learn, apparently. She came highly recommended from two sources and said that she uses that test up to age 6.5 years even though it is valid up to age 7-something. I will definitely look into it further and follow-up with this doctor.

Anonymous said...

Can you provide futher information/details on Lowell ALO kindergartners testing into APP and then being assigned to Thurgood Marshall for APP rather than Lowell? Is this irrespective of where they live?

If it isn't obvious already :) we do not have a child in APP but our first-grader was given secondary testing earlier this month after the CogAT, and we have an incoming 2010-2011 kindergartner who will not be assigned to what was previously our reference school.

Lots of flux -- I am trying to consider all of our options, which are a bit murky at the moment, between prior reference school A, new attendance area school B, and the possibility of Lowell ("C"). I want both kids to be well-served, and in a perfect world (which doesn't exist, of course) it would be wonderful if it could be at the same school. But if that ended up being at Lowell for a year and then our K student tested into APP and was moved to another school, that would create an entirely new set of wrinkles.

Thanks for any insights!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:30.

Kids currently at Lowell in kindergarten are considered to be in the "central" region of school district zones. Every kid in the "central" zone is assigned to TM for APP. The exception is if you live in the Lowell walk zone.

Many "central" parents tried to keep their APP kids at Lowell last year and were unsuccessful. APP classes are pretty full and "north" kids have priority. It seems like you'd have to be pretty lucky to be able to stay.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Anon@4:40. We live in the "old" NE cluster ourselves--not sure if or how that would be factored in. My understanding is that just for 2010-2011, K sibs of APP students would be grandfathered into their older student's APP schools, but this is based on the latest version of the transition plan doc which is still a draft. And since my older child may not qualify for APP, it may be moot altogether. Again, just trying to consider all of the options. Thanks again for your insights and explanation--I appreciate them!

Laura said...

Anonymous @6:26, your K child might not get sibling preference since your future APP kid isn't already at Lowell. With the old system, you got "sibling-linkage" in that case, and were usually still guaranteed a slot. You would need to find out from Enrollment services if "sibling-linkage" still exists. SPS just released a memo (a link to it is in another thread) that suggests Lowell might not have space for all the siblings that may want K slots (note: I question this data, see anecdote below).

But to clarify, if your older child qualifies for APP, you are guaranteed a spot for him/her at Lowell because you live in NE Seattle. If your younger child gets a K slot through open enrollment, he/she won't get transportation but can piggy back on the older sibling's transportation, as long as there is space on the bus (there should be space on the bus). If your younger child tests into APP, that younger child goes to Lowell because of your home address (and gets transportation). A Lowell K student who tests into APP but lives in Madrona would go to T. Marshall. What APP school you go to depends on where YOU live, not where your kid goes to school.

By the way I know several Lowell families with children entering K next year, and I think we're the only ones who are considering Lowell. I think your chances are good, especially if you do get "sibling-linkage."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insights Laura--I am really looking forward to the tour and open house at Lowell, and will be following up with the enrollment office as you've suggested. I hope I get in touch with someone who is patient, as there is still so much uncertainty around capacity and sibling grandfathering that I am going over all the possible combinations of previous reference area school (where my older child would be grandfathered and my K child may or may not be grandfathered via sibling grandfathering), new attendance area school (where my K child is guaranteed a spot even though it's historically oversubscribed, and potentially a reverse grandfathering for my current first grader) and Lowell, assuming (a big assumption) my older child tests in and it feels like the right choice...and whether it was a potential fit for our incoming K child and whether there may or may not be any sibling preference for NEW APP older siblings...I feel like I need some sort of consultant and then realize I am supposed to me my own consultant! Anyway, I'm starting to blather, but deeply appreciate your comments and those of Anon@4:40. Thank you.

Mercermom said...

It seems like it would be great for the Lowell ALO program if kids who qualified for APP decided to stay at Lowell in ALO classrooms. On the other hand, we are in the Lowell "walk zone" and decided to switch to TM last year for a variety of reasons (the principal, the great teachers and staff who moved to TM, to foster relationships with kids who will eventually move to WMS, etc.), and we have been extremely happy with our son's experience at TM.

TechyMom said...

Anonymous, we've been very happy with Lowell's ALO K program. Both the teachers are great. They are taking the ALO seriously, teaching a lot of the 1st grade curriculum, using writers workshop, and differentiating above grade level. Lowell and TM are the only ALO Kindergartens in the city. The principal is great (my daughter hugs him), there's a full-time nurse, art and music during the day, and a wide range of before- and after-school classes, including 4 languages. The one thing I'd like to see more of is math supplementation. My daughter says "we don't do math at school" even though I've seen the kids sitting in groups playing with the EDM manipulatives. The classes are tiny this year (19 and 20), but I don't expect that to be true next year.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone comment on the TM Kindergarten experience?

Lori said...

So... test results mailed "on or around January 29th." Anyone have them yet? Today's mail is already here for us, and still no test results. The web site now says appeals are due by February 24th.

I signed up for tomorrow's tour at Lowell, and I sort of thought I'd have the results before February 2nd!

Anonymous said...

I didn't receive the results in today's mail either.