Monday, March 8, 2010

Open thread

Please use this thread not only to discuss APP-related issues on your mind, but also to suggest ideas for new posts you might like to see put up for discussion here on this blog.

100 comments :

Anonymous said...

As a family considering Lowell next year for our now first grader, I am curious how other families with two parents working outside the home handle early dismissal days and vacation breaks...and before and after-school care for that matter!

We have been very lucky to be able to take advantage of onsite care at our neighborhood school with plenty of after-school enrichment classes and time for free play. I know Lowell had plans for onsite care through the YMCA which had to be called off due to a permitting issue.

How are families keeping their children safely cared for and entertained during SPS breaks without using all vacation and sick time or incurring the ire of their employers? Do kids bus back to neighborhood school before and after school care facilities? Nannies? Camps? Thanks for your experiences and insights.

hschinske said...

It certainly used to be possible for students to use daycare addresses for busing. Your daughter might be able to stay at her home school's before-and-after care.

I think the district has stopped allowing day-by-day bus changes (so you can't tell them to drop your child off somewhere different on Monday and Wednesday afternoons the way you used to be able to do), but if you have the same pick-up and drop-off location every single day all year, I don't see why they wouldn't still allow that.

Helen Schinske

ArchStanton said...

At least one Lowell parent in our neighborhood uses the YMCA before/after school care at the neighborhood school. The child is picked up and dropped off at the site. They did have to pester transportation last year to get the stop moved from a further intersection on a busy arterial (which seems like a no-brainer), but they did eventually get it done.

Anonymous said...

There used to be kids from Lowell at Steven's afterschool program when my son was there.

lendlees said...

We send our son to the after-school program at our local 'attendance' school. They handle all early dismissal days as well as day camps for breaks.

As Helen points out you can specify a daycare address for pick up and/or drop off. Since it's near enough to our house, we just pick him up there if he's not attending after-school care.

Also, I asked Transportation for the bus route so on certain days I meet the bus at an earlier stop to accommodate an after-school class that starts before the bus would arrive at his 'scheduled' stop.

The folks at Transportation are pretty helpful for Lowell families as there are so many kids coming from so many addresses.

So, keep your spot at your local school and you'll be set for next year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for your experiences!

Shannon said...

I feel badly about all the proposed cuts (counselors, p-t librarian, P-T art) but not having the staff to allow kids after lunch playground time at Lowell is just bizarre. To me, that is a basic need - to get out and stretch after lunch.

Apparently they would just hang out indoors for that time instead of having playground time.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the budget impact and resulting decisions are at TM?

Lori said...

I don't fully understand the issue about recess and not having funds for monitors. Playground monitor is a paid position? Is there a rule about how many monitors are needed for X number of children? Is this really something that cannot be alleviated with a dedicated core of parent volunteers? I cannot imagine keeping children cooped up inside the building for 6 straight hours each day.

lendlees said...

Lori-

The issue of playground monitors is that they HAVE to be there to supervise. So, parent volunteers are great, but they are volunteers and not obligated to show up.

The thought is to have a parent in charge of the monitors to ensure that there is a sufficient number of volunteers to make up for any shortfall.

And, if funding doesn't improve, that is the most likely scenario.

Anonymous said...

The other problem with volunteer recess monitors is that most parents don't like the idea of other parents chasing their kids around the playground telling them what not to do. Having participated in discussions on what constitutes inappropriate playground behavior (TM), I can vouch that opinions run the gamut.

Anonymous said...

TM has had a PTA funded playground supervisor this year. He was the playground supervisior at Lowell last year. I've also seen the school staff taking turns monitoring the playground with him. TM has a huge playground so you need a few sets of eyes to properly watch the kids.

Adam said...

Well - we're in on appeal. Now we need to decide if we want to be at TM for 1st. grade next year

Charlie Mas said...

Seattle Public School's Option School Fair
a Family-to-Family event
Saturday, March 13, 2010
10a-12noon
John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (Seattle Public Schools HQ)
2445 3rd Avenue South

Meet with representatives from Seattle's Option Schools to learn more about these unique programs. Connect and share stories with school communities from across the city. Enrollment personnel will be onsite to answer questions and accept applications.

APP families should seriously consider NOVA and STEM as high school choices.

Anonymous said...

Are there opportunities for new elementary students to tour the schools before September? Any sort of social event on location over the spring or summer? It would be nice for new students to start getting a feel for their new community prior to the first day of school in September!

Zookeeper said...

Adam, have you been on a school tour? The next and last TM tour is next Wednesday from 9-11am.

TM had an informal get together last summer at Pratt Park, and the week before school, a picnic on the TM playground and open house. At the picnic, you sat with your class to make it easier to meet your new classmates and parents.

Lowell has had the same types of events as well.

Chris said...

Charlie:

Why NOVA?

agibean said...

Charlie, why are you suggesting STEM when I thought you were part of the crowd calling for it to be stopped? If they are successful, there will BE no STEM program, isn't that the case?

Maybe I don't fully get your viewpoint. I know you have issues with the way it's being set up from your own blog, but why push it at the same time? If it dies, everyone who does want their kids to attend and see it work (including some minority families I know) will have nowhere to go.

Dorothy said...

Charlie hasn't really been one of the crowd who is calling for STEM to be stopped. He is critical of the process, but said publicly that he didn't support the legal appeal. It's complicated, isn't it?

The program as it looks like it will be implemented could be awesome for the right kid. For self-motivated kids who can work independently and are looking for a challenge and are more interested in science and math than the humanities --- this could be great. Especially in the first couple years when the program will be small and the energy is high. And Charlie happens to have just such a kid, who just happens to be in 8th grade and he just happens to live where the commute to Cleveland is relatively easy. He's been very open about his situation.

There are other APP kids who should also take a look. There are other APP kids who would find Nova or Garfield or something else a better fit.

Remember, with NTN, everything is not just project based, it is group work, collaborative projects, and the grading rationale includes how well you worked as a team. So the school will be as successful as the kids who choose it. The NTN website also makes it clear they want the students involved to be part of the decision making for the school. Again, if you have a good group of kids to start with, they could have a lot of influence on direction and success.

hschinske said...

Here's a really interesting article on teaching techniques, and how to train teachers to be more effective: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Teachers-t.html

Hat tip to giftedexchange.blogspot.com.

Helen Schinske

Skeptic said...

Here's a note to Adam, who's pondering APP first grade at Thurgood Marshall for his child. My son is an APP first-grader at Thurgood Marshall, and it's been a really disastrous year for him on several different levels, to the point where we're right on the edge of giving up and pulling him out and home-schooling him for lack of a better alternative. If you'd like to hear more about my concerns, please post your e-mail address, and I'll contact you. I can also put you in touch with other first-grade parents who can offer their perspectives.

My son's school year, not to mention his whole attitude about school, is in very bad shape at this point. It's going to take a while to undo the damage that has been done to him. But an even more immediate concern I have at this point is for next year's first-grade TM APP families, who are rapidly running out of time to make their enrollment choice. I feel like it's my job to share my story with other parents pondering APP first grade at TM so that they can make an informed decision.

Mercermom said...

To Adam, I can't speak to the first-grade teachers at TM, as we just finished second-grade there. To provide an alternate viewpoint to that of "Skeptic," our child has had a very positive year at TM, both academically and socially. I haven't heard complaints from any of his close friends' families to suggest they've had dissimilar experiences.

Anonymous said...

To give some additional perspective to Skeptic's experience in 1st grade APP - our daughter had a disastrous experience in 3rd grade at Lowell - her first year in the program a few years ago. We were left thinking - "what have we done..."

Transition is hard, and much harder for some kids than others. The teacher can either help or hinder the process - so that's luck of the draw. It really has nothing to do in which program, Lowell or TM, your child is placed.

To be fair, I think the stress of the split and the first year growing pains in a completely new environment most likely contributed to Skeptic's child's experience at TM. I do believe that those issues have and are being dealt with in a much more positive manner than in the beginning of the year and will result in a better overall "building experience" next year.

Our child is now in her third year of APP and is now very happy in the program.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 12:31p. The issues with first grade APP at TM have NOTHING to do with the split. I think anyone looking at TM for first grade better look into the 1st grade situation carefully and decide for themselves if this will be a good fit for their child/family.

Mercermom said...

What is "the first-grade situation"? If it's limited to first-grade, is the concern with a particular teacher? I'm also aware of first-graders who are having a positive year, so it doesn't seem like a universal experience.

Anonymous said...

Skeptic and Anon at 1:16, our child is in first grade at TM and has had a good year so far. No complaints about going to school and our child likes the teacher and the other kids in the class.

While I was skeptical about the teacher when I first met her, she has grown on me. I still have issues with her grasp of the English language, but the kids seem to understand her. I didn’t like that she required the kids walk with their hands behind their backs and demanded 100% silence while in the hallway (it was a holdover from the previous TM administration as none of the ex Lowell teachers required it), but she has relaxed those requirements and lets the kids be kids now. It seems like most of the old TM teachers have relaxed those hallway requirements now which is a nice change.

I was also worried about the social/playground schoolwide issues that I heard about during the first two months of school and the perceived lack of action by the principal, but that seems to be under control now as well.

Every teacher will have pluses and negatives, and some teachers will be great for certain kids but maybe not others. If I recall during the family orientation picnic right before school, one of the parents of an older child warned us about our first grade teacher that was originally assigned to our class (who retired and was replaced by the current teacher). I don’t remember the exact issues, but we were warned about her…but later I met other parents who had a great experience with her at Lowell.

…just another perspective of the first grade experience.

Meg said...

I read out loud to several classes at Thurgood Marshall, including the APP first grade. They seem like a pretty happy bunch, and the teacher, while reasonably strict, seems to me just that: reasonably so. However, that's just my take, and sometimes a kid can be wretched at school and not show it while there.

Anonymous said...

Our experience at TM APP 2nd grade has been fine. My concern is the impact of the budget cuts on the school community overall.

Anonymous said...

On the Board agenda for this Wed. is a proposed Performance Management Policy that includes an amendment allowing waivers of disctrict approved materials.

The catch? Schools requesting waivers need "earned autonomy", which comes from being high performing and having no significant achievement gaps between the high and low poverty students. How does this apply to Lowell and TM?

Laurie Milodragovich said...

I am a parent of 3 kids in the APP program and I'm happy to report that we are having a great year in first grade at Thurgood Marshall. The teacher was thrust into a challenging situation and has done a wonderful job. If you walked into her classroom today, you would see a hive of learning. She emphasizes taking personal responsibility and solving problems with strategies. This has been great for our daughter developmentally.

As somewhat of a veteran, I've learned that no classroom is perfect, but I'm very satisfied with the staff and our experience at T-M. Clearly, we're all going to have some challenging times given the coming budget constraints, but if the parents and the teachers work together, we model for our children how to successfully cope, even thrive, in difficult times.

Anonymous said...

Seattle Weekly wrote about TM on their blog this week.

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2010/03/thurgood_marshall_elementary_l.php

Not sure how to link here -- I think it will work if you paste into your browser...

Lori said...

A few of us on a NE Seattle listserv were discussing ways for incoming families to connect before September. We are considering started a yahoo group or some other list where families can comfortably share personal information to facilitate arranging carpools, planning get-togethers for our children, talking about concerns or questions, etc.

Someone mentioned that the Lowell Link has this sort of capability to create subgroups, but I suspect that that is only available to current families.

Thoughts? Can incoming families access the Lowell Link? If not, are there any families north of the cut who would be interested in participating in a new listserv group for N/NE families? Are other lists already out there that we could join?

thanks.

Adam said...

Many thanks to everyone who has written with feedback about 1st grade at TM. I visited this morning, and was surprised at how much I like the program. It was very Humane, and the principal seemed great.

I had a few specific questions that weren't answered,and I had to leave before I could ask them:

1. How does the school encourage presentation of ideas? That thread is very well done at Orca - starting in first grade there is an intentional push to have kids practice public speaking skills.

2. Do kids have time in the classroom that is entirely kid-directed? If so, how much and how do the kids choose to use that time across the grade levels?

3. How does the school communicate student progress?

#. Others that escape me at the moment?

ArchStanton said...

Lori,

New families don't get access to the Lowell Link until just before school starts in September. It is possible for them to create subgroups on the LL, but IMO they don't work very well for parent networking. (i.e. There's no discussion forum for parents to start new topics. They do create bus route groups, but how useful it is depends on whether parents "subscribe" to it and use it. Lots of people don't like the LL and find it difficult to use.) The LL isn't really a tool for the parent community to interact so much as a communication/distribution tool from staff to parents.

Usually someone organizes several playdates at different local parks throughout the summer and creates an email list of the parents that sign up. Usually they don't just distribute email addresses and the like due to privacy concerns, so you may not get to know everyone in your area that's heading to Lowell unless they attend and sign up. Also, the summer playdates tend to be organized by grade, so you might not meet nearby families that are in a different grade right away - even though they might be good carpool candidates or have some insights to share.

I don't know of any online Lowell parent network, but it doesn't mean one doesn't exist.

Zookeeper said...

Adam, there are two ways that the school helps kids with public speaking. Schoolwide at Lowell and TM, the PTAs funds a drama program, where an instructor comes from the Seattle Children’s Theater and works with each class on a play which is presented during one of the weekly Friday morning assemblies. Each class, grades 1-4 gets 10 hours of training, 5th graders get 15 hours. During this time they write the script together and rehearse, and its usually on a topic the classroom happens to be working on during that time.

The second way kids get time with public speaking is within the classroom. My kids have had teachers who have them read their writing assignments to the class, as well as during “publishing parties” where parents are also invited to the classroom.

The only kid directed time my kids have had is with the quiet reading time. I know that lots of the APP teachers have this time as part of the school day, usually after recess.

Teachers at TM and Lowell are pretty good at email if there is missed work or a problem. And like at other schools, both provides progress report cards. There is the fall conference right before Thanksgiving, and they send the progress reports after each semester.

Anonymous said...

Do the teachers actually put real content into the report card? I was a little disappointed with the report we received this fall. (It indicated that he was performing 3/4 "at expectation" in every single subject area, and the only narrative comment was "Thank you for coming to the parent conference.")

Shannon said...

As a new parent to Lowell this year I found it very hard to connect with the class before school began. The class had an informal (read: incomplete) email list of continuing students which I was added to after meeting a family at soccer.

Lowell link is not up for newcomers until a few weeks into the year.

I would like to join a NE List!

I tried to use lowell link to contact a group and it was almost impossible. I had to be added as a class administrator to even email the whole class via lowell-link (although I was organizing an event).

Anonymous said...

what school anon? our kids have always gotten some individualized assessment

Mercermom said...

Washington Middle School PTSA
March 18, 2010


Congratulations! Washington Middle School is a recipient of the 2009 Washington Achievement Award in the area of Gifted Education.

The Washington Achievement Award was created by the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education to celebrate top-performing schools and to recognize achievement in multiple categories. This highly selective award is based on a school's performance according to the newly created School Accountability Index, a comprehensive measurement of how schools in Washington are performing over time. The Washington Achievement Award is given to elementary, middle, high and comprehensive schools in six different categories: overall excellence, language arts, math, science, extended graduation rate (high and comprehensive schools only) and gifted education.

Congratulations to the teachers and staff of WMS on this well deserved accomplishment and recognition.


WMS PTSA
Washington Middle School PTSA

Shannon said...

I'm looking forward to meeting Kay Smith-Blum at one of the morning coffees at Lowell. Anyone else planning to attend or been to one of these things? Are they worth going to?

"School Board Director Kay Smith-Blum will attend Coffee with Gregory and Parents on Monday, April 5, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. in the cafeteria. This will replace the Coffee with Gregory on Friday, April 9, 2010."

Anonymous said...

That coffee with Kay Smith-Blum should be very interesting, especially since she is suppose to be at TM on April 5th at 9 am (according to the Pup Press).
I wonder how she's going to work that?

Anonymous said...

I emailed Kay Smith-Blum last week about both the Title 1 and counselor issues at TM. She just sent third (I kid you not!!) follow up to me, saying that she will be at TM on April 6th at 9am, not April 5th as stated in the Pup Press.

I'll call the TM office on Monday to confirm and ask them to send an update if this week's Pup Press was wrong.

An aside, I actually emailed all Board members and the superintendent, KSB was the only one who responded...

lendlees said...

KSB has been amazingly responsive to emails from parents. And, for the most part, she asks the right kinds of questions of the staff at the meetings.

In some respect I think she's almost the de-facto APP board member since all but one school (Hamilton) is in her district.

I'm looking forward to her meeting at Lowell with Greg King. Should be interesting.

Meg said...

Here's a link to a spreadsheet with WSS allocations for almost every school in the district for the last 3 years. I removed most of my own calculations from the sheet - I didn't want to lead anyone towards my own opinions, and also, I was making those calculations while sick, so they were probably wrong.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5541381/WSS%20data%20google%20docs.xls

Or you can click through to my blog and get to it that way.

Anonymous said...

Quick follow up re: Kay Smith Blum's meeting at Thurgood Marshall: The office staff at TM confirmed that it is on April 6th at 9am, they said they'd update the Pup Press this week.

Anonymous said...

KSB's twins were in APP

Lori said...

In follow-up to my post a week or so ago, a few families in NE Seattle have developed a Yahoo! group/listserv to help new families from these neighborhoods find each other and connect prior to September when our children transfer to Lowell.

We also hope that current families who live in NE Seattle (roughly defined as zip codes 98105, 98115, and 98125) will join and participate. We'd like to arrange some local gatherings over the spring and summer, help each other arrange carpools, childcare opportunities, extracurricular activities, and so on.

You can find the group here:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/APP_NE/

If you live elsewhere in Seattle, please understand that we are not trying to be exclusive. This group was an offshoot of an active NE Seattle Moms group, and we wanted to replicate that model initially. It's been helpful to find other families nearby who are at or transferring to Lowell, and we're just trying to use technology to expedite that process. Personally, I'd love to hear that other neighborhoods are doing the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Any APP appeal success stories?

Anonymous said...

We successfully appealed for 6th grade. The only area my student did not meet was math and since we knew that going in to the process we had private testing done before we heard back on the initial decision.

ArchStanton said...

Hey Greg, the other
blog is busy discussing a Seattle Weekly article about Thurgood Marshall's loss of Title I funds.

Anonymous said...

We too were successful in having our daughter admitted into 5th grade for next Fall in the appeals process. Strangely though, our younger child did not make it through the appeals process for 3rd grade. Her 3rd party testing indicates that her I.Q. score is 0.01th of a percent different from her sister. AND she scored higher than her sister on the CogAT. APP says the word is final and there will be no further appeal process. Sad for my younger. It isn't as if I'm attempting to shoehorn my kid into a program that she doesn't belong in. She ranks in the 99.98th percentile! What gives? Any advice from seasoned APP parents?

Anonymous said...

We were successful in the appeals process for our older child (entering 5th grade) but not our younger. Strangely, the younger is only 0.01th of a percent different from her sister and scored HIGHER on the CogAT! Can't believe that a child that tests into the 99.98th percentile and falls within the higher range of the district administered test is not allowed access to Gifted Services. APP says their word is final. There is no further appeal to be made - retest next year.

Shannon said...

You may not be able to appeal the appeal but you can still call the AL office and ask them what was wrong or why the appeal was rejected.

I was under the impression that all appeals were successful IF

1) The third party tester was credentialed,
2) The requested documents were submitted (10 page limit, yadda yadda) and the right tests administered for the year in question.
3) The scores were in the required range.

If that was all in order I would definitely ask for information from AL about their decision. No point testing again next year otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"Can't believe that a child that tests into the 99.98th percentile and falls within the higher range of the district administered test is not allowed access to Gifted Services. "

Tests at 99.98th percentile in what, exactly? As I'm sure you know, there are multiple cognitive and achievement tests, and students need to qualify in both. The advanced learning dept is certainly not perfect, but I can't see them simply misreading test results. If the results meet the entry criteria, then you're in, if not, not.

More details would be helpful. Did they really make a mistake, or are you leaving out some other relevant bit of information?

Lori said...

I agree with Shannon that you should try to learn why it wasn't granted. I know several families who had successful appeals this year based on private results that were in the required range.

I'm curious for my own edification: what tests were administered? I haven't heard of tests coming back with scores as precise as "99.98%" percentile. I'm surprised that anyone would report results out to two decimal places like that, but then again, this is my first year having a child tested, so I'm certainly no expert.

If Anon's child's IQ is in the top 100th of the top 1% and she can't get into APP, then something is very wrong with the process.

Anonymous said...

Successful appeal (97th, 98th, 98th), but also admission to Bush.
Downside to Bush? $. Forever. Starting tomorrow.
Downsides to TM?:
- $ (Will they have any in one year? Two years?)
- Risk (I know I will like Bush - at least in the classroom. Accelerating her skills is not as important to us as providing an environment that encourages a well-rounded, intellectual child.

hschinske said...

99.98 is a possible percentile score on the WISC-IV, and presumably on the Stanford-Binet V as well. The tests aren't really normed well out that far, so we don't really know the *precise* rarity of such a score out to two decimal places, but obviously higher scores are indeed rarer than lower ones, and it is quite fair to say that it is significantly rarer than a 99th percentile score.

I think the point of using a percentile is that then you're not talking about exact scores (which for obvious reasons parents are often reluctant to do, even anonymously).

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks. Didn't mean to leave out that detail. The test that was administered was the WISC-IV -- by a local accredited child psychologist (one on the 'recommended list'). Older daughter that was admitted to APP scored overall in the 99.99th percentile on the privately administered test. On the CogAT she scored a 99% in Math and a 99% in Reading. The reason for having to appeal was her score of 71% on the Quantitative section. Younger daughter scored 99.98th percentile overall on WISC. 98% in Reading, 97% in Math and 97% on each Verbal, Quant & V-Q on the CogAT. So, boarderline scores on CogAT. I'm mostly reacting to the fact that our reference school is Broadview-Thompson. I'm so not thrilled with this as there may not even be a Spectrum program in her grade level if enough kids don't qualify. Too late to stay at current private school-- can't afford anyway due to rising tuition costs and loss of income. Don't mean to come off as pushy parent. I honestly believe that my kids would fair better in APP than in regularly tracked program -- and I know 1st hand that APP is NOT perfect (taught in APP in before-kids-life) but I see it as a better fit for them. Past experience has proven that my kids tend to withdraw if not being challenged -- causes all kinds of problems for everybody. I feel beat down by this whole process.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous: With regard to your appeal, I agree that it is worth asking AL why one daughter was accepted and the other wasn't.

My son was accepted on appeal two years ago, and I know that his teacher put in quite a bit of effort writing a letter of recommendation and putting his package of materials together -- to the point where she called Julie B. (at Lowell at the time) and APP teacher friends to see what AL might be looking for. Perhaps something was missing in other parts of your appeal?

I'm very sorry that this didn't work out as planned for you, and that you are feeling such stress -- I can definitely empathize!

Beth said...

If you end up going to Broadview-Thomson and want info on the Spectrum program there, I would be happy to give it. My son is in 3rd grade Spectrum and has done pretty well, although I'm pretty sure we're placing him at Lowell next year. The 3rd grade Spectrum teacher is good at challenging him, although she's encouraging us to move him to APP.

Shannon said...

Anonymous, re: appeal.

I can't quite follow your categories versus those listed in AL and what test was reported.

I gather that her WISC (IQ) score was 99.98 and her math and reading achievement scores were 98 and 97? What test was that scored on? If it was the correct test then I would definitely inquire about the problem. It seems quite odd.

The Cogat scores have to be 98 so that was why you had to appeal.

Stu said...

Anonymous, re: appeal.

I have to agree with the others . . . you need to have someone tell you exactly why the appeal was denied. It's basically a numbers game and shouldn't really be open to interpretation; if you get a certain score in the required areas, either with district testing or with an authorized private party, and you do the correct paperwork, you're in.

And quick note about "Anonymous" re: Bush School. This is strictly a personal opinion but, if you can possibly make the payments, why wouldn't you choose Bush? With all the financial problems in the district, the constantly changing programs and schools, the busing, the lack of funds, the shuffling of resources, etc., you have an opportunity to place your child in a proven program, fully funded (albeit privately) with small class sizes, including sports without driving around town, art, music, languages, AND your kids gets to stay in one school all the way through high school.

Everyone needs to make the best choice for their own child; if we ever thought we could make the financial jump to private school, we wouldn't hesitate for a second. We'd still volunteer in our local schools, and support the fundraising efforts, but make no mistake about it, we'd leave this district in a second.

stu

Maureen said...

This is strictly a personal opinion but, if you can possibly make the payments, why wouldn't you choose Bush?

You are right, that is a personal opinion. As someone who has very deliberately kept two APP qualified kids in non APP public schools for 11 and 7 years, I can say that the decision you come to must match your values and your kids' needs.

Money is certainly a factor, but you must also consider the value you place on diversity and inclusivity.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Stu on this one. I value diversity and inclusivity, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my son's needs for some noble sense of the greater good. The district is slowly circling the drain and it doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon. We have the opportunity to attend a gifted private school and although we might be eating ramen more often, we feel it's worth doing. We've been supplementing activities and curriculum for the past few years and that has a time and energy cost in addition to $$. I think that private will fill some of those gaps (art, languages) that Stu describes and we can find ways to supplement the diversity piece. Being a multi-racial family, perhaps it's easier for us to find ways to make up for the lack of diversity/inclusivity found in gifted programs than for some. I feel bad for leaving, but not guilty. Or perhaps more accurately, I have a sense of survivor guilt for pulling out. I wish I could save everyone. But, even if we stayed and contributed the cost of private tuition to our school or the district, the $$ wouldn't be enough to make a real difference, nor could we expect it to be spent wisely. I feel like we're treading water and a lifeboat is passing by - I'm choosing to throw my child in.

hschinske said...

Well, I may just have sour grapes, as my kids haven't got the grades to get into private school anyway, but I have to say that unless the public school is so bad that the private school is really life-saving (as it in fact was for me), I can't think Bush or Lakeside would really be worth the money for us.

I added up what it would cost to send my three kids to Lakeside for the five years I had, and it was enough to buy a house most places. We couldn't even get considered for financial aid unless I worked full time, and in this economy the prospect of getting full-time employment that pays significantly better than the part time editing I do is very, very slim.

Basically we would see the kids less, work harder than we do now, and live worse than we do now (and as it is we've had one decent vacation in the past five years, and eaten a whole lot of rice and beans), all to pay the school. I would find that completely ulcer-inducing. I'd also be filling a job that someone else might need a whole lot more than I did, and might enjoy more, too, while abandoning a freelance career that I love.

Or, of course, we could put another mortgage on the house, but there again, in this economy that would be madness.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Even if we had the money to spare to send our kid to Bush, I wouldn't choose to do it. Our neighbors send their kid there, and it is not meant for gifted kids. On the tours they expressly state that Bush is not for gifted kids. That kind of school would not work for our situation.

Maureen mentioned having APP qualified kids who chose not to go to APP. Again, a decision that wouldn't work for us. My kid was in an ALO school, and we were told by the teacher and principal that they couldn't meet my kid's needs. My kid was bored and unhappy. We moved our child to APP in 1st, and now they are happy as can be.

Different kids require different things. I really hope that SPS doesn't remove all choice. I am still concerned that APP will be completely shut down because, as we all know, all kids can be handled at each and every neighborhood school.

Anonymous said...

I currently have a 5th grader at Lowell and am spending the evening agonizing over whether to send her to Lakeside next year. Spending $20,000+ per year will really hurt, but the alternatives are not that attractive. The lack of differentiation in the math curriculum is a huge problem for kids who score at the higher end of the spectrum. We've heard that the Hamilton science is horrible, that the language arts are iffy, and the math is great. However, APP used to allow 6th graders to enroll in algebra and they won't do that anymore. It is all very frustrating--and the APP program is losing many students to private schools because of these recurrent issues.

Anonymous said...

Check the Lakeside website: they do not provide math differentiation at the 6th grade level and kids do not take Algebra 1 until later grades. You can always accelerate at math by taking summer Robinson Center courses at UW so at the high school level your child will be placed appropriately.

hschinske said...

On the tours they expressly state that Bush is not for gifted kids.

Places like Bush and Lakeside tend not to use the word "gifted," and I believe Bush in particular makes rather a point about not being quite as cutthroat as Lakeside is, but that doesn't mean they don't want the smartest kids they can get, and plenty of APP kids end up there. I would really want to know the context in which they said that they weren't "meant for gifted kids." They may simply have meant that they weren't focusing on that market in the same way a school like Evergreen does.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Anyone to comment about the high school APP experience?

Stu said...

You can always accelerate at math by taking summer Robinson Center courses at UW so at the high school level your child will be placed appropriately.

It's my understanding that one of the reasons they don't like to use the word "gifted" at many private schools is that, at least in terms of those coming from APP, they don't accelerate math. However, I know a number of families who went through Lakeside and their kids REALLY learned their math! One of my semi-complaints about our APP experience is that they make such a big deal about acceleration that they skirt over some things on the way to advancement. I'd prefer a really solid foundation, and then some real math, to what our son's getting now. It always seems to me that the kids who are doing the best work in math, at Lowell at least, are the ones who are drilling at home anyway.

We know a family that left Lowell for Lakeside and they've been extremely happy about the choice. We were tempted to apply this year but fall in the middle of the make-too-much-money-but-don't-make-enough range of income. (I'll mention that we were encouraged to apply for financial aid and have heard that they're pretty generous. They accept students "need blind" and then work on the finances.)

Lastly, as far as I've seen from our visit and public information, Lakeside is way more diverse a population than APP, with over 40% "students of color." Take that, add a 9 to 1 student/teacher ratio and an average class size of 16, and it seems to me that there's a lot of opportunity for learning.

stu

Maureen said...

I'm also interested in hearing about HS APP, with the additional Q of whether anyone out there has decided to send an APP kid somewhere other than Garfield or Nova and if so, why?

Mercermom said...

My understanding is that about 10 APP kids every year go to Lakeside. And I'd imagine that some additional number go to other private schools, probably because parents are afraid of middle school. Any reason to believe that number is changing significantly? I see references here and there to families fleeing to private schools. If those schools haven't expanded their enrollment, then it should be zero-sum. Is APP particularly impacted?

Lakeside is overtly a school for high-achieving kids; Bush isn't. Lakeside may be more ethnically diverse; but I'd imagine it skews very much toward the upper end of the economic spectrum, much more so than APP. Why wouldn't one choose Bush? Because you want your child exposed to a broader range of students, you think there is a value in not having everything so cushy, you want to support the public schools by being part of them.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I know of several families fleeing private schools to APP. Also, when they talk about percentage of minorities in Lakeside, do they clarify that those kids are mostly Asian and Indian kids from Microsoft parents and other well-to-do families?

Stu said...

do they clarify that those kids are mostly Asian and Indian kids from Microsoft parents and other well-to-do families?

When we went to visit Lakeside earlier this year, before we decided we were going to wait until high school to apply to private schools, we were pleasantly surprised to see way more African-American students there than at APP. Yes, there are Asian and Indian students...and every other color, shape, and size. However, it was an incredibly diverse group that we met and we were all pleased to see the "diversity myth" busted right from the start.

We were also very impressed with the admissions and financial aid presentations, and encouraged to apply. (We did notice what we felt was one significant difference between Lakeside and some of the other schools we visited -- Bush, Seattle Country Day, Prep -- in that Lakeside does not automatically accept siblings, "legacy" applicants, "monied" families, etc. They work hard to have a diverse group and the students who took our son around were neither rich nor exclusionary.)

All the school we visited have some pretty extensive financial aid programs and all of them have need-blind admissions so students of all economic levels apply and end up going. Bush, Billings, SCDS . . . they all have generous financial aid policies and there's some serious money involved. (In 2009 - 2010, Lakeside gave out $3.6 million in financial aid; 30% of Lakeside students received financial aid this year! In our opinion, that shows an incredible commitment to diversity; 15% of the students at Bush receive financial aid.) Yes, there are Microsoft families at Lakeside . . . and Seattle Country Day . . . and Northwest . . . and Bush . . . and Lowell. We ran into some really wealthy families on all our tours and we met quite a few families of little means, many of whom decided to leave the Seattle Public School district and were welcomed into their new communities.


I guess I'm a little sensitive to the Lakeside comments because we have friends who chose to leave APP for Lakeside and we've learned, through their experience, that many of the stereotypes about private schools are just stereotypes. I hate to see the snide comments about private schools -- it's almost as if people need to put down other systems in order to make themselves feel better -- when the pros or cons of private schools have nothing to do with the problems in our district.

Yes, private schools have more money and yes, families may pay a lot for smaller class sizes and a more-complete curriculum. More important, in my opinion, is that these schools seem to spend their money wisely. They research the decisions they make and don't take money away from the students in order to pay for more administration.

stu

PS - Two years ago, when our friends made the jump, I believe Lakeside took 2 or 3 Lowell students; last year, they took 2 Lowell students. Admissions told us that they try to spread around their choices so that they have students from all over.

hschinske said...

From what I see in alumni publications, a lot of the recent increase in financial aid numbers at Lakeside is due to current families who were previously paying full fare and are now in some economic straits (not all those 27% are getting full aid by any means -- that includes people who get a few thousand knocked off).

I don't doubt that they're getting gradually more diverse, and have certainly come a long way since I was there, but complete economic diversity is just not possible in the elite private school realm. You're always going to be relying on attracting a substantial proportion of unusually wealthy people.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I don't know how to do quick links. Here is an article about a NY public school that is half neighborhood and half gifted. It's hard to imagine that things aren't going very well...

http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-02-23/news/inside-a-divided-nyc-public-school/

hschinske said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Wow, that school is REALLY doing it wrong. Seattle may not be perfect, but that's way worse than Madrona was, even.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

Stu, what comments to you perceive as "snide"? With a $25,000 annual tuition at Lakeside, and expectations of financial contributions in addition, even if 1/3 of the student body receives an average financial aid package of $7k, it's a very affluent crowd (particularly when you consider that there are families with multiple children at the school). That's just a fact.

Anonymous said...

That should read paying average tuition of $7k for those receiving financial aid.

Stu said...

Anonymous: I wasn't exactly saying that your comments were snide but more that there tends to be a negative attitude about private schools being elitist. In many ways, they might be; they get to pick and choose who comes and charge a lot of money.

My point, however, was that many of the private schools -- I used Lakeside as an example because I know some people who go there who came directly from APP and are by no means "affluent" -- are going out of their way to increase the diversity of their student population.

We decided to hold off on private school until high school for reasons that are appropriate for our son and how we feel his education is going.

For the sake of the discussion, though, I would suggest that a significant number of readers would jump at the chance to spend $7000/year on a private school education.

stu

Anonymous said...

HI. Our son qualified for APP this year but we decided to keep him at his local school. He is particularly gifted in math and instead of APP we are exploring enhanced math classes. Does anyone know of enhanced math for 3rd graders? Not on-line courses, but something I can sign him up to go to, so he can meet other mathies?

Anonymous said...

Check the "Brain Child Learning Centers", they have the offices in Bellevue and the Lake City. Very strong math classes.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy if they have good classes, but what a *revolting* name. It makes me think of brains in glass jars.

Stu said...

We hope to discuss the status of proposed changes and how they might impact
advanced learning programs downtown, schools where APP is offered, and the program itself.


I've gotten more paranoid over this past year but I found the above sentence, in the recent email about the APP meeting at TM, kind of disturbing. It almost implies that they're planning on moving/changing the APP schools . . . and the program. I know that there are budget problems, and as a community we need to discuss how to allocate the funds we get, but there's something about the wording of this sentence . . .

stu

Anonymous said...

I believe that "schools where APP is offered" is talking about the the budgetary issues for the whole school including the effects on the non-app portions of the bldg but including: gen ed, spec ed, spectrum or ALO parts as well.

As for the program in general there was talk about 400k cut from the state for advanced learning so that is going to really test the districts commitment to advanced learning.

Shannon said...

Anyone attend the Coffee with Gregory and KSB at Lowell this AM? I really wanted to attend but was waylaid with preschool / issues.

Stu said...

so that is going to really test the districts commitment to advanced learning.

Unfortunately, I believe the commitment to advanced learning really ends with ALO. This administration wants ALO in every school, possibly some Spectrum programs in each "cluster," but will look to end APP in the near future. Based on everything they've been doing, I don't see how APP fits in their plans. It takes the "smart" kids out of the neighborhood schools, where their scores would help curve things up a bit, and adds to the overall transportation costs. With APP gone, they get to cut transportation, staffing, buildings . . a whole lot of things.

Splitting the program, and ignoring the history of divided buildings, was the first step . . . I'd love to see it last but, on a personal level, don't believe our current 5th grader will ever get to Garfield.

stu

lendlees said...

Shannon--

I was there this morning. KSB is a breath of fresh air. She was very forthright and blunt about the issues that are going on and the extent of her influence with the existing board.

She took copious notes about the issues we raised and is planning to bring them to her one on one with the Superintendent this week.

The issues we raised were:

1) Lowell and TM should not be treated like other schools. We have unique programs that require special staffing not accounted for in the existing WSS formula. (example: you can't have .4 of a teacher)
2) There is no curriculum for APP yet.
3) We have very large class sizes (29 in 3rd/5th grade)
4) We have a large number of split grades.
5) Everyday Math is a terrible curriculum for APP and cannot be taught in a split class setting.
6) Why are we getting penalized about lack of stimulus money this year when we didn't benefit from it last year.
7) Just because Lowell looks 'successful' on the outside doesn't mean there aren't inherent issues that need extra support.

I'm forgetting some of the other items brought up...hopefully someone else can help out.

For the TM families--I highly recommend you go to the meeting and voice your concerns loud and clear. Kay is very much an advocate since her sons went through APP as well.

Shannon said...

Thanks for that update Lendlees. It sounds like a useful meeting.

ArchStanton said...

I would appreciate if anyone can offer a summary of this evening's APP-AC meeting at Thurgood Marshall. I had hoped to attend but was unable.

On a related note, it seems that the last time APP-AC meeting minutes were emailed or published here was in November or December. Did I just miss something or are they really MIA?

Anonymous said...

They are MIA. I emailed the secretary (can't remember her name) 2 months ago, she sent a very short note saying the minutes were "still under review. We're new to APP, can someone fill me in on the role of the advisory committee?

ArchStanton said...

We're new to APP, can someone fill me in on the role of the advisory committee?

That's a good question. In my experience, they are sort of a communications/liaison group between the separate APP schools, parents, Bob Vaughan, and the district mucky-mucks. (although in the absence of meeting minutes, I question the communications piece) I attend the meetings periodically to try and read between the lines and divine the future - and just to hear what concerns other parents have in the program.

For those new to the APP program, you should be aware of what the APP-AC is NOT, so that you can adjust your expectations.

At the risk of being redundant, I'll repost this from about 3/4 down this thread:

-----------------------------------
ArchStanton said:
I'll try and respond to Charlie, starting with the second part of his post.

Charlie Mas said:
"If the APP Advisory Committee isn't advocating for some accountability then I sure would like to know why not.
Aren't the APP Advisory Committee the appropriate people to be organizing the community, demanding accountability, and taking action?"


Unfortunately, the APP-AC avoids any sort of activist or advocacy role, something that many of us were frustrated with last year and did not realize until it was too late. Below is a snippet of a recent email from the APP-AC chair.

APP Advisory Committee
Email 118: A re-View from this Chair
June 19, 2009
From: Stephanie Bower, Chair APP Advisory Committee

"...While many fought the splits, or it's probably better to say fought to keep the cohorts together, some welcomed the splits and cohousing of APP with more programs and the placement of APP closer to their homes. Exactly what to say and do in response was a fine line to walk for the PTSA's at Lowell and WMS as well as the APP AC, which is an advisory committee, not an advocacy group...


I guess that they advised us. In the heat of things last fall, when many parents were mobilizing that first Thanksgiving weekend, they were caught by surprise. They advised us to slow down, wait and see. They advised us that they had been through this before and knew how to handle it. They advised us that many in the district disliked the APP program for various reasons and would like to see us taken down a notch. They advised us that we might not escape this time.

The APP-AC may serve a useful function as a liaison between the district, board, schools, parents, teachers, etc., but they certainly don't see advocacy as their role. The last thing I expect from them is to to be agitating the APP community to action.

9/27/09 7:52 PM
---------------------------------

Keep this in mind the next time MGJ/SPS threatens the APP program.

Anonymous said...

APP Advisory Committee meeting last night, April 7 2010 - anyone able to summarize? I wanted to go but couldn't. What were the hot topics? What was the tone - generally pleased, or, high frustration? Please do share your insights and what the critical issues were and how these issues were handled. Thanks!

hschinske said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SouthEndScribe said...

I am not the best person to summarize but since no one else is stepping forward and the transcript may be long in coming, I'll give it a shot.

The topic of the meeting was the budget and the impact of the budget on the five APP schools (Garfield, Washington, Hamilton, Lowell and Thurgood Marshall). It wasn't long after Stephanie Bower made her introductory comments including a plea for civility, that the question of continued commitment to the APP program in particular was raised. So even before we heard the bad news about the budgets, Bob Vaughn tried to reassure the parents that indeed there was a long-standing (30+yrs) and long-term commitment to advanced learning. He stopped short of saying that there was a long-term commitment to APP in its current form. He didn't say that change was imminent or inevitable but he also didn't say that it wasn't. He also pointed out that every part of SPS is feeling the pain of budget cuts.

The recital of the budgetary difficulties faced at all 5 schools was at times frustrating, infuriating, depressing but also informative. We received an excellent "Public school budgeting 101" lecture detailing the student projections and their implications for each school's budget, the process by which funds were allocated within the schools and the various funding sources that made up the whole. The frustrating/infuriating/depressing part was hearing how each school was being forced to cut essential services and lose valued, effective and committed personnel. In addition, at least at Lowell and TM, the budget cuts had the potential to negatively impact the non-APP kids even more than the APP population. A lengthy discussion of how the non-APP kids at Lowell and TM have been done a disservice by "the split" followed. I won't go into the specifics of the budget cuts at each school mostly because I don't remember the specifics and I don't want to spread erroneous info. Suffice it to say that difficult choices between nurses, councilors, librarians and administrative staff had to be made. Each schools' staff made the decisions for that school and in each case chose slightly different strategies. I think overall the mood was that of resignation, and yes, we remained civil. I personally felt great admiration for the teachers who gave heartfelt and heart-wrenching descriptions of how difficult it was to cut from programs that were already stripped bare by last year's cuts. There will be fine-tuning of the budgets once the actual enrollment is known, but by then it will be difficult if not impossible to retain the staff that have been eliminated under the current budget.

Toward the end of the meeting there was an appeal for financial support from the community. In the short term, the only way to minimize the cuts is for the PTSA to step in with dollars. It's that simple. Lobbying legislators and complaining to the school board are fine long-term strategies. In the short term only cash will help.

Anonymous said...

bravo SES!

Anonymous said...

Bravo SES!

Lori said...

Thanks for the update. We are transferring to Lowell this fall, and I would urge other families like ours to think about donating what you can now. The decisions being made now will affect your child's experience in the fall.

I love how easy Lowell makes it to donate to the PTSA; something as simple as having an on-line tool that allows you to set up regular contributions to the PTSA can go a long way to helping them meet (or exceed) their annual fund goals. I wish more schools had this sort of automatic donation option. I find that we end up being more generous to various organizations when we set up these automatic payments versus when we wait until we have some "sufficient" sum on hand to send once a year.

Viewed another way, it's sort of like a voluntary tuition payment. We don't have the financial means to afford the tuition at some of the private schools we toured, but we can certainly give some portion of our income to our public school on a regular basis to try to stem the bleeding.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Southend Scribe for the info. I don't know how much RV knows about the future of APP. He said repeatedly through the closure stuff last year that he was low on the food chain and didn't have any power.

With all the talk from MGJ of each child being "served" in their own neighborhood, I don't expect APP to be around forever. I just hope it lasts long enough for my kid to make it through. This short-sighted thinking really irritates me - if our neighborhood school (it was even one of the vaunted ALO schools) was such a good fit, we wouldn't have left.