Sunday, February 21, 2010

Open thread

Discuss whatever you like!

Update: There are a bunch of topics in this thread, but this recent comment by ArchStation seems particularly likely to generate sparks. Let me highlight the key bit:
We know of other families leaving APP because they are dissatisfied with the math curriculum and perceived instability of APP and SPS ... [I] think that there might be room for another gifted private or co-op school in Seattle.

Who would really be interested in leaving the APP program for an alternative gifted school? Is there enough of a critical mass to make this a viable option? What model would appeal to you: a small homeschool co-op, a new private school for gifted kids, something in between, or some other model I haven't mentioned?

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of a source for percentile equivalents to the MAP RIT scores for kindergarteners? I have found percentiles for improvement, and for 2nd grade and up, but not for the youngest. Are they not normed until 2nd grade?

Anonymous said...

Here is the link for PDF files with percentile data for Math and Reading for all grades including K: http://www.bismarck.k12.nd.us/district/data/primary/

Mercermom said...

We are interested in learning about home-schooling in individual subjects at the middle-school level. I understand that WMS used to grant P.E. waivers fairly liberally, but that they're tightening up b/c P.E. now entails more written assessments of knowledge (versus just an activity focus). I have heard that students do home school in individual subjects like math, so it seems that it would be possible to do the same with P.E. I.e., take over responsibility for making sure our child meets any "academic" requirements, which will free him up to an athletic activity he would prefer over P.E. If anyone can direct me to info re this, I'd appreciate it. As is often the case, I'm having a hard time finding info on the SPS website.

hschinske said...

Hamilton has been open to having students fulfill PE requirements through after-school activities (both the HOST activities -- Hamilton Out-of-School Time -- and other outside lessons such as karate, swimming, etc.). See http://hamiltoninternational.org/afterschool/, which states:

"My child needs a PE waiver. Can they obtain it through HOST?

Yes. Each day of HOST attended is one hour and forty five minutes towards the required time. Families will be responsible for keep track of these hours. More information can be obtained at http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/hamilton/PE%20waiver.pdf"

Helen Schinske

anne said...

My son currently homeschools in science at WMS. We had to rearrange his schedule and get a PE waiver. He leaves school at 1:30 each day. He takes science through WAVA free of charge. It took a lot of persistence to get the paperwork through and his schedule sorted out. There are limited class schedules at WMS, and they no longer let them have a study period in the library, so you pretty much have to leave campus during that period.

In 6th grade I had planned on continuing to homeschool in math and had gone to WMS to make sure he would be scheduled with math first period, but on the first day of school his math was scheduled in the middle of the day. We ended up trying CMP because it was too hard to change his schedule.

I'd advise you to start the process early to get everything in place before the start of the school year.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if anyone whose kids have gone thru, e.g., the CogAT tests (and/or other tests needed to qualify for APP) have encountered problems with "over preparing" for the tests. For example, if you read various websites about the tests, it often says "there is no way to prepare for the tests", or something to the effect of, "if you try to prepare your child for the tests, *we can tell*".

On the other hand, this seems to be almost directly contradicted by, e.g., the comments here (http://www.ehow.com/how_4472793_prepare-cogat.html). (Of course, they're just comments from random people, but still.)

Specifically I'm wondering:

Did you ever get feedback by whomever administered the test that they could tell that you'd "prepped" your child from the test? If so, did they lower your child's score? Has anyone ever even heard of this happening?

Anonymous said...

I don't see how anyone could tell that your kid "prepped" for the CogAT at least not from their performance on the test itself. It's a multiple choice test after all.

Perhaps they could find out if they asked your child, but I really doubt they would do that. I think the Advanced Learning Office has their hands full with other things. I can't imagine they would be worried about this enough to check up on it and I certainly can't imagine them lowering a score.

I'll go against the grain here, and admit that, yes, we "prepped" our kid. That is if "prepped" means told them they were going to take a test, showed them some questions that we thought were similar to those on the CogAT (but really we have no way of knowing if they really were similar), and worked through a few questions to show them how tests are "tricky". We told them that you need to do things like listen to the whole question and listen to all the answers. We explained that you need to pick the best answer, not just the first answer that seems like it would fit. And, of course, we showed them that they could use elimination of answers to narrow the choices. And I suppose by discussing it with them at all, we communicated implicity that we thought the test was important and that they should try their best.

Basically, we just explained to them how to take a multiple choice test. Since our kid was a Kindergartener and their experience with such tests was zero, this doesn't seem like a terrible thing to me.

It's true that providing this kind of preparation does reduce the "fairness" of the test, as some kids won't have ever seen such a test and will be figuring out how to do it the first time they take it.

On the other hand, the test fundamentally is supposed to be about other things than test taking skills, so I don't think parents should worry about lowering that barrier for their kid with a little explanation of how multiple choice tests work.

That said, I kind of have a low opinion of the CogAT test administered to the K-1 students. I'm not sure it's the best measure of who would do well in APP or not.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the COGat, wondering if anyone has witnessed large swings in scores... our son is in a private school and has taken the test three times: as a kindergartner, as a second grader, and this year as a third grader. His Quantitative COGat score in those three years: 79, 55, 35. His Verbal score is the same all three years, 99. WISC last year indicated an analytic score of 99th percentile. We know there is definitely some math and/or test anxiety at play here, but does anyone else have any insight as to why one's Quantitative score would drop so dramatically over time? (Math achievement was 95 last year and 86 this year.)

Chris said...

Coming from a private school environment, we had no idea what test our daughter would be taking for entrance to middle school APP, but we did prep her for the ISEE (the middle and high school independent school entrance test). We were told you can't prepare for the test, yet many of the schools offer prep courses. We figured we had to prep to "even the playing field". She did OK, but nothing earth-shattering (the kids being tested tend to be bright so it is very hard to score in the 99th percentile!).

We did not prep at all for the CogAT and she did very well--enough to get into APP. Go figure--maybe you should not prep! (And I know they are not the same experience, but test prepping can be a problem for some kids.)

I think the bigger question is how well do these tests truly identify kids who will do well in gifted classes.

Given lots of kids get in on appeal (everyone I know did), what is a fair measure of aptitude and how well does this test identify kids who will do well in the classroom?

Our daughter never struck us as a child prodigy, but she is smart & creative -- and bored in school. Will APP work well for her? We don't know and though this site seems very much geared towards elementary school, I get the sense many parents on this site are frustrated and dissatisfied with APP. What to do?

Shannon said...

"I get the sense that many parents on this site are frustrated and dissatisfied by APP..."

Well, perhaps they are. We're not. Also, the vast majority of parents in our class don't participate in this website so I wouldn't consider it indicative of overall sentiment. Of course there are issues but so are there in my friend's private schools. It could be done better but I think its a great cohort for our kid.

On the CoGat. We did no prepping and my son had never done a test before the 1st grade one. However, early in January I was in a coffee shop and close to me there was an older woman set up with a book and her coffee. A parent came in with two kids and introduced the older one to her and went off. He looked about 6 or 7.

For the next 45 minutes she drilled him in how to take an IQ like test. She gave him sample tests, talked carefully about his "strategy" and gave him advice. They took a break. He played a little game with her and then they did some more 'test sections' with that strategy. She told him what mistakes he had made but encouraged him to be confident and not worry about the reading part.

I was really startled. What on earth is this for?

Anonymous said...

We forgot to prep our kid on the achievement section of the test!

Adam said...

Anyone know how long it takes for the appeals to be processed?

Anonymous said...

"I get the sense that many parents on this site are frustrated and dissatisfied by APP..."

I'm not sure about dissatisfied, but I certainly hear a lot of frustration. Most of this appears to come from the unpopular and inadvisable elementary APP split last year and what many perceive as lack of commitment for APP from the district.

That being said, I think most people agree that APP is one of the better options out there if you have a child with unusual needs and are committed to staying in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Well I can that I am frustrated with Seattle Public Schools in general and not sure why APP parents would feel any different.

hschinske said...

For a look at what constitutes *legitimate* preparation for an IQ test, see http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/test_prep.htm

Helen Schinske

Chris said...

I do know this blog is not a full representation of APP parents. And if you are truly happy with something you might not go out of your way to blog about it. No disrespect was meant.

I do know other APP parents and I know one size does not fit all. For us there are so many uncertainties and ultimately you just have to take the plunge, I suppose. If my daughter was going into a primary grade I would not hesitate to send to Lowell (we are North End). We went private because our local school was not strong and at the time we could afford it. She is at a school for mainstream kids and has thrived. Middle School (private) is massively more expensive and we would struggle a bit to send her to one, but will if need be (we only have one child, so it is easier).

In terms of feeling good about APP middle school is another issue entirely and I WANT to feel OK about APP but so far no one I know (and I DO NOT mean this blog) has told me they felt great about middle school APP. Quite the opposite, so I was hoping/am hoping to feel reassured that math and science are really great in middle school.

Our daughter is social, well-liked at her school, knows 2-3 girls who will be at Hamilton for APP next year. I never thought of her as having special needs in anyway and did not know she was gifted. And maybe she is NOT as gifted as most other APP kids.

Anonymous said...

My son had a 20 point swing between k and 1 (no prep either time) and didn't qualify for spectrum or app either time. However he maxed out his MAP test and the mainstream curriculum is completely inappropriate for him. Yes we could probably get in on private appeal but have not gone that route yet. I think when he's old enough to take the written rather than verbal cogat he won't have as much trouble.

Lori said...

Helen, that's a great article! And the first part is pretty much all we did to prepare our first grader for the district testing this past fall. Told her it was sort of like the MAP except the test would be done with paper and pencils and the point was to help her teachers better understand how her brain works so they can teach her more effectively. This article, however, goes into much more detail and would be very helpful for parents new to testing next fall.

I can't even imagine wanting to or trying to prep a young child for an IQ test as in Shannon's example. It's supposed to measure innate ability, right? I wouldn't want my child to qualify for an advanced program based on having practiced for a test. I'd be worried that maybe she wouldn't keep up with the pace once there. Maybe I have an inaccurate impression of APP, but my sense is that it's for the outliers at the far end of the bell curve. It's not an "honor" or bragging right to be there; it's just a better fit for children at the far end of the spectrum. And either your child is there or not. You shouldn't have to practice being an outlier!

Lori said...

anon @ 1242, what do you mean when you say that your child maxed out on the MAP? National average RIT scores are available through at least 10th grade (I'm looking at a grid of RIT scores provided by our school). Are you saying that your first grader got higher RIT scores than an average 10th grader?!?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no no, I meant 99th percentile for his age.

Lori said...

Thanks for clarifying, anon.

I'm really intrigued by the MAP data. I'm meeting a lot of other first grade families whose children are in the 99th percentile for reading and/or math on MAP scores, for example. Now, I know that MAP is nationally normed, so these percentiles compare our children to a national sample, and that Seattle is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole. Therefore, in a group of 100 children at any given school in Seattle, you may have more than 1-2 children testing in that range.

What would be useful for me as a parent making decisions about whether to put my child in Spectrum or APP would be to know the distribution of RIT scores for our school and the shape of our individual bell curve. My daughter may be an outlier on a nationally normed test, but perhaps she's not that much of an outlier within the Seattle school system or more specifically within her school.

If 10% of the children in our school are in the top 1-2% nationally, then the school has more incentive to meet their needs and maybe she doesn't need to move to a specialized program. Just a thought of one useful way to use the MAP data, if we can get them!

Mercermom said...

We feel very good about our 6th-grader's APP experience so far. He had a good experience at our neighborhood school, although he wasn't challenged in math. He has adjusted well to the academic expectations. We are very pleased with his LA/SS teacher, his science and reading teachers seem very good. We're not as sure about his math teacher; but he is doing well and learning what he needs to. We're also happy with WMS in terms of the social environment. Overall, my feeling is that he is being challenged, his teachers overall seem dedicated and creative, he has a group of peers who appear to be very engaged in academics.

hschinske said...

Lori, the trouble is that the grade-level standards are NOT set up locally, and Washington standards tend to be on the low side. So even if you have more high-scoring kids in the class, it doesn't mean they teach them any more. Indeed, if you're in a generally high-achieving school, they tend to rest on their laurels and NOT do any more for the kids who are out there on tests. (I've actually heard more impressive stories of accommodations in schools that generally have low scores -- the teachers can see the difference, for one thing, and they want to keep those students, so they'll go through a hoop or two, for another.)

Helen Schinske

Chris said...

Thanks, Mercermom. Appreciate the feedback.

methyl said...

I will try to keep my pitchfork-sharpening tendencies suppressed for the following post -

I have a question about the efficacy of the CogAT as the criterium for being assigned to Spectrum or APP.

Anecdotally, I observed my son qualifying on the CogAT for Spectrum, but not APP, despite having independent and MAP scores at 99th percentile. His friends scored slightly lower on the CogAT but equally well in independent and MAP tests. Some of these friends were NOT selected for Spectrum despite their obvious ability to succeed in an APP program, let alone Spectrum.

It appears that this test is the ONLY qualifier for APP or Spectrum. With the other parent (Anon@9:11) reporting huge swings in CogAT scores, I deeply question the use of this test as the sole criterium. I guess that is what the appeals process is for.

So, considering that our APP appeal might not be successful, we toured a couple of elementary schools with Spectrum programs to compare, and were surprised to see an attitude that did NOT support self-contained Spectrum classes. One school may not have a stand-alone Spectrum class for each grade if they don't get enough qualified students. At another school, both the principal and parent representatives continually said that Spectrum at their school was mandated by the District, but they really supported an ALO model so that all kids are served.

OK, I can believe and support that attitude because my bleeding-heart liberal tendencies really want public schools to work, and that kids without support and opportunities at home should be exposed to quality teaching and enthusiastic peers who love learning.

What I left with, however, was the impression that the Spectrum program is consistently being dumbed down and undermined. Is it also true for APP?

Clearly, this is something that all of you parents who have been in the Spectrum/APP world longer than I have, have dealt with before.

I would like to know where I can find multi-year enrollment numbers for each school, and find numbers for how many students qualify for either Spectrum or APP. I would really like to overlay this information to determine if there are more students who SHOULD be served by accelerated learning but how are not PROVIDED this. I think it would be quite enlightening to plot this over time. [The best I have found is on the Advanced Placement Archives > Program Data, but some of the data are single excel spreadsheets without titles to determine from which year the data are collected.

As you can see, I have mixed emotions about it - I MUST ensure that my kid gets the education he needs, but wouldn't it be great if we could lift A LOT of kids, too?

methyl said...

Anon@9:20

I was given a purple handout entitled Seattle Public Schools Family Guide, that described the MAP test.

It gave the following National Average RIT scores (50th Percentile) for kindergarten as follows:

Reading
Beginning of year = 147.6
Middle of Year = 152.4
End of year = 156.3

Math
BOY = 149.5
MOY = 153.1
EOY = 158.1

So that you can compare it to two grade levels up:

First Grade:
Reading
BOY = 160.2
MOY = 166.5
EOY = 171.9

Math
BOY = 163.4
MOY = 169.9
EOY = 176.7


Second Grade:
Reading
BOY = 179.7
MOY = 186.0
EOY = 189.6

Math
BOY = 179.5
MOY = 186.5
EOY = 190.8

Anonymous said...

@Methyl - Thanks - that's useful....and worrisome. My kindergarten-age daughter had spectrum-level district testing, APP-level independent IQ and achievement testing, so we appealed. We included a letter from her teacher, which we were given an unsealed copy of. Shorty had MAP scores of 164/165, with no indication of when the test was conducted.

Perhaps we shouldn't have included that letter.....

methyl said...

Dear Anon@9:20:

You gave them the best information you had at the time. I hope things work out for you and Shorty (and I hope the letter was favorable).

Anonymous said...

At 164/165 your kindergartener still is above or just a point shy of the 95 percentile for fall MAP testing.

See
http://www.nwea.org/support/article/1261

I don't think it's problematical that she isn't showing second grade scores at this point, that isn't the published admission standard.

I've always heard the 'two years ahead' thing was more of a rule of thumb for where they aim the curriculum.

anne said...

There is significant evidence that testing for entrance into gifted programs in kindergarten is a poor predictor of giftedness for all but the high end. At least you can retest as the child gets older so if you were missed you can gain late entry, but it is somewhat unfair to get a spot for good if you pass in K. Many kids are just bright and have had solid pre-k prep and are capable of the coursework. But I wouldn't call all kids who are in APP highly gifted. It's a pretty grey area between the upper half of Spectrum and the bottom half of APP. But, unfortunately the difference in quality between Spectrum and APP makes everyone desperate to get their kids is APP.

Lori said...

New topic for the open thread: What's happening with the new budgets at Lowell and TM for next year? I know that school counselors have been cut across the board and there is less money for specialists, such as librarians and reading specialists at our current school. Any APP parents able to tell us potential newbies what to expect for next year?

thanks.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the cuts that impact all public schools, such as the counselors, there are at least two problems specific to elementary APP: (1) PTA annual fund donations, which are used to fund arts and drama, among other things, are well below the already scaled back expectations for this year, and (2) Thurgood Marshall is in danger of losing Title I funding because, with the addition of APP students, they may no longer hit the threshold for percentage of students qualifying for the free lunch program.

ArchStanton said...

How about a Straw Poll?

Background: Our family has continued to explore and apply to private schools this year and we know of a few other families that have done the same. We also have heard of at least one family pulling out of T. Marshall because they or their child were feeling too uncomfortable there and we know of other families leaving APP because they are dissatisfied with the math curriculum and perceived instability of APP and SPS.

Unfortunately, (parents of young gifted kids take note) gifted private school seats are few and far between past kindergarten or first grade and it seems that there are always more applicants than spaces available, which leads me to think that there might be room for another gifted private or co-op school in Seattle. Of course, there have always been parents grousing about homeschooling or starting some kind of school of their own, but is it really only a pipe dream?

There are lot of considerations for something like this to work - I'll start with these questions:
Who would really be interested in leaving the APP program for an alternative gifted school? Is there enough of a critical mass to make this a viable option? What model would appeal to you: a small homeschool co-op, a new private school for gifted kids, something in between, or some other model I haven't mentioned?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Greg Linden said...

From the moderator: A comment by an anonymous troll was deleted from this thread. If you want to post something disparaging on this blog, I am happy to allow it, but please put your name on it.

Lori said...

ArchStanton, we have a first grader in our neighborhood school and are leaning toward moving to Lowell for next year. So I'm not in the "ready to leave APP for private" camp, obviously.

I'll just say that with what little investigation we've done of the private schools, there seems to be a need for secular schools that charge more reasonable tuition. The schools we know of or that others tell us to go look at are $14-17K per year in tuition alone. Some families can get financial aid, but others are in the position of making too much for aid but not enough to afford those fees without significant impact on every other facet of life. And even then, it might not be sustainable for more than a year or two, and no one wants to enter a program wondering how long you can afford to stay there.

If someone had a good private program for under $10K tuition, I bet the school would fill quickly with families who aren't entirely satisfied with SPS but just can't afford the higher priced options.

hschinske said...

Matheia's close -- annual tuition $10,600 (5% discount if you pay a year upfront). They're quite small, though. Most newer schools start out under $10K and then inch up as they develop their reputation.

An awful lot of people I know have paid for private school either through parental assistance, or by refinancing their houses. The refi route is probably a lot less available than it was.

Helen Schinske

Chris said...

My experience in private school is this: grandparents finance a huge amount (if you did not win the tech job lottery, that is) at our school, including us.

The public schools should be able to teach all kids and I guess in the burbs they do a better job. Not all of us want to live in the burbs, however.

The better schools cost well over $16000 for elementary school and certainly up to $25K for middle and HS.

Anonymous said...

Well, I can only speak to my experience. My daughter was at one of those 17K a year private gifted schools through second grade. We were one of those middle class families that barely could scrap together the tuition every month (no grandparents helping, made too much for financial aid, second child who also was in private school). We drove old cars, never went on vacation (though my daughter liked to tell us of all the places in Europe that her friends were going for spring break), and basically mortgaged our life for this school. She's now at Lowell, and we're incredibly happy. I like the kids much better at Lowell and for me, it's all about the peer group. I do find the large classes a drag, but for 17K a year (post tax), I'm willing to deal with it. I think that the teachers at Lowell and the curriculum are as good (if not better in some respects) to that at her prior school. Each family has to weigh the pros and cons, but compared to the rarified air at the private school, I'd take Lowell any day. Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

Which private schools offer a gifted curriculum? I only know of Seattle Country Day and Evergreen. Do other private schools even offer differentiated curriculum for gifted students?

ArchStanton said...

Let me reframe my previous post:

I'm less interested in how people feel about existing private gifted schools than whether enough people would be willing to work to create a new option.

I know that there are several APP parents that are lawyers, teachers, managers, and technical and real estate professionals that could potentially contribute to the creation of a new school. I know that there are plenty of APP parents that are dissatisfied with at least some aspects of SPS/APP, but don't feel that they have any alternatives. I know that the existing private schools receive many more applications than they have seats - even in this down economy. I know that people are paying to supplement their children's education - especially in math. That is why I think that a new gifted school may be a viable prospect, provided that enough people are willing to take the risk of creating one. So...

Would you seriously consider leaving SPS APP for a new startup gifted school? Do you know others who would consider doing so?

Would you prefer to pay tuition that would presumably be more reasonable that that of the established, pricey private schools? OR

Would you be interested in a co-op gifted private school? Would you be willing and able to participate and contribute to the operations and maintenance of a co-op school?

Anonymous said...

"Would you prefer to pay tuition that would presumably be more reasonable that that of the established, pricey private schools?"

Early on in your process you should take a look at what these pricey schools actually spend money on. The short answer is this: Teachers - but those teachers STILL make less than their public school equivalents. Even at a big fancy-looking school like Bush, with a huge tuition, the tuition is not enough to cover basic operating costs.

It is true that new private schools tend to have lower tuition at first. That is primarily because they often begin around a few teachers/administrators who are working for a fraction of a reasonable salary because they believe in the project and want to see it get off the ground. A secondary reason is that in early years they are missing many of the services that most parents expect them to have (eg. in-house nurse, ) As schools mature, and salaries reach sustainable levels (you can't attract good young teachers at $22,000 a year forever) tuition goes up, along with the need to find additional revenue streams.

I guess what I am saying is this - fancy private schools are not full of people making lots of money off tuition dollars. Administrators make less than public school administrators. Teachers make significantly less than public school teachers. Everyone involved works longer hours; everyone involved makes more sacrifices. A business model that intends to provide more for lower tuition is not a realistic one.

Lori said...

"A business model that intends to provide more for lower tuition is not a realistic one."

I don't think that's what anyone suggested. I started the conversation in this direction by saying that I think there is a need for private, secular options that middle class families can afford and others have confirmed that if you don't have grandparents helping out financially or aren't willing or able to mortgage your home, some of the current private options are not options at all. The first step in establishing a new business is identifying need and knowing your market. The next step is determining if indeed you can provide the service. My bias is that there is a need for lower priced options. Perhaps it can be done!

I know at one private school, they have about 15 children per class with one teacher and one aide. I even said to myself on the tour, "Well, now I see why it costs so much!" If someone were to start a new private school for gifted children, I would argue that it wouldn't necessarily need to replicate that model with those class ratios. Could a school be affordable if it had class sizes of 22-23 per teacher? I would consider a school like that if in fact the children were at similar academic levels and ability (as in APP) and if the curriculum were rigorous and academically sound (and no EDM) and if the school were truly committed to success.

I really worry that SPS is not committed to APP. How else do you explain splitting the program without the curriculum in place, in direct opposition to what was recommended in the APP audit? Everything else in the district is moving toward standardization, making all schools identical (at least on paper). I wonder how long APP can continue to exist in this environment. I hope I'm wrong, but it's definitely a concern in the back of my mind as we consider moving to Lowell for 2010/2011.

So ArchStanton, you aren't getting a lot of folks signing up to help with the endeavor, perhaps because this blog isn't widely read? I don't know. Personally, I'm really risk averse, don't have the skills for such a massive undertaking, and work full-time, all of which make me a poor candidate for starting a new school. Yet, I find the idea very intriguing and would want to stay in the loop.

hschinske said...

Personally I would never go for a private school that didn't have significantly smaller class sizes than 22/23. To me that's the absolute key thing you're paying for. But I no longer have elementary-age kids anyway.

In a lot of ways, it's not the education part of school that's difficult or expensive to replace; it's the childcare part. If you have to give up earnings to homeschool, that may be more expensive than any private school ever, but if you don't have to, then it can be the cheapest private school ever. Typically people find a middle ground somewhere.

Helen Schinske

TechyMom said...

Class size is one of the big differences between religious and secular private schools, and one of the ways they keep the costs down. Catholic schools have similar class sizes to what public schools are supposed to have (22 in K, 25 in Elementary, and IIRC up to 30 in middle, at the one I toured).

They also have lower facilities costs, with old buildings long-ago paid for, well-maintained wooden desks that looked to be 1950s era, and ratty carpet to rival any public school.

And yet, they manage to offer languages, art, music, sports, and an ALO-type of acceleration, going so far as to send an 8th grader over to Seattle Prep to take Calculus.

It seems possible that a secular private school could emulate the model of larger classes and low facilities cost to provide a similar service without the relgious aspect. Such a school might be a good tenant for the community center at the old MLK school, if it gets approved.

methyl said...

Arch, Lori, Helen, and Friends,

I would fully be in support of an independent secular APP school for my kids in the North end of Seattle.

However, I think that there are only three models:

1- Co-op with low fees,
2- Private or semi-private w/ big fees,
3- Charter School [*]

Building a grass-roots co-op school is not actually that hard. It would take about a year or two to do all the details, and as Lori suggested needs a good business model. There are a lot of talented parents with good skills to bring to the table.

But, there is a real cost to families - the cost of a working parent's time that now goes to getting a school started. If I am 'donating' X number of hours during a working day to support a new school (i.e. co-op/charter model), then I am not supporting my family with my salary.

Supposing I am paid (modestly) to build this school, am I realistically going to earn enough to cover my kids' fees to build a new school that I can't currently afford?

[*] It looks like Charter Schools are NOT an option in WA, requiring a change to the legislation WA Charter Schools.

How long does it take to change the legislation? How long does it take to build a school? You're going to need a lot of passionate parents of APP/Spectrum qualified Kindergarteners to see this whole thing through.

Dorothy said...

How hard would it be to come up with some sort of co-op homeschool model? I believe there are such things in other areas. Maybe could rent some office space or storefront pretty cheap for a place to gather, then coordinate between online classes, field trips, mentors, on and on. Homeschooler groups can schedule classes at art studios, gymnastics, swimming and more during the day when most kids are confined in school. Such a model would allow the group to move back to the original philosophy of the Individual Progress Program.

Anonymous said...

The idea of a gifted program that is an alternative to APP and private is an interesting idea. For us to consider, though, it would have be located in the south end.

Skeptic said...

As part of a family that is capital-D Disappointed in the experience my children are having at Thurgood Marshall, I am someone who's thinking about better alternatives to APP every day.

I know a wonderful family that recently pulled their kids out of Thurgood Marshall to homeschool them instead. And now they're learning Spanish with other homeschool kids the parents found, and one of the kids is exploring his interest in Shakespeare, and none of them have to worry about random playground violence anymore.

Homeschooling is not the most practical answer for most people. But if a group of fed-up parents could find--or create--an affordable school that offered some of the great aspects of homeschooling without demanding the huge time commitment from already overextended parents, I would bet that a good number of APP parents might be interested.

Anonymous said...

A good resource for homeschooling is WAVA. www.k12.com. You can homeschool and have access to all their classes for free. In K-8 you can progress at your own pace, by accelerating, and/or exploring any topic in more depth on your own.

A co-op model could possibly leverage some of this material.

TechyMom said...

Something else to consider in defining the market, is gifted students who, for whatever reason, are not well served by SPS advanced learning. Off the top of my head, these include:

Spectrum-qualified students in the South End and crowded parts of the North End, particularly in Middle School.

APP outliers, those who need to work more than 2 grade levels above standard.

Kids who are in the 98th percetile in either verbal or math, but not both.

Kids whose IQ is in the 98th percentile, but whose achievemet scores are not.

"twice gifted" kids with high IQs and learning or behavioral disabilities.

Greg Linden said...

Adding to the WAVA link, there were some good links to resources, including WAETAG and Stanford's EPGY, in an earlier thread on supplementing APP math that might also be useful to those following this discussion.

Maureen said...

What math curricula does WAVA use K-12 (actually I'm wondering about Middle School for my kid)? It doesn't seem easy to find out from their website--it looks like you have to register and give them your contact info.

TechyMom said...

Wow, my grammar was terrible in that last post. I'm sorry about that. It must be time for more coffee.

hschinske said...

According to http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2009/10/opting-out-of-middle-school-math.html

"WAVA uses the Dolciani series for middle school math:
* Pre-Algebra A (typically for WAVA’s 6th graders) uses Mathematics: Structure and Method Course 1
* Pre-Algebra B (typically for 7th graders) uses Mathematics: Structure and Method Course 2. As someone mentioned, this is an old book, but it is still being printed (we received a brand new copy from WAVA)
* Algebra (typically for 8th graders) uses Algebra: Structure and Method"

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...

Thanks Helen! I thought I had seen that posted somewhere.